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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Anglo-saxon religion

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Celebrating the Sheep

While most pagans were celebrating Imbolc this past weekend, in my household we were doing something a little different. Neither my partner nor I has any connection with Brigid, and while we might be okay honoring a less-than-familiar goddess as guests in a larger group setting, as hard polytheists in our own small rituals at home we tend to stick with deities we have a personal history and relationship with. Since we are also (more or less) Heathen, in our own two-person tradition the beginning of February is time for Ewemeolc. This is an Anglo-Saxon holiday whose name means exactly what it sounds like. That's right: it celebrates the annual lactation of the ewes.

In Anglo-Saxon England, the agricultural year began on or around the beginning of February (a tradition that lingered into medieval times and became Plough Monday, the official resumption of farming work after Christmas). The 7th century English scholar Bede referred to February as “Solmonath,” or “the month of cakes, which in that month the English offered to their gods.” This most likely referred to the AEcerbot (“Field Remedy”) Charm (which we know in a Christianized form from the 10th century Anglo-Saxon manuscript Lacnunga), a ritual to bless the fields for the planting season ahead. It may also help explain why pancakes seem to be a traditional meal for this holiday.

Then as now, however, English agriculture was hugely dependent on sheep, dairy production, and wool, and for the Anglo-Saxons it's likely that the primary significance of this holiday was that it marked the beginning of lambing season. As a handspinner who honors Frigga, this of course suits me just fine and meshes very nicely with both my spiritual and artistic priorities. We first began celebrating Ewemeolc as essentially a celebration of the lambs and their gifts a few years back, and it clicked so well that we even added a second sheep-and-Frigga focused holiday later in the year (in June, to coincide with our local sheep and wool festival).

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