Harvest Month: Reap What You Sow By: Valarie Wright, 2016
Whether you call it Lammas, Lughnasadh, or Lithas’ Blot, August has long been known simply as ‘harvest’. Among the Anglo-Saxons, this month was the beginning of Weodmonat, or “weed month”. Far from the troublesome plant we think of today, weed once meant the “edible roots, green stalks and leaves” that would assure one’s survival through the coming winter; so this month represented one’s ability to care for family and celebrate honest labor. And above all others, two names are deeply associated with this season: Freyr and Urðr. Today, their feast days fall on the 28th and 29th of August. (If you follow the lunar calendar, these days fall after the Full Moon in August.)
Freyr is the god of farm and field, of cattle and hog, sunshine and bountiful barley. The Saga of Olaf Tryggvason (14-15th century CE) relates that during the spring, a wagon with an effigy of Freyr traveled from one community to another, allowing villagers to honor the Tivar. Freyr and the boar Gullinbursti (“golden bristles”), represent sacral kingship and oaths, frith and good will. And the story of Freyr and Gerðr – taken symbolically – is that of virile manhood impregnating the ripe womb of earth to assure the fecundity of every field.
This device is a “Guldgubber”, or ‘gold old man’, thought to depict Freyr and Gerðr. These are thin, hammered gold pieces, thought to be cult items or amulets.
Urðr is a Norn, a divine weaver of human fate; she tends a Well that bears her name. Urðr’s name indicates “what was”, and many scholars believe she was the first Norn, and that her sisters – Verðandi and Skuld – were added later. All three are mentioned in Völuspá 20, and Urðr in Gylfaginning 15 (Her Well is mentioned several times). As representative of the Past, she is keenly involved in the pattern and sequence that manifests as the Present and Future, for both must rest upon what came before
Cover of Urd, a Norwegian women's magazine; circa 1900 CE.
As consecutive days: Freyr’s Feast is the light that warms and guides us into the dark half of the year, and Urðr’s Feast has us reflecting upon the Well’s surface to contemplate our accomplishments. Combined, both days ask us to determine if our deeds will sustain us in the days ahead.
Today, whether one works the soil or has an office job (or both!), harvest is an opportunity for family to work together, for as the old adage reminds us: Many hands make light work! Though far removed from days of yore, we can focus on our reciprocal commitment to family and friends, to give thanks for what we have, to pray that our wealth and weal lasts us through Winter’s Long Night, and that we each grow strong under Freyr’s Light and Urðr’s Wisdom.
To remember your forebears during Harvest: bake and eat hearty bread spread thick with fatty butter; make apple jam chunky with dark nuts; craft sun wheels to adorn the home; jump bonfires for mirth and good cheer; and share cool mead with friends – for hospitality is a Heathen hearthstone.
Young and valiant in former days, I was able to be alone.
Back then, overly wild and argumentative,
I thought myself rich, until I met another.
Man is man’s best company.
-Havamal 47 (Wright trans.)