In honor of the recent Holidays, Easy Witchcraft is featuring a guide to the traditional pagan & Wiccan holidays.
There are eight commonly-recognized and celebrated Wiccan or pagan holidays. Four of these (the quarter days) are held at the time of the solstices or equinoxes. The other four are cross-quarter days, held roughly in between one solstice and the subsequent equinox.
Historical, archeological, anthropological and folklorist research shows that these holidays were probably celebrated throughout Europe and the British Isles in pre-Christian times. Many of the festivals were so popular that the Christian church could not prevent the common people from commemorating them, so they were appropriated and held under the aegis of various (and frequently spurious) Christian saints. The popularity of these ancient holy occasions is linked to changes in the earth and sky, the seasons, and the natural year-round seasonal shifts that dramatically affect human beings, animals, and plants.
More commonly known as Imbolc (the day when newborn lambs begin to nurse) or, to the Christians, Candlemas (the purification of the Virgin), Brigantia is usually celebrated Feb. 1 or 2. It marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring, when buried seeds begin to stir within the earth. It also marks the beginning of the third of the year which belongs to the Maiden aspect of the three-fold goddess. “Brigantia” is the day of Brigit, an Irish goddess of smithcraft, healing, and poetry. The old Saxon and Norse communities knew her as Birgit, the lusty, spring-loving consort of Ullr, the god of winter. The color of this day is red.
February is a purifactory month, bonfires are held now. In the Christian calendar this festival was converted to the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin (Mary). Candles for the following year were purified in the western church – therefore we get the name Candlemas.
THE VERNAL EQUINOX
This usually falls around the 20th of March. There are exactly 12 hours of darkness and 12 hours of light on this day, so it marks the changeover from the dark to the light half of the year. It is a time of conception and new growth. Roman Catholics turned spring equinox into the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (March 25, Lady Day).
The celebration of the Vernal (Spring) Equinox. Day & Night are equal length. It is a time for planting and celebrating the first signs of fertility and rebirth. Symbols of Ostara like eggs, chicks, and rabbits have been adopted by Christians in their Easter holiday. The word, Easter is from the goddess Eostra, Ishtar or Astarte.
May Day.Beltane celebrates the Marriage of the Goddess and the God,the goddess is thought to conceive the Divine Child at this time,to which she will give birth to at Yule. The maypole dance is symbolic of the union of the goddess and the god . Pagan Handfastings occur at this time.
Beltane is May 1, traditionally celebrated by twining ribbons ’round a Maypole, an obvious fertility ritual. The name of this holiday is taken from various solar fire deities known to Celtic and Norse peoples. Its color is white. The Norse goddess Iduna, keeper and creator of the runes, is good to honor on Beltane. Beltane fires were lit on this evening, and people leaped through the smoke to purify themselves and insure fertility. It was customary to extinguish the fire in all the households in a village, then kindle a magic flame in a nine-square grid from which the center piece of turf had been removed. This fire was made with an oak spindle in an oak log socket, and was used to relight everyone’s hearth. Beltane was also traditionally celebrated by couples who made love in the woods. In Germany, this holiday was known as Walpurgisnacht.
The Summer Solstice a celebration in honor of the Sun-God . Traditional Pagan activities of Midsummer is to leap across bonfires to promote fertility of animals and crops.
June 21 or thereabouts. In medieval times, celebrations of this year were labeled the feast of St. John the Baptist. Bonfires were kindled on the highest points in the district to celebrate the son achieving the highest point in its circuit. Flaming sunwheels were rulled downhill, and burning torches were carried sunwise around buildings to bless them. This day is sacred to the great mother goddess, especially Cerridwen. The Maiden gives way to Mother aspect of the goddess.
The fall begins with this holiday which falls on July 31 or August 1. Its traditional color is brown, and it commemorates the grain harvest. It is named after Lugh, a god of light, and an Anglo-Saxon word for “loaf of bread.” This is a time of thanksgiving and feasting.
Also known as Lughnasadh, this is the first of the three Harvest festivals. The first fruits of the annual harvest are reaped, and the days grow shorter.
About September 23, the light begins to decrease, and the dark half of the year commences. This is the second harvest festival, the harvest of fruits. Winemaking commences now. The community begins to prepare for winter, and the Mother prepares to yield way to the Crone.
The Fall Equinox, is the second of the Harvest holidays. Mabon is a time to recognize what we have and to begin preparing for the coming winter.
Pronounced “sow-en,” with a silent “m,” this holiday falls on the last day of October, and is still celebrated today as Halloween. It was customary to slaughter lifestock on this day and begin smoking meat. In the old Celtic calendar, this was the end of one year and the beginning of the new. The veil between the realm of the living and the dead is especially thin on this holiday. In Latin countries, the Day of the Dead is commemorated around this time of year. It is customary to do a divination on this day for what the coming year will bring.
Death, the third of the Harvest holidays, the ending of the cycle, death, but with the hope of rebirth and the New Year.The traditional time for the annual slaughter to ensure food throughout the winter months. Take this time to remember departed ones. In some traditions the end of the year . The separation between this physical world and the spiritworld is thin. Halloween customs are a part of this element of death, the thin line at this cycle and remembering the dead and the hopes of rebirth. On this night Magick is more powerful .
The Solstice falls on or about December 21. Also known as Yule, this is a major holiday, when the sun reaches its weakest point, and we have the shortest day and the longest night of the year. The Crone is in full force. Many religions have placed the birth of their solar hero gods and saviors on this day: Jesus, Horus, Helios, Dionysus, and Mithras all claim Yule as their birthday. Since this day also represents the point at which the sun begins to wax, it represents rebirth and regeneration.
The celebration of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. It is the celebration rebirth of the Sun, which is the promise of spring and life even on this the darkest day. Therefore some consider this the new year. The burning of the log is to give the Sun strength. Mumming (plays) such as “St. George” is a Pagan survival , it represents the rebirth of the God. Wassailing or is also a Pagan custom. The Roman festival of the Solstice was Saturnalia, which lasted from December 17th to the 24th.
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