Over the past twelve months I have vigorously researched and studied the eight celebrations that make up the pagan Wheel of the Year and now that I have come full circle, my path is taking me in a completely different direction. So to mark this new change I have decided to walk through the next twelve months looking at the changing seasons from a Heathen perspective, starting with Freyfaxi.
Frefaxi is the modern name given to the festival that falls at the beginning of the first harvest in northern Europe. The timing of this harvest varied for our ancestors depending on the different climates of each region, but it would have been sometime during the month of August.
Sadly, the ancient Norse name for this festival has long been lost, but we do understand enough to know that it was very much like Lughnasadh, Lammas and Hlaefmaesse. It was a time of gratitude and prayer for the harvest of the current year and the harvest of the year to follow.
At this time the Autumn winds brought the Vikings back to their homelands from their Summer raids abroad. Swapping their swords for scythes they would help their families harvest the crops and store them safely away for the colder months ahead.
Just like in Britain, the month of August was a time of fairs, however, the sport of horse fighting was not. It is believed by some that horse fighting was most likely some kind of ancient ritual that was seen as a sport as well. Horse fighting and what it entails can be found in several of the Sagas. Many carvings have been found in northern Europe depicting horse fighting scenes, with some of them showing sun like wheels as well. So quite possibly these fights symbolised the battle between life and death. The life giving harvest at its own expense.
The Icelandic Sagas as well as other old sources depict horses as extremely sacred creatures who were connected to the Norse gods. Even as far back as the Bronze Age, a prized horse’s behaviour was observed in a divinatory manner.
The origin of the name Freyfaxi comes from Hrafnkel’s Saga. In this saga Freyfaxi is a beautiful horse owned by a Freysgodi (a man dedicated to the fertility god Freyr). Freyfaxi can be broken down into two parts. Frey is the horse’s connection to the god Freyr and faxi means “eye catching mane”. The saga is a tragic story of oaths and how they should never be taken lightly. There is also mention of another horse called Freyfaxi in Vatnsdaela’s Saga.
There is clear evidence of a horse cult to Freyr having existed in Norway (Thrandheim) in the tenth century and settlers in Iceland would have taken their faith with them too.
The Haggeby Stone discovered in Sweden is a rock carving that shows horses fighting and dates from 5th century C.E (image via odinsvolk.ca)
Other gods and goddesses that are honoured at harvest time are Sif, an earth goddess with long golden hair who has it cut off by the god Loki; a tale symbolising the harvest of the crops. Thor who brings rain and sun to the crops as well as protecting them from hail and lastly Nerthus, another earth goddess.
The Landvaettir, who are the guardian spirits of the land are also honoured at this time of year.
I hope you enjoyed this and that your interest will take you on to do your own research especially by reading the Icelandic Sagas.