Thanksgiving! What does that have to do with the English and the Norse!
Okay, let’s call it Harvest Festival. Or maybe Lammastide. Or Loaf Fest. Or Freyfest. Or, yes, Thanksgiving.
Harvest celebrations are traditionally celebrated in many cultures. Important to any culture for whom agriculture and the harvest was of great importance, and that included most cultures. Most persons, even those as important as kings, were involved in agriculture. After all, harvest would decide whether they would live, or at least be moderately comfortable, until the next year.
Though Lammas is traditionally 1 August—customarily between the summer solstice and autumn equinox—the celebrations traditionally occurred between then and 1 September, and the later American Thanksgiving was, of course in November, though the first Thanksgiving seemed to have taken place somewhere between the end of September and the beginning of November.
The ancient Lammastide, in the words of an historian, “was a way for farmers to ease their way into autumn and to set their minds upon the harvest, and first fruits of their diligent labor of the soil.” In heathen times, it was a custom to bring a loaf of bread made from the grain harvested, and even after Christianity achieved a prominence, that load was blessed by the priest and divided into four loaves, each quarter being set in the corner of the barn to protect the grain. The English called the time hlaf-mass, or the “loaf mass.” early church documents, the ritual was referred to as the “feast of first fruits.” Christians also have church processions to bakeries, where those working therein are blessed by Christian clergy. Lammas coincided with St. Peter’s miraculous deliverance from prison. Today, many heathens celebrate Lughnasadh about the same time. It was a Gaelic festival marking the beginning of the harvest season. It is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and was a heathen festival that was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.
The hlaf-mass was blessed in the early English church and was afterwards employed in protective rituals. In fact, a book of Englisc charms may be the origin of placing a quarter of the loaf at the corners of a barn.
What the harvest festival was called by the Norse or how it was celebrated by the heathen is most conjecture. After all, no purely Heathen name has survived for this festival, any more than most aspects of the heathen religion is known except what can be imputed by occasional verses and runestones. However, modern heathen writers then go on to describe how the first fruits of harvest were brought to the temple as gifts and in Norse tradition, the “First Sheaf was often bound and blessed as an offering to Heathen deities or the spirits of the field at the beginning of harvest, just as the Last Sheaf was at its end. English folk custom also includes the decoration of wells and springs.” // https://www.theasatrucommunity.org/freyfaxi //
For both the Norse heathens and the Englisc heathens as well as the early Christian themselves, all that can be definitely said that the amount of food was great, especially after a period that might have seen starvation and little or no food. Some food could not be preserved at the time and actually had to be eaten at the time. So we can almost intuitively note that the people—both Christian and he then—gathered together in large, convivial and warm company, and stuff themselves! May you approach Thanksgiving with the same plans and have a great holiday!
I was fascinated when I read about the dirt balls found in the Galloway Hoard in Archaeology Magazine. I’m still searching for information on them, but there were apparently dirt balls in Greenland, Scotland and Denmark, as well as elsewhere in the Viking world. The dates are ambiguous, but they are from the Christian era.
A supposition—that seems very logical to me—is that the dirt balls were souvenirs. Not quite pilgrims’ medallions, but the idea is close. They show you—and others—that You Were There. They were scooped up and rolled into balls from holy sites and then rolled against reliquaries, picking up gold dust from the reliquary. Were they produced in an industry, or did pilgrims o out and scoop them up themselves? For that matter, I am uncertain of how frequently they were made during the time, but there are suppositions that they dried and crumbled away. Those found in the Galloway Hoard lasted because they had ben put into air-tight containers that kept them safe.
Doing research into making some, Roland Williamson repeated something that I had already considered: Make them out of clay to insure their longevity. I ended up getting some air-dryable clay. The white seemed a little too pristine and brilliant white. I wondered if I could assume an adequate color by dyeing it with tea. I still do not know. I may experiment later, but this time I bought some terra cota-colored clay. I liked the hue it was, even if it was a lot darker than the relic! Ah well, reenactment is always very absolutely thenty…
I ordered ten ounces of dirt containing gold dust. Uncertain how much gold dust. Some buyers said it wasn’t filled with enough gold since they seemed to expect to retire to Mara-Lago on gold contained. I think the seller just went and scooped up a shovelfuls of dirt from an era where gold was found. They even included a free prospecting pan! 🙂 It was, I decided, good enough for my purposes. (yes, I did do Walter Huston’s prospector dance when it arrived 🙂 )
I rolled the clay into balls. Not spherical or smooth because I tried to mimics the Galloway balls. Dome cracks and fissures. Then I spread out some of the dirt that allegedly—or perhaps hopefully—contained gold. The dust covered the balls, and they actually sparkled in the sun, sine they seemed to have flecks of gold—or pyrite at least.
Then, wanting to see what drying would do to it, I set the dirt balls for a few days, an they dried into a very satisfying hardness.
The results were great!
In period, were the dirt balls carried around like a crucifix? Were they kept in a single, stationery place like replicas? How were they kept safe? The answers may pop up, but I will not be waiting for hat information.
When I feel safe to do shows again, I plan to trot out a dirt ball. The dust can easily be rubbed off, so MoPs probably will not be allowed to handle them. But for that matter, the dust might be rubbed off in transit and storage, so I am using boxes and packing foam to keep them safe!
I have no idea what the reaction will be. I hope that MoPs are fascinated by them and have never herd of them before. Aren’t those the main reasons we do re-enacting to start with?
Seals were used in the earliest civilizations and were very familiar by the early middle ages. Wax seals were being regularly used by the end of the tenth century. The practice of sealing in wax gradually moved down the social hierarchy from royalty, nobility and high-ranking ecclesiastical individuals to minor knights by the twelfth century and to commoners by the middle of the thirteenth century.
By the middle of the eleventh century, the seals were attached to charters by a length of parchment that was cut from the charter itself. The modern pouring of wax to “seal” an envelope was not yet used. I determined that a seal should not be used on the computerized charters that I produced and ordered some actual parchment—my supplier suggested goat parchment—that could be used and sealed.
After looking at historical and available seals, I decided to design my own. I decided on the circle shape, made the circular text “FOLCIVSÞEGNMICELFOLCLOND✠. The center would conventionally have the head of a person, but I decided to go with Michael, the mascot of Micel Folcland, in the center. In deference to my skills at carving the seal, I decided to replace the crane with a triskelion design that appealed to me. As it turned out, I could have kept Michael since I had the seal carved by a professional. I ordered a professional seal out of brass but did eventually carve a seal myself out of faux ivory, but I did not have the skill to do it veery well. I plan to work on another in my spare time.
Most of the seals were on disks that the parchment was attached to, and I found a suitable mould, the top to a cannister of pills. I melted wax, placed the end of the strip of parchment and placed more wax on top. It popped out of the mould with no problem, and I was pleased with the result.
I used simple red wax, which was of dubious authenticity, and I mixed up more accurate waxes, combining powdered and then crushed rosin with beeswax (2/3 to 1/3).
I have a lot goat parchment, and I intend to keep trying to make a very satisfying result. But then good living history is a never-ended experiment!