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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!

Eostre and Spring: Is Easter a Christian Holiday?

Eostre and Spring: Is Easter a Christian Holiday?

Every year about this time, Heathens, pagans, and those who don’t celebrate the Christian holiday of Easter are quick to point out that Easter isn’t a Christian holiday; yours truly included. But I do wish to address Easter as a Christian holiday, even if it has taken its name and customs from pagan celebrations.

Easter as a Christian Holiday

I’m talking about Easter first as a Christian holiday so we can distinguish between the Christian holiday and a pagan celebration. Despite the name, Easter, the holiday has its roots in the Jewish celebration of Passover.

If you’ve ever watched The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston, you know that Passover celebrates the flight of the Israelites from the Pharaoh’s oppression as described in the Book of Exodus in the Bible. Never mind that archaeologists are pretty sure that the pyramids were built by paid labor and not slaves. Furthermore there are no records by the Egyptians of Israelites in Egypt, let alone slaves.

Jesus purportedly entered Jerusalem for the week of Passover, which, for his troubles, ended up getting him nailed to a cross.

Why Easter is Primarily Christian

Now, before we go into all the pagan traditions surrounding Easter, I’m going to point out that despite my dislike of Christianity and its destruction of paganism, pagans can only superficially claim Easter because it is around the Vernal Equinox. The whole fairy tale of the “purportedly magic Jew” rising from the dead after being crucified is more or less their shtick. It happens around the time of Passover, which is based on the Book of Exodus in the Bible.

I can hear you saying “But Tyra, what about the other resurrection myths? What about the celebrations of Dionysus and Osiris? What about Beltane? And what about Odin hanging from Yggdrasil for nine days?” Yeah, yeah. All that is true and chances are the Christians stole the ideas from pagans, but the whole bullshit celebration of Easter is undoubtedly theirs. They wove the pagan stories together to fit their religion and there you have it, a Christian story.

Nothing is particularly new with the Jesus story. There have been many instances in religion of gods becoming men or appearing to be men. There are many instances of gods being crucified or hanged from trees. And there are plenty of instances of men or gods rising from the dead and becoming more powerful. The Jesus story is just a narrative that puts those elements together in a one god, Christian fashion.

But Easter is Pagan! Right?

Easter isn’t as pagan as Christmas. Sure, it takes elements from various beliefs and spins them into a story that has both familiar and new elements present. The story uses archetypes that are ingrained in our psyches. But it is a Christian story. Why? Because it doesn’t quite mimic any other pagan myth out there.

Before Easter, pagans may have celebrated the equinoxes, although the solstices seem to be more popular for obvious reasons. Imbolc was the Celtic version of Entschtanning (celebrated by those in Urglaawe) also known as Grundsaudaag, which happened around the first or second of February, which we now celebrate as Groundhog’s Day. Beltane was the Celtic version of Mayday, which celebrated the beginning of summer. As Heathens, we really didn’t have an Equinox celebration, as far as I know.

Although St. Bede mentions the Anglo Saxon month of Eostre, which is named after Eostre/Ostara, we know very little about Eostre. She had a feast day around the same time as Easter, which probably made the whole Christ thing more palatable. The fact that Eostre gave Easter its name is probably one more way the Christian church co-opted Pagans.

What About the Pagan Trappings Around Easter?

Sure, Easter took on the pagan trappings of Eostre/Ostara. No bunnies were visiting Christ on the cross, as far as we know. And while eggs are purported to be the symbol of rebirth among the Jewish peoples, I haven’t done enough research into that to back that up. But you can read about my opinions, Was Easter Appropriated? HERE.

Ignoring Easter

This year I nearly forgot about Easter except my husband had the day off. And to be point-blank honest, I was more concerned about avoid talking to my Christian family that day instead of anything special. So, our dinner was stir-fry venison. Because that’s a proper Eostre dish. I’m just saying…

This doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate Eostre bunnies and stuff yourself full of Cadbury eggs. The whole candy thing was a 19th century invention anyway to give candy makers a boost, so it’s not religious at all. Personally, I’m good with any holiday that promotes candy.