Reconstructing the Old Saxon Moon Names based on Historical Sources
Updated: Feb 25, 2022
This article is by request. We have several Historical Heathen Calendars that survive, that have moon names. Here is the list from oldest to the youngest: 1. Bede's De Temporum Ratione, chapter 15 (725 AD). This records the twelve moon names and holidays of the Old English Heathens (which also lists two Roman Matronae Cult holidays: Mothers' Night and Eostre.) 2. Einhard's Vita Karoli Magni, chapter 29 (circa 830 AD). This records the twelve moon names of the Frankish Heathen Calendar. 3. The 10th century Icelandic Althing Calendar. (circa 960 AD). This records the twelve moon names of the Icelanders (and Norwegians). Please note, Swedish Sagas and Danish Sagas contain moon names that match this calendar. But Runic Calendar Staffs found in Denmark and Sweden also disagree with some moon names, mainly the third moon of the year: Distingstunl. Please also note, this calendar is called the Misseri Calendar, and it is a post Christian calendar, that does contain the Old Heathen moon names, but not in their historical order. The question at hand is simple: For Old Saxon Heathens, where do we begin to reconstruct the Old Saxon moon names for Aldsidu? Should we borrow from the Old English, the Old Franks, or the Danes, whom the Saxons are recorded finding refuge with during the Saxon Wars? Or do we simply accept that we only know a few Old Saxon Moon names, and just number the rest of the moons? This article, will discuss the four options we have, borrowing one of the three calendars above, or using the few moon names we have Old Saxon record/evidence for, and using numerical names in Old Saxon for the rest in Aldsidu today.
The Old English Calendar
Bede records twelve moon names of the Old English calendar. Bede even stated the 13th moon name on lunar leap years. Bede records the most detailed Heathen Calendar. Bede states: "The first moon, which the Romans call “January”, is with them Giuli (Yule). Then follow February, Solmonath, March, Hredmonath, April, Eosturmonath, May Thrimilki, June, Litha, July, Litha August Weodmonath, September Halegmonath, October Winterfylleth, November, Blotmonath, December, Giuli, same as for January." In a nutshell, here are the pros and cons of Old Saxon Heathens using the Old English calendar names: There are more cons than pros. The pros are that we have twelve verified moon names, with a well attested and preserved calendar. The biggest pro is that an Old Saxon work, the Essen Necrology, attests to two of twelve moons that match Bede: Halegmanuth, and Blodmanuth (Holy Moon, and Blood Moon.) The Cons are that the Old English are different people than the Old Saxons. Old Saxon is a different language than Old English, and the Old Saxons used a different Runic Alphabet: The Elder Futhark. (The Old English used the Anglo-Frisian Futhorc.) The biggest con is that the Old Saxon Heliand shows that Easter was called "Pascha" and leaves zero hint of an Eostre or Ostar. Also, per the screen shot below, scholars like Dr. Shaw and Dr Garman prove in their books and works that Eostre (or Ostar) is a Goddess unique to the Roman Rhine valley, and southern England. We have around 200 Austriahenae stones (or "Eostre stones"), and location names in these areas that prove Ostar was known in these areas, and only in these areas. This matches the litarary evidence, as only the English and Frankish calendars mention Eostre/Ostar, and the Matronae Stones are only found in Frankia (the Roman Rhine Valley, Frisia, and England.) Eostre or Ostar is not mentioned in any Old Saxon source, or Scandinavian source, nor are there archaeological mentions of Eostre/Ostar outside of these areas. The first mention of Easter being called "Ostern" in the modern Saxon language is 1473, six and a half centuries after Saxon Heathenry was crushed. Whereas, while Bede calls Christian Easter 'Pascha' in all his other writings (and does even in De Temporum Ratione, the same document he gives the Old English calendar). By the time the Old English Chronicle was written, the Chronicle always used Easter (the Old English word for the christian passover.) This means that there is evidence that between Bede's De Temporum Ratione and the writing of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, in England, "passover" became known as "Easter." In summary, the Old Saxons did not know Easter, nor Hreda. Therefore, they did not have these two moons in their calendar. The Franks, the Scandinavians, the Old English, and the Old Saxons all have different moon names. Therefore, it is "risky" to use Old English Moon names in the Old Saxon Calendar. While Holy Moon and Blood Moon are attested in the Old Saxon Essen Necrology, scholars believe this was borrowed into the Old Saxon source, and have since Dr. Gallee in the early 1900s. But, one could argue "Why would English monks use Old English Moon names in a Saxon source?" Scholars argue that they borrowed this, but a counter argument I would give would be, if these monks could easily find out the Old Saxon moon name for these two months, why would they not use these? I personally believe that the Old Saxons did use the names "Holy Moon" and "Blood Moon" in their calendar for the 9th and 11th moons of the year.
The Old Frankish Calendar
Here is the historical Frankish Heathen Calendar, recorded by Einhard in Vita Karolini Magni, chapter 29, translation mine: "He (Charlemagne) began a grammar of his native language. He gave the moons (months) names in his own tongue, in place of the Latin and barbarous names by which they were formerly known among the Franks. He likewise designated the winds by twelve appropriate names; there were hardly more than four distinctive ones in use before. He called January, Wintarmanoth; February, Hornung; March, Lentzinmanoth; April, Ostarmanoth; May, Winnemanoth; June, Brachmanoth; July, Heuvimanoth; August, Aranmanoth; September, Witumanoth; October, Windumemanoth; November, Herbistmanoth; December, Heilagmanoth."
The pros of using the Frankish Calendar Moon names are a little stronger than using the Old English Moon names. Using some historical moon names are better than just numbering them. When the Romans first started to mention the Saxons in the 4th century, they are almost always grouped with the Franks. "Franks and Saxons near the Rhine" the common grouping of these two peoples. Since these two were neighbors, and even allied tribes (until Clovis brought Christianity to the Franks in 497 AD), until the neighboring tribes became enemies due to the Christianization (forced) brought to Saxony by the Franks. Therefore, one could argue, that Saxon Heathens today should use the calendar of the Franks. But the cons are just as many as using Old English Moon names. The Saxons did not know Eostre, which I did write a detailed blog article on, how the Old Saxon Heliand shows a complete and total use of the word "pascha" with zero hint of "Eostre" or "Ostar" anywhere. Also, the Heliand, Fitt 7, constantly discusses soothsayers (Wise Men in the Biblical Gospels) from the East, again and again, showing a very completely mundane usage of the word "Ost" (east) in the Heliand. The Heliand strongly implies a lack of common knowledge of Ostar/Eostre amongst the Saxons. Plus the scholarly arguments of Dr. Shaw has Old English Heathens even telling Saxon Heathens like myself, Eostre is "their" Goddess, and not "ours." (And I do agree with them.) But these same ASH (Anglo-Saxon Heathens) get mad at me when I discuss other differences between Saxons and the Germanic peoples in England. I do lean a little more towards using the Frankish Moon names for the Saxon Calendar, but once again, we must skip Ostar Moon, which means, most likely, other Frankish Moon names do not apply to the Saxons. We also have the language differences between the Franks and the Saxons, just like we have language differences between Old Saxon and Old English. The Old Low Franconian Language, is a "High German" language, and Old Saxon (and Old English) is a "Low German" language. While Saxony did neighbor Franconia, the language of the Old Saxons was actually more like other Saxon neighbors: Frisians. I should note here, many scholars argue that "Ostarmanod" (Easter Moon) used by Einhard was also a borrowing from the Anglo-Saxon Calendar, and borrowed from English monks. The difference here though, is Austriahenae stones were found in historical Frankish lands. Though I also agree that the Franks probably did not use the Futhorc Runic Alphabet, which does seem to be confined to Anglo-Frisians. Ostar it appears to me, reached at least three tribes: Angles, Frisians, and Franks.
The Icelandic Calendar, or Saga references using Danish/Swedish Moon names?
The Icelandic Althing recorded twelve moon names in the 10th century. But this calendar is problematic, and archaeologists and scholars (like Dr. Andreas Nordberg) point out, that the Icelandic Althing was Christian at this time, and deliberately changed their moons to align with the Roman month names, eliminated the moons from the months, chosing to make months be fixed solar dates, ignoring the moon completely, and even followed the forced Christianization going on in Norway by King Hakon the Good, who forcefully moved Yule from the full moon of Jolmanuthr (Yule Moon) to be on the same date as Xmas, the solstice on the Julian Calendar (Dec 25th) as part of forced Christianization. Scholars also point out that Swedish Althings (at Disting, in the third moon of the year) were not done around the middle of Summer, as the Icelanders did their Althings at this time. Therefore, some argue that the moon names to the Icelanders and Norwegians were different than that of the Swedes and Danes. And there is some strong evidence here. As stated by both the historical sources, and one of my blog articles, only Swedes and Danish tribes did a 9-year sacrifice, and had large cult centers like Uppsala and Lejre, whereas the Icelanders and Norwegians, were much more like each other (most Icelanders who were Heathens came from Norway). Icelanders and Norwegians were more similar to each other, just as Danes and Swedes were closer to each other (with easily navigatable sea between then), unlike some of the mountains that separate Norway from Sweden. Nonetheless, Goa to the Icelanders does seem to be Goje to the Swedes, so therefore, some moon names were shared by them. But the Iceland Althings Christian decision to put Yule Moon in "November" and ending before the Solstice does seem "odd" and certainly like an attempt to move the last day of this moon to line up with the Christian Xmas and aligning with Christianity for political reasons and trade reasons. But nonetheless, despite the strong preference for Christianity in Iceland already in the 10th century, this doesn't mean that the names of the moons themselves should be tossed out. That is like tossing out the baby with the bath water. But the timing of these "christianizations" should be ignored, and the pre-Christian moon timings throughout the year should certainly be taken as opposed to leaving a historical lunisolar calendar in favor of a completely solar one. The pros of this argument is always, that it is better to use some historical moon names for Saxon moon names, as opposed to just numerical names, as Saxon Moon names are most likely lost to us. (Outside of five of them I think we can safely reconstruct.) But the reasons not to use these are many: Runic calendar staffs have different timings, and different names for moons. Dr. Nordberg points out "Distingstungl" of the Swedes was completely left out of the Icelandic/Norwegian calendar. The other pros are, most Saxon scholars in Northern Germany argue that the Old Saxon Religion, was the same as that of the Danes, the Saxon's northern neighbors. This is some guesswork on their part, as the Old Saxon Heliand shows some differences in specific aspects of Saxon Heathenry, not found in Danish/Swedish Heathenry. But for the most part, there are more similarities, even if there are some glaring differences. (Like Saxon "Shapers" compared to "Nornir" for one of many examples.) Here is my reconstructed Old Swedish/Danish Calendar, based on the scholastic writings of Swedish Scholar, Dr. Andreas Nordberg. The dates are set to 2021 in this article.
Using Numerical Numbers
I believe that we can safely reconstruct five Old Saxon Moon names, and we should use numerical numbers for the remaining seven (or eight, in a lunar leap year) moons of the year. While I acknoweldge that scholars argue that the Halegmanuth and Blodmanuth (Holy Moon, and Blood Moon) was brought into the Old Saxon language from England, I just do not see why these moon names would be used by a Saxon Christian church in the 9th century, if these were not moon names that the Saxon People were using, during their "forced christianization." The Essen Necrology records these two moon names, but it is a partial manuscript. Therefore, we cannot prove if any other moon names were the same as "Bede's Old English Calendar." Some may even argue, that a partial manuscript, giving a list of Saxons who died during Halegmanuth, and Blodmanuth in a particular church in Saxony, is proof then that the Old Saxons did use the same moon names as the Old English. (Please note, slightly different spellings of Old Saxon vs. Old English). But I do strongly believe that ASH (Anglo-Saxon Heathens) and Dr. Shaw and others, are right, that Eostre was confined to England, Frisia, and Northern Frankia. So, here is my argument: Halegmanuth and Bloodmanuth should be moon names in the reconstructed Old Saxon Calendar. Since the Scandinavian and Old English Heathens had a "sun-moon", I am GUESSING that most likely the second moon of the year in Saxony was also called "Sun Moon." And, since it does appear that ALL Germanic tribes had two moons of the year called "Yule Moon", the Old Saxon Iul Moon for the first and last moons of the year does make sense. Please note, I use "Winter Full Moon" as an Old Saxon Moon name, but this is a guess based on Bede. It is the full moon that starts winter for the Old English. It is possible, the Old Saxon name could be "Haustblot" (well, I should translate to Old Saxon here, as Harvest is not "haust" in Old Saxon.). Harvest Moon also makes sense for the Saxons, just as much as "Winter Moon" does. At times, I strongly trust scholars. At times, I do not trust them. You know how many scholars have written things like "We do not know what Litha Moon means. We believe it means 'calm.'" I mean, the Old Saxon and Old English word "lith" for traveling, proves that it is a time the seas were navigable, just as Bede said in his retelling of the Old English calendar. "Lithan" is the Old Saxon word that means "trip" and we have other words in Old Saxon like "seolithandian" and "lagulithandian" meaning "sea-travelers" and "lake-travelers." Scholars of Old Saxon may not read Old Saxon daily as I do. I am a Heathen who reads Old Saxon daily, trying to recreate a historical religion. Non-Heathens make mistakes like not linking "Litha" an Old English Moon name with traveling. This is obvious. But there are many times, scholars are proven to be very correct, despite the fact they hold a Christian or an Agnostic mindset. In the end, we Saxon Heathens, need to decide on the moon names for Aldsidu (Old Saxon Heathenry.) And I lean to the following calendar pasted below. And I would love to know your thoughts. Please join us on the Facebook group "Saxon Heathenry."