This time of year is very close to my heart. As the autumn comes and the light begins to wane, I often become a little more introspective, a little more focused on uncomfortable truths and nagging thoughts I keep at bay when the sun is shining bright and hot. As many of my local wights prepare to rest the winter away, I am pushed from the earth and pulled towards my ancestors.
If you’ve read a bit of my writing, you’ll realize that I’m not usually specific about which Germanic tribe or culture I’m referring to, exactly. I tend to use Norse names and terms because those are most familiar to Heathens just starting out and those outside the Heathen sphere; it makes communication and the comparing of notes much easier.
But when I do get specific, as I often do in my own studies and practices, I get specific in an Anglo-Saxon way. If there’s an Anglo-Saxon source on something, I like to look there first, and I tend to weigh it more heavily than those from other Germanic groups. This is my own preference; I don’t believe these sources are inherently better (and in some cases, I’m pretty sure they’re inherently more confusing), but it’s how I like to do my Heathenry.
I follow a religious calendar based on the writings of the Venerable Bede, a monk living in England in the early middle ages. The calendar itself was reconstructed by many contributors including Þórbeorht Línléah, based on research done into Anglo-Saxon timekeeping, and can be found here. According to this reconstruction, Haligmonath begins on the night of September 14th; and for me, whenever I am able to spot the new crescent moon in the sky, which is sometimes a night after the given date.
Haligmonath is an Old English word meaning ‘Holy Month’. Bede doesn’t tell us much about why this month is considered holy; it’s very possible he didn’t know even when he was writing a few generations after the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons. But I can tell you why I consider it holy.
This is the time in which the earth gives to us. We receive such great bounty, such immeasurable gifts; it seems impossible that anything I give back will be suitable. At the same time as we are receiving these amazing gifts of life, the life around me is either dying or preparing to go dormant as the cold winds and drifting snows loom. This is sacrifice – so much death so that I might continue to live.
But that is the way of things. Whether I were here to pick tomatoes or not, the frosts would come and the plants would wither. The leaves on the trees are cut off and die in a brilliant display of color, whether or not I exist to rake them up and mourn their passing. This, too, is holy – the reminder that cycles continue, that life goes on, regardless of me or even humanity as a whole.
That I am here to witness and benefit from these cycles is almost miraculous, and so with joy and sorrow in my heart I celebrate them. As the full moon of Haligmonath approaches, I prepare to honor the the wights that have given me so much. September is apple picking season here in Nebraska, and so Idunn will have a place of honor in my rite. But first and foremost this month are the spirits that have been so close to me, the wights of the land, the providers of great beauty and of life.
When I look to the horizon later this month, and spot the tiny sliver of the silver moon that means my holy month has begun, I will give thanks to the wights. When the moon is full and heavy, when I like to hold my celebrations, I will again give thanks to the wights. And when I look to the horizon and see only the stars, when I know Haligmonath is drawing to a close, again I will give thanks to the spirits of the land. It is my holy month, and I can think of nothing more fitting to do.