Samhain

Samhain

At Samhain, the Goddess retreats below the earth to join her dark lover in the Underworld. Life withdraws and the landscape turns bleak, cold, and grey. There are no more fruit or flowers and the birds have left to journey south. We mark this time of death by remembering and honoring those who have gone before us. Death is but a stage on the wheel of life. Far below the ground the Goddess regenerates her powers, sheds her old cloak, and falls into a deep meditation. We face the darkness of the cold season when the Sun has little power left to warm us.

This is a good time to remember that life and death are aspects of the same eternal cycle. One cannot exist without the other. As the light needs the darkness, the creative spirit needs its periods of rest and restoration. This is a time for reflection and reminiscence, and for gathering our inner strength in contemplation – for soon the wheel of the year will turn and rise again.

Autumn Equinox

Autumn Equinox

At the Autumn Equinox, night and day are in balance once again. The forces of light and dark are in perfect equilibrium. The Equinox marks the end of the harvest season, and we celebrate the gifts of the Earth on Thanksgiving (not to be confused with the American celebration, which takes place in late November). From this day on, the vital earth-energy begins to retreat below ground. The days are getting shorter and summer is over.

The end of the summer marks an intensely busy time of gathering and preserving the gifts of the earth, to give thanks and to prepare for the coming winter months. Most of the harvest has been brought in. Now we hunt for nuts and mushrooms.

This is a good time to take stock and to prepare for the lean months ahead. Stock up the larder and make sure your woodpile is high and dry so that your supplies will see you through the winter until the Sun returns once more.

Lughnasadh

Lughnasadh

The time of the grain harvest

Lugh’s intense and steady heat ripens the grains and sweetens the fruit. Lughnasadh marks the beginning of the harvest season. It is an intensely busy, but also a joyful time. The work and effort of the early part of the year are paying off. The wheat harvest is coming in.

In Christian tradition, Lughnasadh has become Lammas, the ‘loaf-mass’ (from Anglo-Saxon ‘hlaf-mas’.)

From sowing the seed to harvest time, the period of growth is fraud with danger and the outcome is by no means certain. Unpredictable and sometimes violent weather conditions, and thunderstorms, threaten to destroy all the hard work in one fell swoop. Thus, when we reach Lughnasadh and the harvest has been brought in safely, it is an occasion to celebrate. As a sign of gratitude sacrifices are offered and bread, made from the freshly harvested grain, is broken and shared with the community.

Even as we reap the harvest and gather the seed, this is but one of the stages of the eternal cycle of life. The grain gathered now will sustain us through the dark season and provide the basis of next year’s growth. And so, the cycle continues.

This is a good time to come together in gratitude and to share the joy as well as the labor of harvest. It is also a good time to gather and feast together, enjoying the splendor of summer, as we celebrate friendship and community spirit.

On an inner level, it is a good time to reflect on the progress of your projects and enjoy their ripening process. Take a moment to express your gratitude and share your abundant gifts with those in need.

Summer Solstice

Summer Solstice

At Midsummer, the life-giving power of the Sun has reached its climax. We celebrate the longest day of the year! In pre-Christian tradition, it is said, that during the 12 days of Midsummer and the 12 days of Christmas the veils between the world are thinnest. At this time spirit beings can easily cross the threshold that separates our worlds. Likewise, those who are particularly perceptive to the ‘otherworldly vibes’ can receive magical gifts, or catch a glimpse of the spirit folk. It is a time of celebration, but also for making offerings to the Gods, to ask for protection of the harvest, and to receive blessings. The wisdom-keepers would use it for scrying, to determine the signs of the times. But for most people it was a festive time, celebrated with gatherings around huge bonfires fires. Dancing, feasting, and merry-making were the order of the day – the Sun-God and the Earth-Goddess were celebrating their wedding day and consummate their love. The people joyously join their celebration and thus ensure fertility and abundance for all.

At Midsummer, Bel, the young Sun-God has reached his climax and exhausted his power. Lugh takes over the reign. We are at the turning point of the year and about to begin our long journey of descent through the dark half of the year.

This is a good time to cherish the gifts of nature, to count our blessings, and to give thanks for all that we have. It is a time to share our blessings and to join in the spirit of celebration with friends and kin.

For herbalists, it is the prime time for gathering healing herbs. This is also a good time to seek council from the spirit world or to embark on a vision quest.

Happy Beltane!

Happy Beltane!

On May 1, we celebrate Beltane, the festival of spring. 

The earth is clad in her most beautiful flower gown and the birds are singing from the trees. The heart rejoices, the spirit soars. At Beltane we celebrate the miraculous powers of regeneration, of fertility and of abundance – the lushness and beauty of it all. The God and Goddess are in love and wherever they go, they spread the sparkling glow of their ardour.

This is a good time to celebrate life. We share in nature’s passion and are full of zest for life. Companionship, love and merry-making are the order of the day.

This is also a good time to nurture young seedlings and budding projects. It is nurture and love that turns intention into manifestation. The power to work this magic lies in our caring hands.

Spiritually, this is a good time to reflect on nature’s generosity and to practice gratitude.

Easter/ Oestara

Easter/ Oestara

For many Christians, Easter is an even more important festival than Christmas. Easter is a festival of sacrifice and resurrection. We commemorate Christ’s sacrifice on the day he died on the cross as Jesus, the man, only to be resurrected as Christ, the son of God and redeemer of mankind. In Christian symbolism, the cross commemorates the crucifixion. However, the cross is a much older symbol and in pre-Christian traditions it was more often associated with the cosmic order, the four directions, the axis of time and space, and the sacrifice of the ego, which is bound to the material world.

Sacrifice, in the symbolism of the ancient world, was not a celebration of death, as it may seem, but of life. A sacrifice was a way of giving back, to offer life to life, so it may continue. Death and rebirth as two sides of the same door. Life feeding on itself and continuously regenerating itself.

A sacrifice had to be something special. Not any old rat would do! This was a gift to the Gods! So, it had to be the very best, something precious! Originally, it was the king himself. Later, it became the his first-born. Eventually, animal tokens were used instead of the self. At Easter, that sacrificial animal was an innocent lamb. Even today’s traditional Easter feast often features a lamb roast as the centre piece. A distant echo of this ancient sacrificial tradition.

Easter is a movable feast, which is a clear indication that it is a festival that dates back to pre-Christian times. The date, which changes every year, is determined by the first Full Moon that follows the first New Moon after the Spring Equinox. Originally, Easter, or Ostara, as it was known, was the festival of the Goddess Eostre, a pagan Mother Goddess that has been linked to the Great Mother Kali.

Her sacred ‘Moon Hare’ has become the ‘Easter Bunny’. And as for the eggs, they are a symbol of life. The egg represents unborn potential, and the promise of rebirth. Traditionally, the eggs would have been dyed red, the colour of life. To give these as a gift is a blessing: Life! Abundance! May your potential unfold and blossom!

Source:

The Woman’s Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets, Barbara G. Walker, HaperCollins, 1983

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