This is a list of festivals celebrated by Heathens in the UK based on historical festivals and festivals from British folklore. (Please note other festival lists exist based on the solar year, the lunar year and monthly festivals dedicated to individual gods and goddesses).
The celebration of festivals varies greatly between groups and individuals who will only celebrate the festivals they consider the most relevant to their path. Typically a festival year will include three, eight or twelve of the following festivals.
- 1 Plough Charming - January
- 2 Thorsblot - Late January
- 3 Disting / Frigga's Blot - 2nd February
- 4 Lovers Blot - 14th February
- 5 Hretha Blot - March
- 6 Loki's Blot - 1st April
- 7 Eostre's Blot / Ostara - April or occassionally 21st March
- 8 Walpurgisnacht - 30th April
- 9 May Day - 1st May
- 10 Litha / Summer Solstice - 21st June
- 11 Lammas - 1st August
- 12 Harvest Home - 21st September
- 13 Winter Nights - October
- 14 Ancestors Night - 1st November
- 15 Mothers' Night - 20th December
- 16 Yule - 21st December
- 17 Wassail Blot - 31st December
Plough Charming - January[edit | edit source]
A celebration marking the start of the agricultural year based on folk customs from England and elsewhere. A model of a plough is blessed and a candle is lit, the gods are asked to bless the group's plans for the year ahead. Typical gods invoked for this festival include Nerthus, Frey, Freya, Thor, Gefion and Shef.
Thorsblot - Late January[edit | edit source]
This festival is based on the Icelandic feast called Thorrablot (which translates as 'January offering'). In modern times it has become associated with Thor due to the similarity of the names. Thorsblot thanks the god of thunder for his protection over the winter. Special foods are prepared in his honour which might included goat's cheese, goat meat stew, herring and a Derbyshire recipe called thorcake.
Disting / Frigga's Blot - 2nd February[edit | edit source]
Disting is a Swedish festival that marks the start of the ploughing. It falls later than the English plough charming ceremony due to the relative differences in climate. Its popularity in England arises partly from its falling on the Druidic and Witchcraft festival of Imbolc. Disting is a goddess festival and is typically dedicated to Frigga, Freya or Nerthus. It is also a time for honouring the Disir, the female ancestors who are treated in heathenry as minor goddesses.
Lovers Blot - 14th February[edit | edit source]
Lover's Blot is a heathen adoption of the ancient European festival custom of Valentines Day which originated from pagan Roman times. Lover's blot is an opportunity for couples to ask the blessing of the gods and goddesses on their relationship. It is also a good time for single heathens to ask for a confidence boost to enable them to find themselves a partner. Often the couple will call on their own patron deities or alternatively one of the heathen deities of love and sexual relationships, Siofn, Lofn, Frey and Freya. The goddess Lofn is particularly invoked where there is friction in the relationship caused by outside influences.
Hretha Blot - March[edit | edit source]
This ceremony is held in honour of the Anglo-Saxon goddess Hretha who gave her name to the month of March in the Anglo-Saxon calendar. This period of the year was known as 'lengthening' due to the rapid increase in the daylight hours. This was adopted as the Christian period of lent. Shortage of food was a serious problem for the early English peoples at this time of year. Hretha Blot is a celebration of the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Some heathens incorporate the customs of Shrove Tuesday into this festival.
Loki's Blot - 1st April[edit | edit source]
Inspired by April Fools day this ceremony is held in honour of the heathen trickster god Loki. Please note the annoying folk custom of terrorising the neighbourhood on April 1st is not practised among heathens.
Eostre's Blot / Ostara - April or occassionally 21st March[edit | edit source]
Eostre is an Anglo-Saxon goddess who gave her name to April in early English. Her name was also adopted for the Christian festival of Easter. Eostre's Blot is a celebration of the spring. Eggs and hares are strongly associated with this time of year and eggs in particular are often included in the ceremony.
Walpurgisnacht - 30th April[edit | edit source]
This ceremony is inspired by German and Dutch Folklore. Witches are believed to have a grand sabbat on this night before they are driven out by the Queen of May. It is celebrated by dressing up as witches or demons and waving fire brands.
May Day - 1st May[edit | edit source]
May is a joyous fertility festival marking the start of the summer. Many heathens will build a may pole for this event decorated with garlands of greenery. For heathens the leafy pole represents the world tree of Heathen mythology. This ceremony is marked by outdoor activities such as dancing, parades, boundary blessing and sometimes even the building of a Jack in the Green which some heathen groups have adopted from recent English folk customs. Typically Frey, Freya and Nerthus are honoured at this time of year.
Litha / Summer Solstice - 21st June[edit | edit source]
Litha is a fire festival honouring the heathen goddess of the sun Sol and the god of the day Dagr. The ceremony will often take place around a bonfire and Heathens will jump over the flames for luck. May poles are also associated with the Heathen midsummer festival.
Lammas - 1st August[edit | edit source]
Lammas comes from the Anglo-Saxon festival 'Loaf Mass' which marks the start of the grain harvest. Most elements of the ceremony are centred around bread and the gods associated with the harvest. Following the ancient ceremony an offering of bread is blessed, crumbled and sprinkled around the house to protect the stores for the winter to come. Typical gods invoked include Frey, Freya, Nerthus, Shef and Bygvir.
Harvest Home - 21st September[edit | edit source]
Harvest Home marks the end of the grain harvest. It is a time when many heathen groups gather together with home made produce to celebrate the fruits of the Earth. Typical gods invoked include Freya, Freya, Nerthus, Shef and Bygvir.
Winter Nights - October[edit | edit source]
Winter nights is a festival from ancient Scandinavian Heathenry which coincided with the slaughter of cattle at the beginning of winter. In the UK it is typically celebrated either after the first frost or at Halloween. In modern Heathenry Winter Nights has become closely associated with the ancestors.
Ancestors Night - 1st November[edit | edit source]
Ancestors night celebrates the ancestors and is inspired by Halloween and the Soulling customs of England. Ancestors Night is typically celebrated around a bonfire and candles are lit to honour individual ancestors. Some Heathen groups dedicate this night to the ancient oral traditions of storytelling, song, poetry and riddles.
Mothers' Night - 20th December[edit | edit source]
The Heathen festival of Mothers' Night is based on an Anglo-Saxon festival recorded by the historian Bede. The festival celebrates the mothers among the goddesses and the female ancestors. Goddesses typically invoked include Frigg, Freya, Jord, Sif and Holda.
Yule - 21st December[edit | edit source]
Yule is the most widely celebrated of all the heathen festivals. It is based on the ancient Norse midwinter ceremony. Yule is a joyous occasion which breaks the monotony of winter. The gods and goddesses are invoked for their protection. Singing, dancing, and music are particularly associated with this time of year. Special heavily spiced foods and drinks and decorations of evergreens are typical of the Heathen Yule. For some heathens the festival of Yule lasts for twelve nights, starting on either the 20th or the 21st December.
Wassail Blot - 31st December[edit | edit source]
This festival combines New Years Eve with the ancient English fertility ceremony called wassailling. A special drink, the wassail bowl, is made from wine spices and baked apples. The household's apple trees are blessed for the coming year.