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Atmospheres From History

Another Name for October

From October 2015, updated October 2016.

I love antiquated or forgotten words, and making them un-forgotten. It is kind of like collecting rare coins, only nerdier. So, this is the first full week of October, I got to thinking about the name, and what it was called before Latin names took over.

The two seasons the Anglo-Saxons marked were Winter and summer, spring and fall being simply the overlaps. October to the Anglo-Saxons was Winterfilleð (pronounced winterfilleth), the first days of winter in their lunar reckoning. It means that if we were to measure time by the Anglo-Saxons’ more fluid calendar, winter would have begun for us on September 28th with the full blood moon.

 

the blood moon by Luis Ascenso
the “blood moon” by Luis Ascenso

I like the imagery of “winterfilleth,” a combination of “winter” and the Anglo-Saxon word for “moon”. To our modern (or are we post-modern?) ears it sounds like “winter-filled,” “winter fills,” or “winter falls.” Or Winterfell. “Winter is coming,” Game of Thrones fans say, giggling.

 

Spot on, I say.

Imagine if these warriors and thanes looked up into the sky to see the full moon rising and its sudden blush. Would it have spelled an omen for the year to come? Would they conclude a winter war was brewing? Or justify a war already started? Kindles the imagination.


For more information on the Anglo-Saxon calendar visit this lovely article by Arlea Hunt-Anschütz at wyrdwords.vispa.com. There is also a whimsical little book called The Year 1000 by Robert Lacey and Danny Danzinger, written in 2000, that paints a clear picture of what life was like in England before the Norman invasion and the turn of the previous millennium.

Image attribution: the “blood moon” by Luis Ascenso is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

 

 

 

 

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