Dominus Ingui: feast days

There’s very limited information on the dates of historical festivals to Ingui-Frey. The only straight forward reference is about a ceremony around midwinter, involving the taking of oaths on a sacrificial boar. Then there are a few more hints, but it’s not certain how far they were specific to the god or part of major communal feasts where multiple deities were worshipped. In modern times, Ingui’s connection to farming and general fertility have led many to focus His festive calendar on the agricultural cycle, sometimes in the format of the Wiccan wheel of the year.

The reason for the date of any traditional Roman holiday falls into one of three categories: the anniversary of an event (e.g. fulfilment of an oath, victory, construction of a temple), a natural cycle (e.g. agricultural, solar, lunar), or a combination of both, since the dedication of a structure could be made to coincide with a significant moment in the natural order. Combine this with the aforementioned data (or lack of it) and a year’s twelve months are a world of possibilities from where to chose one or more days for a feast in honour of Ingui.

Personally, I draw my inspiration from the solar cycle, namely the solstices. Since what little information there is from the Middle Ages refers to a sacrifice around midwinter, I decided to take the hint a long time ago and have been keeping both the highest and lowest point in the sun’s cycle as feast days to Ingui. That’s what I’ll be presenting in this post, though of course this is my personal take on the subject and there’s no reason why others shouldn’t celebrate other dates. There’s no right or wrong in this and it all comes down to your own personal experience: if you’re a farmer, you’ll naturally focus on His agricultural side; if you live in an urban area, you may tend to pick days that are less connected to farming (though not detached from it).

Midwinter
Since Ingui is not a solar deity proper, but a god of solar qualities, His feast doesn’t have to take place on the exact day of the solstice and one may pick a fixed date. In my case, I’ve chosen the 21st of December. The significance of midwinter has already been mentioned as representing Ingui’s birth: the Golden God comes to life at the darkest time of the year and under the shade of the pine, a phallic symbol of indestructible vitality.

Apart from a more formal ceremony, which will be presented in the next two posts, there are several things that can be done to honour Ingui at the time of the winter solstice. Decorating your house with golden boars is one of them, regardless if they’re made of paper, clay, straw, or any other material. They’re a reminder of the god and His golden boar, who sheds light into the darkest corner, which is pretty significant during the longest nights of the year. You may also bake a bread or cake in the shape of a boar, paint it with egg yolk to give it a golden colour, and decorate it with greenery, before taking oaths on it and using it as a sacrificial food.

If you enjoy nativity scenes, you can also take the opportunity to make one around a baby Ingui, surrounded by animals sacred to Him (e.g. boar, horse, stag) and sided by Njord (the sea) and Nerthus (the earth). And, of course, lots of greenery, namely pine, as is still traditional at midwinter: garlands, wreaths, and even the tree, which you can decorate with symbols of Ingui.

Midsummer
As with winter’s, you don’t have to chose the exact day of the summer solstice, so the 21st of June will do. And if midwinter celebrates Ingui’s birth, midsummer commemorates His full adulthood and power. It’s the time of the longest days of the year and the sun shines in full strength, when things are warm, abundant, and tittering with life. It’s a high time for Ingui’s blessings, so He’s worshipped as King and God of the World.

As part of the celebration of the season, you may want to make a wreath to hang on your door. I have one with wheat, shaped like a sun-wheel and decorated with blue and yellow ribbons. It matches the wreaths of greenery hanged in midwinter and thus connects the lowest and highest points in the solar year. Another idea is a procession with an image of Ingui. I idealized it last year (see here) and it can be done even if you’re a solitary: just perform a ceremony at home, pack an image of Ingui and ride your bike through the countryside, stopping in places where you’ll make further offerings in front of His statue.

There’s also the Swedish tradition of the Midsummer Pole, which can be used to represent both an axis mundi and the phallus of the god, working well with a holiday that celebrates Ingui and the highest and thus a turning point in the solar cycle. Decorate a pole with flowers, ribbons, or any symbols of the god. Then carry it in a procession, decorating it further along the way, if you wish, and erect it in an open area. You’ll naturally need to dig a small hole on the ground in which to base the pole, but before closing it with dirt, you can make offerings to Ingui, forming a literal devotional basis. Offerings to His wife, Gerð (Latinized as Gerda), are also appropriate. Then do what the Swedes do: dance, sing, and eat around the pole.

Other options
Again, depending on where you live, what you do, and your experience with the god, there are other options. You may, for instance, chose to worship Him at the equinoxes, too, perhaps in connection to the Elves. Harvest time is also a strong possibility, though the exact date may depend on where in the world are you. Also, if you live in the southern hemisphere, keep in mind that you need to switch the celebration of the solstices: south of the equator, midwinter is around June 21st and midsummer around December 21st.

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