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Did Our Ancestors Celebrate the Autumnal Equinox?

Did Our Ancestors Celebrate the Autumnal Equinox?

Yes, it’s that time of year: approaching the Autumnal Equinox. The world has gone into pumpkin spice everything, the weather has been shifting towards colder, and darkness is creeping up on us. Living in the Northern Rockies, I started noticing the shift in weather in August, and darkness has crept up on us. When we had light at almost 11 pm, we now have total darkness before 9 pm.

Even at less extreme latitudes, people probably notice the march toward the darker days. So one has to wonder if our northern ancestors celebrated the equinox.

The Equinox was a Time of Harvest

The Norse split the seasons into two: winter and summer. It makes sense, really, because there was just growing seasons and snow. As much as I’d like to think our ancestors marked the equinox, chances are they were too busy getting the harvest put up.

Right now, my own experience as a landholder tells me that people probably were concerned about getting prepared for winter. For my family, it is getting enough hay and firewood for the winter. The upcoming winter requires me to dry fruits and vegetables for use during the winter months and get them stored properly, because there are times I won’t be able to get to the grocery store.

For our ancestors, their experience was much more dire. They were their own store, meaning that if they didn’t have it, or if their family didn’t have it, they went without. Sure, they could (and did) hunt, fish, and slaughter their own animals, but if they didn’t have enough of a certain food, they went without.

In this day of local grocery markets, it kind of blows one’s mind to think if you didn’t have enough of something, that was too bad. That meant that harvest was exceedingly important because if it didn’t produce enough, you were screwed.

This is why our ancestors put so much emphasis into the seasons. The seasons governed their lives and dictated when they had to do certain things to survive.

Community was Important

Back then, community wasn’t just for socialization. It was the only means you could survive in that harsh climate. You did a lot of things, but there were other people whose expertise you relied on. Not everyone was a blacksmith, carpenter, hunter, cloth maker, or field worker. While there were many farmers, the farmers also needed their tools repaired, sick animals cared for, and furniture made. Sure, some people did it all, but many people traded things they made or grew for services.

People understood that in order to survive the harsh winters, one had to depend on the community. Without the kindred, there was a reasonable chance you wouldn’t make it to the spring.

Celebrating the Autumnal Equinox

As I said, I don’t think that people had a particular observance for the equinoxes during the Viking era. However given that our northern ancestors spread throughout Europe, Russia, the Middle East, and Africa, different customs arose. Since the autumnal equinox came around harvest times, it could’ve easily been incorporated in harvest celebrations. So, there is no reason why you can’t celebrate it as a Heathen.

Things to Do to Celebrate the Autumnal Equinox

There are plenty of things you can do to celebrate the autumnal equinox. Here are some ideas:

  • Plan a feast of locally harvested and in-season foods.
  • Decorate your home with pumpkins, autumn leaves, and other reminders of the season.
  • Make an offering to the gods — mead, harvested nuts, apples, and other in-season foods.
  • Can, dehydrate, and freeze foods for winter.
  • Go to a farm that allows you to pick your own apples or vegetables and do so.

Gods of the Autumnal Equinox

You should honor the gods of Autumn. You may wish to honor the following gods and goddesses:

  • Thor and Sif — for rains and the grain harvest.
  • Skadi and Ullr — for the fall and winter hunt, as well as snow sports.
  • Freyr and Freyja — for the harvest bounty.
  • Baldr and Hodr — for the balance of light and dark.

Let me know what you’re doing this equinox, if anything.

The Gods and Goddesses of Autumn

The Gods and Goddesses of Autumn

Now that the Equinox has passed, you can feel the changing of the guard, especially if you live in the northern states. This year, it’s almost as if the gods and goddesses have had enough of the fires out here.  It is as though we’ve gone from summer to winter in one day and then the actual fall settles in.

A Time of Change

Autumn is a time of change.  It heralds the coming of winter and the urgent need to prepare for it. For those of you who buy foods from the grocery stores, chances are the changes you’ll see is more pumpkin spice lattes and Halloween candy.  For me, it’s a time to search for upland birds, can my harvest, and run my dehydrator 24/7. I’m looking at my livestock and wondering who I’ll be slaughtering so I can have more meat in my freezer.  I’m considering how I’m going to keep the fresh stuff preserved so that I can enjoy it when it is cold and snowy.  And I’m waiting for general hunting season where I can hunt deer and elk.

I truly feel that our gods and goddesses are linked to the seasons. This makes a lot of sense because our planet is governed by the laws of physics — even at the tiniest level. This makes a lot of sense if you’ve ever contemplated the overall nature of the universe.

The Gods and Goddesses of Autumn

I did some basic research, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t a lot written about what Northern gods go with what season. We can make obvious guesses for winter and spring, but fall may be a little bit questionable simply because it is a time of transition. Even so, I’m going to share with you my insights, and hopefully you have some insights as well.

Skadi

Probably the biggest goddess of autumn (and also of winter) is Skadi, the Norse goddess of the hunt and of winter. She’s the one I pretty much go to when it comes to hunting, and I feel more in tuned with her every year. She is not an easy goddess to deal with, but she is honorable and very powerful. The story about Skadi seeking retribution for her father’s death is a story which shows how far she is willing to go if you fail to heed her.

Ullr

 

Ullr is the god of hunting, of snow and skiing, and of snowshoes. Ullr was considered an important god among the Scandinavians, no doubt since snow plays a major part in their weather. I’ve read various claims that Ullr is Skadi’s second husband after Njord. The story goes that Skadi could not abide Njord’s home near the sea, and he could not accept the high

mountain tops and snow, so they divorced and Skadi married Ullr.

Tyr

 

Tyr is the god of laws, justice, and the sky. While it seems odd to associate Tyr with a season, I believe he has power over the solstices and equinoxes, given his role as the sky god and lawmaker. It has been my experience (and you can take this as an unverified personal gnosis) that Tyr governs the laws of physics. When we deal with the movements of our planet in relation to the sun, it is really all physics.

I also ran across an interesting point that in some heathen segments Ullr may be an aspect of Tyr. It seems far-fetched, but apparently Ullr was invoked during duels, which was often used to determine who was right and who was wrong. Furthermore, there is an episode in the AtlakviĆ°a which has the swearing of an oath on Ullr’s ring. I can sort of see how this might fit together, but unless I have another UPG, it’s unlikely, at least in my own mind that Ullr is Tyr.

Freyr

 

Although it seems somewhat out of place, I’m putting Freyr as one of the autumn gods. The reason I am putting him in the autumn gods is quite obvious: he is the god of the harvest. The final harvest usually occurs sometime around the equinox, or maybe just a little later. Sometime in the fall farmers tended to slaughter livestock that they were not keeping over the winter, and preserving them. It makes sense that Freyr would preside over all of this.

 

Frigg

 

It may seem to be another stretch to put Frigg as a goddess of autumn, but I don’t think so. Frigg is a goddess of the hearth and home, of the distaff, and the wife of Odin. She has ties to Frau Holle and appears to be important in all manners of the home. To me, it makes sense that as the weather gets cooler, people are more inclined to stay indoors. So, I’m likely to think that preserving food and caring for the home falls right into Frigg’s domain.

I hope you enjoyed this piece. No doubt, you can think of some other gods and goddesses of autumn. I’d be interested to hear what you have to say and who you would recommend.