Folklore, The Viking Age Calendar Series
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G贸a (Feb-Mar)

Horning Month

G贸a, 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 鈥榟orning-month鈥 when the deer shed their horns (antlers).2聽I must add this is the only reference I have found online that G贸a 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!

G贸a/G贸i

The word G贸a, is not related to deer. She is a girl and 鈥楾rack Snow鈥 personified (leave a comment if you can explain what kind of snow this is!). G贸a, or G贸i, is the daughter of king聽Thorri聽who is the personification of 鈥楩rozen Snow鈥. Thorri, as you might remember from last month, is the king who loves great sacrifices such as聽脼orrabl贸t.

When G贸a disappears during one of these, the king is desperate and starts organising new sacrifices,聽G贸ibl贸t, in the hope to find out where she is. G贸a鈥檚 brother N贸rr 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 Hr贸lf has kidnapped her in Kvenland and taken her to his home. N贸rr and Hr贸lf fight鈥 and survive. N贸rr marries Hr贸lf鈥檚 sister, and Hr贸lf marries G贸a. N贸rr returns to rule a land he has conquered on his quest for G贸a, which is called鈥 Norway!3聽Yes, N贸rr is considered the founder of Norway.

The sagas tell even more about the grand feasts (sacrifices) during the G贸a month; according to the saga of Olaf the Holy (995鈥1030), during these days 鈥榓 great annual sacrifice was held at Upsala鈥.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鈥檚 Day) 鈥 24 February

During 脼orri, the men had their day. Now, during G贸a, the women have their day called Konundagur. On this day, women expect their husband to pamper them in style.5 From what I鈥檝e read, there is no further hopping around the house involved!

Bolludagur (Bun day) 鈥 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鈥檝e called it Kid鈥檚 Day. The young kids make colourful wands which they use to smack their parents’ bottom as they cry 鈥榖olla, bolla, bolla鈥. And the parents give a reward, a bun for a blow鈥. Hmmm, what do you make of this?6

Sprengidagur (Blast Day) 鈥 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: 鈥榮altkj枚t og baunir鈥.7 

脰skudagur (Ash Wednesday) 鈥 6 March

A day later, Lent begins, of course, and they call this Ash Wednesday. In Iceland, they call it 脰skudagur. 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, 鈥榃hy Do Deer Lose Their Antlers?” Sciencing.com Last Updated 24 April 2017. Last Accessed 08 March 2021. https://sciencing.com/do鈥揹eer鈥搇ose鈥揳ntlers鈥5154554.html.  Marc Baldwin鈥, Deer (Overview) 鈥 Antler Development Summary.鈥 Wildlife Online | Blog. Last Accessed 08 March 2021. https://www.wildlifeonline.me.uk/animals/article/deer鈥搊verview鈥揳ntler鈥揹evelopment鈥搒ummary.  Gone 71潞N, 鈥橦ow to Find a Reindeer Antler,’ Gone 71潞N |Blog. Published 30 April 2020. Last Accessed 08 March 2021. https://www.gone71.com/find鈥揳鈥搑eindeer鈥揳ntler.  鈫╋笌
  2. Anonymous, The Orkneyinga Saga. Edited by Joseph Anderson. Translated by Jon A Hjaltalin and Gilbert Goudie (Edinburgh: R. & R. Clark, 1873). Project Gutenberg 鈫╋笌
  3. This can be read in Anonymous, Fornaldars枚gur Nor冒urlanda | Chapters 1 and 2, Edited by Gu膽ni J贸nsson and Bjarni Vilhj谩lmsson. Heimskringla.no Last Accessed 08 March 2021. http://www.heimskringla.no/wiki/Fundinn_Noregr.  鈫╋笌
  4. Anonymous, The Orkneyinga Saga. Edited by Joseph Anderson. Translated by Jon A Hjaltalin and Gilbert Goudie (Edinburgh: R. & R. Clark, 1873). Project Gutenberg 鈫╋笌
  5. Sigrun 脼ormar, 鈥楪贸a 鈥 Konudagur / Women鈥檚 Day on the 22nd of February 2015,’ Guide to Iceland | Blog. Published 2015. Last Accessed 08 March 2021. https://guidetoiceland.is/connect鈥搘ith鈥搇ocals/sigrunthormar/goa鈥攌onudagur鈥搘omens鈥揹ay鈥揳t鈥搕he鈥22february鈥2015.  鈫╋笌
  6. Staff, 鈥業celanders consume one million cream buns on Bun Day!鈥 Iceland Magazine Published 08 February 2016. Last Accessed 08 March 2021. https://icelandmag.is/article/icelanders鈥揷onsume鈥搊ne鈥搈illion鈥揷ream鈥揵uns鈥揵un鈥揹ay.  鈫╋笌
  7. Staff, 鈥樷淏last day鈥 is the Icelandic equivalence of Mardi Gras,鈥 Iceland Magazine Published 09 February 2016. Last Accessed 08 March 2021. https://icelandmag.is/article/blast鈥揹ay鈥搃celandic鈥揺quivalence鈥搈ardi鈥揼ras.  鈫╋笌
  8. Staff, 鈥樏杝kudagur means fancy dress and bags full of ashes,鈥 Iceland Magazine Published 10 February 2016. Last Accessed 08 March 2021. https://icelandmag.is/article/oskudagur鈥搈eans鈥揻ancy鈥揹ress鈥揳nd鈥揵ags鈥揻ull鈥揳shes.  Staff, 鈥楬ere鈥檚 your introduction to old, Icelandic winter traditions,’ Iceland Magazine Published 24 January 2019. Last Accessed 08 March 2021. https://icelandmag.is/article/heres鈥搚our鈥搃ntroduction鈥搊ld鈥搃celandic鈥搘inter鈥搕raditions.

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