The year was divided into two equal parts; sumar (summer) and vetur (winter). Each part had six months.
The months of vettur were; gorománuður, ýlir, mörsugur, Þorri, góa and einmánuður.
The months of sumar were; harpa, skerpla, sólmánuður, heyannir, tvímánuður and haustmánuður.
So there were 12 months, just like today, but they were offset by about two weeks. In addition to this, they had a name for both the darkest days of the year – skammdegí – and the lightest – nóttleysa (‘nightlessness’).
Gormánuður (Slaughter Month) – October 14th – November 13th
The first month of winter. The winter feast (Veturnettr or Haustblót) is held on the first day of this month. The feast is dedicated to Freyr and is a harvest celebration.
According to Víga-Glúms saga, díseblot was celebrated on this day (vetrnætr or winter nights). You bid the winter welcome and make offerings for a good year. The offerings for the modern Norse practitioner may be some of this year’s harvest.
Alvablót, a feast in honor of your ancestors and the elves, is held on the 7th of November. This is a private affair, for the closest family only.
Ýlir (Jol Month) – November 14th – December 13th
Ýlir is the second month of winter. Ýlir is also one connected to one of many names for Odin, Jólnir. The celebration of Jól is still debated. The length of the celebration probably varied. Some might just celebrate the solstice, some for 12 days, and others from the solstice until Hoggunótt (January 12th).
The celebration of Jól generally encompasses a toast of beer for árs ok friðar – a good and peaceful year. You also make toasts to the memory of loved ones and to the gods. The main god here is Odin, but Njörðr and Freyr also have their place here. Another toast was the bragarfull (from the word bragr, not connected to Bragi). This was a toast you made while making a promise. Traditionally, this is a proper feast with lot of food and drink. Swine meat has a permanent place on the table to this day.
You can also do an Åregang where you mark the borders of your property with candles or torches and walk alone in the fields. Leave your mind open and you might see something you otherwise wouldn’t have seen. The lighting of candles can also symbolize light’s victory over darkness.
A Norse tradition I try to uphold, is to leave a plate of food and something to drink on the table over night. Earlier this was meant for the dead, but I leave it out for the nisse (there really is no English word that corresponds to this word, the closest is gnome), the elves and the vættr.
The modern heathen might make a toast and giver thanks to the animals whose lives were taken that we can eat.
Mörsugur – December 14th – January 12th
Mörsugur is the third month of winter. The word mörsugur means ‘leaf fat sucker’. It gives the impression that people had put on a few ponds after a few months of eating meat. During this month, the Winter Solstice happens (December 21st). This date is when I choose to celebrate Jól.
January 12th is Midwinter Day and may be used to celebrate a midwinterblót. Midwinter Night was also called Hoggunótt.
Þorri – January 13th – February 11th
Þorri is the fourth winter month. According to the sagas, this is the month to celebrate Þorrablót – a feast for the winter character Þorri – when you toasted the gods.
The custom was that the woman of the house went out the night before this month began and invited Þorri to come inside, the same way she would any other guest. According to the Norse tradition, Þorri is the men’s month, and the women should take good care of their men.
Gói – February 12th – March 13th
Gói is the fifth winter month and the women’s month. This time it’s the mens turn to take good care of their women.
Gói is a character from West Norse tradition which we know very little about. In old Icelandic sources, Gói is said to be the daughter of Þorri. The verbal tradition in Iceland says that farmers held a blót to bid Gói welcome.
Einmánuður – March 14th – April 13th
Einmánuður is the last month of winter and the name just means One Month. March 21st is the Vernal Equinox and it’s customary to have a feast to celebrate fertility.
Einmánuður is the boy’s month and Harpa is the girl’s month in the same way that Þorri and Gói are dedicated to men and women.
Harpa – April 14th – May 13th
With Harpa, the summer starts. On the first day of summer, the third great sacrifical feast is held – the summer blót. This is for victory in battle and good luck on journeys. This blót was first and foremost for Odin.
Harpa is the girl’s month and Einmánuður is the boy’s month in the same way that Þorri and Gói are dedicated to men and women.
Skerpla – May 14th – June 12th
Skerpla is the second summer month.
Sólmánuður – June 13th – July 12th
Sólmánuður is the third month of summer. Sólmánuður means Sun Month and is the lightest period we have up north. June 21st is Summer Solstice.
It feels natural to celebrate the Sun on this day. Almost every culture celebrates this day in some way. One way is to have a bonfire. This is a night when elves and vættr come out and dance around the fire with the humans. Young women roll naked in the morning dew to get more fertile. The night is a good night for divination.
Heyannir – July 13th – August 14th
Heyannir is the fourth summer month. Heyannir means Hay Harvest and was the time for cutting and drying hay. This month was also called Ormamánuður (Snake Month) is some parts of Scandinavia.
Tvímánuður – August 15th – September 14th
Tvímánuður is the fifth summer month and the name means Two Month. It was also called Kornskurðarmánuður (Grain Cutting Month). This was the month when you harvested the grain.
Haustmánuður – September 15th – October 13th
Haustmánuður is the last month of summer. The name means Autumn Month and the 21st of September is the Autumnal Equinox.
The months may have other names and dates if you consult other sources. These names and dates come from Swedish literature. If you want the exact sources, go to http://www.arild-hauge.com/rboker.htm.