Wiccan / Pagan Holidays



October 31 -- Samhain
Also known as: November Eve, Feast of the Dead, Feast of Apples, Hallows, or All Hallows Eve.

Samhain means Summer's End for now nights lengthen, winter begins, and we work with the positive aspects of the dark tides as the Sun God and earth fall into slumber. In the increasing star and moonlight of longer nights, many hone their divinatory and psychic skills as the aid of spirits and guides from the other world can easily be enlisted at this time. Many Craft traditions as well as the ancient Celts considered this date as New Years Eve. It is the one night when the veil that separates our world from the next is at its thinnest allowing the dead to return to the world of the living where their spirit and memory is welcomed and celebrated by a feast attended by their kin. In some places and traditions, this was also the time when animals were harvested to ensure food throughout the winter.

The Christian religion adopted this theme as All Saints Day, or All Hallows Day (Nov. 1), celebrating the eve as All Hallows Eve or Halloween. Because of the superstition and misconception associated with this holiday by the early church, people have taken many precautions to protect themselves during this time. They adopted the tradition of dressing in frightening costumes or disguises and displaying their Jack-O-Lanterns. In the British Isles, great bonfires blazed for the Celtic festival of Samhain. The young people would disguise themselves with hideous masks and walk through the village carrying lanterns made from carved turnips. The alternative date of November 6 ('Martinmas ' or 'Old Hallows ') is sometimes employed by Covens.

Traditional Foods:
Apples, Pears, Pomegranates, All Grains, Pumpkin-pie, Hazelnuts, Cakes for the dead, Corn, Cranberry muffins and breads, Ale, Cider, Herbal teas (especially Mugwort) and Meat unless vegetarian and then tofu will do.

Herbs:
Calendula, Cosmos, Chrysanthemum, Wormwood, Hazel, Thistle.

Incense:
Mint, Heliotrope, Nutmeg, Sage or Floral's.

Woods and Herbs Burned:
Apple, Heliotrope, Mint, Nutmeg, Sage

Sacred Gemstone:
Aquamarine

For further information on rites and rituals to celebrate this holiday, see the following books:
A guide for the solitary practitioner by Scott Cunningham.
Everyday Wicca by Gerina Dunwich.
To Ride A Silver Broomstick by Silver Ravenwolf.
Celtic Magic by D.J. Conway

However you choose to celebrate Samhain, be adventurous and investigate some of the older traditions... There is a large amount of interesting and sometimes comical lore surrounding this date.




December 21 -- Winter Solstice -- Yule
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 seed point of the solar year, mid-winter, time of greatest darkness when we seek within ourselves to comprehend our true nature.

In virtually all Pagan religions, this is the night the Great Mother Goddess gives birth to the baby Sun God and from this day forward, the days begin to lengthen, light is waxing. The ancient Pagans lit fires or candles to welcome the Sun's returning light and the onset of nature and the earth beginning to awaken although the Goddess was believed to be resting after her delivery since this is the shortest day of the year... Yule is the remnant of early rituals celebrated to hurry the end of winter and the bounty of spring, when food was once again readily available. Modern Pagans celebrate Yule as a reminder that the ultimate product of death is rebirth, a comforting thought in these days of unrest.

The Christian religion adopted this theme as the birthday of Jesus, calling it Christmas and celebrating the birth of Jesus. The alternative fixed calendar date of December 25th (called Old Yule by some Covens) occurs because before various calendar changes, that was the date of the solstice.

Traditional Foods:
Fruits such as Pears, Apples and Oranges are served as well as Ginger tea, Cider and Pork. These items can be prepared and served in many different ways.

Herbs and Flowers:
Holly, Mistletoe, Ivy, Cedar, Bay, Juniper, Rosemary, Pine.

Incense:
Lilac, Bayberry, Cedar, Pine, Rosemary.

Woods and Herbs Burned:
Cedar, Rosemary, Pine, Rosemary.

Sacred Gemstone:
Topaz

Special Activities:
Decorate a Yule tree. This is a living tree which is potted and will later be planted outside. Make decorations of fragrant spices, garlands, strings of popcorn, dried rosebuds, cinnamon sticks and crystals hung from thread. Try to use only natural products which celebrate the natural beauty of the earth and nature around us. This may take some pre planning and the collection of items throughout the seasons.




February 2 -- Imbolc
Also known as: Oimelc, Candlemas, St Brigit's Day.

Actually, this holiday is most usually celebrated beginning at sundown on February 1 and continuing through the day of February 2. Imbolc means in the belly of the Mother because that is where seeds are beginning to stir as it is Spring.

Another name for this holiday is Oimelc, meaning milk of ewes since it is also the traditional lambing season in the old world. This holiday is especially sacred to the Celtic Fire Goddess, Brigit, patron of smithcraft, healing, midwifery, and poetry.

A Covens High Priestess may wear a crown of lights (candles) to symbolize the return of the Goddess to her Maiden aspect, just as the Sun God has reached puberty. Weather lore associated with this sabbat is retained by the folk holiday of Groundhog's Day.

The Christian religion adopted a number of these themes, as follows: February 1 became St. Brigit's Day, and February 2 became Candlemas, the day to make and bless candles for the liturgical year. The 'Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary ' adapts the Maiden Goddess theme. The alternative date of February 14 Old Candlemas, Christianized as Valentine's Day is employed by some Covens.

Traditional Foods:
All foods from the Dairy including cheese or sour cream ect... Also Curries and all dishes made with peppers, onions, shallots, garlic and chives are fine. Foods symbolic of the Sun are also appropriate.

Herbs and Flowers:
Violet, Primrose, Snowdrop, Rowan, All of the first flowers of the year.

Incense:
Lilac

Sacred Gemstone:
Amethyst

Special Activities:
Light Candles or lamps in each room of the house right after sunset for a few minutes to honor the Sun's rebirth.




March 21 -- Ostara -- Spring or Vernal Equinox
Also known as: Lady Day, Alban Eiler (Druidic)

As Spring reaches its midpoint, night and day stand in perfect balance, with light on the increase. The young Sun God now celebrates a hierogamy (sacred marriage) with the young Maiden Goddess, who conceives. In nine months, she will again become the Great Mother. It is a time of great fertility, new growth, and newborn animals.

The next full moon (a time of increased births) is called the Ostara and is sacred to Eostre the Saxon Lunar Goddess of fertility (from whence we get the word estrogen, whose two symbols were the egg and the rabbit.

The Christian religion adopted these emblems for Easter which is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox. The theme of the conception of the Goddess was adapted as the Feast of the Annunciation, occurring on the alternative fixed calendar date of March 25 Old Lady Day, the earlier date of the equinox. Lady Day may also refer to other goddesses (such as Venus and Aphrodite), many of whom have festivals celebrated at this time.

Traditional Foods:
Leafy green vegetables, Dairy foods, Nuts such as Pumpkin, Sunflower and Pine. Flower Dishes and Sprouts.

Herbs and Flowers:
Daffodil, Jonquils, Woodruff, Violet, Gorse, Olive, Peony, Iris, Narcissus and all spring flowers.

Incense:
Jasmine, Rose, Strawberry, Floral of any type

Sacred Gemstone:
Jasper

Special Activities:
Planting seeds or starting a Magickal Herb Garden. Taking a long walk in nature with no intent other than reflecting on the Magick of nature and our Great Mother and her bounty.




April 30 -- Beltane
Also known as: Roodmas, Walpurga, May Day.

Beltane means Fire of Bel, Belinos being one name for the Sun God, whose coronation feast we now celebrate. As summer begins, weather becomes warmer, and the plant world blossoms, an exuberant mood prevails. In old Celtic traditions it was a time of unabashed sexuality and promiscuity but it is rarely observed in that manner in modern times. Young people would spend the entire night in the woods A-Maying, and dance around the phallic Maypole the next morning. Older married couples may remove their wedding rings (and the restrictions they imply) for this one night.

May morning is a magical time for wild water (dew, flowing streams, and springs) which is collected and used to bathe in for beauty, or to drink for health. The Christian religion had only a poor substitute for the life-affirming Maypole -- namely, the death-affirming cross. Hence, in the Christian calendar this was celebrated as 'Roodmas '. In Germany, it was the feast of Saint Walpurga, or 'Walpurgisnacht '. An alternative date around May 5 (Old Beltane), when the sun reaches 15 degrees Taurus, is sometimes employed by Covens. Both 'Lady Day ' and 'Ostara ' are names incorrectly assigned to this holiday by some modern traditions of Wicca.

Traditional Foods:
Dairy Product, Oatmeal Cookies and Cakes or Marigold Custard are traditional.

Herbs and Flowers:
Lily of the Valley, Hawthorn, Honeysuckle, St. John's Wort, Woodruff and all flowers.

Incense:
Bayberry, Frankincense, Lilac, Rose.

Sacred Gemstone:
Agate

Special Activities:
Weather permitting, this is a day to spend outside in celebration of the warming energy of life. Traditionally weaving or braiding are done at this time where the joining of two objects to create one is done to symbolize the joining of the Lord and Lady.




June 21 -- Summer Solstice -- Litha
Also known as: Alban Heruin (Druidic)

Although the name Litha is not well attested, it may come from Saxon tradition -- the opposite of Yule. On this longest day of the year, light and life are abundant. At mid-summer, the Sun God has reached the moment of his greatest strength. Seated on his greenwood throne, he is also lord of the forests, and his face is seen in church architecture peering from countless foliate masks.

The Christian religion converted this day of Jack-in-the-Green to the Feast of St. John the Baptist, often portraying him in rustic attire, sometimes with horns and cloven feet (like the Greek god Pan)!

Midsummer Night's Eve is also special for adherents of the Faerie faith. The alternative fixed calendar date of June 25 (Old Litha) is sometimes employed by Covens. The name Beltane is sometimes incorrectly assigned to this holiday by some modern traditions of Wicca, even though Beltane is the Gaelic word for May.

Traditional Foods:
Garden fresh fruits and vegetables are made into a variety of dishes and eaten by Pagan's who choose to celebrate this day.

Herbs and Flowers:
Mugwort, Vervain, Chamomile, Rose, Honeysuckle, Lily, Oak, Lavender, Ivy, Yarrow, Fern, Elder, Wild Thyme, Daisy, Carnation.

Incense:
Lemon, Myrrh, Pine, Rose, Wisteria.

Woods Burned:
Oak

Sacred Gemstone:
Emerald

Special Activities:
An Ideal time to reaffirm your vows to the Lord and Lady or your dedication to following the old traditions.




July 31st -- Lughnasadh
Also known as: Lunasa, Lammas, August Eve, Feast of Bread, Harvest Home.

Lughnasadh means the funeral games of Lugh (pronounced Loo), referring to Lugh, the Irish sun god. However, the funeral is not his own, but the funeral games he hosts in honor of his foster-mother Tailte. For that reason, the traditional Tailtean craft fairs and Tailtean marriages (which last for a year and a day) are celebrated at this time.

This day originally coincided with the first reapings of the harvest. It was known as the time when the plants of spring wither and drop their fruits or seeds for our use as well as to ensure future crops.

As autumn begins, the Sun God enters his old age, but is not yet dead. The God symbolically loses some of his strength as the Sun rises farther in the South each day and the nights grow longer. The Christian religion adopted this theme and called it 'Lammas ', meaning 'loaf-mass ', a time when newly baked loaves of bread are placed on the altar. An alternative date around August 5 (Old Lammas), when the sun reaches 15 degrees Leo, is sometimes employed by Covens.

Traditional Foods:
Apples, Grains, Breads and Berries.

Herbs and Flowers:
All Grains, Grapes, Heather, Blackberries, Sloe, Crab Apples, Pears.

Incense:
Aloes, Rose, Sandalwood.

Sacred Gemstone:
Carnelian.

Special Activities:
As summer passes, many Pagans celebrate this time to remember its warmth and bounty in a celebrated feast shared with family or Coven members. Save and plant the seeds from the fruits consumed during the feast or ritual. If they sprout, grow the plant or tree with love and as a symbol of your connection with the Lord and Lady. Walk through the fields and orchards or spend time along springs, creeks, rivers, ponds and lakes reflecting on the bounty and love of the Lord and Lady.




September 21st Autumnal Equinox or Mabon
Also known as: Alban Elved (Druidic)

In many mythologies, this is the day the Sun God, the God of Light is killed by his rival and dark twin the God of Darkness -- who was born at Midsummer, reached puberty at Lammas, and lives a mirror-image life of the Sun God.

Once again, day and night are equal, but from this mid-autumn day forward, darkness will be greater than light as night becomes longer than day. The God prepares to leave his physical body beginning the great adventure into the unseen toward renewal and rebirth of the Goddess. At this time, nature and the earth decline, drawing back their bounty readying for winter and its time of rest. The Goddess acknowledges the weakening Sun now although a fire burns within her womb. She feels the presence of the God even as he wanes.

The colorful Pagan symbolism is quite interesting at this time in that it can be felt through the emerging colors of autumn. The Autumn Equinox marks the completion of the traditional harvests began at Lughnasadh for this is the final grain harvest of John Barleycorn.

The Christian religion adopted it as Michaelmas, celebrated on the alternative date of September 25, the old equinox date (Old Harvest Home). The Welsh word Mabon, meaning son, is used by some Witches for the name of this holiday, although such usage is recent and not attested historically.

Traditional Foods:
Corn, or any other Fruits and Vegetables which are ready for harvest this time of year are important to the celebrating Pagan, traditional favorites are Corn bread and baked Beans and or Squash.

Herbs and Flowers:
Morning Glories, Asters, Hazel, Corn, Aspen, Acorns, Oak Sprigs, Wheat Stalks, Cypress Cones, Pine Cones and all Harvest Gleanings.

Incense:
Benzoin, Myrrh, Sage.

Sacred Gemstone:
Chrysolite

Special Activities:
This is a time to harvest seeds, pods and dried plants and herbs. A nice way of celebrating would be to help the birds and squirrels of your yard. Leave out a sprinkling of seeds and nuts to feed them. It will help them prepare for the long winter ahead and strengthen your connection and bond with them.

I hope this has helped you understand the Wiccan/Pagan seasonal holidays and given some ideas on how to celebrate them.

Gentle Breezes!

Herne


Copyright 1997-98 Herne and The Celtic Connection, http://www.wicca.com This document may be used freely as long as we are notified of its use, this notice remains as part of the document, it is not edited and no fee is charged for access.


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