In the Old Icelandic Calendar, winter begins on the Satyrday between Hunting 11th and 17th. This festival marks the beginning of winter, which was often celebrated around the middle of October. Winter Nights celebrates the bounty of the harvest
- Also referred to as: Vetrablot, Vetrnætr, Winterfylleth, Veturnætur, Winter Finding, and Winter Day.
Winter Nights is a more accurate term, considering that the passage of time was marked by nights, not days. An example of this can be seen from Anglo-Saxon times as it applies to the English word ‘fortnight’ as a reckoning of time for two weeks.
Just as traditional Jewish sabbat begins at sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday… it appears that the festivities traditionally kicked off at night. This allows participants to work to prepare for the party during daylight hours too. On occasion you may even see reference to the term Winter Finding.
Some groups use this as being synonymous and interchangeable with the term Winter Nights. But others will call the harvest celebration at the autumnal equinox Winter Finding, and call the later October celebration Winter Nights instead.
Though we know the various names of the holiday, we don’t really know how people celebrated Winternights. Some people honored Freyr at this holiday, where He was given a sacrifice to thank him for the year’s harvest.
Some traditions honor Freya and the fertility and protective spirits called Disir, that She leads (often the Disir are seen as our female ancestors). Glory is given to Freya, a libation of ale, milk, or mead was poured into the soil as an offering to the Disir and the Earth itself.
We know that in Sweden, an event called an Alfarblot was held around the same time of year. It was a private event where ale was served and livestock were likely sacrificed. As Freyr is the lord of Alfheim, this event may be related to Winternights.
Some people honored Odin instead; some honored the dísir (female ancestors), some honored the alfar (elves; or male ancestors). Some people likely did a mix of all of the above.
When celebrating Winternights with a definite disir/alfar focus. Food is shared at a potluck based on recipes passed down to us from our ancestors or foods that they preferred. A sumbel is in their honor, honoring specifically those who have passed on in the last year, both animals and humans, and then sharing the stories of the food we brought, and of our ancestors of blood and of spirit. This can be an intimate, moving ritual, and a great way to start the winter season.
- A Sumbel is a formal drinking ritual composed of toasting, hails, oath-taking, the recitation of poetry or song, and other forms of verbal expression.
A Winternights sumbel might start with a round to Freyr to thank Him for the past harvest and to ask for prosperity in the days ahead. A round is included for the recently departed and for our ancestors of blood and of spirit as well.
So today we have a range of practice as it applies to this time of year. Some opt to celebrate it at the time of the autumnal equinox for sheer simplicity. But many others will instead decide to observe Winter Nights in October as that’s more in keeping with the traditional calendars.
Others split the celebration up, observing a Harvest-tide celebration in September, and then in October they will instead opt to specifically come together to honor the ancestors.
If you have children, incorporating ancestor veneration at this time helps to sync up to the Halloween and Day of the Dead décor that is on the market, and allow the children to have some similar dialogue among their peers at school. What Winternights does have in common with modern Samhain and Day of the Dead traditions, is that we both honor ancestors with their favorite foods and drink.
A Blot for Winternights
I hope all Heathens have a satisfying Winternights for both the living and the dead this year . Hail the disir! Hail the alfar! Hail Freyr!
Thunar, Guardian of Asgard and Midgard, We ask you to ward this stead well for Winternights. Hail Heimdall warder of Bifrost we ask that you hold us in your great sight.
We gather to honor the Aesir and Vanir on this Winter Night and give thanks for the fruits of this past year and the Harvest we have gathered from the Earth. We also look back on the past year and measure our time that it was used wisely; to look at the future to find our way; like the Ice of time scrubbing away the impurities to leave behind the clear work.
We ask the dwellers of Asgard to give us the strength to and to help us provide for our kinsman in preparation for the long Winternachten yet to come.
Hail Wodan, The All Father, for your wisdom and forethought in guiding us forward through the winter to come and for the knowledge you have shared with us.
Hail to Fro Ing for the bountiful harvest you have brought to us this eve.
Hail Fro Ing!
Hail to Freya for the love and life we hold to our hearts.
Hail to all the Ases and Wanes for the mighty work that you do.
Hail the Ases and Wanes!
And Hail to our Ancestors and Wights of the land. Hail to the All who have crossed Bifrost before.
Hail the Ancestors!
We welcome all the Ases and the Wanes. We welcome all the Wights, Alfs and Ancestors who have gone before us. We Welcome all the Wights and Landvaetter to witness this rite rightly done so that you shall see the truth in our hearts.
The time of Winternights marks the passing of Sunna farther down into the sky. This time of year marks the Mother Earth going to sleep to be rested for the coming Spring; for Fro Ing to renew the fertility of the Earth to bring forward the crops of our folk.
We look forward to Yule that is fast approaching. And we honor our ancestors that have gone before us. We look back over this past year with pride of the work rightly done. We look forward to prepare for the coming of winter, to protect our hearth and Kin from the cold of the frost giant called Winter, to open our hearths to those in need.
With this hallowed drink, brewed with the hand of Aegir the Brewer of Asgard we give our toasts:
- Wassail All!
Hail to the Aesir and Vanir!
Hail to the Alfs and the Dises!
Hail to our Ancestors!
Hail to the Landvaetter and all Wights of weal!
We now offer this sacrifice and return it to the Earth.
- Personal Hails!
- The Blessing and Ending
We thank the Gods and Goddesses, the Aesir and Vanir for the gifts that we have and the gifts we may receive, May you find us fitting to receive them.
- Asatru Utah
- Wyrd Designs
- Erich Shall
- Grundair Karlson
When we consider the month of October and Halloween, our modern take on the Holiday is largely fun and commercially driven, celebrated with spooky costumes and all our favorite Halloween treats. However, this time of year wasn’t always celebrated with ‘trick-or-treating’. Instead, many cultures focus on the celebrations honoring those that came before us.
As we head into the Halloween season, the veil that exists between our world and that of the spiritual will has started to thin out. On Halloween night, also known as All Hallows Eve, it is said that this veil drops, allowing those in the spiritual world to move freely among us. Now, this may sound concerning, to say the least, but don’t get too worried yet. Much like us here on in this life, the spiritual world is filled with both good and not so good spirits. While there are sure to be some mischievous beings trying to bring mischief and chaos into our lives, it is believed that we will also be visited by our deceased loved ones.
The concept of the dead moving among us is the underlying concept behind the Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos. Often known as a holiday celebrated in Mexico, records show that these traditions can be dated back as far as the Aztecs. Spanning two days, the holiday specifically focuses on honoring our deceased loved ones, through the use of parties, parades, feasts and other celebrations. Many who celebrate also done colorful costumes and skull makeup, also known as sugar skulls, a symbol that has come to be highly recognizable in today’s pop culture.
All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are also similar to Day of the Dead. These are celebrations embraced by Western Christianity, in which the souls of faithful Christians who have paced are honored with the placing of flowers or candles at their grave sites, and church services discussing their memory. During this time, Christians also pay tribute to the martyrs and saints.
Also known as ‘Summers End’, Samhain is the Pagan holiday celebrated at this time. While this holiday is largely associated with the celebrations of the ancient Celts, many Pagans, Wiccans and Druids will celebrate Samhain around the globe. The holiday marks the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter, however, it also includes a number of celebrations including bonfires and feasts, honoring those that came before them.
Are You Looking For Ways To Honor Your Deceased Loved Ones During This Time? Here Are A Few Ideas:
- Cook a specific meal in honor of your deceased loved one. This is a regular part of the celebrations of Day of the Dead. Those who celebrate would cook the favorite meal of their loved one to ‘share’ in celebration of their time together.
- Use meditation to allow you to open your mind and your heart to communication from your loved ones. Remember, they are moving among you and may very well be trying to let you know that they are there.
- If you do still visit the grave site of a loved one, take some time out this night to be there. Place a lit candle, a flower of your choice or some other memento to show you were there. If you feel their presence, speak aloud to them. Remember, they are moving among us.
- Light a black candle, paying tribute to the stages of life and the inevitable darkness that comes with its final stage, death. Candles are also often used as a tribute or memorial to those who have come before us. If you wish, you can carve the name of your loved one into a taper candle and burn it in honor of a specific loved one.
- Gather friends and family together and light a large bonfire. Share your favorite stories of your friends and loved ones as you feel them moving among you. You can also include their favorite food and drinks in the evening’s celebrations.
- Choose to celebrate life by giving thanks for the life you were given, and that of the family members that came before you. Make a list of all the reasons you have to be appreciative at this time.
- Set up an altar to honor the specific loved ones that hold a special place in your heart. This may include photos or objects that hold a special meaning of some form.
- Take part in an activity that meant something to a friend or loved one that you are choosing to honor. For example, if you recently lost your brother and he was highly into superhero movies, you could enjoy a movie marathon night either on your own or with other loved ones who knew him.
Source: Awareness Act
Pomona’s Day of Honoring is often cited as November 1, making it a close match to the Celtic holiday Samhain. But sometimes it’s cited as August 13. Taken together, those days bracket the apple season. The earliest dessert apples begin to ripen in late summer, while the last storage apples finish in late autumn.
Even before the Romans added Pomona to the Samhain festivities, the Celts traditionally roasted apples and nuts in the bonfires. Pomona’s associations strengthened the role and symbolism of this fruit in connection with the holiday. This may be the origin of the modern custom of “bobbing for apples.”
To do on Pomona’s Day:
- Plant an apple tree.
Trees set out during the autumn planting season have a chance for extra root growth before they leaf out in the spring. Invoking Pomona’s blessing for her favorite type of tree will help your apple sapling grow big and strong.
This is especially helpful for grafted trees, which are a little more fragile than self-rooted trees and can use a boost from the goddess of grafting.
- Do some divination.
Do divination or other magic with fruits and nuts. The seeds, peels, and flesh of fruiting plants are useful in many types of divination and spellcraft. At this time of year, the veil between worlds is thin, making divination easier and more effective.
Divination with apples includes such things as cutting the peel from an apple all in one strip and tossing it to reveal the initials of one’s future spouce, placing apple seeds on the coals to see if they lie quietly (fortelling a happy relationship) or fly apart (foretelling heartbreak), and cutting an apple in front of a mirror to scry one’s beloved.
- Practice some Apple Magick.
Another set of practices draws on the apple’s qualities as a magickal fruit with power over the otherworld. These rituals deal with death and banishing. An apple may be cut in half and buried to cure a disease, settle a quarrel, or break a bad habit. Apples are also sometimes thrown to drive away evil spirits, or left out to feed the spirits of the dead so they do not trouble the living.
Ritual for Pomona’s Day
Here is a nice little ceremony to honor Pomona on her day:
- Colors: Red, yellow, green
- Altar: Upon cloth of any or all of these colors, lay baskets of apples (preferably the old Roman variety “Lady”)and other tree fruit, a jug of cider, and a pruning knife.
- Offerings: Water fruit trees.
- Daily Meal: Vegetarian, with any food made with apples.
Invocation to Pomona
Lady of the Apple Tree
Whose red-cheeked visage greets the dawn,
Lady of the Pear Tree
Whose sweetness salves the questing tongue,
Lady of the Peach Tree
Whose blush transforms the morning sky,
Lady of the Plum Tree
Whose scent entices, smooth and smiling,
Lady of the Cherry Tree
Whose scarlet lips are drenched in raindrops.
Lady of the blossoming branch
Who entices bees to dance with you,
Lady of the secret orchard
Where Vertumnus gained his entry,
Where he came in secret, clothed in
Vestments of the ancient Crone,
God of growth, god of seasons,
God of turning, he took you there
As you offered up your nectar
And all the trees above you burst their buds.
Lady of the ancient ones, the Trees
Who give forth their children one by one
That we may know not just mere survival
But sweetness as well, help us to remember
The beauty and abundance of your gifts.
Pomum Pirum Prunus
Pax Pactum Promissio
The celebrations on the eve of All Souls Day, called Halloween, (October 31), stem from the Celtic New Year celebration called Samhain. When the Sun goes down on this eve, there is a time between the old year and the creation of the new. Specifically, this occurs at sunrise.
In this twilight of the years, the veil between this world and the world of the spirit is thin. It is a time when ghosts and spirits can interact with the living, and a time when divination is most effective. This is a sacred time when all warriors were to keep their swords sheathed.
Samhain literally means “end of the summer.” This day marked the last harvest of the summer, and so it is a harvest celebration. But, because there were only three months in the ancient Celtic calendar, and no autumn, it is also the beginning of the winter death that will lead to next year’s regeneration.
Ancient Celts believed that at Samhain, the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was extremely thin, allowing the dead to cross over into the world of the living. Sometimes they appeared as apparitions and sometimes in the form of animals, most particularly black cats. The living lit bonfires and dressed in costumes to confuse the spirits and keep them from re-entering the world. On this night, the lord of death reigns, and the Celts protect themselves from this threat with bonfires and animal sacrifice. Animal sacrifice is closely associated with divination.
In most ancient cultures, the remains of the sacrificed animal were examined to discover the will of the gods and to predict the future. The Druid priests would take advantage of this auspicious time to look into the events of the upcoming year—at least up until Beltane, which marked the year’s midpoint.
Although predicting the future is not necessarily the best use of the tarot, this is a good time to try reading the future. You can do this by laying out three cards for each of the six months from Samhain to Beltane (you should have eighteen total cards). Read each set of three cards as a story that will pertain to that month.
During the period of Samhain, the time when the world of the living is closest to the world of the dead, it is often a good idea to make offerings to the spirits to keep them from doing harm. Traditionally on Halloween night, gifts of milk and barley are left out beneath the stars to acquire the blessings of ghosts and prevent them from harming your household.
Other traditions involve leaving a plate of food outside the home of the souls of the dead. A candle placed in the window guides them to the lands of eternal summer, and burying apples in the hard-packed earth “feeds” the passed ones on their journey.
For food, beets, turnips, apples, corn, nuts, gingerbread, cider, mulled wines and pumpkin dishes are appropriate, as are meat dishes.
It’s also told that the Fairy Folk became very active during Samhain, pulling pranks on unsuspecting humans. People use to dress in white (like ghosts), wear disguises made of straw, or dress as the opposite gender in order to fool the spirits and traveling after dark was was not advised. The holiday’s bonfires and glowing turnips (yes, turnips) helped the dead on their journey while protecting the living.
Magick is in the air, and it’s important to just let things happen. Keep good fun thoughts in your mind, with hope for the future. These positive thoughts will turn into Magick energy and be released… that is the power of Samhain!
Here are 5 ways to celebrate Samhain:
1. Honor the dead
Honoring the dead is one of the best ways to create Magick on Samhain. How do you honor the dead? By remembering them. Think of all the people that have passed on in your life, and don’t let their memories fade. Spend some time looking through old photographs. Think deeply about what they were like in life, what did they do… what did they feel? Tell them you miss them. Tell them you love them. Talk about them to friends and family.
2. Have a “dumb” supper
Pick a person (alive or passed away) that has qualities you admire… maybe someone you love and care about that isn’t with you. Have dinner as usual, but leave an empty plate for them and “pretend” they are there.
You can either talk to them…ask them how they are doing. Or you can have dinner in complete silence, and think about them deeply. Treat your “guest” with a delicious meal, some good wine, and a tasty dessert. The person you are honoring will feel the energy, and you’ll boost your emotional and Magick sources.
3. Carve a pumpkin
Pumpkin carving is a pagan pastime. It actually has it’s roots in the belief that carving faces into turnips would keep evil away. Pumpkins work just as well and are easier to carve. Yes, it’s fun, and it will also keep any bad luck and negative energy away.
4. Feast… feast… feast!
This is one of the best ways to celebrate Samhain because the positive emotions that build up will directly influence the effects of your divinations and rituals. If you have like-minded friends or family, get together and make a feast! There are many special recipes that work wonders for enhancing your Magick…
5. Do your Divinations
This is the BEST time of the year for seeing what is to come…and don’t let it pass by without doing at least one divination ritual. You could do Tarot, Runes, Scrying, Pendulum divination, Tea Reading, and any other divination techniques that resonate with you. It’s best to do your divinations AFTER the feast because that’s when the energy is at it’s peak.
Note: Information collected from Robert Place, Rose Ariadne, and various other sources.
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