Friday, December 09, 2016

Alexander Tille's Yule and Christmas; Chapter 4

IV. Martinmas, and the Tri-Partition of the Year

Chapters IV and V are a fuller exposition of the medieval textual evidence for the briefer presentation and assertions Tille made in the first chapter about the Tri-Partition and Dual Division of the Germanic year.

The data presented cover the early 7th century through the 18th century. They consist of Anglo-Saxon Laws, Germanic institutes, tax documents, duty regulations, Saxon land charters, contracts, liturgical texts, church circular letters, agricultural records, lease documents, and more. The geographic spread of the evidence reaches from Germany through regions settled by Germanic peoples during this millennium even into Spain and Scotland. The reason there is no Germanic textual data presented from earlier is that such data does not exist or remains yet undiscovered.

The layout of the evidence is parallel to the three main claims listed in the first chapter. The main text of the chapter lays out the thread of the argument. This argument is fortified with 50 or so quotations from various source documents from the period and regions in the footnotes. The quotations also show evidence of a dual division of the year, which Tille brings out where relevant.

The first part of the chapter deals with documents demonstrating that Martinmas was the end of the economic year: tax day, lease day, contract for employment day, election to public office, etc. Tille turns then to the tri-partition of the year. Evidence includes scheduling of law court: scheduled mid-November, mid-March, and mid-July. Church taxes and duties, such the Rome-feoh, a British name for the tax imposed by the Church of Rome also called the “Peter’s penny”, some of which were required three times a year. Tille discusses the Thing-tides and their close relation to these three main German seasons. He also traces the gradual imposition of the Julian calendar upon these festivals.

Tille concludes:

“The tri-partition of the year —Martinmas,  mid-March, mid-July— was, till late in the Middle Ages, more than an artificial division of the year carried on by tradition without apparent reason. It was deeply rooted in economic life, and in conditions affecting pasture and agriculture.” (p. 46)

We should note that the evidence Tille presents also demonstrates that while there was a general three-fold division of the year there is a lack of uniformity between the various regions as to when these divisions could be mapped to the Julian calendar.

Tille again emphasized that the texts show no evidence of solar calendaring, there are no quarter days nor, Tille advances, is there any “trace of sun-worship whatever in Germanic religion.” (p. 45) This also he relates to the Scandinavian year.

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