Celebrating Other Spirituality 365 Days A Year – Up-Helly-Aa
January 28th – 29th
Up-Helly-Aa is a centuries-old fire festival held in the Shetland Islands. It is derived from the ancient Yuletide festival celebrating the triumph of the sun over darkness and winter, and it pays
tribute to the ancient Viking Gods and Goddesses. The festival began with torch light processions that ignited giant bonfires and culminated with the burning of a replica of a Viking ship. It was believed that the fire would dispel evil spirits from the villagers and their homes. The festivities usually ended with great feasting and dancing until dawn.
Legends and Lore of Lammas (Lughnasadh)
By Patti Wigington, About.com Guide
In many cultures, there are different legends and lore surrounding Lammas (Lughnasadh). Here are a few of the stories about this magical harvest celebration from around the world.
- In Israel, the festival of Shavout commemorates the beginning of the harvest, as well as honoring the date that Moses received the Torah on Mt. Sinai. The final sheaf of wheat is brought to the rabbi for a blessing, synagogues and homes are decorated with flower, and a great feast is prepared for all to enjoy.
- The festival of Onam is celebrated in India, and people dress up in their finest clothes and give food to the poor. Onam is celebrated in honor of King Mahabali, who was a ruler of Kerala. In one story, the god Vishnu approached Mahabali dressed as a beggar, and asked for land, which Mahabali gave him. Mahabli ended up buried under the earth by Vishnu, but was allowed to return once a year, symbolizing the planting of the seed and the subsequent harvest.
- Thor’s wife, Sif, had beautiful golden hair, until Loki the prankster cut it off. Thor was so upset he wanted to kill Loki, but some dwarves spun new hair for Sif, which grew magically as soon as it touched her head. The hair of Sif is associated with the harvest, and the golden grain that grows every year.
- In the Shetland Islands, farmers believed that grain harvesting should only take place during a waning moon. They also believed this about the fall potato crop, and the cutting of peat.
- At Lughnasadh, calves are weaned, and the first fruits are ripe, such as apples and grapes. In some Irish counties, it was believed farmers had to wait until Lughnasadh to start picking these fruits, or bad luck would befall the community.
- In some countries, Lammas is a time for warrior games and mock battles. This may hearken back to the days when a harvest festival was held, and people would come from miles around to get together. What better way for young men to show off their strength and impress the girls than by whacking away at all the competition? Games and contests are also held in honor of Lugh, the mighty Celtic craftsman god, in which artisans offer up their finest work.
- It’s become a custom to give people the gift of a pair of gloves at Lammastide. In part, it’s because winter is just around the corner, but it’s also related to an old tradition in which landowners gave their tenants a pair of gloves after the harvest. The glove is a symbol of authority and benevolence.
Around about now–on the last Tuesday of January–the citizens of the small Shetland town of Lerwick celebrate Up-Helly-Aa, a festival around two hundred years old that harks back over a millennia in celebrating these remote Scottish islands’ Norse heritage. Essentially a fire festival hailing the reborn sun, a “Guizer Jarl’s squad” of men dressed as Vikings carries a replica Viking longship through the streets at night, followed by hundreds of “guizers” (men in various, often termed, disguises) carrying firebrands. At journey’s end, the longship is set alight, initiating a night of wild carousing (womenfolk included)
“A Saintly Savior”
Remember St Aidan (Maedoc of Ferns, d. 626) on his feast day, for this Irish bishop protected wild animals. He is symbolized by the stag that he is said to have rendered invisible to its pursuers. (A stag, or its antlers, also represents the Horned God.)
Earth Witch Lore – Trolls
Trolls, or trows as they are sometimes called, are often thought to live under bridges. They are said to be ugly little creatures, but there are some old myths that claim that trows could pass for human. Some of the myths infer that trows are nocturnal and can only move about at night, while others say they are invisible and therefore simply unseen. Folklore from the Shetland Islands in Scotland lays claim to one distinguishing character trait carried by trolls; they walk backwards. Trolls has a distinct hatred for locked doors and are known to sneak into people’s homes at night if the occupants have locked the door before retiring.
While the tales of the trolls feature in folklore contain both gruesome and nonsensical elements there is little doubt that the troll relates to and falls under the rule of earth. Trolls were known to have magical powers. It was said that they could fly and enchant the wind and were masters of mixing healing potions, ointments and elixirs.