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Hlæfæst or Lammas, or Something Else?

Hlæfæst or Lammas, or Something Else?

We’re coming up on August 1st, which is the August Harvest Festival, Hlæfæst. It’s also known to most modern pagans as Lammas. If you’re still using the AFA Holiday wheel-of-the-year, it’s called Freyfaxi. For obvious reasons, I’m not keen on the AFA world, and after having read about the story of Freyfaxi, I don’t consider it a good name for a harvest festival, although Freyfest might be more in tune with the holiday.

What to Call the First Harvest Festival?

So, I’ve decided to simply call it the August Harvest Festival or Hlæfæst (Loaf Feast), in honor of the holiday that existed in Anglo Saxon times before Christianity got its mitts into it. If you feel more comfortable to call it Freyfest, by all means, do so.

What is Lammas or Hlæfæst?

Hlæfæst is probably more of a modern day creation than it is a holiday from the past. We can kind of associate it with Lammas, which is the Wiccan/neopagan version of the holiday. It’s the first of three harvest festivals many Wiccans/neopagans celebrate. Lammas literally means “Loaf Mass” or “Loaf Feast.” As I said above, it has been Christianized, like so many of the pagan holidays, that we have to go by what little we can gleam from past traditions and historical notes.

When the Christians Honored Lugh

I remember going to church while in parochial school during the Blessing of the Loaves, which is the Christian version of Lammas. Naturally the Christians decided to Christianize it to get more people on board with their teachings. In the past, people associate Lammas with Lugh, who is a Celtic god. I can imagine Lugh laughing at the Church because they kept his holiday–they just gave it different trappings.

Can We Celebrate Hlæfæst as Heathens?

Although Lammas celebrates a god from the Celtic pantheon, there’s no reason why we can’t appropriate it and call it Hlæfæst. Hlæfæst celebrates the grain harvest, which honors Sif, Thor, Freyr, and Freyja. Rather than just honor Freyr with Freyfaxi, I think honoring four gods and goddesses is better because these are the gods who make the grain grow. It makes sense to give thanks to them.

Remember that Heathenism, although based on an ancient religion, is pretty much still new, which means a lot is still open for interpretation. You can celebrate Hlæfæst as it suits you and your family.

How to Celebrate Hlæfæst

Since we’re kind of on our own when it comes to how to celebrate Hlæfæst, I propose the following:

  • Bake bread using local wheat or as many local ingredients as you can in honor of Thor and Sif. If it’s too hot, try a bread machine to make your bread.
  • Cook a pork roast in honor of Freyr. If it’s just too hot to cook a roast, go with pork chops or some other cut of pork that is simple to cook.
  • Cook vegetables and eat produce that is in season along with the pork. Thank Freyja for the food.
  • Offer a mead toast and blot to the gods and goddesses that helped bring this food to your table.
  • Visit a local farm or farmer’s market and buy fresh produce for yourself and your family.
  • Decorate your house with a harvest theme.
  • Make offerings to the landvaetr and the gods.

Tell me if you celebrate Lammas or Hlæfæst, and what you do.

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The Yule Goat Sneaks Heathen Tradition into Christmas

The Yule Goat Sneaks Heathen Tradition into Christmas

If you’re new to Heathenism, or even if you’ve been a Heathen for a while, you may or may not have seen the Julbock or Yule Goat as part of the Yule celebration. The Yule Goat or Julbock is a pagan Scandinavian tradition that predates Christianity that sneaked into Christmas celebrations in Scandinavia. It’s an interesting tradition that we can easily incorporate into our Yule festivities.

What is the Julbock? 

You may be wondering what the Yule Goat is and what significance it has for Heathens. After all, a goat is a goat, right? Well, maybe.

The Julbock is associated with the last sheaf of grain harvested, which in the past was considered to have magical properties. Called the julbocken, it was associated with proto-Slavic beliefs with the god of the harvest and the fertile sun, Devac, represented by a white goat. It was common for someone to dress up as a goat and demand presents as offerings. In this way, Yule was part of the harvest festival that has been carried into the winter solstice, perhaps as a way to entice the sun to return by paying tribute.

Historians think the Yule Goat may be linked to Thor’s goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr  in many respects.  Given that Thor provides rains and Sif, his consort, is the goddess of grain, you can kind of see the relationship and symbolism.

The current Julbock appears in Scandinavian tradition as straw tied with red ribbons in the shape of a goat. The Gävle Goat is Sweden is probably the best known Julbock since 1966.  Not surprisingly, it has been vandalized by arson at least 36 times and has been hit by cars, kicked to pieces, and stolen.  Apparently it is too big of a temptation to not offer it to the sun.   

Julbock Festivities 

In the past, the Julbock kept watch to ensure the Yule, and later Christmas, preparations were done correctly. It seems to be a benevolent Krampus in that respect.  In medieval times, the Julbock was associated with wassailing, playing pranks, and performing plays.  Youths in costumes would go house to house singing and performing plays for food and spirits.  These plays would often feature a Julbock in them.

In the 19th century, the Julbock was the bringer of presents before the whole Santa Claus thing took hold in Scandinavia.  An adult male relative of the house would dress up as a goat and hand out presents.  This eventually faded out as the Santa Claus tradition took hold in the latter half of the 19th century. Even so, there is at least one piece of art showing a rather pagan Santa Claus riding a goat. This artwork is entitled “Old Christmas” which gives us an interesting mix of the two traditions.

How to Add the Julbock in Your Heathen Celebrations

Julbock for sale at Amazon

Now that you know a bit about the Julbock, you may be wondering how to add it to your own Heathen celebrations.  Unless you’re a farmer, chances are you don’t have the last bundle of wheat from the harvest, so you may have to be satisfied with your own Julbock decoration or even these nice Julbock Yule tree ornaments.

But you don’t have to stop there with relegating the Julbock as a Yuletide decoration. If you have a large party on Yule, you can add your own Yule play which includes the Julbock.  Celebrate Yule by wassailing.  When it comes time to handing out Yule presents, who says you wouldn’t look marvelous in horns and a goat hide?  Many cool possibilities here.

So, those are my thoughts on the Julbock.  Maybe you have some ideas for celebrating Yule that I haven’t mentioned.  Let me know how you incorporate the Julbock in your Yule.


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