Rating: PI (Contains Politically Incorrect Language)
There's a whole genre of Minnesota jokes that begin: “Minnesota has two seasons: Winter and....” Winter and Road Repair. Winter and Winter-is-Coming. Occasionally there are variations: “...two seasons: Shovel and Swat.” Whatever one calls its partner, though, Winter is the central fact of existence here in Lake Country. Spring and Fall aren't really seasons in the North; they're occasional delightful visitors, all the more beloved for their poignantly brief stay. Our year really is a bi-seasonal one.
This would have been utterly familiar to the ancestors. The ancient Germanic speakers knew a two-season, Winter-Summer year: etymologically, the “windy” and “sunny” seasons respectively. The great holidays of Proto-Germanic culture were apparently Midwinter and Midsummer, associated even then—between 3000 and 4000 years ago—with the winter and summer sunsteads (solstices). We know that this goes back to the time before the Germanic languages branched off from one another because the terms are preserved in all surviving daughter languages.
I’m late with this post. I normally aim to blog in the first two days of the month, and in truth this time I nearly forgot. The 1st brought me a handfasting, the 2nd a political launch and as I swapped hastily between celebrant and press officer hats, the Druid blogger hat didn’t get a look in. I wear a lot of hats, so this kind of thing happens now and then.
When you have one identity defined by one thing you are doing, it’s much easier to steer the course of your life and pace yourself in line with the year. The more hats you have, the harder it is to keep an overview. I frequently end up running from one kind of job to another, so busy trying to be in the right headspace for the task in hand that I don’t pay as much attention as I might to the bigger picture. So here I am wondering how it got to be September already, and nearly missing a post.
While the Vanir are always present in the world around us, I personally tend to feel Them the most strongly in that liminal space when the seasons change: Nerthus when fall becomes winter, Freya when winter becomes spring, Frey when spring becomes summer... and Njord when summer becomes fall.
This is the time of year when depending on where you live, it's still warm enough to be comfortable, but the oppressive heat of summer starts to fade, and the rains come or will be coming soon. As the land mellows, I feel Njord's gift of serenity, water after fire, which will later wash color into the world.
When they first appeared in the fields, the lambs were small and sprightly, curious about everything. They ran and leapt about, little bundles of wild enthusiasm. There comes a point in the year – and we’re about there now – when lambs stop being little bouncy things, and start noticing that they are in fact, sheep. They fill out, getting that barrel body. They eat grass rather than relying on milk, run less, get sensible, because this is what sheep do.
Some years ago I met a guy at a badger hide, who was talking about the badger group and how one of the young badgers was totally bonkers. He hadn’t figured out what being a badger was all about, and was still running round like a mad thing. It was speculated that eventually he would get this sorted out, and grow up, and become like a regular badger.
This time of year is always a bit mad for me. My sleep patterns are light-affected, so as we race towards midsummer, I stay awake later into the evening, and surface earlier. That might not sound too insane, but I have the kind of mind that hallucinates once it gets sufficiently sleep deprived, so if around midsummer I’m exceedingly wakeful for a few days – as if often the case – my whole experience of reality gets rather interesting.
Knowing that I tend to do this, I approach the lightest days of the year with a degree of caution. Madness is really a measure of dysfunction. If you can take what you’ve got and turn it into something productive, you aren’t deranged. You’re probably an artist, an author or the like. Going out to the edges of human experience and bringing back useful and beautiful things is part of what many creative folk do.