Pagan Blog Project: Festivals in Depth

Pagan Fridays here on the Druid Bird! (yeah, I feel like a radio DJ or something…)

So, this weeks topic is festivals– I’m writing this from a general Pagan (leaning toward Wiccan) standpoint, I’m also putting in my own thoughts (I practise Druidry, not Wicca) so if there are bits you don’t quite get than that’ll be why. (oh, and the dates apply for the northern hemisphere, flip them around for the southern hemisphere.)

Winter Solstice/Yule

21st/22nd December

This is the time to think about the darkness, at this point the world is at its most barren and empty. You can celebrate by holding a vigil through the night and lighting lots of candles to aid the sun on the darkest day.

I find this to be a really moving and terrifying time of the year- my top tip would be to ban electric lights on Solstice night, trust me, it really makes an impact on you- especially if you’re doing the all night vigil. You really begin to realise how the ancestors would have felt and it’s easier to connect with the gods.

Did you know: Druids celebrate Alban Arthan on this day- this is the death of the Holly King who resembles the Wren.

Imbolc

1st/2nd February

Festival of the Goddess Brighid, all about new life and the world. Important day in weather prediction- folklore states that this is the day that the Cailleach comes out to collect firewood, if she wants winter to be prolonged she’ll make the day bright and sunny so that she can collect a lot in order to stage a second winter… that theory came true this Imbolc (well, at least for us here in Yorkshire.)

As well as this Imbolc is also the traditional time for initiations and is seen as a very feminine festival.

Imbolc is sometimes seen as the New Year- though others celebrate this on the 1st of November- it’s argued that Samhain is the end of the year and Imbolc the beginning- the time in between being dedicated to the darkness. This is a beautiful time of year as you know winter is beginning to give up its fight.

Did you know: Imbolc means ‘ewe’s milk’ it’s called this because Imbolc is about purification and the Goddess Brighid and milk is seen as a purifying substance.

Spring Equinox/Ostara

21st/22nd March

When the world tips into summer 🙂 in Wiccan lore this is the time that the Goddess is impregnated by the God.

Equinoxes are the tipping points of the year when the world falls either into summer or winter, thought in Wicca they are known as the ‘lesser sabbats’ they are still important.

Did you know: this festival is connected to the Anglo-Saxon Goddess Eostre.

Beltane

1st May

Beltane is about fire and fertility- the marriage of the King and Queen of the May. This is the time of the Fey (fairies/faeries/fay/fae) during Beltane we are closer to their world than at other times of the year.

Lighting bonfires and marriage processions are common aspects of Beltane festivals.

Beltane is known as ‘the sex festival’ amongst my friends… though personally I think of it as the time of the Fey, creatures who are best left to their own devices (I try to respect them but otherwise stay away) and it’s at the opposite spoke of the wheel to Samhain, which makes it important by association.

Did you know: Beltane was the inspiration for May Day (and all the *cough* interesting activities associated with that) want to know the point of the May Pole? LOOK at it and THINK… yep; nice, big, firm pole sticking up from the ground… I’ll let your mind do the rest.

Summer Solstice/Litha

21st/22nd June

Celebrate the sun, the masculine and the Green Man on Midsummer’s day. You can celebrate by keeping a vigil from dusk til dawn and spending as much time out in the sun as possible.

Staying up all night is a really wonderful way to spend Midsummer- whether it’s on your own or at somewhere like Stonehenge with a group of people- it contrasts so much with Yule that it leaves an impact… thought I would advise starting out holding a dusk til dawn vigil on Midsummer and then doing one on Yule, just so that you know what to expect from staying up the whole night. The warmth in the world is really amazing to experience on Midsummer, you can feel the power of the sun as it peeks above the horizon.

Did you know: the Midsummer moon is known as the Honey Moon because the wedding ceremonies performed around this time involved mead made from fermented honey.

Lughnasadh/Lammas

1st August

Lammas: is all about bread, grain and harvest- bake to your heart’s content and make corn dollies.

Lughnasadh: honour the gods of the harvest and keep their favour so as to preserve the crops through the harvest. Have a feast and bless the fields.

I’m always on the road on Lughnasadh and come across so many little festivals going on the towns and villages that we drive through. We like to park the car on the side of the road by the corn fields and eat apples, throwing the core into the hedgerows once we’re done. Lughnasadh is about seeing the impregnated world, bursting at the seams with life.

Did you know: Lugh dedicated this festival to his foster-mother, Tailtiu, who gave her life clearing fields so that crops could be planted.

Autumn Equinox/Mabon

21st/22nd September

Here we tip into darkness, give thanks for fruit (especially apples) and think about balance in your life. This is an important time for gathering yourself together before facing the darkness.

Mabon is a time for gathering yourself together, preparing for the end and enjoying the last of the sunshine before it fades away. Here the young God is taken to the Underworld.

Did you know: Mabon was a man who was born with no father and then abducted from his mother, he was eventually found in the Underworld (the gods alone know why he was down there…) his time down there meant that he stayed young forever.

Samhain

31st October

This is the time when the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest- allowing ones from either side to pass through.

Here we honour the sacred dead and the ancestors. Place pictures of lost loved ones on your altar, take a day to honour and remember them.

Place a candle or light in the window or outside to help guide the spirits, host a ‘dumb supper’ (a meal with places set for the deceased.)

The Goddess goes to the Underworld.

This is a time for reflecting on the past year and celebrating its end.

Samhain is a time to grieve- in the modern world we have a desperate fear of death, we think ourselves sophisticated because we’ve managed to break down the taboos surrounding sex, however we seem to have replaced them with taboos around death. Samhain breaks this down and gives us a day in which to celebrate loss and grief; because we can’t celebrate the light without acknowledging the dark.

Did you know: if you hear footsteps behind you on Samhain night don’t look back- it might be a spirit following you.

Thanks for reading 🙂

’til next time,

Wren x

and because I credit my sources:

http://www.adf.org/articles/gods-and-spirits/celtic/rethinking-imbolc.pdf

http://druidnetwork.org/en/learning/courses/online/shaping/samhain.htm

http://druidnetwork.org/en/learning/courses/online/shaping/autumnequinox.htm

http://druidnetwork.org/en/learning/courses/online/shaping/lughnasadh.htm

http://druidnetwork.org/en/learning/courses/online/shaping/summersolstice.htm

http://druidnetwork.org/learning/courses/online/shaping/beltane.htm

http://druidnetwork.org/learning/courses/online/shaping/beltane.htm

http://www.sheffieldmayday.ukf.net/archive/facts.htm

http://www.chiff.com/a/summer-solstice.htm

http://www.chalicecentre.net/lughnasadh.htm

http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/samhainoctober31/p/SamhainFolklore.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheel_of_the_year

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