Wheel of the Year

The Wheel of the Year is all the Pagan holidays or High Days and Cross quarter days  celebrated in a year. There are four High Days and 4 Cross quarter days making a total of eight celebrations. This is a new pagan tradition started in the 20th century.

Not all ancient cultures celebrated all eight festivals. There was certain ones that were important to them. Remember that the growing season was their life and their survival depended on it. The sun and the length of days held importance. Celebrating the coming back of the sun was a joyous time when the colder months meant the lack of it.

Each turn of the wheel of the sun holds meaning; and marks certain traditions and customs to be performed in that particular time frame. There is a season and a time for everything and certain preparations need to be done so that everything gets done. This prepares your mind and body and internal clock to be set for the growing season. Which is your life.

Think of the ‘wheel” as a wagon wheel with eight spokes. Each spoke represents a festival and as the wheel turns each spoke or festival gets it’s turn. A High Day is the Equinox’s and the Solstice’s. A Cross Quarter Day is the festival celebrated in between the High Day’s.

The High Days and Cross Quarter days are as follows:

Winter Solstice / Yule (High Day)

Imbolc (Cross Quarter Day)

Spring Equinox / Ostara (High Day)

Beltaine (Cross Quarter Day)

Summer Solstice / Midsummer (High Day)

Lughnassadh (Cross Quarter Day)

Autumn Equinox (High Day)

Samhain (Cross Quarter Day)

Each festival has it’s meaning and customs and helps prepare you physically and mentally for each season. Getting your body and mind in sync with the earth will help with all kinds of ailments that we modern people suffer with.

 

 

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Spring Equinox Festival

The festival for the Spring Equinox is held on or about March 21st. This is where the length of day and night are equal. The sun and the length of days were very important to ancient cultures, for their lives depended on the growing season. Thus, it was only natural to hold some sort of ritual to show appreciation through acknowledgement and offerings.

Although, the calendar may say it’s Spring, many regions still have a long way to go before they can get out and prepare for the warmer months. This makes celebrating all the festivals of the modern “Wheel of the Year” very important. It helps you turn your attention ever so slowly through the lengthening of the light of the sun. There is a time and a place and customs for every turn.

The Celts did not celebrate the Spring Equinox as far as a festival goes. But many surrounding cultures did have traditions for welcoming the Spring.

The color green is a given for the greening of the fields. The eggs associated with Easter are another Spring tradition of many cultures. Eggs symbolized fertility. At this time, blessing the land for fertility is important to assure a good growing season. Also, the nature spirits are known for birthing new life in the Spring. Fertility and rabbits abound, and the promise of colorful flowers.

It’s only natural to incorporate these symbols in your life around this time and use them in your rituals. These symbolize the meaning of Spring and acknowledging the Gods and Goddesses and making offerings to them for a good growing season is appropriate.

And after your ritual, whether personal or in the community, feast on the good bounty of food shared by all. Don’t forget to have fun. Enjoy!

https://www.adf.org/rituals/celtic/ostara/index.html

https://www.thoughtco.com/all-about-ostara-the-spring-equinox-2562471

 

 

 

Winter Solstice Festival

The Winter Solstice – where the day is the shortest and the night is the longest of the year.

Why celebrate such an occasion? Why was it a day of significance for our ancestors?

Our ancestors used astronomical events, such as the moon and sun, to guide their activities such as sowing seeds, growing crops, harvesting, monitoring winter reserves, and mating of the animals. Farming, eating, and surviving all depended on this awareness.

Naturally, their spiritual beliefs are tied to nature and the agriculture cycle which are reflected in their rituals and celebrations.

The winter solstice was an event that was seen as the reversal of the suns ebbing presence in the sky which contribute to their concepts of birth, rebirth, and the sun gods. The disappearing sun was of very much concern to them. The sun has been shining less and less at this time and it appears that the sun stands still and doesn’t move for three days in the sky. This would have been alarming for the first humans. A ritual would be needed to coax the sun back.

Indeed, this became a yearly ritual for the rebirth of the sun to warm the earth again.

This time was also used as a rebirth of our own inner self. It was a time for self reflection, rest, rejuvenating from the rigorous growing cycle, and creativity and stories that sparked the imagination.

To celebrate, our ancestors tied stories of the Gods / Goddess into these occasions of change and celebration.  Many Christmas traditions and customs we see today came from the people who celebrated Yule / Winter Solstice / Midwinter. For example the Christmas Tree, wreath, and Yule log, Santa Clause and his reindeer, and the exchanging of presents came from Scandinavian and German culture.  The mistletoe came from the ancient Celtic Druids.

The tree and wreath were from the evergreen tree which symbolized the green of spring and summer. Also, by bringing in evergreen which includes pine, helped to protect against illness (evil spirits). Pine interestingly helps boost immunity and protects respiratory health which is needed in the long winter being cooped up in a house.

Santa Clause came from several cultures around the world. In Scandinavia Odin traveled the midwinter sky on his eight legged horse, Sleipnir, dropping off presents. The Dutch had Sinterklaas.

Caroling came from wassailing door to door singing for the health of neighbors and driving out the evil spirits (illness) from the fields to ensure good crop growth for the coming new growing season.

Indeed, this dark time was a useful time not only to renew the earth but ourselves as well. The evergreens can help us today to think of the spring/summer time and give us hope through the long dark nights. Also, as we have learned, they can help protect us from illness. The winter stories of the customs can be a very joyous time. We can plan for the future, use our imagination, and be creative during this time welcoming the sun back.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/winter_soltice

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/12/winter-solstice-december-year-shortest-day-explained-science/

http://www.quick-good-fortune.com/Winter-Solstice-Magic-Traditions.html

thoughtco.com/christmas-customs-with-pagan-roots-2563021

https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/herbs-and-spices/pine.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Claus

Lughnasadh Festival

Lughnasadh is the beginning of the harvest season. It’s when the first grains and fruits are ready to be picked, consumed, and preserved. This usually takes place around August 1st but does vary from different regions based on culture and beliefs. In the past it was even a month long event.

This festival can be traced to Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man, as well as throughout Northern Europe.

Lughnasadh is also referred to as Lammas; which means “Loaf Mass.” Which makes sense being that the grains are harvested, ground, and baked into loafs.

With this turn in seasons, it’s only natural to get together with the tribe, village, or community to celebrate. These celebrations also served as helping one another out with harvesting and preserving. After all, many hands make light work.

Along with celebration, comes spiritual beliefs. Being thankful for the land and weather for good crops, means life. Another year at surviving. Who can they thank? Their gods and goddesses of course. And along with that comes the stories told from generation to generation. Stories of might, bravery, perseverance, heroic deeds, and magic. These qualities were needed for their survival and their stories helped with instilling that in the people as well as fostering their imagination.

This time was the perfect time for gatherings, religious ceremonies, athletic contests, feasting, match making, and trading. So it was a happy time indeed.

Lughnasadh is named after the Irish sun god, Lugh and nasadh means assembly. The stories say that Lugh started this celebration in remembrance of this his foster mother, Tailtiu. Since Lugh is associated with skill in all things, the funeral games are a popular activity during this celebration. Some stories say this was started because of Lugh’s wedding also.

Who is right? Does that really matter? It’s time to get out in the warm sun and pick the fruits of your labor. It’s time to get together with the community in good companionship and help one another for the big job ahead. And why not thank momma earth, the gods, nature spirits, and the ancestors for the gifts and blessings received.

Have a picnic, feast, do some match making, start a trail marriage, do some trading for more supplies, have a wedding, and enjoy some good natured athletic contests. Soon, the dark time will be upon us once more.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lughnasadh

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lugh

http://www.druidry.org/druid-way/teaching-and-practice/druid-festivals/lughnasadh/deeper-lughnasadh

Summer Solstice Ritual 2017

June 24, 2017

This was my second Summer Solstice Ritual with Northern Rivers ADF. It was held at the yoga center in Adams, NY in a little clearing not far from the house. There were seats for all and and a fire going in the fire pit.

We had pre-ritual where our senior druid explained what was going to happen and asked for volunteers for small ritual parts. We had a very short break and met outside where we gathered for the procession.

It is a thrilling feeling walking with your grove singing the processional song to the ritual area. You can feel the kindreds there with you, especially the ancestors. Its a nice feeling carrying on the tradition of celebrating the Wheel of the Year.

I had the honor of helping the senior druid with the purification by being in charge of the water. I really liked the feeling and felt like this was very natural and somehow I have done this before. I remember looking into a member eyes as I came to her and it was like looking into my own happy eyes. Our eyes locked and I saw such joy emitting from them; the same as I was feeling.

I also had the honor of welcoming the Earth Mother. I welcomed her in a virtual meeting and this was the second time in person. I think that it went much better and felt more natural. I actually wrote the invitation in my own words and it was inspired by an oracle card that I drew a few weeks back. It took a few rewrites and by then it was my own heartfelt invitation.

I paid close attention to how the cosmos was recreated and it made more sense and I guess I’m right on track with that in my own weekly rituals. Things are making more sense as far as understanding the ADF Core Ritual.

In the magical working a member gave her dedicational oath. It was so heartfelt and it was good to see a young person take an oath with such meaning and emotion.

Our Deity of the occasion was Manannan Mac Lir. He is usually our gatekeeper and it was interesting to hear about the sea god and he became more real to me. We decorated a wreath which symbolized the wheel that was lit on fire in times past and rolled on down to the water. The grove decorated the “wheel” with yellow flowers. Some of us crafted flowers out of yarn and paper to use as decorations. We burned the “wheel” in the “sacred fire” and it was a good offering to our sea god.

After the ritual, we had our dinner with simple picnic foods. The only thing that would have made the ritual better, is if two of my friends would have been able to come.

Photo Source: Michele O’Donnell

 

Sun Appreciation

On my days off from work I like to go sit outside to drink my coffee and commune with Mother Earth. I talk to her and Danu and share my coffee with them and sit and contemplate on whatever comes up.

This morning it was badly needed as I had a difficult week dealing with things. I badly needed the sun to heal me and let the light in.

After my short sun mediation, I got to thinking about the ancients and how they worshiped the sun. Not specifically, but generally. I realize the significance now of such things. It kept them grounded to the earth energy and helped them appreciate the life giving energy that we receive on a daily basis.

By turning attention to the sun (and other things), you begin to have a very deep appreciation for these things that we just take for granted everyday. The sun is there for us everyday doing it’s job no matter if we think of it or not. No matter if we are appreciative or hurting our earth. It just does it’s job and waits for us to finally get it. We don’t have to earn it or be worthy of it.

This is a lesson for us to have patience for others. It’s very hard to realize things and have to deal with others who are not there yet. We can’t beat them over the head for them to get it. We cannot withhold our kindness and get angry with them. Also, we don’t have to earn and be worthy of basic human rights like food, housing, safety, education, kindness and respect. So this is my lesson for the trails of last week. We never cease to learn and it’s by paying attention to nature that we learn it. Let’s hope I can put this into practice.

Having appreciation sparks a feeling of protection also. We begin to protect our earth and the vegetation as well as the nature spirits. This is badly needed today. We need to protect our earth for future generations otherwise where would they live. We will be an endangered species.

So how did the ancients pay attention to the sun. I’m sure they greeted the sun every morning. The had their community festivals with their customs and stories. These customs helped bring the community together with a common goal and a deep connection to their ancestors. The stories sparked imagination and inspiration and helped them remember life lessons from generation to generation. Imagination and inspiration are the building blocks of creation. Let’s use them for building a better world. Let’s learn from our mistakes, from the past, and our ancestors. Let’s learn from the lessons of Mother Earth herself.

In modern times we take things for granted and do not think of the sun, moon, dirt, etc as being alive. But alive they are and emitting energy. Life saving energy. Yes, life is busy and full of strife. But lets slow down and concentrate on what really matters. What matters is not things. It’s not about how big and nice your house is. It’s not about how successful you become in business. It’s about people. Being kind, sharing, and compassionate to family and friends. It’s about happiness without harming others. That is what is going to matter at the end of life.

Perhaps by turning our attention to these objects we will once again become aligned with the earth energy and become kinder and more appreciative of others. So yes!! Go outside and greet the sun, talk to the sun, and thank the sun.

Photo Source: Michele O’Donnell