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Harvest Time, Alfarblot, and Preparations

Harvest Time, Alfarblot, and Preparations

Here in the Northern Rockies, harvest is in full swing. Lots of peppers, corn, beans, potatoes, melons, and pumpkins fill the farmer’s markets. Inevitably, that means food banks get a ridiculous amount of produce donated from local farms. 

I am far from rich, being a writer. (And if you want to support my writing, go to my patreon page and sign up — or buy me a coffee.) That’s why I hunt and go to food banks. Since the main food bank in my area now allows one to take whatever you need, I’ve been back there once every two weeks. They say some people go there every day, but I live out of town a fair ways, so to save fuel, I have to plan trips accordingly.

I won’t bore you with my shopping experience, but suffice to say, most of the food had been picked over early. That being said, as I waited, stuff that I actually needed appeared and I was able to bring home a lot of good stuff.

Last night I created ratatouille and filled my dehydrator with parsley and peppers. I couldn’t help thinking about our ancestors and what they must have gone through during this time to prepare for winter. I have to do a fair amount of preps, but it couldn’t be anything like what they did.

The Harvest and Preparation

Our ancestors needed to prepare for the lean winter months. That required them to pay attention to the harvest. Harvest was a time when everyone worked, from the highest thegn to the lowest slave. Landowners at least had to supervise the harvest and keep track of everything being done, if they wanted it done correctly. Women and children had to help process the food to ensure it was properly preserved.

If you were a lord, you might have delegated oversight to trusted men or women, but this depended on how much land you owned, what time in history you lived, and how big your kindred was. Remember, kindreds were basically extended family. There might be people whom you had no famillial ties within your village, but they and their families had some positive aspects for being considered part of your kindred.

Maybe they were warriors who fought alongside you. Maybe they were people who helped you out, or whom you helped out. Basically, your community was there for protection and help. Because it was unlikely that separately they were stronger without you (or you without them).

Preparation for the Darkness

Winter, for all its beauty and majesty, could be a very brutal time for kindreds. Basically if you didn’t have the food saved, you were shit out of luck. Sure, there was game and fish to be had–assuming you could break a hole in the ice or find game in the snow–but other than your livestock and your food stores, that was it when it came to edible foods. The northern hemisphere was retreating into darkness, culminating in the solstice where the light returned. 

The gods help you if you had raiders, thieves, pests, or a bad harvest. There’s a reason why our ancestors were good warriors. They had to be. Not only did they raid other peoples for their treasures, but they also had to defend their homes against other raiders. Losing your food was a death sentence, unless you somehow procured more. This is why it was so important to be part of a kindred and not an outlaw. Outlaws didn’t have the safety of a kindred.

Planning for a Harvest Festival

Now with the harvest almost completed, we modern day Heathens can look to have a harvest festival now. Maybe it’s winter finding, Alfarblot, or Samhain for you. Maybe you just want to celebrate Harvest. That’s perfectly acceptable. Maybe you’ve had a rough year and need something to look forward to. Maybe you had a good year and need to celebrate it. As a Heathen, the second harvest festival seems like a good idea.

Like most Heathens, I feel that more celebrations are better than too little. So, if you want to celebrate Harvest, Halloween, Winter Finding, and Alfarblot, go for it. Just be aware you’ll have a very busy schedule.

Alfarblot?

Our ancestors celebrated a holiday known as Alfarblot. It was to remember our male ancestors. When it was celebrated exactly, we don’t know, but I seem to recall it could have been in the fall or the winter.  Choosing to remember our male ancestors during the second harvest festival seems appropriate. So, if you want to celebrate Alfarblot around Halloween or Samhain, that’s perfectly okay. I like to think of it around the beginning of November, but anytime around Halloween is fine.  Seeing as we really don’t know all the holidays from the past, we can celebrate it in the spirit as it was intended.

Why We Need to Celebrate Harvest

Harvest is a time for celebration of the foods we’ve received from our farmers, but more importantly, the Earth. Just think how our lives would be different if we couldn’t grow fruits and vegetables. As a species, we all might still be hunter/gatherers. Or maybe we wouldn’t even exist because the carrying capacity of the land wouldn’t be able to support so many humans.

Yes, humans domesticated plant and animal species, but without the Earth and our life’s genetics, we would have nothing. Even our biological scientific advancements in genetically modified engineering require DNA. That DNA happened either by the gods or by chance, whichever you believe. Without it, we would be here, nor would we have the foods we eat. Without good weather and optimal growing conditions, we wouldn’t have a harvest.

How to Celebrate the Harvest and Alfarblot

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate the harvest, here are some tips:

  • Try cooking some Viking recipes. You can Google “Viking recipes” or try some recipes HERE.
  • Give offerings to both the land some recipes HERE and the gods and goddesses of the harvest. This would include Freyr, Freyja, Thor, and Sif.
  • Give offerings to Ullr and Skadi for a safe and prosperous hunting season, if you hunt.
  • Make a feast from local foods.
  • Visit a farm and help with the harvest. Some farms will allow you to pick your own produce for a cost.
  • Work with your local food bank or food pantry to help feed the needy.
  • Have a harvest game day–Northern peoples loved to play board games and games of strategy in the winter months.
  • Decorate your home in an autumn theme. Be sure to do a salt ritual to ensure to banish negative wights.
  • Put up photos of your recent ancestors, or things that remind you of your recent ancestors, especially the men. If you don’t know who they might be, or if you don’t want to honor certain men, that’s okay. There are other male ancestors whom you can honor, even if you don’t know them. And you can always honor a man who has made a positive difference in your life.

Those are just some ideas. Let me know what you’re doing!

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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