YULE 20 - 31 December
Celebration of the Norse New Year; a festival of 12 nights. This is the most important of all the Norse holidays. On the night of December 20, the god Frey rides over the earth on the back of his shining boar, bringing Light and Love back into the World. In later years, after the influence of Christianity, the god Baldur, then Jesus, was reborn at this festival. Yule signifies the beginning and end of all things; the darkest time (shortest hour of daylight) during the year and the brightest hope re-entering the world. During this festival, the Wild Hunt is at its greatest fervor, and the dead are said to range the Earth in its retinue. The gods Odin or Thor are the leaders of this Wild Ride; Thor in his goat drawn wagon and Odin on Sleipnir make for a very awe-inspiring vision. In ancient times, Germanic and Norse children would leave their boots out by the hearth on Solstice Eve, filled with hay and sugar, for Sleipnir's journey. In return, Odin or Thor would leave them a gift for their kindness.
Thurseblot (Thor's Feast: Full Moon of January) Minor feast honoring Thor, the protector of Midgard. During this time, the height of the Storm season, Thor's power is invoked to drive back the frost Jotuns so that Spring may return to Midgard.
Disting 2 February
Festival of the Idises, when the effects of Winter are beginning to lessen and the world prepares itself for Spring. Corresponds to the pagan holiday of Imbolc. Disting is characterized by preparing the land for planting. In ancient times, Disting was the time when the cattle were counted and one's wealth was tallied; thus making it a festival of finance as well. It was said that new calves born during Disting were a sign of great prosperity for the coming year.
Ostara 20-21 March
Festival of Ostara (Eostre), the Spring Goddess. This is a festival of renewal, rejoicing and fertility, although for most of the Northern People, the forces of Winter are still at full sway. In ancient times, the gift of colored eggs to one's friends and loved ones was a way of wishing them well for the coming season; a magical ritual of prosperity and fecundity. The rabbit was the symbol of this festival as well because of it's re-emergence during this season, and for its reproductive ability. These two rituals have survived into the modern holiday of Easter (which derives its name from Eostre) as Easter eggs and the Easter bunny. Like most ancient heathen rituals, they are relegated into the world of children; held for naught among adults; but the race memory lingers on.
Walpurgis/Thrimilci 22 April - 1 May
The festival of Walpurgis, a night both of revelry and darkness. The nine nights of April 22 (interestingly enough, the modern festival of Earth Day) to April 30 are venerated as remembrance of the All Fatherís self-sacrifice upon the World Tree Yggdrasil. It was on the ninth night (April 30, Walpurgisnacht) that he beheld the Runes, grasped them, and ritually died for an instant. At that moment, all the Light in the 9 worlds is extinguished, and utter Chaos reigns. At the final stroke of midnight, the Light returns in dazzling brilliance, and the bale-fires are lit. On Walpurgisnacht, the dead have full sway upon the earth; it is the ending night of the Wild Hunt. May 1 is the festival of Thrimilci; the beginning of Summer. Thrimilci is a festival of joy and fertility, much like Ostara; however, most of the Northern World is finally escaping from the snow at this time.
Einherjar 30 May Minor modern Asatru festival honoring the warriors who fell during battle and who ascended to Valhalla's halls. Corresponds with the modern American holiday of Memorial Day.
Midsummer 20-21 June
Celebration of the Summer Solstice, when the power of the Sun is at its height. It was at this time that most foreign trade was conducted, as well as shipping, fishing expeditions, and raiding. Thus, Midsummer was the festival of power and activity. It was not without its dark side as well. Midsummer was recognized as the longest day of the year; thus, the year began to age after this time and the days grow progressively shorter. The god Baldur is said to have been sacrificed at this time, but is reborn at Yule; the hero Sigurd was also said to have been slain by treachery at Midsummer by his blood-brothers Hagan and Gunthur (Gundahar).
Lithasblot 31 July - 1 August
The harvest festival; giving thanks to Urda (Ertha) for her bounty. Lithasblot has long been associated with ceremonial magic and magical workings.
Harvest End (Mabon) 22-23 September Mabon is a minor blot acknowledging the end of the Harvest Season, also associate with vintage and mead-making. Most people held off the full celebration of this holiday, though, until the main festival of Winternights.
Winternights 29 October - 2 November
The beginning of the winter season for the Northern folk. Remembrances of the dead and one's ancestors were made during this feast. Winternights was a ceremony of wild abandon; much like the Carnivals season in the Mediterranean countries, and it marked the end of the summer season of commerce and travel and the beginning of the winter season of hunting. Much divination was done during Winternights to foretell the fates of those entering the coming year. It was said that if one sat on a barrow-mound (grave) all night long on Winternights, one would have full divinatory, shamanism (galdr and seith), and bardic (skaldr) powers . . . that is, if one retained one's sanity! Winternights marked the beginning of the Wild Hunt, which would continue until Walpurgisnacht. This festival corresponds roughly to the Celtic Samhain, and the modern American festival of Halloween, although the darker aspects of the festival are not as pronounced among the Norse people. (The Norse festival of darkness was Walpurgis, a full 6 months away).