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Modraniht Festival: Here’s How to Celebrate it

Updated on:

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Written by: Dawn Black (Witchipedia)

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Reviewed by: Tina Caro

Celebrated on December 24 or the eve of the Winter Solstice.

Mōdraniht was a Saxon and Anglo-Saxon festival that took place on the eve of Yule. No details of the original festival survive though the 8th-century historian Bede mentioned it.

He seemed to indicate that they stayed up through the night. Sacrifices and feasting were quite likely. It may have been a new year celebration.

Scholars believe that the “mothers” may have been ancestral Goddesses, which may have included Valkyries, the Norns and/or female disir.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

The Modraniht Festival, also known as “Mothers’ Night,” is an ancient Germanic festival celebrated around the Winter Solstice.

It’s a festival dedicated to female deities, honoring maternal and feminine energies, and paying tribute to ancestral spirits.

Celebrations typically include lighting candles, offering food and libations, and practicing divination to connect with the divine feminine and seek guidance for the coming year.

Engaging in these rituals can provide a sense of spiritual connection, ancestral reverence, and empowerment in a season often associated with darkness and reflection.

Among modern Heathens, this is a time to honor the matrilineal ancestors as well as well as ancestral Goddesses and tribal Matrons and festivities may also include honoring living matriarchs,  mothers and grandmothers.

AspectDescription
DateNight of December 24th (commonly associated with Yule)
Also Known AsMothers’ Night, Modresnacht
SignificanceHonoring the female ancestors and goddesses
Cultural OriginsAnglo-Saxon Paganism
Common SymbolsCandles, ancestral altars, hearth
Table: Modraniht Festival Overview

The Reindeer Mother

The folklore of many tribes that still live throughout northern Europe as well as Mongolia and Siberia features an ancient female deity called the Reindeer Mother. According to legend, the Reindeer Mother flies into the sky on the night of the Winter Solstice to find and retrieve the sun, which she carries back between her antlers. 

As well as having a close connection to the concepts and spirit of Modraniht, the Reindeer Mother also suggests that, perhaps, long before we had a Father Christmas, there was a Mother Christmas, soaring into the sky on the eve of Yule.

The Slavic winter goddess, Rozhanitska is also depicted with reindeer antlers. There are many stories about this deity, but underpinning them all is the idea that, through honoring her, we can connect with a central ancestor or ancestral energies.

Modraniht Festival by magickal spot
Copyright: Tina Caro

Ways to Celebrate Modraniht

Modraniht may be an ancient tradition, but there are plenty of reasons to keep it today. And lots of ways to create a contemporary celebration, too. If you’ve never marked Modraniht before, below you’ll find some ways to get started doing so. Use these ideas as a jumping-off board to inspire your very own Modraniht festivities!

Cultural OriginTraditional CelebrationsModern Adaptations
Anglo-SaxonOfferings to goddesses and female ancestors, feastingAncestral altars, sharing family histories
Norse PaganRituals to Frigg and other goddesses, storytellingGoddess worship rituals, community gatherings
Neo-PaganBlending of various pagan traditionsCustom rituals, winter solstice celebrations integration
Table: Traditional Modraniht Celebrations

Honoring Frigg

Within ancient Germanic and Norse traditions, the goddess Frigg was often honored as part of the Modraniht celebrations, along with female ancestors (the Disir) and local and regional deities. 

Frigg and one of her handmaids, presumably Fulla. Murray, Alexander (1874). Manual of Mythology : Greek and Roman, Norse, and Old German, Hindoo and Egyptian Mythology. London, Asher and Co.

According to mythology, Frigg was the wife of Odin and a powerful goddess in her own right. She is often portrayed as a mother deity and also associated with marriage, prophecy, and clairvoyance.

Even those who have never heard of this goddess, actually use her name on a weekly basis: Friday is named for her – literally, ‘Frigg’s Day.’

As part of Modraniht, you may wish to create a beautiful altar to honor the goddess Frigg. She is closely linked to the sky and the full moon, so, if you like, you could place your altar on a window sill or ledge, where the moon and stars can shine down upon it.

Mistletoe is one of Frigg’s symbols (further linking this deity to a celebration held on the eve of Yule) so makes for a great addition to your altar.

Spinning wheels, spindles, storks, falcons, horned owls, and waterfowl are also linked to Frigg, so small sculptures or images of these are perfect, too.

Celebration TypeIdeasPurpose/Significance
Rituals & OfferingsCreating altars, lighting candles, making offeringsHonoring ancestors, spiritual connection
Feasting & GatheringPreparing traditional dishes, family reunionsCommunal bonding, celebrating heritage
Storytelling & ArtsSharing ancestral stories, crafting, music performancesPreserving traditions, cultural expression
Personal ReflectionJournaling, meditation, nature walksSelf-reflection, connecting with the past and nature
Table: Ways to Celebrate Modraniht Today

Honoring the Disir

The Disir in Scandinavian mythology were also honored during Modraniht. The Disir were revered as divine feminine entities and celebrated as ancestors. Evoked for protection and counsel, and associated with fertility and fate, they were thanked and acknowledged as part of life’s major milestones.

Also read:
3 Powerful Deities for Protection (Asking for Their Favors)

If you would like to honor the Disir as part of your Modraniht celebrations, you could leave an offering of food or drink. Carefully place, for example, grains, oats, fruit, or wine in a pretty dish and leave it on your altar, or sacred place, on Modrahiht. In the morning, gift your offering to the Earth by burying it, or placing or pouring it onto the ground.

Alternatively, bake cookies to offer the Disir. To strengthen the connection between this ancient tradition and your maternal lineage, why not bake cookies from the region where your female ancestors came from, to make for an extra special gift?

Celebrating Our Female Kin

Modraniht may have traditionally been about honoring the Disir and other deities, but it was also an important way to celebrate each clan’s maternal ancestry. On the eve of Yule, you may wish to create your own set of rituals to mark this special time.

You could begin by lighting your Yule log and, along with friends or family members, telling stories or sharing memories of your mothers, grandmothers, and even great-grandmothers.

Having photos, pictures, or other things that represent these ancestors around the space is a good idea, and savoring a simple meal together is a lovely way to round off the festivities.

New Beginnings

For many of those who celebrate Mondraniht today, it’s viewed as something of a spiritual new year: a time for fresh beginnings. To this end, you may like to mark it with a simple ritual to put the old year to bed and prepare to embark on the new with hope and joy in your heart.

Try following these steps:

  1. Set an intention. This could be letting go of that which does not serve you, saying a peaceful farewell to the year gone by, and committing to your goals as the wheel turns.
  2. If you wish, cast a circle, or you can simply sit quietly on the ground somewhere you won’t be disturbed.  
  3. Bring into this space things that represent each element. Light a candle for fire, place a small bowl of water near you, and use a fan, feather, or incense for air. Earth can be represented by a small handful of salt or earth in a dish.
  4. Sit quietly and reflect on the year gone by. Acknowledge and honor all your experiences within it, the sad as well as the joyful. Think about what brought you to this moment and consider the path you’re now on, which leads to a wonderful future.
  5. You may wish to choose a symbol to mark this new beginning, that you can keep with you. This could be a carnelian crystal for positive energy, or a seashell to remind you of your commitment to be more in flow with the Universe.
  6. At the end of this ritual, give thanks, and speak aloud the intention you have set.

Modraniht: Beginning Your Yule Festivities 

Marking Modraniht is a great way to kick off your Yuletide celebrations. Allow the peace of this time to infuse you as you honor the Disir, the goddesses, and the special women in your life, both past and present.

The roots of Modraniht stretch back into the mists of time, but it remains a beautiful way to reconnect with the women that have gone before you, and the female deities that you hold most dear.

About Morningbird (Witchipedia's Founder)

I am a homesteading hearth witch who grew up along the shores of the Hudson River and has lived among the Great Lakes for the past 20 years. Together with my musical husband and youngest child, I steward a one-acre mini homestead with herb, vegetable and flower gardens, chickens, ducks, geese and rabbits, and areas reserved for native plants and wildlife. 

I have three children; two are grown, and I have been practicing magick alone and with family and friends for over 30 years.

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