SAMHAIN, OCTOBER 31, NOVEMBER EVE
Samhain means "Summer's End". Now nights lengthen, winter begins, and we
work with the positive aspects of the dark tides. In the increasing
starlight and moonlight, we hone our divinatory and psychic skills. Many
Craft traditions, and the anchient Celts, consider this New Year's Eve.
It is a time to think about the coming year, and changes we want to make
in our lives. It is also the one night when the veil that separates our
world from the next is its thinnest, allowing the dead to return to the
world of the living, to be welcomed and feasted by their kin. The
Christian religion adopted this theme as "All Saints Day" or "All Hallows
Day". The alternative date of November 6 ("Martinmas" or "Old Hallows")
is sometimes employed by Covens.
Modern Witches usually celebrate Samhain on the first full moon on or
after October 31st.
Song of Samhain
I am the hallow tide of all souls passing
I am the bright releaser of all pain
I am the quickener of the fallen seed case
I am the glance of snow, the strike of rain
I am the hollow of the winter twilight
I am the hearth fire and the welcome bread
I am the curtained awning of the pillow
I am unending wisdom's garden thread.
YULE, DECEMBER 21, WINTER SOLSTICE
Yule means "wheel", for now the wheel of the year has reached a turning
point, with the longest night of the year. This is the seedpoint of the
solar year, mid-winter, time of the greatest darkness when we seek
within ourselves to comprehend our true nature. In virtually all Pagan
religions, this is the night the Great Mother gives birth to the baby Sun
God, because from this day forward, the days begin to lengthen and light
is waxing. The Christian religion adopted this theme as the birthday of
Jesus, calling it "Christmas". The alternative fixed calendar date,
December 25th, called "Old Yule" by some Covens, occurs because before
various calendar changes, that was the date of the Solstice.
CANDLEMAS, FEBRUARY 1 or 2
Also called Imbolg, Brigid's Day, Feast of Torches, Lupercalia
Candlemas is a celebration of fertility and light, with the sun waxing
its way towards spring. It is a time before the Lord and Lady have joined
as one, the Lord is still a child from his birthing at Yuletide. He is
growing strong as the year moves towards the greener months. The Goddess
is his waiting bride-to-be, still youthful as well.
This is a time for purification, after the long winter months, when we
are beginning to be renewed by the sun. Candles should be lit in
profusion to signify the returning of the lighter, warmer days of the
year, the return of the Sun God. It is also a time for resting and
renewing oneself in preparation for the coming Spring. The altar can be
bare, except for candles, to signify resting, and to help clear your mind
so that you may be fresh for the new season of magick.
White clothes can be worn to celebrate the running lighter days. Foods to
eat include dairy products, spiced wines, raisins, or anything like that
which is symbolic of the sun.
The Celts dressed up sheaths of grain as brides, and set them in places
of honor about their houses in little cradles. Nuts were placed with them
to symbolize the fertility of the God.
A quote from Robert Myers regarding the more recent history of Candlemas:
"It is fairly certain that the ceremony with candles is a carryover from
the Anchient Roman world. The Feast of Lights (Candlemas) was a holiday
of long standing, celebrated on February 1, when lighted torches were
carried in procession in a springtime rebirth ritual. According to
mythology, Proserpina had been abducted into the underworld by Pluto. The
goddess Ceres, her mother, and the candle-bearing celebrants searched for
her in the winter darkness, bringing the reviving light of Spring. The
old symbolism of the candles and the emergent light was justifiably taken
over by the Christian Church. The scred light symbolized the Christ
child, who was a light of revelation to the Gentiles..."
OSTARA (around March 21st):
The Spring Solstice, marks the first day of true
Spring. It is a time of the awakening of the Earth (The Goddess
in her terrestrial aspect), as the sun grows in warmth and power.
Pagan rituals of Spring, such as coloring eggs, have survived to this
time by being transferred to Easter celebrartions.
At this festival, the young God ventures into manhood.
He and the Goddess, his mother and lover, join and produce the bounty
of nature. This is nature symbolism. In Wiccan thought, the Goddess
and God are united, one--twin halves of a whole. They are dual reflections
of the power behind the universe that can never be truly separated. May Day
is a time of flowers, maypoles (once an openly sexual symbol), and
chains of clover, even among those who don't practive Wicca.
Song of Beltane
I am the calm, I am the quickening
I am the intoxication and the force,
I am the silence, I am the singer
I am the stallion galloping to its source
I am the bright pavillion and the feasting
I am the wedding couple and the bed
I am the morning chorus and the heartbeat
I am the goal to which all paths are led.
MIDSUMMER (June 21st):
This is the point at which the powers of nature
(created by the union of the Sun and the Earth) are at their peak. Wiccans
gather to celebrate and to practice magick. Huge bonfires may be lit
in honor of the Sun.
LUGHNASADH (August 1st):
The beginning of harvest. The God weakens as the first
grains and fruits are cut. Lughnasadh is a ritual of Thanksgiving. The American
holiday of Thanksgiving is an echo of Pagan European harvest festivals.
If the Pilgrims had planted their crops on time, Thanksgiving would more
closely correspond to the date of Lughnasadh.
Song of Lughnassadh
I am the sovereign splendor of creation
I am the fountain and the courts of bliss
I am the bright surrender of the willpower
I am the watchful guardian and the kiss
I am the many-colored landcape
I am the transmigration of the geese
I am the burnished glory of the breastplate
I am the harbor where all strivings cease
MABON (September 21st):
The 2nd harvest. The God prepares to leave His life behind
Him as the last fruits are gathered to nourish the people of the Earth.
The warmth is lessoning day by day.
Sources for the above summary and also for further reading:
"A Victorian Grimoire", by Patricia Tolesco
"Celtic Myth and Magic", By Edain McCoy
"Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner