The Eight Feasts of ADF

Posted: October 26, 2015 in Heathenry
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2: Short essays on each of the eight ADF High Days including a discussion of the meaning of each feast. (125 words minimum each)

The pagan holidays are tied to the land in ways that modern people may not recognize easily. They are not dates on the calendar, but dates when the sky is right and the soil is ready. Each holiday exists to draw the tribe together and make closer ties among us and to reinforce the ties that bind us to the earth itself. This only seems absent in these modern days when one can live outside the natural rhythms of agriculture and hunting/gathering. In my house, the holidays serve also to remind of us these rhythms, as well as being times to honor the Kindreds. It is this agricultural/natural aspect to these holidays that creates the great wheel.

*November Feast: Winter Nights

Winter Nights occurs on the first full moon after the Autumn Equinox. This places it in late October or early November on the modern calendar. At Winter Nights, Winter is upon us in its fullness. It is recognized in the sagas as one of the three great observations of the Norse as a time one honors and make sacrifices to the mighty dead, especially one’s own ancestors. It is also suggested that the Disir, one’s female ancestors were honored especially. There may have been separate celebrations to honor one’s fathers in the spring. It is also a time when the “dying” of the earth becomes apparent as Winter lays its claim. In my house, the celebration and sacrifice emphasize the Disir, our female ancestors. We remember them and petition their continued aid. Our traditional meal is based on the dish my grandmother often served me and which I liked best. This holiday also has a secular observation; Hallowe’en, when the kids go trick or treating and we are allowed to display our Hospitality and Generosity to the children that visit our home. For this reason, we try to celebrate Winter Nights as a religious/family feast on the actual full moon or the Saturday Night closest to it, and avoid celebrating on Hallowe’en.

*Winter Feast: Yule

Another of the great observances described in the sagas, Yule begins the night before the winter solstice with Mother Night. Mother Night is another commemoration of the Disir. The Yule season then continues for twelve days, with the greatest celebration on the winter solstice itself. It is a celebration that when the long night ends, the days will grow longer and the rebirth of the fields and groves is closer each day. In my own house, Yule is celebrated publically at an event within our local SCA barony. The table serves as our altar, with a centerpiece of Well, Fire and Yggdrasil. At the Yule Feast, we exchange gifts that will serve us as fighters and poets when the spring comes. We also keep a tradition of remaining awake all night playing games and eating and being together. Yule is secularized for us much as Christmas is for many and is a holiday that emphasizes community and family bonds much more than it does our religious bonds. Even so, we pour blots for the kindreds, especially the landwights and Odin who is the Lord of Yuletime. We sacrifice to the landwights at this time of year to show our faith in the future and that we are committed to the land even when it lies quiet and rests.

February Feast: Charming of the Plow

Charming of the plow occurs on that day when the soil is first soft enough to be worked. The  It is necessary to work the soil before it can be planted and planting must occur in that short window between “too cold” and “too wet, too hot, too much hail, too everything else.” No longer being immediately dependent on the soil as farmers of the past were, we celebrate this day near Feb 2nd in community with the rest of the Asatru community. The holiday is a celebration this winter past was not the Fimbul Winter and that again the earth is prepared to share with us her bounty if we will labor for it. Our ancestors showed this by the care they gave their plows and the blessing they sought for those tools. As we are not farmers ourselves, we observe this feast in my house by invoking the aid of the wights and Gods on behalf of those who do farm, whether in Imperial Valley, California or the fields of the American Southeast and Midwest.

Spring Feast: Summer Finding

Summer Finding is celebrated on the first full moon after the spring equinox. Among the Norse, this time was celebrated by farmers and warriors alike (who were very often the same people) by petitioning the kindreds for victory on the fields of battle and growth and protection in the planted fields. We remember these two aspects in our observations also, praying for the troops deployed and further sacrificing for those farmers who labor on our behalf. The agricultural aspect of this holiday is marked for us by the fragility of the crops during these early days of the planting. In this way, it is almost a continuation of the rites begun during Charming of the Plow, but now the emphasis is not on our role in the production of food but the role played by the weather and the land itself.

May Feast: May Day

May Day is the celebration of the first flowering of the planted crops and the wild fields. The timing for this holiday would have depended on observation of the crops progress for our ancestors, but is now standardized to May 1st and is celebrated then by many communities and my own house. It is a victory celebration of sorts, as the first crops have survived their most fragile period and the world begins to show its fertility and overcome the quiet of winter. It is a time to be celebrated outside. In addition to honoring the earth and the wights, we pay special attention to the Vanir as the “nature gods” of our faith. In this, we especially honor Frey as the God of the World. Any consideration of Frey would be lessened without a retelling of his romance with Gerd and the deeper lessons of that love.

*Summer Feast: Midsummer

Midsummer occurs on the summer solstice, the longest day and shortest night of the year. It is a celebration that the warm comfortable days are at their climax and that as those nights grow longer, winter approaches. This was the third of the three great celebrations described in the sagas. It should be a celebration of healthy crops ripening in the field as the harvest grows closer. If those crops were not coming in as fully as expected, it was a time of sacrifice and petition. Midsummer was a time when the diet was provided primarily by foraging, fishing and hunting. Those ripening crops are not yet food for the most part and the tribe would still be living off the largesse stored in the previous fall. It is far more likely that people were hungry in midsummer than they were in the winter. This scenario may be what prompted the Norse to take advantage of the good weather to go raiding, to take by force what others had laid up when their own supplies were diminished.

August Feast: Freyfaxi

Freyfaxi was celebrated when the crops had ripened and the harvest could begin. It was celebrated with feasting and the baking of “first loaves” as grain was made bread. The hunger of summer was at an end and feasts were held to alleviate the pangs of those months of denial and the glorious abundance that would carry the family through the winter and to the next planting and harvest. Once again it is the landwights and the Vanir, especially Freyr, who are honored for the abundance of the earth. In the past, games and races were held to celebrate. The harvest also marked the end of the campaign season. Men were needed to bring in the crops and tend their affairs as landowners. They returned to their lands and put away their longships and prepared for the long peaceful rest of winter. For this reason, alongside Freyr, the warriors also venerated their patrons, Thor or Odin or Tyr, for their success in battle. In my house, this time of thanksgiving is commemorated as we remember the pledges we made the landwights for their role in providing the food harvested across the country. It is too easy for most modern Americans to forget the effort that goes into food production and the worries alleviated as the harvest is made.

Fall Feast: Winter Finding

Winter Finding is celebrated on the fall equinox. The year has come full circle and the potentials of ice and snow were made real for our Northern Ancestors. The ground is cold and rests under the snow and full bellies rest beside the fires required for warmth. The harvest has to be complete or the crops will wither and die in the fields.  Look into the future for the Charming of the Plow and the days of next spring’s planting. The meal that would be eaten by those who performed that labor, had been gathered in and stored by Winter Finding. The season that began at this time for our ancestors was one of rest and recreation. Whether the harvest was sufficient for the year or not, it is done and there is no changing the facts of winter. In a good year, this celebration was gratitude for the expectation of survival. The coming months until planting and the return of the campaign season will be spent with games and drink and family. Winter Finding is, then, a time to recognize these blessings also.


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