Posts Tagged ‘Anglo-Saxon’

Full Winter

October 2, 2014

Well, Winterfylleð, an Anglo-Saxon month. Wherever the Angles and Saxons and Jutes (oh, my) came from, the weather was cold enough to be considered winter by early October, so the first full moon of that month was the Winter full moon. Or maybe it was just because almost all the harvesting was done, and the only thing left to do was carve the trunips into lanterns for Samhain — and yes, I know that Winterfylleð is Germanic and Samhain is Celtic. but they’ve got all these extra turnips and they might as well celebrate something.

Tonight is Liþa-eve

June 21, 2013

Say what? Liþa, pronounced Litha, (the þ being the now-abandoned letter thorn) is the old Anglo-Saxon word for midsummer. Bede reports out a double month here: ǣrra līþa and æfterra līþa, which I would translate as before and after liþa.

The word itself is, according to Wiktionary: Apparently related to liþe (“mild”)’ probably cognate with Serbo-Croatian ljeto, Czech léto, Polish lato, Russian лето (léto, “summer, year”), and is descended from (West) Proto-Germanic *linþiz. Cognate with Old Saxon līthi, Old High German lindi (German lind), meaning gentle, mild, pleasant.

Back in Old Jutland, whence came most of the language, June and July were the mild months, with highs in the 60’s and lows in the 50’s. Before that, May was the tail end of a blustery, bud-shaking Spring, and after that came the heat of August (“72 again today, no relief in sight“). Midsummer was celebrated by most of the paganfolk of Europe, usually with bonfires, just like Walpurgisnacht, and every other pre-Christian holiday.

The Angles and Saxons and Jutes (Oh, my) would have started their celebrations the night before, because twelve hours of pre-soak is an excellent way to prep for a day-long party that ends with you setting fire to things.

NOTE: Got the date wrong. LAST night was Liþa-eve, because we hit the solstice at 1AM this morning.

Fun With Vocabulary

December 26, 2011

Over at Japan: Life and Religion, Doug points out that the old Japanese name for December is 師走 (shi.wa.su), from 師 (priest) and (走), to run, probably because in the month of 師走, the Shinto and Buddhist priests are busy getting ready for the pre- and post- New Year ceremonies. This is a little like some of the Old English activity names for months, like ƿēodmōnað, or ‘weed month’.

Happy Æfterra Liþa

July 1, 2011

That’s “After Litha”. The Anglo-Saxons — who spoke Old English (although they probably didn’t call it that) — occupied and ruled Britain from about 449 to 1066. They used a solar/lunar calendar, which does not work well with the passage of the months of the modern calendar (although Bede mapped them that way). Two of their ‘months’ were doubled: Aere Yule/Aefter Yule fell on either side of their Yule festival, sometime around the end of December (or the winter solstice, or Christmas). Aere Litha/Aeftera Litha came six months later, close to the end of June/beginning of July. Since it is likely that the Angles and the Saxons and the Jutes (oh, my) started a month at the first crescent of the new moon, this year we might expect Aeftera Litha to begin on the 1st or 2d of July. Just in case you were wondering, next month, August, is Wéodmónaþ, or Weed Month. Since the seasons of England are much like those of the coastal NorthWest, all of my Portland reader can take comfort in knowing that others have had the same problems.

Anglo-Saxon history is a topic for another post, but I’ll just note that you can get an idea of the scale of their achievement by adding a thousand years to an A-S date, to map it into more modern history. So they arrived in England at the invite of Vortigern in 449 (->1449 almost fifty years before Columbus) and were destroyed in the Battle of Hastings in 1066 (->2066, over fifty years from now). This country has a way to go before we better their record.