hreð-mōnaþ,

hreð-mōnaþ, m.n: another word for the month of March, possibly related to goddess Hrēþ/Rheda. (“hreth-mon-ath”)

Further information from Kazutomo Karasawa’s The Old English Metrical Calendar (Menologium) (Cambridge, 2015)

According to Bede’s De temporum ratione, “Hredmonath is named after their (i.e., pre-Christian Anglo-Saxons’) goddess Hreda, to whom they used to offer a sacrifice during the month” (Karasawa, p. 92).

Hlȳda

Hlȳda, m.n: the month noisy with wind and storm, March. (“hluh-da”) Ðæs mōnþes ðe wē hātaþ Martius ðone gē hātaþ Hlȳda.

Further information from Kazutomo Karasawa’s The Old English Metrical Calendar (Menologium) (Cambridge, 2015)

                   …ϸænne he furðor cymeð

ufor anre niht   us to tune,

hrime gehyrsted   hagolscurum færð

geond middangeard   Martius reðe,

Hlyda healic.

—The Old English Metrical Calendar (Menologium), lines 33b-37a

…then it comes forth among us to town one night later, decorated with hoar-frost and hail-showers, March the fierce, Hlyda the great, comes over the middle-earth. (trans. by K. Karasawa)

Karasawa says that the etymology “is perhaps related to hlud ‘loud'” (p. 92), but there seems to be a lot of speculation about the name’s origin. According to Byrhtferth’s Enchiridion, March is the greatest (swyðost) of months. Karasawa gives reasons for the importance of March (p. 92):

  • The vernal equinox (the 21st) occurs in March, and this date was key for reckoning the date of Easter.
  • March was said to be the month in which God created the world (and a few lines later the poet does refer to the creation of the sun and the moon).
  • Annunciation Day is in March (the 25th).
  • According to Byrhtferth’s Enchiridion, March is when the angels had been created, Christ had suffered but had arisen from death, and God’s spirit had come to mankind.

Old English months

I recently finished reading Kazutomo Karasawa’s The Old English Metrical Calendar (Menologium) (Cambridge, 2015), which is essential reading for anyone interested in learning about calendars in Anglo-Saxon England. It’s a full edition of the poem with a facing-page translation and loads of information.

9781843844099.jpg

I was inspired to update my previous ‘months of the year’ posts (see links below) with information from Karasawa’s book.

October, or Winterfylleð

November, or Blotmonað

December, or Ærra Iula

January, or Æfterra Iula

February, or Solmonað

I still have March through September to do, so look out for new posts on the first of each month!

Sol-mōnaþ

Sol-mōnaþ, m.n: the old name for February. The “sol” part is of doubtful meaning, “mōnaþ” means “month”. (“sol-mon-ath”)

Further information from Kazutomo Karasawa’s The Old English Metrical Calendar (Menologium) (Cambridge, 2015)

                        Swylce emb feower wucan

ϸætte Solmonað   sigeð to tune

butan twam nihtum,   swa hit getealdon geo,

Februarius fær,   frode gesiϸas,

ealde ægleawe.

—The Old English Metrical Calendar (Menologium), lines 15b-19a

Likewise it is after four weeks but two nights that Solmonað advances to town, as the wise men, the ancient people learned in the laws (of reckoning) reckoned it, the coming of February. (trans. by K. Karasawa)

Karasawa says of Solmonað, ‘Its etymology is not certain, but its first element has often been connected either with Old English sōl “sun” or sol “mire, mud”’ (p. 89). According to Bede’s De temporum ratione, ‘Solmonað can be called the month of cakes which they (pre-Christian Anglo-Saxons) used to offer to their gods’. Karasawa observes that Old Norse sólmánuðr ‘sun month’ is the third month of summer, so presumably not February!

For more on this etymology see K. Schneider, “The OE Names of the Months”, in Sophia Lectures on Beowulf, ed. S. Watanabe and N. Tsuchiya (Tokyo, 1986), pp. 260-75.

Æfterra Gēola

Æfterra Gēola, m.n: “Second Yule” or “After Yule”, i.e. January. (“af-ter-ruh yeh-o-luh”)

Gesælig Niw Gear!

Further information from Kazutomo Karasawa’s The Old English Metrical Calendar (Menologium) (Cambridge, 2015)

Karasawa writes, ‘December and January shared the name Iula (Giuli, Geola) and Ærra ‘former’ or Æfterra ‘latter’ was added to distinguish the two’ (p. 126). He points out that while 1 January was the beginning of the Roman year, the liturgical year began with 25 December (p. 87).

Ærra Gēola

Ærra Gēola, m.n: “First Yule” or “Before Yule”, i.e. December. (“ar-ruh yeh-o-luh”)

news-manuscript-december

Image: Liturgical calendar for December from Calvin College’s medieval manuscript.

Further information from Kazutomo Karasawa’s The Old English Metrical Calendar (Menologium) (Cambridge, 2015)

                             Þænne folcum bringð

morgen to mannum   monað to tune,

Decembris   drihta bearnum,

Ærra Iula.

—The Old English Metrical Calendar (Menologium), lines 218b-21a

Then the month of December, Ærra Iula, brings the next morning to town, to nations, to people, to children of men. (trans. by K. Karasawa)

Karasawa writes, ‘December and January shared the name Iula (Giuli, Geola) and Ærra ‘former’ or Æfterra ‘latter’ was added to distinguish the two’ (p. 126).

Blōt-mōnaþ

Blōt-mōnaþ, m.n: ‘sacrifice-month’, period in the pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon year roughly coincident with November.

Further information from Kazutomo Karasawa’s The Old English Metrical Calendar (Menologium) (Cambridge, 2015). Karasawa also references:

  • David Wilson, Anglo-Saxon Paganism (London, 1992), p. 36
  • William A. Chaney, The Cult of Kingship in Anglo-Saxon England: The Transition from Paganism to Christianity (Manchester, 1970), pp. 57 and 239

                            And ϸæs ofstum bringð

embe feower niht,   folce genihtsum,

Blotmonað on tun,   beornum to wiste,

Nouembris   niða bearnum

eadignesse,   swa nan oðer na deð

monað maran   miltse drihtnes.

—The Old English Metrical Calendar (Menologium), lines 193b-98

And then after four nights, Blotmonað, November, abundant for the nation, speedily brings to town, as sustenance for the people, as bounty for the children of men, as no other month does more through the mercy of the Lord. (trans. by K. Karasawa)

According to Bede’s De temporum ratione, Blotmonað (literally ‘sacrifice month’) gets its name because it was during this month that pre-Christian Anglo-Saxons ‘offered to their gods cattle which were to be slaughtered’. Karasawa observes, ‘Sacrifices taking place in this month are said to have been made not only for religious purposes but also for more practical reasons’ (p. 121). David Wilson describes the time as ‘the annual autumnal slaughter of quantities of livestock to provide food for the people during the winter’, and William Chaney posits that certain quantities of cattle would not be able to be maintained over the winter.

Winter-fylleþ

Winter-fylleþ, m.n: October. Lit. “winter full moon” because winter began on the first full moon of the month. (“win-ter-fil-leth”)

Further information from Kazutomo Karasawa’s The Old English Metrical Calendar (Menologium) (D. S. Brewer: Cambridge, 2015)

October on tun   us to genihte,

Winterfylleð,   swa hine wide cigð

igbuende   Engle and Seaxe,

weras mid wifum.

—The Old English Metrical Calendar (Menologium), lines 183-86

October comes to town for our abundance, or Winterfylleð, as the island-dwelling Angles and Saxons, men as well as women, widely call it. (trans. K. Karasawa)

According to Bede’s De temporum ratione, Winterfylleð is a composite name used by pre-Christian Anglo-Saxons consisting of ‘winter’ and ‘full moon’ because ‘winter began on the full moon of that month’. Karasawa points out that among Christian Anglo-Saxons, winter began on 7 November. (Karasawa, p. 119)