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     The Celtic Fire Festival, Imbolc is celebrated on the 1st of February.  Click the link to read all about it in Lily Wight’s Guide To The Wheel Of The Year.

 

 https://lilywight.com/2013/02/02/imbolc-the-beginners-guide-to-the-wheel-of-the-year/

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Lily Wight

     Samhain – pronounced “sow – inn” and known presently as Halloween – is celebrated from sunset to sunset on 31st October to 1st November.  It is the most important Fire Festival or Sabbat on the ancient Wheel of The Year calendar.

     “Samhain” has been variously translated as “first frost” or “Summer’s end”:  opposing suggestions with the same meaning.  It is the name for November in ancient and modern Gaelic.

     Samhain lies between The Autumn Equinox and The Winter Solstice.  It marks the death of the year and the end of the annual agricultural cycle.  Many ancient cultures throughout The Western Hemisphere regarded Samhain as their New Year’s Eve.

     Samhain is the third and final harvest on The Wheel of The Year calendar.  After Lughnasadh (grain and cereals) and Modron (fruit and vegetables) herding communities drove livestock back from…

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Lily Wight

     Updated 29/04/2014

     Beltane (meaning “bright fire”) or May Day is one of eight festival days marked upon the ancient seasonal calendar known as The Wheel Of The Year.

     Beltane heralds the beginning of Summer as it lies halfway between The Spring Equinox (Ostara) and The Summer Solstice (Litha).  It is a time when daylight hours are long, trees blossom and herding animals are turned out to pasture.

     Beltane was originally observed by the Gaelic people of Ireland, Scotland and The Isle Of Man who performed protective rituals for their crops and livestock whilst The Celtic Tribes of Western Europe and Britain also celebrated mating rituals and male potency.

     Beltane is named for the Celtic Sun God, Bel (Belenos/Belenus) who is associated with West Cornwall, formerly Belerion.  The Romans dubbed him the “British Apollo” and…

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Lily Wight

     Updated for 2015

     Imbolc (pronounced i-MOLK meaning “in the belly”) is one of eight seasonal festivals marked on the ancient calendar known as The Wheel Of The Year.  Imbolc is observed on 1st February each year.

     Imbolc heralds the first stirrings of  Spring as it lies halfway between The Winter Solstice (Yule) and The Spring Equinox (Ostara).  It is a time when days lengthen, new buds and shoots appear and the first lambs are born.

     Imbolc was originally observed by the Gaelic (Irish, Scottish and Manx) people as a vital indicator of a new agricultural year.

     The festival was deemed sacred to the Gaelic goddess Brighid (pronounced breed) the midwife of the year and protector of women, children and newborns. 

     Hearthfire celebrations involved the baking of bannocks; the origin…

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Updated 18/12/2014

     There are four Solar Quarter Days (two equinoxes and two solstices) on The Wheel of The Year calendar.  Yule or The Winter Solstice is celebrated during a twelve day period from December into January.

     Yule commemorates the demise and rebirth of the sun’s powers because The Wheel continues to turn and daylight hours begin to lengthen again beyond The Shortest Day.

     The name “Yule” is thought to derive from the Old Norse ” jólnar”  – a collective term for the gods or “Yule Ones”.   Jólfaðr (Yule Father – interchangeable with All-Father) is one of many names attributed to Odin.  In Old Norse poetry names and terms for Odin are frequently synonymous with celebration and feasting.  Odin The Gift-Giver is undoubtedly the origin of our Santa Claus.

     The Midwinter period between the last harvest (Samhain) and the stirrings of Spring (Imbolc) was a time of hardship for agricultural communities.  A feast of preserved foods and good fellowship whilst celebrating warmth and light would boost morale and inspire hope during a bleak and inhospitable time.

     Homes and halls would be decorated with evergreens to symbolise life’s tenacity in a barren landscape and anticipate the rebirth of Spring.  Spikey holly – with its blood-red berries – represented protection, ivy denoted endurance and mistletoe (for kissing under) symbolised fertility.

     Germanic and Celtic people perceived the mating cycle of their Father and Mother deities in the changing seasons.  At Midwinter the solar god – who passed into The Underworld at Samhain (Halloween) is reincarnated as his own sacred son and “reborn” to the goddess at Yule.

     Yule is also regarded as the season of The Wild Hunt, a supernatural procession of hounds, horses and huntsmen.  Hunt leaders vary, from horned gods to folk heroes, depending on country and culture.  In the United Kingdom hunt leaders include Odin’s equivalent Woden, Gaelic Fairy Folk, Herne The Hunter and King Arthur.

     Hunt leaders, often cursed into service, would manifest in their most violent and dangerous forms to cleanse the realm, both spiritually and physically, by rounding-up stray spirits, changelings, evil folk and wrongdoers.  Early Christian clerics regarded hunt legends as diabolical due to their association with horned gods and hoofed animals.  Controversial Boxing Day Hunts are still enacted throughout the UK today.

     Father Christmas’s supernatural chariot drawn by horned and hoofed reindeer bears association to The Wild Hunt.  Santa is most likely derived from Odin – a giver of gifts to those who are nice – but also, as a Hunt leader, a judge to those who are deemed “naughty”.  In Belgium and The Netherlands Santa Claus is assisted not by Norse Elves but Zwarte Piets; the devilish child-taunting mischief-makers who paint their faces to resemble, you guessed it, the followers of The Hunt.

     However you choose to celebrate remember that Yule is a time to recuperate and re-energise ourselves in preparation for another turn of The Wheel and the coming of a brand new Spring.

 

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     Updated 23/10/2014

     Samhain – pronounced “sow – inn” and known presently as Halloween – is celebrated from sunset to sunset on 31st October to 1st November.  It is the most important Fire Festival or Sabbat on the ancient Wheel of The Year calendar.

     “Samhain” has been variously translated as “first frost” or “Summer’s end”:  opposing suggestions with the same meaning.  It is the name for November in ancient and modern Gaelic.

     Samhain lies between The Autumn Equinox and The Winter Solstice.  It marks the death of the year and the end of the annual agricultural cycle.  Many ancient cultures throughout The Western Hemisphere regarded Samhain as their New Year’s Eve.

     Samhain is the third and final harvest on The Wheel of The Year calendar.  After Lughnasadh (grain and cereals) and Modron (fruit and vegetables) herding communities drove livestock back from Summer pasture to be housed or slaughtered for winter, furthering the festival’s associations with death.  The eighth century scholar, Bede refers to November as the “blood month”.

     According to ancient beliefs the mythic courtship of a god and goddess symbolised the eternal rotation of seasons.  At Samhain the Goddess, in her crone or hag aspect, midwifes the waning or sacrificed God into the Underworld where he will journey until his rebirth at Yule with the promise of Spring. 

     Crone Goddesses, such as Celtic Ceridwen and Greek Hecate, ease transitions and guard borders and crossroads.  They are keepers of arcane wisdom and herbal lore who are associated with broomsticks (for cleansing thresholds) and cauldrons (for brewing natural medicines).  Halloween “witches” are a modern remnant of this frequently misunderstood ancient archetype.

     Sexy Halloween witches owe their style to The Morrígan, the Gaelic Dark Mother or Raven Goddess  who presides over death and battle – akin to the Scandinavian Valkyries.  At Samhain The Morrígan mates with The Dagda (the Gaelic All-Father) to bring creation from chaos.

     Samhain is considered a liminal time; when the veil between the mortal and the preternatural realms – the living and the dead – is at its thinnest.  Ancestors are remembered and honoured with a variety of worldwide customs that continue to this day, such as the Mexican Dia de Los Meurtos or Day of The Dead.

     Costuming for Halloween is an ancient tradition with many possible origins and purposes.  Celebrants may have daubed themselves with ash from ritual bonfires or disguised themselves to confuse, deter or even consort with mischievous otherworldly creatures before parading from house to house to collect donations for the Samhain feast: the likely origin of trick or treating.

     It wouldn’t be Samhain without a pumpkin lantern.  The gourd was the first domesticated plant species and has been used for carving for thousands of years.  Pumpkin lamps were carved with fearsome faces as festival decorations; to light parades and repel unwelcome spirits.  Jack o’ Lantern was another name for will-o’-the-wisp; strange but naturally occurring flares of marsh gas.  Jack o’ Lantern evolved into a folkloric hero who tricks The Devil in a variety of tales.  Barred from the afterlife he roams the world forever, carrying a single ember from the fires of Hell in his pumpkin lamp.

 

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     Updated 29/07/2014

     Lughnasadh (pronounced Loo-na-sah) is one of eight festivals celebrated on the ancient Wheel Of The Year seasonal calendar.  It marks the midpoint between The Summer Solstice and The Autumn Equinox.  It was once observed when the first sheaf of corn was cut and now, most commonly, on 1st August.

     The First Harvest is named for the Irish Sun God, Lugh, who also lends his name to the Modern Irish name for August.  In Gaelic Mythology Lugh held a funeral and athletic games to honour his foster-mother, Tailtiu who died of exhaustion after clearing the land for agriculture.  Tailtiu represents an earth or harvest deity whose labours feed and nurture the people.

     At Lughnasadh tribal people throughout Western Europe and The Northern Hemisphere gave thanks for their grain and cereal harvest and sought blessings for next year’s crop.  The birth, death and rebirth of the cornfield was symbolic of the eternal cycle of all life.

     The Anglo-Saxons referred to The First Harvest as Hlaef-mass, meaning “loaf mass”.  Loaves would be baked in the shape of a corn god then broken and consumed to represent the blessings of his sacrifice.  The practice was adopted by modern Christians who refer to this festival as Lammas.

     Corn dollies, or spirit cages, are traditionally crafted at Lughnasadh to lure and capture crop spirits.  Combine this with the often misconstrued concept of sacrifice and you have the plot for The Wicker Man!

     It was common in agrarian societies for a god and goddess to marry at Beltane (1st May) and conceive a child to represent the new year and it’s harvest cycle.  In Folklore the father god “John Barleycorn” is “sacrificed” at Lughnasadh to nourish the bountiful goddess, her child and the people.  This is still reenacted today via the burning of a cornstalk effigy (not Edward Woodward).  Sometimes a bull would be sacrificed in the fields for a celebratory feast. 

     Today the people of Ireland still honour Lugh’s prowess by climbing closer to the sun, at the summit of Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, to gather bilberries for celebration foods and wine. 

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