This is a bit of a chestnut, but like the holly evergreen: the longest night of the year has already begun here in Scotland. If you need some ideas for tomorrow's celebrations to welcome the return of the light, here you go:
The Anglo-Saxons settled Britain in the early fifth century, giving their name to the land now known as England. Very little remains of the native culture of the Anglo-Saxons.We learn from the Venerable Bede, a seventh century Christian historian, that the months we now call December and January were considered “Giuli” or Yule by the Anglo-Saxons.According to the historian, his Anglo-Saxon ancestors celebrated the beginning of the year on December 25th, referred to as “Modranect”— that is, Mothers’ Night.This celebration most likely acknowledged the rebirth of Mother Earth in order to ensure fertility in the coming spring season.An Anglo-Saxon charm for crop fertility, recorded in the eleventh-century and known as “Aecerbot,” refers to the Earth as “Erce, [the] Earthen Mother” and contains the following praise poem for her:
I ease my students into Beowulf by having them read the Anglo-Saxon poem 'The Wanderer' first. It's a great introduction to the warrior ethos that the longer narrative celebrates, but in a short form. It's a poem about grief but the first thing we'll notice is that the loss mourned isn't a partner, child or parent, but the narrator's leader.
Wyrd bið ful aræd! Fate always goes as it must!
The center of the warrior's life is a relationship the Roman historian Tacitus named comitatus when he first observed it in the continental Germanic tribes. A leader gained followers by offering them praise and treasures for courageous behaviour in battle. They rewarded him with their loyalty. It was the center of their lives; it also took a central role in the poetry of the era.