Folklore, The Viking Age Calendar Series
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Góa (Feb-Mar)

Horning Month

Góa, the month that signals the end of winter, is in sight. With some luck, the harshest cold is subsiding. It starts in the second half of February and lasts until the second half of March.

The Horning-Month

For some types of deer, this is also the time when they shed their antlers, only to regrow them by Spring. The reindeer, apparently, do this annually during this time of winter.1 The reason I mention this for a remark in footnote 337 of the 1873 edition of the The Orkneyinga Saga. It says that they refer this month to as the ‘horning-month’ when the deer shed their horns (antlers).2 I must add this is the only reference I have found online that Góa month is also called horning-month. But considering there really is a link, and most months have a connection to seasonal nature or agricultural aspects… I wanted to keep it!

Góa/Gói

The word Góa, is not related to deer. She is a girl and ‘Track Snow’ personified (leave a comment if you can explain what kind of snow this is!). Góa, or Gói, is the daughter of king Thorri who is the personification of ‘Frozen Snow’. Thorri, as you might remember from last month, is the king who loves great sacrifices such as Þorrablót.

When Góa disappears during one of these, the king is desperate and starts organising new sacrifices, Góiblót, in the hope to find out where she is. Góa’s brother Nórr sets out to find her. After long travels, during which he en passant conquers a land with many fjords, he finds her in the German lands. A certain king Hrólf has kidnapped her in Kvenland and taken her to his home. Nórr and Hrólf fight… and survive. Nórr marries Hrólf’s sister, and Hrólf marries Góa. Nórr returns to rule a land he has conquered on his quest for Góa, which is called… Norway!3 Yes, Nórr is considered the founder of Norway.

The sagas tell even more about the grand feasts (sacrifices) during the Góa month; according to the saga of Olaf the Holy (995–1030), during these days ‘a great annual sacrifice was held at Upsala’.4 

Modern Celebrations

As we see also in other months, some modern feasts do draw back on ancient celebrations but not all of them (even though they might claim so). Here are a few fun ones from Iceland:

Konudagur (Wife’s Day) – 24 February

During Þorri, the men had their day. Now, during Góa, the women have their day called Konundagur. On this day, women expect their husband to pamper them in style.5 From what I’ve read, there is no further hopping around the house involved!

Bolludagur (Bun day) – 4 March

Another fine day is Bolludagur. A Danish or Norwegian tradition. The Icelanders celebrate it from the late-nineteenth century onwards. A tasty day, as it includes many sweet cream buns filled with jam and topped with delicious chocolate!  They should’ve called it Kid’s Day. The young kids make colourful wands which they use to smack their parents’ bottom as they cry ‘bolla, bolla, bolla’. And the parents give a reward, a bun for a blow…. Hmmm, what do you make of this?6

Sprengidagur (Blast Day) – 5 March

More food among the Icelanders. On Sprengidagur they eat lentil and vegetable soup together with salted meat. The food is significant, though, because this is the last day before Lent, the period of fasting. So, many would use this opportunity to eat what they can to the point of bursting, or as they call the dish in Icelandic: ‘saltkjöt og baunir’.7 

Öskudagur (Ash Wednesday) – 6 March

A day later, Lent begins, of course, and they call this Ash Wednesday. In Iceland, they call it Öskudagur. Young men and women try to pin bags with ashes or pebbles to the back of someone they fancy. If you go to church on Ash Wednesday, you might recognise the ashes from the ash cross made on your forehead by the pastor. Nowadays, children go in fancy dress from store to store, singing and hoping to receive candy, which sounds more like Halloween, if you ask me!8

Feature Image: (Pexels / Louis).

References


  1. Here are several sources to check about the deer and their antlers: George A. Feldhamer and William J. McShea, Deer: The Animal Answer Guide. (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012), pp. 27.  Adrienne Warber, ‘Why Do Deer Lose Their Antlers?” Sciencing.com Last Updated 24 April 2017. Last Accessed 08 March 2021. https://sciencing.com/do–deer–lose–antlers–5154554.html.  Marc Baldwin’, Deer (Overview) – Antler Development Summary.‘ Wildlife Online | Blog. Last Accessed 08 March 2021. https://www.wildlifeonline.me.uk/animals/article/deer–overview–antler–development–summary.  Gone 71ºN, ’How to Find a Reindeer Antler,’ Gone 71ºN |Blog. Published 30 April 2020. Last Accessed 08 March 2021. https://www.gone71.com/find–a–reindeer–antler.  ↩︎
  2. Anonymous, The Orkneyinga Saga. Edited by Joseph Anderson. Translated by Jon A Hjaltalin and Gilbert Goudie (Edinburgh: R. & R. Clark, 1873). Project Gutenberg ↩︎
  3. This can be read in Anonymous, Fornaldarsögur Norðurlanda | Chapters 1 and 2, Edited by Guđni Jónsson and Bjarni Vilhjálmsson. Heimskringla.no Last Accessed 08 March 2021. http://www.heimskringla.no/wiki/Fundinn_Noregr.  ↩︎
  4. Anonymous, The Orkneyinga Saga. Edited by Joseph Anderson. Translated by Jon A Hjaltalin and Gilbert Goudie (Edinburgh: R. & R. Clark, 1873). Project Gutenberg ↩︎
  5. Sigrun Þormar, ‘Góa – Konudagur / Women’s Day on the 22nd of February 2015,’ Guide to Iceland | Blog. Published 2015. Last Accessed 08 March 2021. https://guidetoiceland.is/connect–with–locals/sigrunthormar/goa—konudagur–womens–day–at–the–22february–2015.  ↩︎
  6. Staff, ‘Icelanders consume one million cream buns on Bun Day!’ Iceland Magazine Published 08 February 2016. Last Accessed 08 March 2021. https://icelandmag.is/article/icelanders–consume–one–million–cream–buns–bun–day.  ↩︎
  7. Staff, ‘“Blast day” is the Icelandic equivalence of Mardi Gras,’ Iceland Magazine Published 09 February 2016. Last Accessed 08 March 2021. https://icelandmag.is/article/blast–day–icelandic–equivalence–mardi–gras.  ↩︎
  8. Staff, ‘Öskudagur means fancy dress and bags full of ashes,’ Iceland Magazine Published 10 February 2016. Last Accessed 08 March 2021. https://icelandmag.is/article/oskudagur–means–fancy–dress–and–bags–full–ashes.  Staff, ‘Here’s your introduction to old, Icelandic winter traditions,’ Iceland Magazine Published 24 January 2019. Last Accessed 08 March 2021. https://icelandmag.is/article/heres–your–introduction–old–icelandic–winter–traditions.

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