Tides – Hláfmæst / Hleibmessa / Freyfaxi

The English church festival of Lammas, celebrated on August 1, was originally Hláfmæsse, which is “loaf-mass” in Anglo-Saxon. Since this appears to be a christianization of a heathen harvest celebration (it is also the date of the Celtic Lughnasadh), modern Anglo-Saxon heathens have re-heathenized the name to Hláfmæst, mæst being a word for the fruit of a forest tree, such as an acorn or beech-nut. Anglo-Saxon heathens (and many German heathens) thus celebrate two harvest tides; Hláfmæst (German Hleibmessa), at the end of July or the beginning of August, focuses on the harvest of wheat and other grains. In English and German folk tradition even in Xian times, the first sheaf was often set aside for Wodan/Wóden and his horse; first fruits we brought to the church, and would presumably have been offered to our gods before the conversion; this is one of the traditional times for well decoration in England, which is also a form of offering; and corn dollies were made with the last sheaf.

This coincides with the feast of Freyr and of harvest thanksgiving celebrated by many Asatru at the end of July or during August, based on Icelandic tradition. This is commonly called Freyfaxi (although in the lore that is the name of a horse dedicated to Freyr and it means “Freyr-mane”). For example, a holy tides page provided by the Asatru Alliance says the following:

“Harvest 19 – Freyfaxi: Freyfaxi marked the time of the harvest in ancient Iceland. Today the Asatru observe this date as a celebration of their harvest with blot to Freyr and a grand Feast from the gardens and the fields.”

Those who celebrate this as their only harvest feast, rather than following the Anglo-Saxon custom, may want to wait until later in August depending on when harvest begins in their region. People who associate Sif with the wheat crop also honor her at this time.

A tradition of this festival tide is to make bread beasts, loaves in the shape of animals (particularly a boar) and offer them to Freyr/Fréa/Frô and the rest of the gods and goddesses. Kveldulf Gundarsson pointed out that biscuit dough works best for this purpose because it doesn’t distort the shapes too much by rising during baking. He provided the recipe in Teutonic Religion (p. 348).