In Old Norse, ǫ́ss is a member of the principal pantheon in Norse religion. This pantheon includes Odin, Thor, Baldr and Týr; the second pantheon is known as the Vanir. In Norse mythology, the two pantheons wage war against each other, which results in a unified pantheon; the cognate term in Old English is ōs denoting a deity in Anglo-Saxon paganism. The Old High German is ans, plural ensî; the Gothic language had ans-. The reconstructed Proto-Germanic form is *ansuz; the ansuz rune, ᚫ, was named after the Æsir. Unlike the Old English word god, the term ōs was never adopted into Christian use. Æsir is the plural of áss, óss "god", attested in other Germanic languages, e.g. Old English ōs, Old Dutch ans and Gothic anses "half-gods"; these all stem from Proto-Germanic *ansuz, which itself comes from Proto-Indo-European *h₂énsus "life force" (cf. Avestan aŋhū "lord, it is accepted that this word is further related to *h₂ens- "to engender". Old Norse áss has the accusative æsi and ásu. In genitival compounds, it takes the form ása-, e.g. in Ása-Þórr, besides ás- found in ás-brú "gods' bridge", ás-garðr, ás-kunnigr "gods' kin", ás-liðar "gods' leader", ás-mogin "gods' might", ás-móðr "divine wrath" etc.
Landâs "national god" is a title of Thor, as is allmáttki ás "almighty god", while it is Odin, "the" ás. The feminine suffix -ynja is known from a few other nouns denoting female animals, such as apynja "female monkey", vargynja "she-wolf"; the word for "goddess" is not attested outside Old Norse. The latinization of Danish Aslak as Ansleicus, the name of a Danish Viking converted to Christianity in 864 according to the Miracles de St. Riquier, indicates that the nasalization in the first syllable persisted into the 9th century; the cognate Old English form to áss is ōs, preserved only as a prefix Ōs- in personal names and some place-names, as the genitive plural ēsa. In Old High German, Old Dutch and Old Saxon, the word is only attested in personal and place names, e.g. Ansebert, Ansfrid, Vihans. Jordanes has anses for the gods of the Goths; the interaction between the Æsir and the Vanir has provoked an amount of scholarly theory and speculation. While other cultures have had "elder" and "younger" families of gods, as with the Titans versus the Olympians of ancient Greece, the Æsir and Vanir were portrayed as contemporaries.
The two clans of gods fought battles, concluded treaties, exchanged hostages. An áss like Ullr is unknown in the myths, but his name is seen in a lot of geographical names in Sweden, may appear on the 3rd century Thorsberg chape, suggesting that his cult was widespread in prehistoric times; the names of the first three Æsir in Norse mythology, Vili, Vé and Odin all refer to spiritual or mental state, vili to conscious will or desire, vé to the sacred or numinous and óðr to the manic or ecstatic. A second clan of gods, the Vanir, is mentioned in Norse mythology: the god Njörðr and his children and Freyja, are the most prominent Vanir gods who join the Æsir as hostages after a war between Æsir and Vanir; the Vanir appear to have been connected with cultivation and fertility and the Æsir were connected with power and war. In the Eddas, the word Æsir is used for gods in general, while Asynjur is used for the goddesses in general. For example, in the poem Skírnismál, Freyr was called "Prince of the Æsir".
In the Prose Edda, Njörðr was introduced as "the third among the Æsir", among the Asynjur, Freyja is always listed second only to Frigg. In surviving tales, the origins of many of the Æsir are unexplained. There are just three: Odin and his brothers Vili and Vé. Odin's sons by giantesses are counted as Æsir. Heimdallr and Ullr's connection with the Æsir is not mentioned. Loki is a jötunn, Njörðr is a Vanir hostage, but they are ranked among the Æsir. Given the difference between their roles and emphases, some scholars have speculated that the interactions between the Æsir and the Vanir reflect the types of interaction that were occurring between social classes within Norse society at the time. According to another theory, the Vanir may be more archaic than that of the more warlike Æsir, such that the mythical war may mirror a half-remembered religious conflict; this argument was first suggested by Wilhelm Mannhardt in 1877. On a similar note, Marija Gimbutas argues that the Æsir and the Vanir represent the displacement of an indigenous Indo-European group by a tribe of warlike invaders as part of her Kurgan hypothesis.
See her case in The Living Goddess for more details. Another historical theory is that the inter-pantheon interaction may be an apotheosisation of the conflict between the Roman Kingdom and the Sabines; the noted comparative religion scholar Mircea Eliade speculated that this conflict is a version of an Indo-European myth concerning the conflict between and eventual integration of a pantheon
Bokmål is an official written standard for the Norwegian language, alongside Nynorsk. Bokmål is the preferred written standard of Norwegian for 85% to 90% of the population in Norway. Unlike for instance the Italian language, there is no nationwide standard or agreement on the pronunciation of Bokmål. Bokmål is regulated by the governmental Norwegian Language Council. A more conservative orthographic standard known as Riksmål, is regulated by the non-governmental Norwegian Academy for Language and Literature; the written standard is a Norwegianised variety of the Danish language. The first Bokmål orthography was adopted in 1907 under the name Riksmål after being under development since 1879; the architects behind the reform were Jacob Jonathan Aars. It was an adaptation of written Danish, used since the past union with Denmark, to the Dano-Norwegian koiné spoken by the Norwegian urban elite in the capital; when the large conservative newspaper Aftenposten adopted the 1907 orthography in 1923, Danish writing was out of use in Norway.
The name Bokmål was adopted in 1929 after a proposition to call the written language Dano-Norwegian lost by a single vote in the Lagting. The government does not regulate spoken Bokmål and recommends that normalised pronunciation should follow the phonology of the speaker's local dialect. There is a spoken variety of Norwegian that, in the region of South-Eastern Norway, is seen as the de facto standard for spoken Bokmål. In The Phonology of Norwegian, Gjert Kristoffersen writes that Bokmål is in its most common variety looked upon as reflecting formal middle-class urban speech that found in the eastern part of Southern Norway, with the capital Oslo as the obvious centre. One can therefore say that Bokmål has a spoken realisation that one might call an unofficial standard spoken Norwegian, it is in fact referred to as Standard Østnorsk. Standard Østnorsk is the pronunciation most given in dictionaries and taught to foreigners in Norwegian language classes. Standard Østnorsk as a spoken language is not used and does not have any particular prestige outside South-Eastern Norway.
All spoken variations of the Norwegian language are used e.g. in the Storting and in Norwegian national broadcasters such as NRK and TV 2 in cases where the conventions of Bokmål are used. The spoken variation reflects the region the person grew up in. Up until about 1300, the written language of Norway, Old Norwegian, was the same as the other Old Norse dialects; the speech, was differentiated into local and regional dialects. As long as Norway remained an independent kingdom, the written language remained constant. In 1380, Norway entered into a personal union with Denmark. By the early 16th century, Norway had lost its separate political institutions, together with Denmark formed the political unit known as Denmark–Norway until 1814, progressively becoming the weaker member of the union. During this period, the modern Danish and Norwegian languages emerged. Norwegian went through a Middle Norwegian transition, a Danish written language more influenced by Low German was standardised; this process was aided by the Reformation, which prompted Christiern Pedersen's translation of the Bible into Danish.
Remnants of written Old Norse and Norwegian were thus displaced by the Danish standard, which became used for all administrative documents. Norwegians used Danish in writing, but it came to be spoken by urban elites on formal or official occasions. Although Danish never became the spoken language of the vast majority of the population, by the time Norway's ties with Denmark were severed in 1814, a Dano-Norwegian vernacular called the "educated daily speech" had become the mother tongue of elites in most Norwegian cities, such as Bergen and Trondheim; this Dano-Norwegian koiné could be described as Danish with regional Norwegian pronunciation, some Norwegian vocabulary, simplified grammar. With the gradual subsequent process of Norwegianisation of the written language used in the cities of Norway, from Danish to Bokmål and Riksmål, the upper-class sociolects in the cities changed accordingly. In 1814, when Norway was ceded from Denmark to Sweden, Norway defied Sweden and her allies, declared independence and adopted a democratic constitution.
Although compelled to submit to a dynastic union with Sweden, this spark of independence continued to burn, influencing the evolution of language in Norway. Old language traditions were revived by the patriotic poet Henrik Wergeland, who championed an independent non-Danish written language. Haugen indicates that: "Within the first generation of liberty, two solutions emerged and won adherents, one based on the speech of the upper class and one on that of the common people; the former called for Norwegianisation of the Danish writing, the latter for a brand new start." The more conservative of the two language transitions was advanced by the work of writers like Peter Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe and agitator for language reform Knud Knudsen, Knudsen's famous disciple, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, as well as a more cautious Norwegianisation by Henrik Ibsen. In particular, Knudsen's work on language reform in the mid-19th century was important for the 1907 orthography and a subsequent reform in 1917, so much so that he is now called the "father of Bokmål".
The term Riksmål, meaning National Language, was first proposed by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson in 1899 as a name for the Norwegian variety of written Da
The tradition of wassailing falls into two distinct categories: the house-visiting wassail and the orchard-visiting wassail. The house-visiting wassail is the practice of people going door-to-door and offering a drink from the wassail bowl in exchange for gifts; the orchard-visiting wassail refers to the ancient custom of visiting orchards in cider-producing regions of England, reciting incantations and singing to the trees to promote a good harvest for the coming year. The word wassail comes from the Anglo-Saxon greeting Wæs þu hæl, meaning "be thou hale"—i.e. “be in good health”. The correct response to the greeting is Drinc hæl meaning "drink and be healthy". According to the Oxford English Dictionary waes hael is the Middle English spelling parallel to OE hál wes þú, was a greeting not a toast; the American Heritage Dictionary, fifth edition, gives Old Norse ves heill as the source of Middle English waeshaeil. However the Oxford English Dictionary explicitly rejects this, saying "neither in Old English nor in Old Norse, nor indeed in any Germanic language, has any trace been found of the use as drinking formulas".
In the twelfth century, Danish-speaking inhabitants of England turned "was hail", the reply "drink hail", into a drinking formula, a toast, adopted by the indigenous population of England. In recent times, the toast has come to be synonymous with Christmas. Traditionally, the wassail is celebrated on Twelfth Night; some people still wassail on "Old Twelvey Night", January 17, as it would have been before the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar in 1752. In the middle ages, the wassail was a reciprocal exchange between the feudal lords and their peasants as a form of recipient-initiated charitable giving, to be distinguished from begging; this point is made in the song "Here We Come A-Wassailing", when the wassailers inform the lord of the house that The lord of the manor would give food and drink to the peasants in exchange for their blessing and goodwill, i.e. This would be given in the form of the song being sung. Wassailing is the background practice against which an English carol such as "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" can be made sense of.
The carol lies in the English tradition where wealthy people of the community gave Christmas treats to the carolers on Christmas Eve such as'figgy puddings'. Although wassailing is described in innocuous and sometimes nostalgic terms—still practiced in some parts of Scotland and Northern England on New Years Day as "first-footing"—the practice in England has not always been considered so innocent. Similar traditions have been traced to Greece and the country of Georgia. Wassailing was associated with rowdy bands of young men who would enter the homes of wealthy neighbours and demand free food and drink. If the householder refused, he was cursed, his house was vandalized; the example of the exchange is seen in their demand for "figgy pudding" and "good cheer", i.e. the wassail beverage, without which the wassailers in the song will not leave. In the cider-producing West of England wassailing refers to drinking the health of trees in the hopes that they might better thrive. Wassailing is a traditional event in Jersey, Channel Islands where cider made up the bulk of the economy before the 20th century.
The format is much the same as that in England but with terms and songs in Jèrriais An old rhyme goes: The purpose of wassailing is to awake the cider apple trees and to scare away evil spirits to ensure a good harvest of fruit in the Autumn. The ceremonies of each wassail vary from village to village but they all have the same core elements. A wassail King and Queen lead the song and/or a processional tune to be played/sung from one orchard to the next, the wassail Queen will be lifted up into the boughs of the tree where she will place toast soaked in Wassail from the Clayen Cup as a gift to the tree spirits. An incantation is recited such as Then the assembled crowd will sing and shout and bang drums and pots & pans and make a terrible racket until the gunsmen give a great final volley through the branches to make sure the work is done and off to the next orchard. Unbeknown to the general public, this ancient English tradition is still much thriving today; the West Country is the most famous and largest cider producing region of the country and among the most historic wassails held annually are Whimple in Devon and Carhampton in Somerset both on 17 January.
There are now many new, commercial or "revival" wassails springing up all over the Westcountry such as those in Stoke Gabriel and Sandford, Devon. Clevedon holds an annual Wassailing event in the popularly attended Clevedon Community Orchard, combining the traditional elements of the festival with the entertainment and music of the Bristol Morris Men and their cantankerous Horse. Private readings about people in Somerset in the 1800s revealed that inhabitants of Somerset practised the old Wassailing Ceremony, singing the following lyrics after drinking the cider until they were "merry and gay:" A folktale from Somerset reflecting this custom tells of the Apple Tree Man, the spirit of the oldest apple tree in an orchard, in whom the fertility of the orchard is thought to reside. In the tale a man offers his last mug of mulled cider to the trees in his orc
The Yule goat is a Scandinavian and Northern European Yule and Christmas symbol and tradition. Its origin has existed in many variants during Scandinavian history. Modern representations of the Yule goat are made of straw; the Yule goat's origins go back to ancient Pagan festivals. While a popular theory is that the celebration of the goat is connected to worship of the Norse god Thor, who rode the sky in a chariot drawn by two goats and Tanngnjóstr, it goes back to common Indo-European beliefs; the last sheaf of grain bundled in the harvest was credited with magical properties as the spirit of the harvest and saved for the Yule celebrations, called among other things Yule goat. This connects to ancient proto-Slavic beliefs where the Koliada festival honors the god of the fertile sun and the harvest; this god, was represented by a white goat the Koliada festivals always had a person dressed as a goat demanding offerings in the form of presents. A man-sized goat figure is known from 11th-century remembrances of Childermas, where it was led by a man dressed as Saint Nicholas, symbolizing his control over the Devil.
Other traditions are related to the sheaf of corn called the Yule goat. In Sweden, people regarded the Yule goat as an invisible spirit that would appear some time before Christmas to make sure that the Yule preparations were done right. Objects made out of straw or roughly-hewn wood could be called the Yule goat, in older Scandinavian society a popular Christmas prank was to place this Yule goat in a neighbour's house without them noticing; the function of the Yule goat has differed throughout the ages. In a Scandinavian custom similar to the English tradition of wassailing, held at either Christmas or Epiphany, young men in costumes would walk between houses singing songs, enacting plays and performing pranks; this tradition is known from the 17th century and still continue in certain areas. The group of Christmas characters would include the Yule goat, a rowdy and sometimes scary creature demanding gifts. During the 19th century the Yule goat's role all over Scandinavia shifted towards becoming the giver of Christmas gifts, with one of the men in the family dressing up as the Yule goat.
In this, there might be a relation to Santa Claus and the Yule goat's origin in the medieval celebrations of Saint Nicholas. The goat was replaced by the jultomte or julenisse during the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century, although he is still called the Joulupukki in Finland, the tradition of the man-sized goat disappeared; the Yule goat in Nordic countries today is best known as a Christmas ornament. This modern version of the Yule goat figure is a decorative goat made out of straw and bound with red ribbons, a popular Christmas ornament found under or on the Christmas tree. Large versions of this ornament are erected in towns and cities around Christmas time – a tradition started with the Gävle goat in the 1960s. Julebukking is a Scandinavian Christmas tradition. Between Christmas and New Year's Day, people wearing masks and costumes go door to door, where neighbors receiving them attempt to identify, under the disguise. In one version of Julebukking, people go from door to door singing Christmas songs.
After they have sung, they are awarded with candy. Another tradition requires that at least one person from the visited household join the band of Julebukkers and continue to the next household. In certain aspects, the custom resembled the modern-day tradition of Halloween trick-or-treating. Julebukkers will disguise their voices and body language to further the masquerade. Offering people holiday treats and something to drink is customary. Once identities are known and the food is eaten, the Julebukkers continue to the next home; the Christmas goat is mentioned in many older Christmas songs dated back to the late 19th and early 20th century, when the Santa Claus tradition had not been established throughout Sweden. Among the songs are Julbocken and Raska fötter springa tripp, tripp. Joulupukki Krampus Namahage Ded Moroz Reade, Arthur Finland and the Finns Rossel, Sven H.. ISBN 0-8032-3907-6 Berg, Knut Anders Julen i norsk og utenlandsk tradisjon ISBN 8205217688 Gävlebocken
Heimskringla is the best known of the Old Norse kings' sagas. It was written in Old Norse in Iceland by the poet and historian Snorri Sturluson c. 1230. The name Heimskringla was first used in the 17th century, derived from the first two words of one of the manuscripts. Heimskringla is a collection of sagas about Swedish and Norwegian kings, beginning with the saga of the legendary Swedish dynasty of the Ynglings, followed by accounts of historical Norwegian rulers from Harald Fairhair of the 9th century up to the death of the pretender Eystein Meyla in 1177; the exact sources of his work are disputed, but included earlier kings' sagas, such as Morkinskinna and the twelfth century Norwegian synoptic histories and oral traditions, notably many skaldic poems. Snorri had himself visited Norway and Sweden. For events of the mid-12th century, Snorri explicitly names the now-lost work Hryggjarstykki as his source; the composition of the sagas is Snorri's. The name Heimskringla comes from the fact that the first words of the first saga in the compilation are Kringla heimsins, "the orb of the Earth".
The earliest parchment copy of the work is referred to as Kringla, now catalogued as Reykjavík, National Library, Lbs fragm 82. This is now a single vellum leaf from c. 1260. Heimskringla consists of several sagas thought of as falling into three groups, giving the overall work the character of a triptych; the saga narrates the contests of the kings, the establishment of the kingdom of Norway, Viking expeditions to various European countries, ranging as far afield as Palestine in the saga of Sigurd the Crusader. The stories are told with a freshness, giving a picture of human life in all its reality; the saga is a prose epic, relevant to the history not only of Scandinavia but the regions included in the wider medieval Scandinavian diaspora. The first part of the Heimskringla is rooted in Norse mythology; the first section tells of the mythological prehistory of the Norwegian royal dynasty, tracing Odin, described here as a mortal man, his followers from the East, from Asaland and Asgard, its chief city, to their settlement in Scandinavia.
The subsequent sagas are devoted starting with Halfdan the Black. A version of Óláfs saga helga, about the saint Olaf II of Norway, is the main and central part of the collection: Olaf's 15-year-long reign takes up about one third of the entire work. Thereafter, the saga of Harald Hardrada narrates Harald's expedition to the East, his brilliant exploits in Constantinople and Sicily, his skaldic accomplishments, his battles in England against Harold Godwinson, the son of Godwin, Earl of Wessex, where he fell at the battle Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066 only a few days before Harold fell at the Battle of Hastings. After presenting a series of other kinds, the saga ends with Magnus V of Norway. Heimskringla contains the following sagas: Ynglinga saga Saga of Halfdanr svarti Saga of Haraldr hárfagi Saga of Hákon góði Saga of King Haraldr gráfeldr Saga of King Óláfr Tryggvason Saga of King Óláfr Haraldsson, excerpt from conversion of Dale-Gudbrand Saga of Magnús góði Saga of Haraldr harðráði Saga of Óláfr Haraldsson kyrri Saga of Magnús berfœttr Saga of Sigurðr Jórsalafari and his brothers Saga of Magnús blindi and of Haraldr Gilli Saga of Sigurðr, Eysteinn and Ingi, the sons of Haraldr Saga of Hákon herðibreiðs Saga of Magnús Erlingsson Snorri explicitly mentions a few prose sources, now lost in the form that he knew them: Hryggjarstykki by Eiríkr Oddsson, Skjǫldunga saga, an unidentified saga about Knútr inn gamli, a text called Jarlasǫgurnar.
Snorri may have had access to a wide range of the early Scandinavian historical texts known today as the'synoptic histories', but made most use of: Ágrip af Nóregs konunga sǫgum. Morkinskinna. Fagrskinna, itself based on Morkinskinna, but the much shorter, his own Separate saga of St Óláfr, which he incorporated bodily into Heimskringla. This text was based on a saga of Olaf from about 1220 by Styrmir Kárason, now lost. Oddr Snorrason's Life of Óláfr Tryggvason, a Latin life of the same figure by Gunnlaugr Leifsson. Snorri made extensive use of skaldic verse which he believed to have been composed at the time of the events portrayed and transmitted orally from that time onwards, made us of other oral accounts, though it is uncertain to what extent. Up until the mid-19th century, historians put great trust in the factual truth of Snorri's narrative, as well as other old Norse sagas. In the early 20th century, this trust was abandoned with the advent of saga criticism, pioneered by Curt and Lauritz Weibull.
These historians pointed out that Snorri's work had been written sev
Wheel of the Year
The Wheel of the Year is an annual cycle of seasonal festivals, observed by many modern Pagans since its invention in the 1950s. It consists of either four or eight festivals: either the solstices and equinoxes, known as the "quarter days", or the four midpoints between, known as the "cross quarter days"; the wheel of the year was developed in the United Kingdom, by the Wiccan Bricket Wood coven and the Order of Bards and Druids. The festivals celebrated by differing sects of modern Paganism can vary in name and date. Observing the cycle of the seasons has been important to many people, both ancient and modern. Although few historical pagan holidays took place on the solstices and equinoxes, many contemporary Pagan festivals that use the wheel of the year are still based to varying degrees on folk traditions. Among Wiccans, the festivals are referred to as sabbats, with Gerald Gardner claiming this term was passed down from the Middle Ages, when the terminology for Jewish Shabbat was commingled with that of other heretical celebrations.
Both the eightfold and fourfold Wheels of the Year are modern innovations. European cultural communities have celebrated the four main seasons, sometimes with smaller, more local seasonal festivals as well. Many historical pagan and polytheist cultures observed various equinoxes and solstices for their seasonal and agricultural significance, but none were known to have held all eight as seen in the modern, culturally syncretic "wheel", popular in Modern Paganism. Mid-20th century British Paganism had a strong influence on early adoption of an eightfold Wheel. By the late 1950s, the Wiccan Bricket Wood coven and Order of Bards and Druids had both adopted eightfold ritual calendars, in order to hold more frequent celebrations; this had the benefit of more aligning celebrations between the two Pagan orders. Due to early Wicca's influence on Modern Paganism and the syncretic adoption of Anglo-Saxon and Celtic motifs, the most used English festival names for the Wheel of the Year tend to be Celtic and Germanic when the celebrations are not based on those cultures.
The American Ásatrú movement has adopted, over time, a calendar in which the Heathen major holidays figure alongside many Days of Remembrance which celebrate heroes of the Edda and the Sagas, figures of Germanic history, the Viking Leif Ericson, who explored and settled Vinland. These festivals are not, however, as evenly distributed throughout the year as in Wicca and other Heathen denominations. In many traditions of modern Pagan cosmology, all things are considered to be cyclical, with time as a perpetual cycle of growth and retreat tied to the Sun's annual death and rebirth; this cycle is viewed as a micro- and macrocosm of other life cycles in an immeasurable series of cycles composing the Universe. The days that fall on the landmarks of the yearly cycle traditionally mark the beginnings and middles of the four seasons, they are regarded with host to major communal festivals. These eight festivals are the most common times for community celebrations. While the "major" festivals are the quarter and cross-quarter days, other festivals are celebrated throughout the year among the non-Wiccan traditions such as those of polytheistic reconstructionism and other ethnic traditions.
In Wiccan and Wicca-influenced traditions, the festivals, being tied to solar movements, have been steeped in solar mythology and symbolism, centered on the life cycles of the sun. The Wiccan esbats are traditionally tied to the lunar cycles. Together, they represent the most common celebrations in Wiccan-influenced forms of Neopaganism in contemporary Witchcraft groups. Midwinter, known as Yule or, within modern Druid traditions as Alban Arthan, has been recognised as a significant turning point in the yearly cycle since the late Stone Age; the ancient megalithic sites of Newgrange and Stonehenge aligned with the solstice sunrise and sunset, exemplify this. The reversal of the Sun's ebbing presence in the sky symbolizes the rebirth of the solar god and presages the return of fertile seasons. From Germanic to Roman tradition, this is the most important time of celebration. Practices vary, but sacrifices and gift giving are common elements of Midwinter festivities. Bringing sprigs and wreaths of evergreenery into the home and tree decorating are common during this time.
In Germanic traditions, this liminal festival marks the last month of the old year and the first month of the new year and is followed by eleven days of extended celebration. In Roman traditions additional festivities take place during the six days leading up to Midwinter; as the first cross-quarter day following Midwinter this day falls on the first of February and traditionally marks the first stirrings of spring. It aligns with the contemporary observance of Groundhog Day, it is time for spring cleaning in anticipation of the year's new life. In Rome, it was a shepherd's holiday, while the Celts associated it with the onset of ewes' lactation, prior to birthing the spring lambs. For Celtic pagans, the festival is dedicated to the goddess Brigid, daughter of The Dagda and one of the Tuatha Dé Danann. Among Reclaiming tradition Witches, this is the traditional time for pledges and rededications for the coming year and for initiation among Dianic Wiccans. Derived from a reconstruction produced by linguist Jacob Grimm of an Old High German form of the Old English goddess name Ēostre, Ostara marks the vernal equinox in some modern Pagan
The winter solstice known as midwinter, occurs when one of the Earth's poles has its maximum tilt away from the Sun. It happens twice once in each hemisphere. For that hemisphere, the winter solstice is the day with the shortest period of daylight and longest night of the year, when the Sun is at its lowest daily maximum elevation in the sky. At the pole, there is continuous darkness or twilight around the winter solstice, its opposite is the summer solstice. The winter solstice occurs during the hemisphere's winter. In the Northern Hemisphere, this is the December solstice and in the Southern Hemisphere, this is the June solstice. Although the winter solstice itself lasts only a moment, the term sometimes refers to the day on which it occurs. Other names are "midwinter", the "extreme of winter", or the "shortest day". Traditionally, in many temperate regions, the winter solstice is seen as the middle of winter, but today in some countries and calendars, it is seen as the beginning of winter. In meteorology, winter is reckoned as beginning about three weeks before the winter solstice.
Since prehistory, the winter solstice has been seen as a significant time of year in many cultures, has been marked by festivals and rituals. It marked the symbolic rebirth of the Sun; the seasonal significance of the winter solstice is in the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days. Seasonal lag is the term relating the lag shift between the coldest winter weather and the winter solstice; as latitude increases, midwinter correlates more with the winter solstice. The solstice may have been a special moment of the annual cycle for some cultures during neolithic times. Astronomical events were used to guide activities, such as the mating of animals, the sowing of crops and the monitoring of winter reserves of food. Many cultural mythologies and traditions are derived from this; this is attested by physical remains in the layouts of late Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeological sites, such as Stonehenge in England and Newgrange in Ireland. The primary axes of both of these monuments seem to have been aligned on a sight-line pointing to the winter solstice sunrise and the winter solstice sunset.
It is significant that at Stonehenge the Great Trilithon was oriented outwards from the middle of the monument, i.e. its smooth flat face was turned towards the midwinter Sun. The winter solstice was immensely important because the people were economically dependent on monitoring the progress of the seasons. Starvation was common during the first months of the winter, January to April or July to October known as "the famine months". In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feast celebration, before deep winter began. Most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter, so it was the only time of year when a plentiful supply of fresh meat was available; the majority of wine and beer made during the year was fermented and ready for drinking at this time. The concentration of the observances were not always on the day commencing at midnight or at dawn, but at the beginning of the pagan day, which in many cultures fell on the previous eve; because the event was seen as the reversal of the Sun's ebbing presence in the sky, concepts of the birth or rebirth of sun gods have been common.
In cultures which used cyclic calendars based on the winter solstice, the "year as reborn" was celebrated with reference to life-death-rebirth deities or "new beginnings" such as Hogmanay's redding, a New Year cleaning tradition. "reversal" is yet another frequent theme, as in Saturnalia's slave and master reversals. Makara Sankranti known as Makaraa Sankrānti or Maghi, is a festival day in the Hindu calendar, in reference to deity Surya, it is observed each year in January. It marks the first day of Sun's transit into Makara, marking the end of the month with the winter solstice and the start of longer days. Iranian people celebrate the night of the Northern Hemisphere's winter solstice as, "Yalda night", known to be the "longest and darkest night of the year". Yalda night celebration, or as some call it "Shabe Chelleh", is one the oldest Iranian traditions, present in Persian culture from the ancient years. In this night all the family gather together at the house of the eldest, celebrate it by eating and reciting poetry.
Nuts and watermelons are served during this festival. The pagan Scandinavian and Germanic people of northern Europe celebrated a twelve-day "midwinter" holiday called Yule. Many modern Christmas traditions, such as the Christmas tree, the Christmas wreath, the Yule log, others, are direct descendents of Yule customs. Scandinavians still call Christmas "Jul". In English, the word "Yule" is used in combination with the season "yuletide" a usage first recorded in 900, it is believed that the celebration of this day was a worship of these peculiar days, interpreted as the reawakening of nature. The Yule particular god was Jólner, one of Odin's many names; the concept of Yule occurs in a tribute poem to Harold Hårfager from about AD 900, where someone said "drinking Yule". Julblot is the most solemn sacrifice feast. At the Yule blót, sacrifices were given to the gods to earn blessing on the forthcoming germinating crops; the Yule blót was integrated into the Christian Christmas. As a remainder from this Viking era, the Midsummer is