Those who
have been following my blog knows by now that Stav originates from a family
tradition that has been passed down within a family in southern Norway. Stav
has been labeled as a martial art; but Stav is in its essence Norse
spirituality structured around the runes of the younger futhark.

Within the
tradition there is a runic calendar, but as with many aspects of Stav there has
not been that much written about it. Stav is practically still an oral
tradition. I believe this is the first time an in-depth article about the
calendar is published in English; but I will still leave a couple of things untold.

For many
years I did not really pay too much attention to the Stav calendar, I could not
really relate to it. The concept was perhaps too alien to my modern imprint. About
a year ago I decided to investigate the Stav calendar further. I read up on
what some of the most notable scholars in the field has to say about early
medieval and pre-Christian calendric practices of Scandinavia. After I had
studied for a while I was totally blown away by the Stav calendar, it´s
integrity is fascinating, and it is clearly of respectable age.

This could
quickly become a very long and complicated text about the calendric aspects
within Stav, but I am afraid that would defeat its purpose; since very few
would read it. So I have tried to stick to the basics and not make things
overcomplicated. But there still has to be some terminology within the text. I
will start with a short introduction of calendric systems to make this text
relevant.

Introduction

There is so
much we take for granted today based on our modern perspective of time, just a
few hundred years ago things were very different. People were dependent that
someone in their proximity could calculate time based on the movements of the
sun and the moon. Calendric calculations were probably an important factor that
contributed to developing the mathematical understanding that laid the
foundation of our civilization. In most old cultures the highest priesthood was
responsible for these calculations, and there was really no difference between
spirituality and science; the separation of the two is just a few hundred years
old.

Our modern
calendar is called the Christian calendar, or the Gregorian calendar; after the
pope who was responsible for introducing it. This calendar system is basically
just an improvement of an older calendric system called the Julian calendar;
the name comes from the fact that the Roman dictator Julius Caesar was
responsible for introducing it in 45 BC.

Both the
Julian and the Gregorian calendars are based on 365 days, the practical problem
is that the number of days do not exactly match the so called tropical year, or
solar year. The Julian calendar will therefore have a discrepancy in relation
to the solar year that increases over time. The concern out of a Christian
perspective is the drift in relation to the March equinox; which is used to
calculate the Easter celebrations, the most important celebration within
Christianity. The Gregorian calendar has addressed the drift with a more
precise system of leap years and leap days.

In the
early history of the church it was the responsibility of the local priest to calculate
the date of the Easter celebration. Some of the priests were not competent
enough to handle the task, which meant that the celebrations could differ
between parishes. Within the Catholic church someone realized around year 800
AD that they could implement something called the Metonic cycle, named after a
Greek mathematician and Astronomer who lived in Athens in the 5th
century BC.

The Metonic
cycle defines that 235 lunar months almost precisely equals 19 solar years, but
there is some discrepancy which we will come back to. The practical calendric
use of the Metonic cycle is that; if you define a nineteen-year cycle the moon
and the sun will relate to each other in a specific pattern each year of that
cycle. The Metonic cycle has a very long history in calendric systems and was implemented
for the first time by the Babylonians. By utilizing the Metonic cycle the
clergy only had to calculate Easter for each year within the cycle, the Easter
Sunday will be the first Sunday after the so called Paschal full moon. Then
they applied so called golden numbers from 1-19 to each year of the cycle.

In essence,
our modern calendar is a Roman-Christian way of calculating time, based on a
Christian way to view the world; we count time in a linear fashion from year
zero, the presumed birth year of Jesus, and the progression will just continue
until the end of time.

The Norse
calendar

Let’s move
over to the pre-Christian Norse and heathen calendric aspects. The preserved information
is quite fragmented, but we still have a pretty good idea.

The Norse
probably celebrated six festivals each year, and a couple of these festivals
were dependent on the sun. On the contrary to common beliefs they did not
celebrate the spring and autumn equinoxes; instead those celebrations seem to
have been delayed with about four weeks. The pre-Christian ritual year only had
two seasons; summer and winter. The summer started sometime in April, and the
festival is still celebrated in Scandinavia. The summer ended, and winter
started, at the so called Alvablot; which would be around the same time as the
modern Halloween celebrations.

In
pre-Christian Scandinavia they seem to have followed an eight-year lunar cycle,
called the Octaeteris in astronomical terms. This cycle is less accurate
compared to the Metonic cycle of nineteen years. The historical sources tell
that big sacrificial festivals were held every ninth year in Uppsala, Sweden. These
festivals were held in relations with the yearly big winter thing- called Disting
in Uppsala, and every ninth year they had extra big festivities. But in reality
it was most likely every eight years, and based on the eight-year lunar cycle.
To make an easy description, the way they calculated time back then was
different, the ninth year and the next first year of the cycle will be
calculated as the same.


They held
the festivities in Uppsala for nine days, the opening day they held thing and
the sacrifices started during the evening. Then they held the sacrifices for
the next seven evenings. The ninth day they held a thing again, and ended the
festivities. Which meant that they only sacrificed during eight nights, and
each night probably represented a deity and a year in the eight-year cycle. It
is unfortunately beyond this article to describe this in further detail.

The
important thing to notice is that this way of calculating time is in essence
heathen, it is cyclic; a 24 hours’ day is a cyclic period going from dark to
light and back. A Scandinavian year is also very obviously cyclic, passing from
winter to summer and back. Scandinavian heathenism is in many ways a nature
religion and a lot of the philosophical aspects follows natures cyclic
perspective.

Medieval
Scandinavia

In the
early medieval period Scandinavia went through a major turmoil when
Christianity were introduced. The change of religion was in many ways a very
painful process and it took hundreds of years to fulfill, if it ever was really
completely done. Around 1150 the church introduced the Julian calendar, which
became the official calendar in Scandinavia.

Since Scandinavia
is quite desolated people still had a need to keep track of their own time, so
they knew when they needed to go to church to celebrate the Christian holidays.
Shortly after the introduction of the Julian calendar the so called runic
calendar staves emerged. They were often made on a big wooden plank or a stave,
which had a lot of runes carved into them. They were constructed in relation to
the Metonic cycle amongst other things; but instead of having golden numbers
representing the years of the cycle, they used runes.

One problem
was that the Runic script of the Viking age and early medieval times consisted
of sixteen runes; so three additional runes were made up, so they got nineteen
runes which they could correspond to the Metonic cycle. Seven runes also corresponded
to the days of the week. The runic calendars had various symbols that marked
the Christian festivals during the year.

The medieval
runic calendars were most likely syncretic; based on old Scandinavian ways of
calculating time, but adopted to fit the newly introduced Julian-Christian
calendar. The epicenter of the Runic calendars was in Sweden, but they are
found throughout Scandinavia and Finland, even in the Baltic countries.

As
previously mentioned; the Metonic cycle are not flawless, and there were
several improvements made. One important contribution was made by Hipparchus of
Nicaea, who is regarded as the greatest of the Greek astronomers. He calculated
that 3760 lunar months, or 16 Metonic cycles, will be equal to 304 solar years.
But there is a small discrepancy of minus one day.

In medieval
Scandinavia the common people seem to have been aware of the Hipparchic cycle
of 304 years. In Uppsala in Sweden they hold the Disting market in February
each year. The market was initially held together with the sacrifices that I
mentioned before, when Christianity took over the sacrifices were abandoned;
but the market is still held to this day! The difference is that the market now
is held in accordance to our modern calendar; in medieval times the moon stipulated
when the market would be held.

The
medieval rule for calculating the Disting market is still known; “the market
starts at the first full moon that follows the first new moon after the day of
three holy kings” (I.E. Epiphany).
I have translated this rule from the
earliest notation of it, published in 1555.

At the
Disting market in 1689, a famous Swedish scholar met a 90-year-old man with a runic
calendar that he had inherited from his great grandfather. The scholar talked
with the old man about the calendar in relation to the Disting. The old man
told him that the market had followed a nineteen-year cycle for the past period
of a little more than 300 years; but it had just passed an “Auni” and it would
follow a new cycle of 19 years for the coming period of a little more than
three hundred years. Which meant that the market would be held on slightly
different dates than those who used to occur during the previous cycle.

The scholar
was intrigued and wanted to know how the old man knew this; he said that his
great grandfather had marked out Auni on his runic calendar stick. When asked
further about what an Auni was the old man said it was a period of a little
more than 300 years. The name came from the old king of Uppsala, Aun the old, that
became 300 years old. Aun is mentioned by Snorri, but in his texts the
calendric aspects are not so apparent. It is not likely that the old man in the
17th century would have been exposed to Snorris work either, so this
is most likely a reminiscence of eastern Scandinavian mythology where Aun
personalizes the Lunar cycle of 304 years. There is also accounts in the story
of Aun that indicates that incidents in his life corresponds to the Metonic
cycle of nineteen years.

Around year
1700 the more exact Gregorian calendar was introduced in Norway. Sweden was the
longest protestant stronghold in western Europe to oppose the reform; and did
not reform the calendar until 1753. One practical result of the reform was that
the runic calendars died out, since they did not work in relation to the new
calendar. Some tried to adopt the runic staves to the Gregorian calendar, but
time had simply moved on and they were out of fashion.

The calendric
aspects of Stav

Stav is
structured around the sixteen runes of the so called younger futhark, the runic
alphabet that probably was introduced around year 800 AD. Writing is just one
aspect of the runes according to the Stav perspective, there are many other
aspects. Everything within Stav, from mythology to herbal medicine; is systemized
around the runes

Amongst many
other things, there are nineteen deities of the Norse pantheon associated with
the sixteen runes. Some runes have several deities associated with them; and in
these cases the deities have a close mythological relationship. Each deity is
connected to a specific year of the Metonic cycle! The amazing thing is that
this system is totally independent of modern calendars; there is a method
within the tradition that describes how to set this system based on the moon.
The deities associated with each year gives this calendric system a ritual and
mythological aspect that the medieval calendars totally lack. Since the core of
Stav is structured around the nineteen deities of the calendar; this aspect is
something that must have been taken into consideration when Stav was systemized;
it is very unlikely that this would be a later adaptation.


I used to
have some issues with the fact that there were nineteen deities but only
sixteen runes; why not expand the amount of runes as they did on the medieval
runic calendars? I realized how it all fits together when I investigated Stavs calendar;
if you multiply the nineteen gods with the sixteen runes you will incorporate
the Hipparchic cycle. 16 Metonic cycles adds up to 304! (16 x 19 = 304) It can
simply not be a coincidence that 19 deities representing the Metonic cycle are
structured on the sixteen runes. Hipparchus defined the 304-year cycle when he
tried to improve calendric cycles that was based on the Metonic cycle. As
stated previously, the medieval Scandinavians were aware of this cycle.

Since there
no longer are any practical use of the Hipparchic cycle in Stav, the modern Stav
community were not aware of this aspect. But since Stav is so highly systemized
it was still preserved in the core of the structure, just waiting to be found. This
is one of the cautions I want to address when it comes to the derivatives that
has come off of Stav during the last decades; the encoded “secrets” within the
coherent structure will be lost in the copies. Those who create the derivatives
will deny their students to be able to uncover what they have not yet
discovered themselves.

The
festivals of Stav

Unlike the
medieval runic calendars, the yearly festivals of Stav is not based on
Christian celebrations but on heathen feasts. There are six festivals, Yule,
Winter-thing, summers day, Balders vaki, Summer-thing and Winters night. As
everything within stav, these festivals are structured around the Hagl rune,
where the runes of the deities representing the festival has been placed in a
particular order. Each festival has two runes that represents it, which in
total gives 13 deities, since one rune has two connections. I have the
impression that these 13 deities represent the pre-Christian months of
Scandinavia, but as far as I know there is nothing preserved in the system that
clearly says so. Six deities are not associated with specific festivals; since
they represent the function of ritual leaders, and therefor are relevant for all
festivals.

The deities
relations to the festivals follows what is known about the pre-Christian gods and
the festivals; but as often within Stav the knowledge goes beyond and fills in
the blank spots. The festival year is also woven, which means that the
festivals that oppose each other will also have deities connected to them that
has a relation. The festival year is at the same time regarded as cyclic. There
is nothing random about the festivals of the Stav calendar. I have described
some of this previously on this blog. Another unique aspect is that there is
knowledge on how to fixate the festivals independent of the modern calendar;
something that I myself was not aware of until recently when corresponding with
the inheritor of the tradition, Ivar Hafskjold, about the calendar.

The week of
Stav

Within Stav
all weekdays have specific runic relations, and thus associations with deities.
It is common knowledge that the week as we know it has Norse origin. Tuesday is
associated with Tyr, Wednesday with Odin and Thursday with Thor. The relations
of the other weekdays are not quite clear, but within Stav these days have
clear associations with deities too. The ritual week of Stav is dependent on
this knowledge. Sunday is the last and first day of the week; and in accordance
the rune associated with the day is connected to two deities. One representing
death, and the other one continuation. There are several rituals that marks
each week.

How old is
the Stav calendar ?

In the core
of Stav we have a cyclic calendric system that not only measures time over 19
and 304 years, it also relates to the yearly festivals and weekdays. This
system has a strong relationship to what is known about medieval and pre-Christian
Scandinavian calendric tradition; but it goes beyond the known historical
systems out of an esoteric and spiritual perspective. The Stav calendar is in
essence independent of the modern calendar.

Since
the calendric aspect are encoded in the core of Stav, it gives a good
foundation to discuss at what time period Stav, as a system, could have been
structured. As already
mentioned, the runic calendric systems died out when the Gregorian calendar was
introduced, this happened around year 1700 in Norway. After that there were no
practical use, and probably no knowledge, to structure a runic calendric system
dependent on the Metonic cycle. So clearly Stavs calendar must predate the
introduction of the Gregorian calendar in Scandinavia.

The
absolute earliest point something like this could have been created are at the
time that the younger futhark was introduced, which many believe are around 800
AD. These two events give us the timespan we have to relate to. Another key question
is; would the Scandinavians have been utilizing the Metonic cycle prior to the
official introduction of the Julian calendar? If the answer is no, then the
timespan is 1150-1700. For the time being it is reasonable not to go beyond
this time span, even though the Norse sources indicates an awareness of the
Metonic cycle.

When
comparing the information of Stavs calendar with the medieval runic calendars,
I am personally prone to believe that Stavs calendar has to be early in this
span. The oldest notation I am aware of in Norwegian archives that mentions the
family that has kept the tradition, are from 1348. So I do not feel that I am the
slightest preposterous to claim an early medieval origin. But in essence it
does not matter when the system was structured; those who did it knew more
about Norse mythology in relation to heathen calendric aspects than anyone alive
today.

What is the
practical use of this calendar?

The calendric aspects of Stav is something
totally unique! As far as I know there is no other comparable living calendric
tradition left in Scandinavia. Stav is the only contemporary form of Norse spiritualism that includes a
complete calendric system. Each year has a mythological association which sets
the tone of the year. All the festivals that are celebrated are genuine Norse
festivals, that has a clear connection with specific deities; which gives a
good understanding of the nature of the festival. The actual dates of the
festivals will not be dependent on the modern Christian calendar. Each day of
the week also has specific connection with Norse deities; which gives a
spiritual meaning to the weekdays.

This
article only describes one aspect of the use of the runes within the Stav
tradition; there are many other aspects that could be expanded and explained in
the same fashion. I find Stav utterly fascinating, and it is something that
really needs to be preserved for the future. There are still so many aspects of
Stav that needs further investigation, but it takes a lot of time and devotion
to do it properly. At this time there are not enough people that really studies
the deeper layers of Stav in relation to historical sources; which is a shame.

Thor spake:

13. “Answer me, Alvis! Thou knowest
all,
Dwarf, of the doom of men;
What call they the moon, that men behold,
In each and every world?”

Alvis spake:

14. “Moon with men, Flame the gods
among,
The Wheel in the house of hell;
The Goer the giants, The Gleamer the dwarfs,
The elves The Teller of Time.”

Alvíssmál – The Ballad of Alvis.