One challenge that’s come up in our domestic practice is which heathen holidays to celebrate. The normative calendar seems to be the one posted on the Asatru Alliance website (http://www.asatru.org). This is a calendar of not only seasonally-related days but days of remembrance for Asatru heroes and martyrs as well. November 9, for existence, is the Day of Remembrance for Queen Sigrid the Haughty. Who wouldn’t want to celebrate that?
However, when there are numerous holidays dedicated to the Idises, two to Leif Erickson and others that drift in from the Anglo-Saxon and Wicca calendars (Lammas/Freyfaxi), it’s time to sit down and evaluate what to celebrate and what just to note in passing. We’re a Danish tradition household, so Lammas isn’t one we observe. Call it Freyfaxi if you will; even though Ingvi-Frey is the founder of Denmark, I really doubt the ancestors had an available calendar that would tell them when August 1 was.
The ones Sven and I celebrate draw from natural cycles, Danish tradition, and the fact that we live in the U.S. in the 21st century. January 1 might be the last day of Jul (more on this in a later column) but we observe it as plain old New Year’s Day.
February 14 is given sometimes as “Feast of Vali”, probably because it resembles “Valentine”. If it wasn’t a heathen holy day, why not just call it “Valentine’s Day” and observe in honour of Freya? Since Freya is fond of love poems and likes being invoked in matters of the heart, she’d definitely enjoy that.
February 2 is Candlemas/Feast of the Purification in the Catholic and Orthodox calendars and Imbolc in the Wiccan. I’ve seen some heathens observe this in honour of Frigga, because of the Imbolc connection to sheep and milk. Here’s an insight; the early days of February are also the time of the Lupercalia, a Roman holiday so ancient that even the Romans weren’t sure what it was about. What’s important to know about Lupercalia is that it involved sheep, wool, and sheep’s milk. Frigga can be superimposed on that aspect of Lupercalia, but I am personally not comfortable with that.
February 2 is also The Charming of the Plow and sacred to the Idises. Sven is particularly devoted to the Idises, so use this date to honour them. The Charming of the Plow is, I’ve read, also a day to commemorate the wooing of Gerda by Frey. If one subscribes to the idea that Gerda represents the enclosed field (gard), this would be the day to get organized to prepare the fields for plowing and seeding, which Frey is all about.
Plus, you have the option of telling your workplace, “I’m going to be out on xday, it’s a religious holiday for me—The Charming of the Plow.” They’re definitely going to be curious, if they don’t fire you on the spot for sounding like you’re channeling Borat.
Ostara is also one I find a little problematic. It’s the beginning of spring, which may or may not have escaped the ancestor’s notice; they only really acknowledged two seasons: summer and winter. The name is only attested to in Grimm. We celebrate this one because our kindred does.
May 1 is observed in many northern countries, and some heathens do as well. We don’t. There is an ancient custom that if you are a heathen and call it Beltane and observe it as a union of Frey and Freya, that Gullinbursti will come down from Alfheim and eat you. No, there isn’t. I made that up.
Summer Solstice is a big deal. Call it Midsummer, call it Summer Finding, it doesn’t matter. It’s the Solstice. You can’t miss it. On the other hand, we don’t really pay attention to the autumnal equinox.
November is full of holidays, some of which have been superimposed on modern ones. November 11 is Veterans Day/Armistice Day and called the feast of the Einharjar. We would observe this one anyway, but thinking about it as a day to contemplate the war dead who may be with Freya and the All-Father is appropriate and, I find, uplifting.
Sven and I have recently found out that Jul might be a holiday to reserve for January rather than its current overlap with Christmas. We’re still discussing how to accommodate this, although I bear in mind southern hemisphere heathens who celebrate Jul in June. Last year we observed the Winter Solstice, but just because Jul is placed around the Winter Solstice doesn’t mean it has to be. We might end up extending our winter holidays and inserting more into our own household practice, with appropriate feasting and drinking. I’m sure no one would mind.