While in the railway station of Sao Bento in Porto in Portugal I became aware that one of the tiled panels depicted a procession of the Virgin Mary high atop a cart drawn by four oxen (see photo). I have also established that in order to have the oxen draw the cart, the town had to have a special dispensation from the Pope.
So why would the dispensation be required? Probably because the use of animals, especially oxen, in religious processions was something that the Pagans did. Now we know that the priests of Nerthus sometimes led a procession with an image of Nerthus (Goddess of fertility, strongly connected with the harvest of grain), so what might the procession have looked like?
Note - Waldorfador is the sun god as mentioned by Saint Bede, alongside Nerthus in his reference to the planting of Sol cakes in February (Solmonath = month of mud).
This poem is an attempt to depict such a procession.
Cutting the harvest, working from dry dawn,
From the first days toil, harvest of ripe corn.
Last neck of new corn, cut by a young lad,
Taken to decked wain, and ritually clad.
Crafted of the last, central field stuck formed,
To be drawn on high, by stout oxen horned.
On sacred high throne, of long wooden wain,
Garlands of flowers, and tall sheaves of grain.
Our Goddess Nerthus, decked in clean bright cloth,
Singing such soft songs, we pledge our true troth.
To be placed on wain, and bedecked oxen drawn,
Garlands of flowers, on long oxen horn.
Hay wain dressed with sweet, flowers fresh from mead,
Three bare footed maids, the oxen to lead.
Crowned with twisted wheat, these maidens so fare,
Corn dolly in hand, and long flowing hair.
On high throne bedecked, with fresh fragrant flowers,
Cut from the meadow, holy herb bowers.
Nerthus hail unto thee, sacred chant to read,
With broach on fine gown, long robed priest to lead.
Along the headland, and into long lane,
Singing to Nerthus, on high on her wain.
Ample abundance, in her golden gown,
Winding their way to, centre of small town.
Weod monthath with, warm waldorfador,
Long robed Nerthus priest, soft chanting galdor.
Hymns to our lady, on highest wain top,
From evil forces, protecting the crop.
Copyright Andrew Rea Yule 2017