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The Norse Calendar: Skerpla – The Month of Brightness and Clearness

The Norse Calendar: Skerpla – The Month of Brightness and Clearness

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

The month of Skerpla roughly corresponds to our modern month of May. It was the second month of the summer season. Here we’ll explore the historical and mythological significance of Skerpla. You’ll also learn why it was important for the Norse pagan communities.

What is Skerpla?

Image by Joe from Pixabay

Skerpla was a month in the Old Norse calendar that marked the transition from spring to summer. Arguably, the name Skerpla may mean “brightness” or “clearness,” and some scholars think it refers to the increasing light and longer days of the summer season. During Skerpla, the days would become noticeably longer, and the sun would rise earlier and set later.

Skerpla in the Old Norse Calendar

The Old Norse calendar had a unique way of dividing the year into distinct seasons and months. The Norse divided their calendar into two main seasons: winter and summer. They divided winter into six months, which roughly corresponds to October, November, December, January, February, and March. They also divided summer into six months, which roughly corresponds to April, May, June, July, August, and September.

Each month in the Old Norse calendar has its own unique name, which came from the seasonal or agricultural activities that took place during that time of year. Skerpla was the second month of the summer season. It was when people would prepare their farms and fields for planting and cultivation.

Image by Siegfried Poepperl from Pixabay

Skerpla was when the days grew longer and the weather grew warmer. During Skerpla, people celebrated the return of life and growth to the land, and honored the gods and goddesses who presided over fertility, agriculture, and nature. This month also had the names stekktíð and eggtíð, meaning lambing time and egg time. The Norse, who were predominantly an agrarian society, named their months after the specific periods during which various farming tasks were carried out.

Skerpla in Norse Mythology

Skerpla was an important month in Norse mythology, and it was associated with several gods and goddesses who influence the natural world and the changing of the seasons.

Freyja is one of the most important goddesses of Norse mythology. People associate her with fertility, love, and beauty. Freyja is a goddess of the earth and the natural world, and she is associated with the growing and harvesting of crops.

The goddess Sif is also associated with Skerpla, and she is believed to be a goddess of agriculture and the harvest. Sif is the wife of the god Thor, and she is known for her long, golden hair, which is believed to represent the golden fields of grain that farmers planted.

In addition to the gods and goddesses, this month is also associated with a number of other mythical beings and creatures. The most famous of these are the alfar, or elves, who are believed to inhabit the natural world and possess magical powers.

Holidays and Celebrations

There is one holiday and celebration that took place during Skerpla, which is marked by feasting, dancing, and other forms of merrymaking. The Norse called it Dísablót, and it was a very important celebration.

Dísablót is a celebration of female ancestors, or Dísir, is the major holiday that begins Skerpla, usually on May 14th. People celebrated this holiday with feasting and singing. The Dísir, like the Alfar, are considered powerful guardians–some even becoming goddesses. Since they are female ancestors, people offer blóts, usually of food and mead. I wrote a piece about Dísablót HERE.

Importance of Skerpla

Skerpla was an important month for the Norse and Norse pagan communities, as it marked the beginning of the agricultural season. During this month, people would prepare their fields and plant their crops. It was a busy time for everyone because the work done now would eventually lead to food for the winter.

Skerpla was an important month for our ancestors. It was a time of transition and change, as the days grew longer and the weather grew warmer. People celebrated the return of life and growth to the land, and honored the gods and goddesses who presided over fertility, agriculture, and nature. Skerpla was a time when people would come together to celebrate the abundance of the earth and the changing of the seasons.

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Celebrate Dísablót on May 14th

Celebrate Dísablót on May 14th

Dísablót, one of the most significant pagan festivals celebrated in ancient Scandinavia, is still remembered and commemorated by modern-day pagans and heathens. This springtime festival, which usually takes place on May 14th, was dedicated to the dísir, the female spirits and goddesses who were believed to protect and bless the fertility of the land, animals, and people. Here, we will explore the history, traditions, and significance of Dísablót.

Origins and Meaning of Dísablót

The word “blót” in Old Norse means sacrifice or offering. Ancient Heathens performed Blót ceremonies to appease the gods and goddesses.  Our ancestors sought their blessings and favors, and to ensure the community’s prosperity and protection. Dísablót, therefore, is a special blót dedicated to the dísir. Heathens consider the dísir to be our guardians and benefactors. The term “dísir” (singular dís) refers to ancestral female spirits. These ancestral spirits watch over their descendants and guide them in their daily lives. Eventually, the dísir evolved into a type of goddess, whom we honor.

Our ancestors held Dísablót in the spring or early summer, at the beginning of the growing season. They looked to spring as at time of renewal, hope, and optimism. The harsh winter had passed and the land was ready for planting and harvesting. People invoked and praised the dísir for maintaining fertility. People also prayed to them for protection and guidance in family, marriage, childbirth, and health. Dísablót is a celebration of life and fertility, and a form of ancestor worship.

Dísablót Rituals and Offerings

Not surprisingly, Dísablót practices varied from region to region and community to community. However, this festival had some common elements and themes. People offered food and drink to the dísir. The offerings could be meat, bread, cheese, beer, mead, or other delicacies. People placed the food on a special altar or platform, which they decorated with flowers, greens, and ribbons. The altar became the connection between our world and the dísir.

People lit bonfires to honor the dísir and to provide light and warmth. People also lit fires to ward off evil spirits and diseases. Our ancestors considered the smoke and ashes sacred, and sometimes used them for divination or healing.

Music, dance, and poetry were also integral to Dísablót. Singing and playing instruments were ways people praised and thanked the dísir, as well as expressing joy and gratitude for spring’s arrival. The bards and skalds, who were the Norse poets and storytellers, recited epic tales and sagas of the gods and heroes.

Dísablót was also a time for socializing and feasting. The participants, who could be family members, friends, or neighbors, shared the offerings and the food, and drank together. This communal aspect of Dísablót reflected the importance of kinship and community bonds in Norse society.

Dísablót in Modern Times

Although the practice of Dísablót ceased with the Christianization of Scandinavia in the Middle Ages, the memory and legacy of this festival have survived and been revived in modern times. Contemporary heathen and pagan communities have adapted and reinterpreted the rituals and meanings of Dísablót to fit their own beliefs and practices. Some groups hold public or private ceremonies that follow the traditional format of offering food, lighting fires, and reciting poetry. Others create their own variations that incorporate elements of personal spirituality or social activism.

Dísablót has also become a symbol of Norse identity and heritage. Some Scandinavian countries, such as Sweden and Iceland, have incorporated Dísablót into their cultural calendars as a way of preserving and promoting their historical traditions. Museums, festivals, and educational programs feature Dísablót as a way of educating the public about the pre-Christian past and the continuity of cultural values.

Moreover, Dísablót has gained popularity and recognition among non-Scandinavian pagans and heathens as a way of connecting with their ancestral roots and honoring the feminine divine. As the dísir represent a diverse range of female energies and archetypes, they are seen as a source of inspiration and empowerment for women and queer people. Dísablót, therefore, has taken on new meanings and significance for those who seek to reclaim their spiritual heritage and resist the dominant norms of patriarchal monotheism.

A Significant Holiday Worth Celebrating

Dísablót is a fascinating and rich festival that reflects the complex and diverse religious and cultural landscape of ancient Scandinavia. Its emphasis on fertility, ancestor worship, communal bonds, and artistic expression has resonated with people throughout history and across borders. Dísablót offers a valuable opportunity to explore and celebrate the feminine divine, the cycles of nature, and the power of community.

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What Exactly Are the Wights in Heathenry?

What Exactly Are the Wights in Heathenry?

If you’ve entered Heathenry recently, or even if you have been in it a while, chances are you’ve heard about Wights. Often called the landvaetr, the wights are pretty intrinsic to Heathen beliefs. But what exactly are they, and how do they fit into the Heathen belief system?

Where the Term, Wight, Comes From

The term, “wight,” comes from Middle English, but we really have J.R.R. Tolkien to thank for bringing it back into the lexicon. The original word mean “a living, sentient being,” but the word mostly went out of style until The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings became popular. That Tolkien chose the word, “wight,” is no happy accident. He was a professor of Anglo Saxon at Oxford University. (The Anglo Saxon root of “wight” is wiht, for those curious.) In his stories, he spoke of “Barrow-wights” and other denizens. So, he used the term, wight, to describe a particularly supernatural phenomenon. Namely, creatures that are not quite of this world, but have sentience, or are, at least animate enough to consider them creatures and not things.

Heathens (as well as other pagans and fantasy writers) have co-oped the term to describe supernatural creatures that aren’t quite gods, but are still quite powerful. I believe we probably use the word because most people are familiar with the concept of wights nowadays, but aren’t necessarily familiar with the term, landvaetr. In other words, even though landvaetr or “land spirits” are the correct words to use (when talking about land wights), for simplicity sake, we use “wights.”

What Are Wights, Exactly?

Now that you’re familiar with the concept of wights, let’s talk about what a wight encompasses in Heathenry. Wights are just what you might think: Elves, Dwarves, Trolls, and other supernatural denizens. These include the nisse, tomte, disir, alfar, and hulderfolk. They include the ancestors who have continued after their death to reside in our world as spirits. And they include not only the land spirits, but also the sea spirits, of which there are many. This is the broadest sense of being a wight.

My Experience with Wights (Or Lack Thereof)

Growing up, I always wanted to see Elves and Fairies. Even when I was old enough to know better, while still being a preteen, I hoped to see the hidden folk. I grew up largely in suburbia, but way back when I was a kid (yeah, you can add the old codger voice to that), there were still tracts of undeveloped land around our homes. I lived in the Eastern US where you could still cross lands that had blackberry and raspberry bushes growing wild, find ruins of old farmsteads that predated the Civil War, and other cool things. We never thought we were trespassing on someone’s property, although I’m pretty sure we did that a lot, but we found some pretty cool stuff with metal detectors and just generally exploring. I knew most of the creeks and entrances into property where people wouldn’t give you grief for crossing. Yeah, I suppose it was a different time. My mom and dad had no idea where I was going, and I wasn’t worse for the wear.

Anyway, back to wights. Despite being in a history-rich area, I never saw a single wight. The gods know, I tried. Instead, I tromped through streams, played in the mud (and got in terrible trouble for that), explored, and discovered a lot of things. Wights—not so much. Maybe they just looked at me as some kid who was mostly harmless and alone. Maybe my early skepticism banished them, I don’t know.

Do Wights Exist?

It’s my guess—and you folks can argue with me over this—that most Heathens are pretty convinced that wights aren’t corporeal creatures, but more likely spirits. Or maybe they consider wights the personification of the natural forces at work. In other words, they aren’t really singular entities. Some people feel that they are ancestors—and yes, there are good cases for this. And some people believe them to be a little below gods. Again, there is a case for that as well.

That being said, I’m clearly on the agnostic side of the fence when it comes to wights. In other words, I haven’t actually had the pleasure of meeting one. I’ve spoken to people whom I consider sane (or mostly sane) who work with wights, so there is a possibility that they do exist on some level. Despite my agnostic views, I do make offerings to them. I also can do rituals that banish bad wights. Hel’s bells, I’ve even had some interesting experiences with what can only be considered gremlins. (The type that gum up mechanical things, not the creatures you’re never supposed to get wet or feed after dark.)

What Else About Wights?

There are literally books about wights, but for the sake of expediency, I won’t go into specifics in this post. Instead, I’m planning a series of posts about wights and the other less than godly creatures in our belief system and give you my take on them. And of course, if you’ve had dealings with wights, be sure to tell me about it in the comments!

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