Winter Nights

 

Winter nights is held the 31st of October. Winter nights marked the last of the harvest and the time when the animals that were not expected to make it through the winter were butchered and smoked or made into sausage. The festival is also called "Elf-Blessing", "Dis-Blessing", or "Frey-Blessing", which tells us that it was especially a time of honoring the ancestral spirits, the spirits of the land, the Vanir, and the powers of fruitfulness, wisdom, and death.

 

It marks the turning of the year from summer to winter, the turning of our awareness from outside to inside. Among the Norse, the ritual was often led by the elder woman of a family - the ruler of the house and all within.

 

One of the MOST common harvest customs of the Germanic people was the hallowing and leaving of the "Last Sheaf" in the field, often for Odin and/or his host of the dead, though the specifics of the custom vary considerably over its wide range. The Wild Hunt begins after Winter nights, and the roads and fields no longer belong to humans, but to ghosts and trolls.

 

The Winter nights feast is also especially seen as a time to celebrate our kinship and friendship with both the living and our earlier forebears. It marks the beginning of the long dark winter time at which memory becomes more important than foresight, and when old tales are told and great deeds are toasted as we ready ourselves for the spring to come. It is a time to think of accomplishments achieved and those which have yet to be made. Winter nights also marks the beginning of a time of indoor work, thought and craftsmanship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This festival and feast celebrated the accessibility, veneration, awe, and respect of the dead. This was also a time for contemplation. To the ancient Germanic people, death was never very far away, and it was viewed as a natural and necessary part of life. To die was not as much of a surprise or tragedy it is in modern times and death was not viewed as something "scary" or "evil". Of higher importance to the Germanic people was to live & die with honor and thereby live on in the memory of the tribe to be honored at this great feast.

 

Starting on this night, the great divisions between the worlds was somewhat diminished which can allow the forces of chaos to invade the realms of order, the material world conjoining with the world of the dead. This was the beginning of the Wild hunt, in which the restless spirits of the dead and those yet to be born walked amongst the living. The dead could return to the places where they had lived and food and entertainment were provided in their honor. In this way, the tribes were at one with their past, present and future.

 

(Another example of changing the Germanic Heathen calendar to convert more pagans to Christianity. Winter nights on October 31 became "All Hallows Eve" and November 1st was declared "All Saint's Day".)

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