:: The Vikings of Bjornstad ::
The Viking Calendar
As with any human culture, the lives of the Vikings were
shaped by the passage of time. How they described the days and months
reveals their beliefs as well as the challenges and opportunities the time of
the year brought to them. The following information is from ThorNews, except where
noted, and includes only minor editing from us. The original is
here. Note that the calendar terms are
in Old Icelandic, not Old Norse.
Structure of the Viking Calendar
Although contemporary Scandinavian sources for the Viking Age are few, there are indications that the Vikings probably divided the year into moon phases and only two seasons: Summer and winter.
The Vikings did not use exact years to date events, a so-called absolute chronology. Instead, they used a relative chronology with reference to the number of years after important events. One could for example date the year by saying “five winters after the Battle of Svolder”.
As far as we know, the Icelander Ari “the Wise” Þorgilsson was the first who in the early 1100s tried to convert the Norse time entries into an absolute European chronology.
Dividing the Year
The Viking calendar reflected the seasons: How high the sun was in the sky, access to food and fertility. The year was divided into two equally long periods – summer and winter. A person’s age was counted in the number of winters he
or she had lived. This may indicate that “New Year” was on 14 April, i.e. the first day of summer.
The year was divided into moon phases – from new moon to new moon or full moon to full moon. The counting of days has probably not been particularly accurate: The Scandinavia nights are so bright that it is almost impossible to spot the moon.
The darkest period was named “Skammdegí” (the Dark Days) and the year’s brightest period “Nóttleysa”, meaning “insomnia” that many Scandinavians still experience today.
The winter months are Gormánuður, Ýlir,
Mörsugur, Þorri, Goa and
The summer months are Harpa, Skerpla,
Sólmánuður, Heyannir, Tvímánuður and
The calendar shows the division of the year in the Old Icelandic calendar in relation to the Gregorian calendar that we use today. (Original
illustration by Arild-Hauge.com)
In some years a 13th month may have been added to adjust the calendar:
Silðemanuður (the Late Month).
Living with the Viking Calendar
Norse Month (English)
Norse Month (Old Icelandic)
14 Oct – 13 Nov
Ýlir/Jólnir: One of Odin’s, the “Allfather’s” names
14 Nov – 13 Dec
Bone Marrow Sucking
14 Dec – 12 Jan
”Mör”: Bone marrow or fat. Important to survive Scandinavian winters.
13 Jan – 11 Feb
Norse mythical winter figure, son of “Snow”. Also men’s month
Daughter of Þorri
12 Feb – 13 Mar
14 Mar – 13 Apr
Cockoo’s Month (?)/ Unknown mythical figure
14 Apr – 13 May
Unknown woman mythical figure’s name
14 May – 12
13 Jun – 12
Haymaking Month/ Worm’s month
13 Jul – 14 Aug
Two-Months/ Corn Cutting Month
15 Aug – 14 Sep
15 Sep – 13 Oct
The 13th month
(Research and interpretation by Arild Hauge in cooperation with Jón Julius Filippusson, English interpretation by ThorNews)
Days of the Week
Some of the Viking Age weekday
names are still in use. Does “Thursday”, literally Thor’s Day, sound familiar? Another example is the German word for Thursday,
Donnerstag (Day of Thunder) – pointing back to Thor, the God of Thunder.