Saturday, December 10, 2016

Alexander Tille's Yule and Christmas; Chapter 5

V. Martinmas, and the Dual Division of the Year

The focus of this chapter is on how the evidence speaks about at dual division of the year. Several significant points regarding this division were already brought forward in the preceding chapter.

The lines of evidence are texts from the periods under examination. The first set examined is economic records of taxation, then records of legal convocations. Tille notes “It took a very long time to uproot this institution [the Campus Martius assembly], and replace it by meetings held according to Roman quarters of years and Christian high festivals.”(p. 50)

Tille turns to the seasonal liturgical expressions of the churches found in the church Councils, Synods, and Canon Law. The documents bear witness to an overt changing of the calendar from a Germanic dual division toward a Roman liturgical division based more on quarters of years. Also, documents like the 578 Synod of Auxerre seem to show that the Church began to schedule meetings annual for priests at these same two time periods of mid-May and of abbots at the beginning of November. Again, the main text provides the thread of the argument and the footnotes contain the texts to which he refers.

This particular section contains many valuable references to the development of the Advent Season, the establishment of All Saints’ Day, and Rogation Days.

Tille suggests that the “Church sanctified the older Germanic celebrations of mid-May and mid-November by special litanies, so it took over the meetings wont to be held at those terms.” (p. 55) But it could also be that the Church took advantage of the common meeting times because it was simply easier, travel, room, and board were already in place and there was not a conflict with other major church festivals. If we might look at a current day example: today several church bodies schedule seasonal meetings in Las Vegas during certain times of the year, not because they are taking over or sanctifying those seasonal festivals celebrated by the natives of Las Vegas, but simply because it is more convenient and more economical to hold their meetings at this time.

Here Tille also briefly brings in evidence from the Germanic Yule Tide: “The term denoting at once the beginning of the Germanic year, and of the winter season, varies from the Calends of November to mid-November, thus keeping clearly within the time which had to be assumed as the beginning of the old Germanic Iiuleis tide” (p. 56, emphasis original)


Based on Tille’s presentation of his research we can see that the oldest “Yule Tide” had nothing to do with Christmas, but based on the beginning of both the tri-partition and dual partition of the Germanic year such a festival was during what we would call the first part of November: a season significantly removed from Christmas.

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