Updated: Oct 3, 2020
This article will discuss two very different peoples, who had different Gods and Goddesses, different holidays (at different times), spoke languages on entirely different language branches (which were not mutually intelligible), and who had completely different rituals. While I myself am an adherent of Aldsidu, which was a historical Germanic Religion, I am not at all trying to say that Celts or Germanic peoples are more or less superior/inferior to each other. Each are amazing traditions (historically) in their own right. But it is time to understand the differences between these two peoples.
Often, Pagan groups use Proto-Indo-European studies, arguing that a few thousand years ago, all European peoples had one culture. Thi is greatly debated by the way. But in the end, Greek, Roman, Basque, Celtic, Slavic, and Germanic Peoples (among others) all grew into their own distinct cultures, their distinct language groups, and had their own distinct religions. Now, lets move on to discussing the Celts vs. the Germanic Peoples.
Celtic and Germanic Peoples Compared and Contrasted
Gods and Goddesses: Here is a basic list of Gods and Goddesses of the Celtic and Germanic Peoples. Please note, Scandinavian peoples are Germanic Peoples. Therefore these are lumped together. I will use modern English renditions of the names, instead of Othinn (Icelandic) for "Odin" and Uuoden (Old Saxon) for Odin. Outside of Scandinavia, tribes in modern Germany, parts of Poland, The Netherlands, and Belgium did venerate the Aesir. (Some Germanic Peoples also migrated to Celtic Britannia.). Also, I am keeping this list to the most well known Deities, as these lists in fairness can get quite long.
Languages: Celtic Peoples spoke Celtic lagnauges, Germanic Peoples spoke Germanic languages. Today, the Celtic languages that survive (meaning those that are still spoken) , are in the modern United Kingdom. There are four living languages: Welsh, Breton, Irish and Scottish Gaelic. All are minority languages in their respective countries. Here is a list of Celtic Languages: Lepontic, the oldest attested Celtic language (from the 6th century BC). Spoken in Switzerland and Northern Italy Celtiberian, anciently spoken in the Iberian peninsula.
Northwestern Hispano-Celtic/Western Hispano-Celtic (Gallaecian language), anciently spoken in the northwest of the peninsula (modern northern Portugal)
Brittonic, including the living languages Breton, Cornish, and Welsh, and the extinct languages Cumbric and Pictish.
Goidelic, including the living languages Irish, Manx, and Scottish Gaelic. Gaulish languages, spoken in Gaul and then westwards all the way into Turkey.
Locations: The First Map below is that of the Celts. Please note, most of the Celts were in the Byzantine and Roman Empires. Therefore, the Celtic culture demised earlier with the adoption of Roman and Greek orthodox customs, espeically christianity. The Germanic tribes were never brought into the Roman Empire, please see the second map below
The Roman Empire, conquered the "Keltoi", who were a different race of people according to the Romans. Tacitus, a Roman Pagan author in the first century, wrote a work called "Germania" which described the "Germanii," whom the Romans failed to conquer, and gave up on conquering per Augustus. Emperor Augustus felt that unlike the Keltoi, the Germanic Tribes were not civilized, and lived in the swamps and forests of Germania. This is where Hermann the Cherusker defeated three entire Roman Legions, as Roman battle tactics proved impossible in forests, as opposed to open ground, where they were the best fighting force in the world. Augustus Caesar ruled that Germania had too little to offer Rome, while civilized Celtic Gaul, with roads and civilization had much to offer. This is why we have less writings about the Druids and other forms of Celtic Paganism, as these cultures had a word of mouth secret religion, that converted to Christianity under the Roman Empire, while the Germanic tribes thrived in isolation. To learn more about Arminius (or Hermann the hero of the Heathen Germanic Tribes,) here is a simple article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arminius
Here is a map of the Germanic Tribes:
Holidays: First, a statement: Almost 100% of all Pagans today ignore the moon. Most Pagans follow an 8 prong solar calendar, with 100% of the holidays on on solstices, equinoxes, and their half-way points. This completely ignores the moon, and follows the Romanized Solar Calendar the Roman Church adopted instead of the Biblical "Jewish" calendar. I have zero doubt, that historical Heathens did not ignore the moon. This is only a modern "neo-pagan" phenominon. Second, a holiday disclaimer. As a Heathen of 21 years, I know the Aldsidu and Scandinavian calendars inside and out. Below the picture showing the Germanic vs. Celtic holidays, I will quote some historical sources to prove the calendar of the Germanic Tribes. Here, we are talking HISTORICAL Heathenry, not modern Asatru Neo-paganism, which mixes with Wicca and Christianity. Most websites, are passing along mis-information. The Germanic scholars in Germany and Sweden, some of whom I have met in person and on location, are 100% sure based on the literary and archaeological evidence that Yule was on the first full moon after the first new moon after the winter solstice. We know all twelve moon names of the Norse and Anglo-Saxon Heathen year. The Icelanders as well recorded their 12 moon names circa 930 AD. These are facts. If you think that historical Germanic and Scandinavian Heathens celebrated on solstices and equinoxes you are wrong. Sources, links, and quotes at the bottom of this article. (PS- we have three historical Germanic Heathen Calendars to survive: Bede's De Temporum Ratione, written in the exact year 725 AD, Einhard's Vita Karoli Magni Chapter 29, written circa 830 AD, and the Iceland Althing wrote down their calendar at their Althing circa 930 AD.) Germanic Heathens did not keep the Solstices (nor Equinoxes). The Celts also did not celebrate the Solstices. The Germanic Heathen Calendar did not call "solstices" mid-winter and mid-summer. Winter Nights was the start of Winter, on a full moon in mid-late October. Three Full Moons later was the Full Moon of Jolmanuthr (meaning Yule Moon), in which the three days of Yule began. Three full moons after Yule began (in late January/early February) was Sigrblot, the start of Summer. Please remember, according to the solar Roman calendar, there were four seasons, not two seasons. The first day of Summer to the Romans was the Summer Solstice. The Romans followed a solar calendar.
Celtic Calendar vs the Germanic One: Please note, while modern Asatru keeps the Wiccan Wheel of the Year (for the most part) and Celtic Paganism follows this practice (for the most part), the actual historical holidays in pre-christian Celtic and Germanic Europe are far different from what is taught with all the misinformation on the world wide web. Modern paganism in general ignores the moon completely, both the Celtic and Germanic peoples kept a lunisolar calendar. The word "moon" and "month" are related words in all Germanic languages. A "month" was a "cycle of the moon." All Germanic/Scandinavian and Celtic Holidays were on Full Moons. (I present the historical evidence for this at the bottom of the article, scroll down for the historical sources at the end, or read them when you get there.) In a nutshell, Celtic Paganism had four holidays, all on full moons: Lughnasa, Samhain, Imbolc, and Beltaine. Scandinavian/Germanic Heathens had five holidays all on full moons (though different moons than the Celtic Peoples). Three holidays were "major blots" and two were smaller affairs. Germanic Heathens had Winter Nights, Yule, Disting, Sigrblot, and Alfablot.
There is archaeological evidence that proves that the Celtic Peoples were lunisolar (months were "lunar" but the sun was used when to add a 13th moon to the year.) The biggest evidence on this is the Coligny Calendar, a calendar in Gaul dated to the second century. I have always struggled, and always will struggle that the overwhelming majority of modern neo-pagans continue to ignore the moon, having 100% of their times "solar." For the Coligny Calendar, please see the following link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coligny_calendar
Please note, while the Winter Solstice is listed as a Celtic Holiday below, it was not. (Both the Celtic and Germanic peoples knew when the solstice was, but the solstice was not a holiday.
Historical Germanic/Scandinavian Holidays: Winter Nights: On the Full Moon of Haustmanuthr (or Harvest Moon). This is why Winter Nights is also called "Haustblot." Yule: On the Full Moon of Jolmanuthr (or Yule Moon.) Disting: On the Full Moon of Distingstunl, or "Disting Moon." Sigrblot: On the full moon of Goa-manuthr. Alfablot: In Sweden only. Called Blood Moon in England and Old Saxony (Northern Germany)
The Germanic day began at sundown. The calendar was lunisolar. All holidays were on full moons.
Moon names/Month names: Celtic vs. Germanic
Please note, Celtic Moon's (or "months") started on the Full Moons. Germanic Moons/Months started on new moons.
Celtic Calendar, from Celtic Pagan Reconstructionists
Scandinavian Calendar (for the year 2021), with the moon names included:
Historical and Scholarly Evidence on the dating of Historical Heathen Holidays:
Yule was in January most years, some years it is in February. The Chronicon of Thietmar of Merseburg Chapter 17 (circa 1000 AD): "As I have heard odd stories concerning their ancient mid-winter sacrifices, I will not allow this custom to be ignored. The middle of that kingdom is called Lederun (Lejre), in the region of Sjælland, all the people gathered every nine years in January, that is after we have celebrated the birth of the Lord [Christmas], and there they offered to their gods sacrifices…” Bede states in De Temporum Ratione,Ch 15 (725 AD): "Thus, the moon by which they began their winter season was called “Winterfylleth”, a name compounded of the terms for winter and full moon, because from the full moon of that moon winter was thought to begin." Andreas Nordberg, the world’s foremost scholar on Norse Holidays, makes clear in his book on the dating of Yule that “The pre-Christian Yule feast occurs at the first full moon after the first new moon following the winter solstice, while the disting took place at the third full moon according to the same method of calculation.” (Jul, disting och förkyrklig tideräkning Kalendrar och kalendariska riter i det förkristna Norden Uppsala 2006, P.4) At Yule it was determined if a thirteenth moon would be added to the year. To keep the following year’s Yule as the first full moon after the first new moon after the solstice, it would be determined if a 13th moon would be needed or not.
The Ynglinga Saga (chapter 8), from the year 1225, lists the three great blots of the year: “Odin established the same law in his land that had been in force in Asaland… On winter day (first day of winter) there should be blot for a good year, and in the middle of winter for a good crop; and the third blot should be on summer day, a Victory-blot.” In Old Norse, “Sigurblot” means “Victory-Blot.” In Heimskringla, the saga of Hakon the Good, section 15 (circa 1230 AD) it says the following: “The first night of Yule was hǫkunótt, that is midwinter night, and Yule was held for three nights.” The context of Hakon the Good section 15 is that Hakon is trying to force the Heathens into Christianity, so he moved Yule to the same date as Christmas. Christmas was then held on the Solstice on the Julian Calendar, December 25th. Pre-christian Heathen Yule was a three-day holiday that started on a full moon, not on a fixed solar date. Hakon the Good moved it from being on the full moon of Yule Moon to being on the Solstice. Therefore, it is actually Christian to keep Yule on the Solstice. Hakon the Good, is the reason why Xmas is called "Yule" in Scandinavia today. This was a part of forced Christianization. I will close this article with the entire text of Hakon the Good so you can see this in context. Sigurblot. (the start of summer). See Ynglinga Saga 8 quote above, and this important passage, as Sigurblot is a Victory Blot, sacrifices for victory due to the coming raiding and war season of summer: Heimskringla Olaf’s Saga Helga 77 “In Sweden there was an age-old custom whilst they were still heathen that there should be a blot in Upsala during Goa (moon.) Then they would blot for peace and victory for their king. People from all over Sweden were to resort there.” Chapter 15 of the saga "Hakon the Good": King Hakon was a good Christian when he came to Norway; but as the whole country was heathen, with much heathen sacrifice, and as many great people, as well as the favour of the common people, were to be conciliated, he resolved to practice his Christianity in private. But he kept Sundays, and the Friday fasts, and some token of the greatest holy-days. He made a law that the festival of Yule should begin at the same time as Christian people held it, and that every man, under penalty, should brew a meal of malt into ale, and therewith keep the Yule holy as long as it lasted. Formerly the first night of Yule was hǫkunótt, that is midwinter night, and Yule was held for three nights. It was his intent, as soon as he had set himself fast in the land, and had subjected the whole to his power, to introduce Christianity. He went to work first by enticing to Christianity the men who were dearest to him; and many, out of friendship to him, allowed themselves to be baptized, and some laid aside performing blot. He dwelt long in the Throndhjem district, for the strength of the country lay there; and when he thought that, by the support of some powerful people there, he could set up Christianity he sent a message to England for a bishop and other teachers; and when they arrived in Norway, Hakon made it known that he would proclaim Christianity over all the land. Please join us on the Facebook group "Saxon Heathenry."