History Witch: Uncovering Magical Antiquity

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Posted by on in Studies Blogs

Deinde Februarius Solmōnaþ...

Solmōnaþ dici potest mensis placentarum, quas in eo diis suis offerebant.

According to the Venerable Bede, an early English scholar and historian who sought to show the triumph of the church in England as inevitable, the inhabitants of the land had a name for February that fit the agricultural nature of the time. In chapter fifteen of his study on the reckoning of time, De Temporum Ratione, he tells us the English names for the months that had been used in the past.

After telling us that January was still part of Giuli [Yule], which is why it was traditional to keep your holiday decorations up, Bede says

Next is February, Solmōnaþ...

Sol is not the Latin word "sun" but "mud"; while we may still be knee-deep in snow (at least we are up in the north where I am) in the more temperate times of medieval England, the thaw would likely have already begun and the signs would have been all around. With the melting snow and spring rain, mud would have well been omnipresent. Think how good it would feel between your toes after the long winter.

How did they celebrate this period? Bede offers us a hint:

Solmōnaþ could be called the month of cakes, which they offered to their gods.

Cakes and ale had to start somewhere, right? Perhaps this is where one thread of tradition comes to us. He doesn't say much about what kind of cakes. Others have suggested that the cakes that appear in field charms like Æcerbot might have been intended and show us a way that ritual might have occurred. Sympathetic magic, feeding the earth so she feeds us, seems a likely form. Though surely there were cakes enough for everyone.

The wonderful medieval cookery site Gode Cookery has a lovely and simple seed cake recipe you might try this February.

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K. A. Laity is an all-purpose writer, medievalist, journalist, Fulbrighter, social media maven for Broad Universe, and author of ROOK CHANT: COLLECTED WRITINGS ON WITCHCRAFT & PAGANISM, DREAM BOOK, UNQUIET DREAMS, OWL STRETCHING, CHASTITY FLAME, PELZMANTEL, UNIKIRJA, and many more stories, essays, plays and short humour. Find out more at www.kalaity.com and find her on Facebook or Twitter.


  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard Friday, 30 January 2015

    I've been watching (and rewatching) Tales from the Green Valley, so the mud reference makes perfect sense. Ah, to be in England now that Solmōnaþ is here!

  • Kate Laity
    Kate Laity Friday, 30 January 2015

    With cakes!

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