Saturday, February 28, 2009

Some more English months

In an earlier post , Carla noted that according to one Old English calendar, February was "cake month".  Hmmmmm. . . . . This, apparently, was the calendar the Venerable Bede used.  But there may have been several in use.  Elsewhere, by various means, I found another calendar, which may have been more "agricultural" or "popular" .  I will list the months below, but note:  since I have no familiarity whatsoever with Old English, other than a little German I studied years ago, all the names have been translated into modern English, though, at the time, I found myself quite able to figure out what most  of the modern equivalents were.  Here, for your edification, if that's the word, are the months:


January       Wolf Month

February     Kale Month

March           Lent Month

April              Easter Month

May               Mead Month

June              Hay Month

July               Midsummer Month

August         Ern Month(I think)

September Harvest Month

October      Wine Month

November Wind Month

December  Midwinter Month


These "month names" are interesting.  It's easy, for instance, to see how February is "kale month";  kale is a pretty tough plant that grows leafy, dark green leaves through much of the winter, and in Anglo-Saxon times, winters may have been mild enough for kale to grow through times where greens might otherwise have been unavailable.  And we get the liturgical season of "Lent" from the Old English name for March(the days are lengthening). Easter is obvious, too.  It is a little surprising that  "May" comes from "mead", but since mead is made from honey, flowers would be blooming and it would be possible to gather honey.  July is more or less the calendrical midpoint of summer. 

The only one of these months I couldn't figure out was August, "Ern" month!  But September was easy, too, since "herfast" translates easily to "harvest", and, interestingly the autumn season is "Herbst" in German today.   Anglo-Saxon England must have had a fairly mild climate, because October was "Wine Month"(if you could grow wine there, it must have been during the "medieval warm period"!). As for November, well, anybody who lives where I do, knows well about the wretched windstorms that sometimes hit my part of the world(and can do considerable damage in a "modern" context, though people in Anglo-Saxon times wouldn't have had to worry about power lines being blown down).  And December is pretty obvious, too, if you think about it.  December 21 is the shortest day of the year. 


Oh, I forgot January, "Wolf month".  That makes sense, too.  I don't know how much of a problem people then, thought they had with wolves, but wolves still existed in England at the time, and people were afraid of them and disliked them(agricultural people usually do, for obvious reasons).  Wolves, and their tracks, are often most easily seen(and heard), in the winter, because food is scarce, and packs will venture near human habitation in order to try to find some.


Perhaps a slightly different viewpoint here, but apparently calendars weren't entirely standardized , or at least different groups called months by different names.  Interesting perspective, that.

Anne G

No comments:

Post a Comment