Altar © Fred Bower-Brauer

This article was written by Fred Bower-Brauer, Heargweard – Frithstead Heathen Fellowship for Issue 1 of Wyldspirit (March 2014).


Altar © Fred Bower-Brauer

Altar © Fred Bower-Brauer

Awaken! Awaken! Awaken!

And rise!

Let the earth come to life again,

and welcome the light of Spring!

At this time the chill of Winter is dispersed and the earth blooms and grows warm once more, Yes! Spring is here
at last! For those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere this is truly a time a celebration, at last the dark
days of Winter are behind us.

As Spring stirs and we move closer to the time of the equinox, polytheistic religions such as Ésatréow (an Anglo-
Saxon expression of modern Asatru), as practiced by the Frithstead Heathen Fellowship, will celebrate with blot
and feast in honor of the goddesses of victory and renewal, Hretha, warrior goddess who brings victory over Winter
and Eostre, goddess of the radiant dawn, of uprising light.

Within many branches of modern heathenry there is no standard “Wheel of the Year” like many other pagan traditions.
Within my own community we follow what has been reconstructed of the Anglo-Saxon year as recorded
by Bede.

“Grimm (Teutonic Mythology Vol. 1, Stallybrass trans.): “… the Anglo-Saxon historian tells us the names of two
beings, whom he expressly calls ancient goddesses of his people, but of whose existence not a trace is left
amongst other Germans. A clear proof, that here as well as there, heathenism was crowded with divinities of various
shape and varying name, but who in their characteristics and cultus corresponded to one another . . . The
two goddesses, whom Beda (De temporum ratione cap. 13) cites very briefly, without any description, merely to
explain the months named after them, are Hrede and Eástre, March taking its name from the first, and April from
the second”

Frithstead celebrating the coming of the Spring © Fred Bower

Frithstead celebrating the coming of the Spring © Fred Bower

The only mention of Hretha is by Bede in his De Temporum Ratione, On the Reckoning of Time, Chapter 15, in which he says that March was called Hrethmonath by the Heathen Anglo-Saxons, on account of the custom of sacrificing to her during that month. Hrethmonath is one of three events (apart from the days of the week) that refer to deities in the Anglo-Saxon calendar. According to the on-line Old English dictionary, the Old English noun ‘hreth’ means ‘victory, glory’.

Kathleen Herbert says the corresponding adjective, hrethe, means ‘fierce, cruel, rough’, and suggests that Hretha was a war goddess or a valkyrie (Herbert 1994). So March might well seem an appropriate month to dedicate to a goddess of battle.

With her name meaning “victory.” Some modern heathens believe she is a goddess who battles Winter, Hretha is the goddess who defeats Winter, and paves the way clear for the arrival of Eostre and summer.

In elder days this would have been a time of hardship when food and fuel were becoming scare. Today many experience seasonal depression, as we find ourselves locked indoors, flu season, darker days and cold surround us. We honor Hretha as she breaks through the cold and cruelty of Winter. Just when we think we can not take another snow storm she defeats the Frost giants so the gods and goddesses of renewal and fertility will again return to middle-earth.

We make offerings and prayers to Hretha that we may be inspired to break through those areas of our lives that seem frozen and stagnant. That by the example of her ferocity we too may find strength to fight for life and overcome all scarcity so that abundance and hope will return again and again. The cycle continues.

The battle has been won! Hope returns.

The wheel of the Anglo-Saxon year continues to turn and we remember Eostre. This high Spring festival is based on Bede’s statement (The Reckoning of Time 15, Wallis trans.): “Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated “Paschal month”, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance.”

This is truly a joyous time and many heathens will take full advantage of the many symbolic parts of this season, from coloring eggs to baskets of treats for the little ones. It is a time to celebrate fertility in our lives in whatever form that takes. All around us seeds are sprouting, birds are singing, and there is courtship and birth everywhere.

There are many different ways to honor Eostre. You can make offerings in her honor, plant seeds of spring flowers, or even better, start planting the seeds of renewal in your own life. See what takes root and blooms  Again, the cycle continues, reflected within and around us in nature.

“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and Spring after the Winter.” — Rachel Carson

Silent Spring No matter what path or calendar you celebrate may your days be blessed at this time of fertility, thankfulness and most importantly, hope.

Hail the goddesses of Victory and Hope!


References

Bede (1999). The Reckoning of Time. Translated by Faith Wallis.
Herbert, Kathleen (1994). Looking for the Lost Gods ofEngland. Anglo-Saxon Books.
Grimm, J. (2004) Teutonic Mythology Volume 1. Translated by James Stallybrass.


Find out more about Fred Bower-Brauer at the following sites:

https://thesilentheron.weebly.com/

http://www.frithsteadfellowship.org/

https://www.facebook.com/The-Contemplative-Druid-168762113927383/

https://www.etsy.com/shop/ContemplativeDruid

https://www.facebook.com/snhppd/