Freyfaxi / Loaffest and Hláfmæst
Like the Celtic celebration of Lughnasadh, the Northern countries of Europe and their people celebrated a similer festivity called Freyfaxi or Loaffest, and for the Anglo-Saxons this would be called Hláfmæst. These harvests traditionally occurred at the end of July or at the beginning of August, or with the coming of the full moon of August.
This is a time for the First Harvest of the year, when the first seeds are thrown into the fertile soils in February, and in August the golden fields of wheat can be harvest, providing food for the entire family or tribe. The hard work of the year and all the efforts would pay off and the people could live and survive for another year and another winter.
The name Freyfaxi comes from Freyr’s horse and it has an interesting backgound story, and like the name suggests, Freyr is the god of Fertility just like his Sister Freyja/Freya, but nt just the fertility when it comes to sexual interactions, but also the fertility of the soils, for Freyr is also the God of Agriculture.
At this time, in this festivity, people tend to make offerings to the God Freyr because of his connections with agricultur, since this is a time for harvesting, but in truth, people can make their offerings to whomever they want, making offerings to all of those who helped in times of need, because it is not just planting the seeds, but also the love we give to the soils, the hard work, so it can give us food, so this is also a time to celebrate with the family, to make offerings to the Landvættir, the spirits of the soils, to make offerings to the gods and to the living who helped us, also to our ancestors who watch over us and may take action in the fields of each family, taking care of them even after death.
The story behind the name:
This celebration is not just turned to the family and to the harvests, but also to the values and virtues of each one, that lead us to a better life. So there is a story behind this celebration, the story of Hrafnkel.
This story is about a man which was a clan-chief called Hrafnkell Freysgodi, he had a farm and lots of sheep, he also had a beautiful blue dun stallion that lived and roamed in the mountains near Hrafnkel’s farm with a herd of mares. Like the last name of Hrafnkell suggests, “Freysgodi”, he was a man of Freyr and he had a lot of faith in the god of agricultur and fertility, so he gave his stallion to the god, making and oath, that if any other man than Hrafnkell himself rode this horse, he would kill him, the horse could only be mounted by Hrafnkell and by Freyr. Oaths were not to be taken lightly at these times, if a man made an oath he would have to fulfill it. The horse was called Freyfaxi, Freyr after the name of his new owner, the god Freyr, and faxi meaning “eye-catching mane”.
Hrafnkell hired the oldest son of his neighbor, his name was Einar, and his work would be to take Hrafnkell’s sheep to pasture everyday, and deliver them every evening to their place in a mountain-cabin, he would also have to cut the fire wood that was needed in the farm. He was also tasked to look after Freyfaxi and his 12 mares, of course Hrafnkell told Einar about his oath, so Einar could use any of the other horses for whatever he needed, whenever he needed, expect mount Freyfaxi, and Einar thought that this was a very fair deal.
Einar worked hard and well for the entire summer, but one day, soem sheep were missing, and we couldn’t find them anywhere, and sheep in those times were of great value, he searched for an entire week, so in despair, he went to the mares, hoping to ride one to go into more distant sites, but when he arrived, all the mares runed away, only Freyfaxi stood there, motionless as a stone, Einar thought, that his only way to find the sheep was geting into Freyfaxi’s back and ride, Hrafnkell would never know about this, and so he did and he actually found the sheep, turning all of them to their rightful place, doing his job as always.
Freyfaxi galloped all the way down the mountain, till he was near Hrafnkell’s farm, the horse was all wet from sweat, so it was leaking from every hair, he was very muddy and panting, from the privious ridding with Einar, so Hrafnkell knew that someone had mounted Freyfaxi and it wasn’t Freyr, so Hrafnkell went in searching for Einar with and axe, and after a long conversation, he asked Einar if he had mounted Freyfaxi, Einar said he couldn’t deny that, so he told him the truth, and why he had to do so. Hrafnkell said to Einar that he had done well in telling the truth, and he would have forgive Einar but he was bound by that dire oath, and when oaths are made, they have to be fulfilled, so Hrafnkell gave a fatal blow to Einar, killing the young man. Later Hrafnkell made a respectable gravesite for Einar.
Einar’s father was of course not happy about this, and this is just the beginning of a long and tragic saga, Hrafnkell in this story is always bound to his oaths, and ends up with a tragic life, making a lot of enemies, he would have to fight all his life, because of his deeds, he couldn’t break his promise to the god, even id this gave him so much pain and suffering.
This is a story that shows us the importance of oaths, and we mustn’t take them lightly, we can’t make oaths when our mind isn’t clear, we only make oaths when we know we will fulfil them, or otherwise, if we break them, it will be hard for others to trust us again and we will lose our honor. This shows that in these times, the word of a person was worth a thousand contracts, but it seems today, people lack from a lot of values and virtues, and most lost their way, we can’t trust anyone unfortunately. So this festivity is also to remember that your actions will always have consequences upon others and we must maintain our honor.