THE CELTIC WHEEL OF THE YEAR
(Around Dec. 21)
Yule/Alban Arthan; coincides closely with the Cristian Christmas celebration. This Sabbat represents the rebirth of light. Here, on the longest night of the year,the Goddess gives birth to the Sun Child and hope for new light is reborn. Yule is a time of awakening to new goals and leaving old regrets behind. The Christian tradition of a Christmas tree has it's origins in the Pagan Yule celebration. Pagan families would bring a live tree into the home so the wood spirits would have a place to keep warm during the cold winter months. Bells were hung in the limbs so you could tell when a spirit was present. Food and treats were hung on the branches for the spirits to eat and a five-pointed star, the pentagram, symbol of the five elements, was placed atop the tree. The colors of the season, red and green, also are of pagan origin, as is the custom of exchanging gifts. A Solar festival, Yule is celebrated by fire and the use of a Yule log. A peice of the log is saved and kept throughout the year to protect the home. That piece is used to light the next year's log.
Candlemas/Imbolic; involves celebrations of banishing the winter and welcoming the spring. At the time of Candlemas, the newborn Sun God is seen as a small child nursing from his Mother. At this phase of the cycle, winter is swept away and new beginings are nurtured. Some Wiccan groups favor this time of the year for initiations into the Craft. It is traditional at Candlemas to light every lamp in the house for a few minutes in honor of the Sun's rebirth.
(Around March 21)
Ostara/Vernal(spring)Equinox/Alban Eiler; is the point of equilibrium-the balance is suspended just before spring bursts forth from winter. The God and Goddess are young children at play and holiday festivals use brightly colored eggs to represent the child within. Ostara is a time for collecting wildflowers, walking in nature's beauty and cultivating herb gardens. This is the time to free yourself from anything in the past that is holding you back.
(April 30/Mayday is celebrated on the first of May.)
Beltane/Mayday/Bealtinne; is the time of the sacred marriage which honors the fertility of the Earth; it represents the divine union of the Lord and Lady. Celebrations include weaving a web of life around the Maypole and leaping the Beltane fire for luck. Wiccan handfastings are common at this festival. This is a time of self-discovery, love, union and developing your potential for personal growth.
(Around June 21)
Midsummer/Alban Hefin/The Summer Solstice, the longest day, is a time of triumph for the light. This holiday represents the Sun King in all his glory. In many Wiccan celebrations, this is when the Oak King, who represents the waxing year, is triumphed over by the Holly King, who represents the waning year. The two are one; the Oak King is the growing youth while the Holly King is the mature man. Healings and love magick are especially suitable at this time. Midsummer Night's Eve is supposed to be a good time to commune with field and forest sprites and faeries.
(August 2nd/Lughnassadh, the Celtic festival of the Sun God, is held on the 7th.)
This is the celebration of the first fruits of the harvest. The Sun King, now the Dark Lord, gives his energy to the crops to ensure life while the Mother prepares to give way to her aspect as the Crone. Now is the time to teach what you have learned, to share the fruits of your achievements with the world. Wheat weaving, such as the making of corn dollies, is traditional. Bread is baked and the altar is decorated with fruits and vegetables of the harvest.
(Around Sept. 21)
Autumn Equinox/Mabon/Alban Elfed; It is at this time that the days and nights are equal. It is a time of balance, but light gives way to increased darkness. It is the second harvest, and the Goddess mourns her fallen consort, but the emphasis is on the message of rebirth that can be found in the harvest seeds, It is a good time to walk the forests, gathering dried plants for use as altar decorations or herbal magick. Cornbread and cider are good additions to festivities and fall leaves make good altar decorations.
Samhain/Shadowfest/Martinmas; popularly known as Halloween, is the Witch's New Year. It is said to be the time when the veil between worlds is very thin, when souls that are leaving this phisical plane can pass out and souls that are reincarnating can pass in.
Darkness increases and the Goddess reigns as the Crone, part of the three-in-one that also includes the Maiden and Mother.
The God, the Dark Lord, passes into the underworld to become the seed of his own rebirth(which will occur again at Yule).
Many Pagans prepare a Feast fpr the Dead on Samhain night, where they leave offerings of food and drink for the spirits.
Divination is heightened this night. Jack-o-lanterns, gourds, cider, fall foliage can be used as altar decorations.
You can learn more about the beliefs and practices of the Celts from my book, which is available at http://i.am/celticshaman
Copyright 1995 Cougar SilverMoon
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