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:: The Vikings of Bjornstad ::
The Viking Calendar

 

As with any human culture, the lives of the Vikings were shaped by the passage of time.  How they described the days and months reveals their beliefs as well as the challenges and opportunities the time of the year brought to them.  The following information is from ThorNews, except where noted, and includes only minor editing from us.  The original is here.  Note that the calendar terms are in Old Icelandic, not Old Norse.


Structure of the Viking Calendar

Although contemporary Scandinavian sources for the Viking Age are few, there are indications that the Vikings probably divided the year into moon phases and only two seasons: Summer and winter.

The Vikings did not use exact years to date events, a so-called absolute chronology. Instead, they used a relative chronology with reference to the number of years after important events. One could for example date the year by saying “five winters after the Battle of Svolder”.

As far as we know, the Icelander Ari “the Wise” Þorgilsson was the first who in the early 1100s tried to convert the Norse time entries into an absolute European chronology.

Dividing the Year

The Viking calendar reflected the seasons: How high the sun was in the sky, access to food and fertility. The year was divided into two equally long periods – summer and winter. A person’s age was counted in the number of winters he or she had lived. This may indicate that “New Year” was on 14 April, i.e. the first day of summer.

The year was divided into moon phases – from new moon to new moon or full moon to full moon. The counting of days has probably not been particularly accurate: The Scandinavia nights are so bright that it is almost impossible to spot the moon.

The darkest period was named “Skammdegí” (the Dark Days) and the year’s brightest period “Nóttleysa”, meaning “insomnia” that many Scandinavians still experience today.

The winter months are Gormánuður, Ýlir, Mörsugur, Þorri, Goa and Einmánuður.

The summer months are Harpa, Skerpla, Sólmánuður, Heyannir, Tvímánuður and Haustmánuður.


The calendar shows the division of the year in the Old Icelandic calendar in relation to the Gregorian calendar that we use today. (Original illustration by Arild-Hauge.com)

In some years a 13th month may have been added to adjust the calendar: Silðemanuður (the Late Month).

Living with the Viking Calendar

Norse Season Norse Month (English) Time period Norse Month
(Old Icelandic)
Comments
Winter Slaughter Month 14 Oct –
13 Nov
Gormánuður  
Winter Ýlir/Jólnir: One of Odin’s, the “Allfather’s” names 14 Nov –
13 Dec
Ýlir Christmas month
Winter Bone Marrow Sucking 14 Dec –
12 Jan
Mörsugur Mör”: Bone marrow or fat. Important to survive Scandinavian winters.
Winter Black Frost 13 Jan –
11 Feb
Þorri Norse mythical winter figure, son of “Snow”. Also men’s month
Winter Daughter of Þorri 12 Feb –
13 Mar
Gói, góa, gjø Women’s month
Winter One-Month 14 Mar –
13 Apr
Einmánuður Men’s month
Summer Cockoo’s Month (?)/ Unknown mythical figure 14 Apr –
13 May
Gaukmánuður/ Harpa Women’s month
Summer Unknown woman mythical figure’s name 14 May –
12 Jun
Skerpla  
Summer Sun’s Month 13 Jun –
12 Jul
Sólmánuður  
Summer Haymaking Month/ Worm’s month 13 Jul –
14 Aug
Heyannir/ Ormamánuður  
Summer Two-Months/ Corn Cutting Month 15 Aug –
14 Sep
Tvímánuður/ Kornskurðarmánuður  
Summer Autumn Month 15 Sep –
13 Oct
Haustmánuður  
? Late Month   Silðimánuður The 13th month

(Research and interpretation by Arild Hauge in cooperation with Jón Julius Filippusson, English interpretation by ThorNews)

Days of the Week

Some of the Viking Age weekday names are still in use. Does “Thursday”, literally Thor’s Day, sound familiar? Another example is the German word for Thursday, Donnerstag (Day of Thunder) – pointing back to Thor, the God of Thunder.

Norse Weekday Today Meaning
Sunnudagr Sunday Sun Day
Mánadagr Monday Moon Day
Týsdagr Tuesday Tyr’s Day (War God)
Óðinsdagr Wednesday Odin’s Day
Þórsdagr Thursday Thor’s Day (God of Thunder)
Frjádagr Friday Freya’s or Frigg’s Day (Norse Goddesses)
Laugardagr Saturday Bath Day

Text by: Thor Lanesskog, ThorNews

https://thornews.com/2015/09/27/the-viking-calendar/
  ©   For information contact Jack Garrett at info@vikingsofbjornstad.com