This poem is based on an entry in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of 975: 'during harvest, appeared "cometa" the star; and then came in the following year a very great famine, and very manifold commotions among the English people’.
At that point in time we find ourselves in a society that had been fully Christianised for over 200 years, but as today and more so up until the invention of modern agricultural machinery, there would have been many continuations of Pagan practices but partially robbed of their meaning.
From Bede’s ‘De Temporum Ratione’ on the reckoning of time, we know that Nerthus was the Earth Mother Goddess (until Frigg took over this role) and Wuldorfadur, the solar logos, was her consort. Reference was also made to the names of the months: Solmonath (mud month), February when offerings were made to these Gods by way of planting Sol Cakes into the earth. Blotmonath, blood month was when you took stock of your livestock and decided how many could be fed over the winter the surplus then met their end.
The feast in the rigs was due to folk for harvesting in the lords fields and is recorded in Saxon law. The drinking feast for the return to ploughing in February is like recorded.
A failed harvest was taken as divine punishment.
The reference to house fairies refers to the Cofgodas, these would guard a household, and would be given offerings in return. After Christianisation, it is believed that the belief in Cofgodas survived as the Hob.
A songal is a handful of corn.
Loaf Ward is the origin of lord.
The great famine (Anno Domini 976)
Last year in the rigs, we had merry a time,
Lusty summer play, with sheaves bound in twine.
Bright harvest comet, with full moon in sky,
Fine feast of plenty, but dark crows didst cry.
No priest of Nerthus, to visit our fields,
No heathen ritual, to safeguard our yields.
No Nerthus tribute, for next year’s harvest,
No one didst think of, forthcoming unrest.
In cold Solmonath, dolly went to earth,
Blessing the plough share, and drinking to mirth.
All drinking much ale, as fathers had done,
But not to honour, the old heathen sun.
The bright harvest moon, she shone and burned bright,
But little to cut, for our feasting rite.
Devine punishment, is god's ghostly will,
Meanwhile pious priests, are eating their fill.
This Blotmonath leaves, few beasts still alive,
Cruel long wintertide, how will we all thrive.
We ask our Loaf Ward, for grain to be fed,
But wheat chaff and grass, we use to make bread.
Oh mother Nerthus, wherefore hast thou gone?
Oh Wuldorfadur, why hast thou not shone?
The old ways did serve, in our tide of need,
With rite of casting, sacred songal of seed.
Without offerings, the fairies did leave,
Magical powers, they no longer weave.
To the great mead hall, greybeard boldly went,
I followed soon when, my angle was sent.
Copyright Andrew Rea December 2013