Also known as Halloween, Shadow-fest, Old Hallowmas, All Souls’ Day
Samhain is the witches’ New Year’s Eve. November 1st is the first day of the new year and as so marks the end of one summer and the beginning of winter. It is the final harvest of the year. This is the time of year when the ancient tribes harvested for the last time during the year, and prepared for the long months of winter. Food was stored, animals that were needed for food supply were slaughtered and prepared for long storage, and activity moved from outdoors to indoors into the warmth of th fire. Samhain is a time where we honor our ancestors and the memory they left behind. On Samhain the veil between the worlds is the thinnest. It is a powerful time for divination and contacting those who walked these lands before us. This is the time of the season where the Crone rules. (Crone, Maiden, Mother) Witches preform rituals using the Crones assistance, to leave behind that which they do not want to carry into the future; outdated habits, completion of past relationships, insecurities, and those things which do no service to carry on. Magick is done to better our lives, the lives of those around us, and all connected to the web of life. It is a festive, joyful time where we visit friends and share treats, stories, and memories.
February 1st or 2nd
Also known as Candlemas, Imbolg, Imbolgc, Brigantia, Lupercus, Disting.
Imbolc literally means “in the belly,” and traditionally had marked the lactation period of ewes and cows. Ewes are unable to produce milk until after they bear their young, which occurs at this time. Being that milk was very important to the basic survival of the tribes, this was a time of great joys. For the end of a long winter was in sight, and green hills and pastures were only a few months away. It is customary for witches to pour milk (or cream) onto the earth. This is done in thanksgiving, as an offering of nurturing, and assisting in the returning of fertility and generosity of the earth to its people (the return of spring). Imbolc is the holiday in which we honor Brid (pronounced breed) also known as Brigid, Brigit, Bride, in her maiden aspect. Brid is the protector and preserver of all memory and knowledge. She empowers us with the wisdom and knowledge to protect, nurture, and encourage fruitfulness of the land. For it is the source and foundation of all life. Brigit is the daughter of Dagda (the good God.) Imbolc is also a fire festival, with significance placed upon the light of the light of fire. It is traditional for witches to prepare grains, saved from previous harvest, to be blessed by the light of fire and Brid for Beltane planting. It is time for introspection of our own inner seasons and glimmer of personal growth. For as it is with the earth, we each have our own spiritual winters only to be followed by the glorious return of spring. With the return of new life, we retain great lessons and wisdom we would not have the gift of, unless we preserved through the winters harsh months.
Around March 21st
Also known as Vernal Equinox, Ostara, Esther
The Spring Equinox, second in the trilogy of fertility festivals, is the exact moment when day and night are equal. This is the moment when the Sun King begins his seminal journey across the sky. His warmth and light over take the darkness of winter until his peak at summer soltice in June. Ostara (Eostre), the Goddess of fertility and rebirth presides over the Spring Equinox. She stands among spring’s flowers and vines holding an egg in her hand. Her head is crowned with spring’s flowers. Ostara and the egg she carries are symbols of newborn life. Spring Equinox is the season of new life and new fire. It marks the beginning of the season of fertility and growth. Depending on the region it is the seedling time. Time to bless and plant the seeds. In other areas, the seeds are blessed for future planting. Eggs are charged as talismans for fruitfulness and success for the upcoming season. Spring Equinox is a celebration of balance, for it is not quite summer yet and not quite winter. It is the time when we are perched magically between the two seasons. It is a time to remember our balance in the greater scheme of things, we are an important part of all that happens around us. Our actions and deeds have affect on Earth, Her people, and the universe.
Also known as May Day, Bealtinne
Beltane is the last of the three fertility festivals, and the second major Celtic festival. Beltane, and its counterpart Samhain, divide the year into its two primary seasons of Winter and Summer. Beltane joyfully heralds the arrival of Summer in full garb. It is said that if you bathe in the dew of a Beltane morn, your beauty will flourish throughout the year. Beltane literally means “fire of the Bel.’ Bel is known as the bright and shinning one. On the eve of Beltane the Celts build two large fires, created from the nine sacred woods. In the Honor of Summer they were lit and the herds were ritually driven between them to purify and protect. The fires celebrate the return of life and fruitfulness to the Earth. Celebration includes frolicking throughout the countryside, dancing the Maypole, leaping over fires, and to “go a Maying.” Beltane marks the handfasting of the Goddess and God, the reawakening of the Earth’s fertility in its fullest. This is the union between the Great Mother and her young Horned God. This coupling brings new life on Earth. It is the unifying of the Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine to bring back to third, consciousness. May is the month of sensuality and sexuality revitalized, the reawakening of the Earth and Her children. It is customary that handfastings, for a year and a day, occur at this time. These are trial marriages that typically occur between a couple before deciding to embrace the life eternal. It was understood by our ancestors that one does not really know another until they have lived with them, and things change. Beltane brings our brightest hopes for the future. Hopes of Love, Prosperity, Friendship, and Peace abound.
Around June 21st
Also known as Midsummer, Litha, Alban Hefin, Feill-Sheathain
Midsummer is that point in the year when the Sun’s strength is at its apex. It is the longest day of the year. The journey into the harvest season has begun. It is at Midsummer that the Holly King, God of the waning year, has encountered and succeeded in usurping reign of the year. In Celtic mythology the young God withdraws into the wheel of the year, stars and it is here he waits and learns before his rebirth… Winter Solstice. Midsummer is when all is flourishing. Faeries are at their most playful, it is time that nature’s lavishness is most acutely perceived. The passion at Midsummer has escalated from the playfulness of Beltane to a more fervent intensity. Couples who hand fasted the year before at Beltane tend to marry in a more formal handfasting at Midsummer or Lughnasada. The moon of Midsummer is known as the Honey Moon, thus we can observe the roots of modern day marriage practices in their pagan soil. The fire at Midsummer is traditionally kindled from the friction of two seed woods, fir and oak. Nine different types of herbs are thrown upon the Midsummer fire. These consist of Mistletoe, Vervain, St. John’s Wort, Heartsease, Lavender, and a choice of four others chosen from herbs typical of the season. The herd was driven though the embers in days long ago to purge disease and illness. This being the season of passion, Midsummer is the perfect time to understand our passions, for they are ever so evident in the height of the summer heat. It is though understanding and acknowledging our deep pounding passion that we can utilize them correctly. Passion and Love have driven humankind to realize some of its greatest treasures and its most extreme violations. It is only through awareness and conscious action can passion bring us to the zenith of existence. This is the time to experience our passions and the force within, to be conscious of how we can use them and the gifts they can bring and experience true power.
Around August 1st
Also known as Lammas, Cornucopia, Thingtide
Lughnasadh is the first in the Trilogy Harvest festivals. It marks the beginning of the harvest season, and the decline of summer into winter. It is the turning point of the Earth’s life cycle. Festivities and ritual center around the assurance of a bountiful harvest season. A bountiful harvest insured the safe passage of the tribe through the upcoming winter months. The gathering of bilberries is an ancient ritual symbolizing the success of the Lughnasadh rituals… if the bilberries were bountiful the crops would also be. Lughnasadh, is the festival in honor of Lugh, an Irish God. Lugh, God of all skills, is known as “The Bright” or “Shining One,” he is associated with both the Sun and agricultural fertility. Games are played in honor of Lugh, these games are of athletic prowess. The games are reported to be funeral games for Lugh and in some traditions his foster mother. His foster mother died preparing the fields for planting, and thus is honored at this festival. During Lughnasadh many grains, seeds, herbs, and fruits, can be harvested and dried at this time for later use through the remaining year. Corn is one of the vital crops harvested at this time. Death and Rebirth are apart of the cycle Lugh journeys through in his mating with the Goddess, during the waning year. The Goddess oversees the festival in her triple guise as Macha conveys the dead into the realm of deceased. Macha is forced, while heavy with child to race against the King of Ulster’s horses. She wins the race and gives birth to twins, and cursed the men of Ulster with the pain of labor when they are in most need of their strength. She became the Queen of Ulster through battle for seven years. Her fortress in Ulster is known as the Emain Macha and its otherworldly from known as Emainia, the moon goddesses realm of death. Lughnasadh is a time of bounty, celebration, and hopes for a abundant harvest season. Our religion is one of service, not sacrifice. There is no service in sacrifice and no sacrifice in service. We need to fill our own cups with water and when our cups runneth over and we can’t help but splash those around us with the life giving waters. We as members of the Universe and Children of the Mother, expect to share in the benevolence of her love. For ours is the Mother, who nurtures and loves her children, sharing her bounty. Prosperity is not amassing and hoarding a great profusion of assets. Prosperity is having more than what is essential and never having less than we desire. We understand the abundance and magnanimity of the universe and celebrate, recognize, and honor this.
Around September 22nd
Also known as Alban Elfed, Winter Finding, Autumn Equinox
Once again we find ourselves in the time of balance, for day and night are once again equal. The sun crosses the equator and heads south signaling the end of summer’s impassioned days and the beginning of the quiet months. The Sun has begun his yearly decent into the final days of his reign. Again relating to us of the universal truth of life, death, and reincarnation. Autumn equinox is the second in the trilogy of harvest festivals. Mabon marks the completion of the grain harvest begun during Lughnasadh. It is a time of great joy and great sorrow, as well as a time of great change. A time where we are between worlds, we morn that which is passing, joyful for bountiful harvest and the awareness that the Mother will hold the seed of light in Her womb. We realize that the wheel of the year has turned once more, and will continue to turn, for time is circular not linear. There is no end, but only new beginnings and the continuance of life eternal. We celebrate the story of Mabon or Modron, “The son of the Mother,” the Divine Youth, and Son of Light. Mabon is taken when he is three nights old. His whereabouts are shrouded in mystery. It is through wisdom and memory of the most ancient animals, (Blackbird, Stag, Owl, Eagle, and Salmon) we understand where he is and why. Mabon dwells in his Mother’s womb, the otherworld. It is a place of challenge and a place of nurture. A place where he is renewed and regenerated. A Place of new life, so that he may be reborn, the source of light and joy, the champion of his mother. Just as the light is being drawn into the earth accumulating strength and wisdom, to become a new seed, Mabon has returned to his Mother’s womb. As winter begins, the earth incubates the tender seeds. Throughout the winter the seeds are kept within her womb so that they may be reborn and bring forth new life. The autumn equinox is the time when we prepare our personal harvest, gathering those experiences transpired over the past year, bringing them within and making them a part of who we are. We allow them to die, regenerate into wisdom, to be reborn within. This prepares us for new life from that which we have experienced and brought to the table so far. It is during Mabon we are reminded of the necessity of fallow periods. Those periods allow us to assimilate, regenerate, and incorporate that which we have progressed through. In life, events happen, choices are made, and actions generate. We can not go back and change that which has passed, but we can reap the harvest of wisdom these experiences and memories of the year have brought us.
We do not know that which we have not experienced, and it is time we give thanks for that which has been our lives, for that which we perceive as wonderful and that which we perceive not to be. They all are part of the sum of who we are.
Through the turning wheel of the year, we see the earth always changing, moving from season to season around the wheel. As we experience the earth and her journey, we become attuned to the enigma of existence. From each life we reap the harvest of experience that becomes etched into our souls.