And so we move towards the month of June and the summer solstice in our tour of the Anglo-Saxon calendar. I’ve seen a couple of reference to it as Midsumermonath, or Midsummer Month, but most other sources refer to June as being Ærra Liða. There is some debate as to the meaning of the second part of the name.
Ærra is Before, and presumably it is related to the word we still sometimes still occasionally see, especially in poetic language: Ere, as in We’ll meet again ere long. It can, though, also mean first. Liða, pronounced Litha is variously translated as summer, midsummer and solstice. The solstice idea arises because months either side of the winter solstice are similarly named.
However, the Venerable Bede, who was much closer to the Saxon era than we are, claimed that Liða meant ‘calm’ or ‘navigable’ because in June and July the usually gentle conditions made sailing less hazardous.
So there you have it – the definitive answer. June is the Before Midsummer month. Or Before Solstice. Or First Calm month.
But most Anglo-Saxons worked the land rather than sailing the calm seas, and June was the haymaking month. It was vital for them to have plenty stored away to feed their animals when winter came.