Earendel will be celebrating May Day this year on May 9th. Is that a bit late? Not at all. Saxon Pagans traditionally observed a lunar calendar, which never corresponds exactly with the new way of reckoning the passage of time. This year the first day of the month of May can fall on either May 1st or May 9th depending on how one defines a “month”.
Observing a traditional calendar is not difficult. Each month (monath in Old English) begins at the full moon (mona). This is reconciled with the solar year when the sun stands still, at the sun-steads or, if you prefer Latin, the solstices. The winter solstice, of course, falls during the Yuletide. The first full moon following the winter solstice is Æfterra Geola (“After Yule”) and marks the latter part of the Yule season. Yule finally ends at the full moon after this, and Solmonath begins. The dates for these traditional months – the dates when Mona is in his full glory – can be found in any Almanac. The traditional Saxon months, their meanings and modern correspondences are:
Æfterra Geola – After Yule (January)
Solmonath – Mud Month (February)
Hrethmonath – Hertha’s Month (March)
Eostremonath – Eostre’s Month (April)
Thrimilci – Three Milkings (May)
Ærra Litha – Before the Point (June)
Æfterra Litha – After the Point (July)
Weodmonath – Weed Month (August)
Haligmonath – Holy Month (September)
Winterfylleth – Winter Filling (October)
Blotmonath – Blood Month (November)
Ærra Geola – Early Yule (December)
If the moon is waxing gibbous (second quarter) on the night of the winter solstice, a thirteenth month needs to be added to reconcile the lunar and solar cycles. This extra month falls between the next Ærra Litha and Æfterra Litha, and is simply called Litha. This word comes from the Old English lith meaning “a point”). It references the point where the daylight hours stop growing in length and begin to diminish.
Modern Gregorian calendars set May 1st while the moon is still in its first quarter, but this year the traditional myrge monath begins more than a week later!