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Home Beginning Wicca, Classes, Witch Lesson 7: Holidays


Lesson 7: Holidays

Message: Lesson 7, part 1: Holidays
Author: Teacher – Daven Iceni

Date: Aug 25, 2000 11:17

Lesson 7, part 1: Holidays

Okay, here we get into a subject that causes a LOT of debate within the Pagan community and within the academic community as well. When are the Holidays and what do they symbolize?

Most pagans agree that there are eight main holidays (at least for Modern Pagans) and 13 minor celebrations, like church on Sunday. I will attempt to break them down and tell you what they mean.

First, you have to look at what came before. For the Celts, from the evidences we have, there were only 4 holy days. One for each season, and they generally marked the beginning of the season. Don’t ask me how they calculated these, I have no idea nor do many of the scholars that are studying the Celtic culture.

(Disclaimer: I will be focusing on the Celtic/Druidic/NeoPagan holidays here. There are different holidays for every religious way out there, but since very few of them overlap, it would be impossible for me to delineate them all and tell you about them. This is not done to exclude anyone, it just makes it easier on me.)

These four holidays of the Celts became known as the “Fire Festivals” and they usually meant a riotous celebration, lots of feasting, rekindling the fires from the Sacred Fires at the rite, and a transition time from one state to another.

These four Fire Festivals are known amongst the Celts as Samhain (New Year’s, October 31st), Imbolic (The Festival of Candles, January 31), Beltane (Beginning of Spring, April 30) and Lughnassdad (Lugh’s Day, July 31).

It has been stated in some sources I have read that the holidays are designed on a Solar Cycle, and the Full Moon rites are designed on a Lunar Cycle. I have seen this, and will accede that the persons stating this are stating their beliefs, just as I am. But this statement does violence to my intellect and to my soul. I’ll discuss this later.

If one takes this cycle of holidays as a given, the rites celebrated in Ancient Times, we can see how they are equally spaced throughout the year. Each Holiday is exactly 3 months from the preceding one. It can also be seen as a celebration delineating the different seasons. Also the mating patterns of the animals (both domestic and wild) and the harvesting of plants.

If one takes Samhain, one can see how it may be a celebration for the gathering in of a good harvest. In fact Samhain is supposedly THE harvest festival. It’s quite a number of other things as well, which we will look at later. So, Imbolic could be seen as the first hints of Spring, after the Winter and the birth of the wild animals, Beltane as the start of Summer, and the mating of Domestic animals (thus the fertility rites) and the planting of crops, and Lughnassdad is the start of Autumn, the birthing of domestic stock.

These natural cycles were of critical importance and you will begin to see an emphasis on “natural cycles” as we go through the lessons and get into more than just the basics.

So, where did the rest of the holidays come from? Good question. No one knows, but there are some educated guesses.

The Druids were skilled astronomers, as the Cologny Calendar will attest. It is assumed that the Drui saw the ways the heavens moved, noted that the Sun rose and set in different places every day, and that the days got longer and shorter as the year passed. Thus through their calculations they discovered the Solstices and Equinoxes. Since the Druids left no written records, this is all that we can assume.

So, sometime after the Romans withdrew from Europe, those who were left saw the Solstices and Equinoxes and decided to celebrate them as well. Added to the Fire Festivals we now have a major celebration hitting every 1 1/2 months, and the new celebration would mark the middle of the season. Which is how you get names like “Midwinter” and “Midsummer”.

The Celtic names for these holidays are Yule (Midwinter, Dec 21), Ostara (Spring Equinox March 21), Litha (Midsummer, June 21) and Mabon (Autumn Equinox, September 21). These are also known as the “Cross Quarters” collectively (Silver RavenWolf not withstanding. She gets these reversed in her books).

All of these “Solar holidays” are known in Pagan Circles as the Sabbats (pronounced as it looks) and the Full Moon rites (or Moons) are known as the Esbat (ez-bat) rites. Actually, an Esbat can be any meeting of a group or any working ritual.

Usually on the Moon celebrations, there is the worship service, and various magickal rites are done for the group. Things like healings, spells for prosperity, consecration of an item, handfastings and initiations are the types of things that happen at an Esbat. Usually no workings are done on the Sabbats, simply because the worship is what is important on that day. Usually anything can be put off until the next Esbat time.

One of the reasons for this division between working times and holidays is simple, Wicca is a religion, and as such the worship is first. But we don’t know how the different moons and Esbats were celebrated by the Druids.

I have a book in my possession that gives rites for all 13 full moons thought the year, it’s called “A Year of Moons, a Season of Trees” by Pattalee Glass-Koentop, a good friend and nice lady. It’s a good look into the “working” rituals and themes that could be attributed to each of the moons. It also follows a Celtic Ogham flavor, in that each Esbat is associated with a tree, and an Ogham symbol.

Unfortunately, it’s out of print now, but I’m sure that if you look you can find a copy. Contact me about the corrections that need to be made in the book if you do find it.

Now, next time we will look at how the Sabbats interact with each other, and put them on a wheel of the year, and look at each Sabbat individually.

Assignment: Take out your notebooks, and write down the Sabbat names. Out next to them I want you to list what each holiday feels like to you given the time of year. You know what I mean. The “ambiance” of the time of the year. What does “Samhain” or Halloween feel like during that time period? Is there excitement, disarray, or what? Write that down and then tell me what, given the feel of the time of year, you think that Sabbat would represent.

Post the list at my domus and once I have them all, I will share them with the class.

And, as always, post your questions here or at my house if you are shy. LOL

Message: From CathPulug
Author: Comments – Daven Iceni

Date: Aug 26, 2000 17:19

Dydh Da Daven!
I was just reading your ‘festivals’ post on Iona, and although I agree with some of the things you say, (and not with others), I was curious as to the names you gave the solstices’ and equinox’s (sic?!?)

Just purely out of curiosity I’d like to know their background, as I’ve always called the celestial festivals the ‘Albans’, ‘Points’;

Alban Elved; ‘point of reaping’ (Autumn E)
Alban Arthuan; ‘point of roughness’ (Winter S)
Alban Eilin; ‘point of regeneration’ (Spring E)
Alban Hevin; ‘point of summer’ (Summer S)

I must confess (to my shame!) that I myself am not sure as to ‘why’ I call them this, just surmising that they are Gaelic/Welsh/Cornish. . .

Perhaps you could shed light on this too? If this is not too much bother!!
Many thanks!
CathPulug Iceni

Okay, I called the holidays this because this is accepted Celtic Wicca Practice.  Now, I know that many other people call the individual holidays different names, and there is no right or wrong in this.  However, most people in the Wiccan/Druidic practices call these holidays these names, or close variants of them.

The different traditions names I will explore more in depth in the next lesson.

Message: Albans…
Author: Ollahm Cainte – Draconis CuChulainn

Date: Aug 29, 2000 11:09

From my understanding, the Alban names for the Sabbats comes from Arthurian legends and practices.  Those who follow the Legend of Aurthor and his Cycle.  A lot of OBOD folks use these names, as their ritual is very romanticized with Aurthor and Excalibur legends.

Message: Congratulations Fleury,
Author: Teacher – Daven Iceni
Date: Sep 5, 2000 21:26

you are the only one to turn in your assignment. So, out of about 15 students, and Gods only know how many lurkers, why is this?

I understand that some of you are new to this class, and I understand that you have a lot of catch up to do. But Mu, Rona, Dolphina? What happened? Is it something I can correct?

Anyhow, here is Fleury’s assignment. See how it lines up with the next post.


For me it is a time of endings and beginnings. The leaves are dry and crunch beneath your shoes and the trees are bare skeletons against the starry skies. The nights are longer and a chill is in the air, forewarning of first snows and arctic winds. (Once again, perhaps that is the Canadian aspect but I know what I know! LOL) But this is my favorite time of year (call me morbid) but the nights are crisp, the moon seems bigger as it rises in the night sky. The first snow is still a thing of beauty (until the 18th snow and then it begins to lose its allure) and something to look forward to. I usually reflect on the summer just past and give my thanks for experiences both bad and good and then make my preparations for the coming winter.

To me, when I think of Yule it represents the long dark and the need for family to pull together during the coldest, darkest days and protect as well as help entertain each other. Pulling together of resources (i.e., food and shelter) and of spirit. Sitting around a roaring fire and not worrying about the cold winds blowing outside… For me it represents togetherness. (But perhaps that is just the cold blooded Canadian in me! *grin*)


To me it is smack dab in the middle of winter and it represents the time when spirits need raising the most. Winter has really only just begun but the months of snow ahead are a little depressing when one really thinks about it. The days are getting a little longer but they are also at their coldest so people still stay inside more… To me Imbolic is a time of necessary rejuvenation.


For the most part for me it means a renewal… a rebirth perhaps. Being Canadian, we have very long and cold winters, but the Spring Equinox is usually the first real sign of spring… we usually still have some snow and will undoubtedly get more still but there is a whole feeling of the end of the coldness and darkness of winter and hopes of a warm and fruitful summer ahead.


Always has been and always will be a time of joy, rebirth, fertility and renewal. Gardens are being planted, the green grass is beginning to overwhelm the dead stuff from last year. Children begin playing in the streets and people will actually smile at total strangers on the street for no reason. Not everyone is aware of the power that this time of year holds or is even conscious of the changes in themselves but everyone falls victim to its overwhelming feeling of rebirth and happiness.


I think of the long light and the freedom that comes with the longest day, but I also begin to think ahead to the days growing shorter… its a time of transition for me. I celebrate it with a long walk and a visit to a huge and ancient oak tree but part of me is sad to know that the year begins to wane from herein and the darkness comes a little bit earlier each night.


For me this falls in the middle of the heat of summer. It represents the peak of life and the fruits of ones labor. Gardens are beginning to offer their bounty and although the days are getting slowly shorter its hardly noticed in the intense heat (at least in Canada) The earlier nights are actually a welcome time to gather together in the shade and feel the temperature slowly decline and watch the sun set into a magnificent fire of reds and purples. It makes one ponder the summer already gone and the summer still yet to unfold.

A symbol of the beginning of harvest but for me it is especially a time of great beauty. Fall is my favorite time of the year. In my little part of the world the leaves are in full explosion of color as they hit their peak of orange, yellow and red. But it is also forewarns of what to come as the beautiful leaves fall to the ground before you…

~~~~~~~Fleury CuChulainn

Message: Sorry guys,
Author: pentatant – Daven Iceni

Date: Sep 5, 2000 21:33

I’m feeling a bit depressed today, ignore the last remarks.  I understand that we all have day jobs and lives, so forgive me.


Message: Lesson 7, Part 2: Holidays, in depth
Author: Teacher – Daven Iceni

Date: Sep 5, 2000 21:46

Okay, last time we looked at the holidays, and so far, I have one (count them, one) completed assignment back to me. So we will go on to the next part of the lesson here.

Start of standard disclaimer: This is what I have learned and what has been published in many books. There is no one right way to celebrate these holidays, nor is there one standard way of naming these, or some overriding symbolism for these. This is what has been passed down through many years of serious scholarly work in the Pagan and Wiccan community, and I put it here for your edification and your use. Do as you will, but at least you will know what someone is referring to when they say “Imbolic”. Also, these are just quick descriptions of the celebrations. If I have more information, I will provide links to them after the body of the holiday.


Pronounced Sow-wane. Starts on sunset October 31st and goes to Sunset November 1st. Other names include, Hallow’een, Shadowfest (Strega), Martinmas or Old Hallowmas (Scottish). This is the official start of the New Year, as far as most Wiccan/Pagan festivals are concerned. While we do still follow the Gregorian calendar, some reckon their Coven’s time by this standard.

The associations usually given to this holiday are the last harvest fest, and the fact that this night, of all on the calendar is one of the most “spiritually active”. As such, it is associated with the Dead. It is not only a death holiday (where the dearly departed are welcomed back to celebrate with us) but also to welcome in the new year, before the winter snows close in to isolate us in their snowy cocoons.

In many cases, this is the last time that some celebrants can get together to associate with family before remote farms are isolated to the point where they can’t leave it. The harvest has been gathered in and the the Summer is over, but it is also a hopeful celebration to see what the next year will bring.

Divination was also commonly performed on this night, to see just what the new year would bring to the person asking.

Because of all these associations, Samhain was THE most important celebration of the Celts. It marked the end of one phase and the beginning of another. It marked the transition from the Gentle Goddess to the Harsh God for their livelihood. Some (like Graves, I think) mark this holiday as the ONLY Fire Festival, and even if no other fires were extinguished and re-kindled, all the fires would be on this night.

More Information:

Mike Nichol’s interpretation of Samhain
Isaac Bonewits’ thoughts on the True Origin of Halloween

Yule, or Midwinter

Called Midwinter, Yuletide (Teutonic), Winter Solstice. Usually falls on December 20-22 due to astrological changes from year to year, although I celebrate it on Dec 21. In my personal tradition, the Lady retires for the Winter, to sleep and relax after a long summer of work.

I think probably the most well-known tradition that comes out of this holiday is the “Twelve Days of Christmas” and the time of gift giving. The 12 days start on the 21 and last until January 2. Usually this was a time for the village to get together and have a feast in each person’s home on each different night. Also tokens were exchanged and a party came out of it.

Most of the current Pagan Crop celebrate Midwinter as the death of the old God (the Oak King) and the birth of the new God (The Holly King). To this end, there are often plays and other themed celebrations. It’s also one of the reasons that Holly is associated with this celebration.

The Druids apparently held this season sacred as well. On the night of the sixth Moon, (I don’t know what that translates to in Gregorian terms) they would cut Mistletoe down out of the Oak with a golden sickle for use as a magickal aphrodisiac.

More Info:

Mike Nichols on YuleAs I am researching this document, I am finding that I may be in error. While most of the Druidic sites that I have seen list the Fire Festivals as Samhain, Imbolic, Beltane, and Lughnasadh, there are some that are listing it as the Solstices and Equinoxes. I have no explanation for this, other than to say that in just about every practicing Druidic tradition that I have run across, the way I cite the Fire Festivals is accurate to their practice. And we (The Ollamh of Iona) have researched this to the point where the Fire Festivals are not in contention. So until further notice, use the Fire Festivals that I give you here. And if you can find REPUTABLE evidence that we are incorrect, we would be glad to see it.

Imbolic, The Festival of Lights

Called Oimelc (some Celtic traditions), Candlemas (Celtic Christianity) and Lupercus (Strega) Usually celebrated on Jan 31 to Feb 2. The reason for the variation is usually personal preference. Most seem to celebrate it on February 1st. This festival marks the mid point for the “winter months”. More accurately, it marks the mid point for the Lord’s leadership of the people. If one accecepts as a given that the Lord starts his tenure on Samhain, then this is three months into that tenure, or half way. In my tradition, this is the time when the Lord is getting tired and weak, and needs our support to help Him in his task.

However, in classical definitions, this is the High Feast to Brigid. The Lady of Fire. This was especially important to the Druids. Once again, we see a fire association here, one in which Brigid Herself blesses the house by showing her favor through divination and the burning of a rod of hazel, through leaving a mark of her blessing in either a footprint or a swan’s footprint in the ashes of the hearth, or by having her “bed” disturbed and slept in. And weather lore would be looked upon on this day.

This tradition continues in Groundhog Day. Ever wonder where this quaint custom came from? Well, straight from this pagan holiday. From Mike Nichols and the celebration of Candlemas:

This custom is ancient. An old British rhyme tells us that ‘If Candlemas Day be bright and clear, there’ll be two winters in the year.’ Actually, all of the cross-quarter days can be used as ‘inverse’ weather predictors, whereas the quarter-days are used as ‘direct’ weather predictors.

More Information:

About.Com’s Imbolic/Candlemas resources
Mike Nichols’ Imbolic Article Come on, you had to know it was coming….


Called Spring Equinox, and Alban Eiler (Caledonii). Usually celebrated on the actual equinox itself, in other words, March 20-22. I usually wind up celebrating it on the 21st myself. This is the day (in my tradition) that the Lady awakes from her winter sleep. Once again, She is re-united with the Lord and the Earth starts awakening from the winter sleep.

If you, as a pagan, look closely with the major Christian holiday associated with this time, you may hurt yourself laughing. One wonders, what rabbits and eggs have to do with the Death of Christ. Well, if you know the pagan origins, it becomes obvious.

This is a fertility celebration. Nothing more. The Roman Catholic church may have picked this date for the angels to tell Mary about her pregnancy, which is fertility in and of itself. But the main thrust of this holiday is fertility.

Most times, and I can find no ancient references to this, the Goddess Ostara is invoked and blessed. If there were to be any celebrations in which the people would wind up in each other’s beds, this would be the night for it. The fertility of the Land and the Animals is important on this day, so haul out all those seeds and bless them on your altar, or pray over your cat… I promise you, you’ll get a crateful of cats in return.

More Information:

http://outer-rim.lweb.net/mythos/easter.html http://www.paganvillages.com/Goddess/lexiana/ostara.html
Mike Nichols’ Lady Day Celebration


Called MayDay, Walburga (Teutonic), Rudemas (Mexican and Old Christian), Festival of Tana (Strega). Celebrated around (duh) May 1st. In my tradition, this is the time of transition again, from the Lord to the Lady. She has slept, had her first cup of coffee, and the Earth has awakened, and she is ready to do what she needs to.

Most groups will agree that this is one of the major festivals to ensure fertility. Not only in the Animals, but also in the crops, the people and in the finances. Many different traditions are built around this fertility celebration. Such as the Maypole.

Now, the pole itself is a really phallic symbol. And you have 12 dancers around the pole, in two sets of six. Six young men, and six young girls. Each set going in an opposite direction from the other, and interweaving the ribbons around the pole. “Decorating the phallus” as it were.

In this time, these youngsters have been passing each other, probably talking, exchanging knowing looks, and with the pole, a full 13 people are made up. (Many traditions see the pole as a person, since it can be the member of the God) With 13 full moons in the year, you get the symbology.

This is normally the time when the domesticated animals give birth, if you live on a farm. So, life and sex is celebrated. The Mother is honored, as well as the Father, and thanks is given for another winter passed through successfully.

Looking through some of the research I have, leaves me bewildered due to the plethora of information, some of it contradictory. This is probably the most written on holiday with the possible exception of Samhain. It’s interesting to note, at this point, that these two celebrations are on opposite sides of the year. Of course, in keeping with a Fire Festival, the fires are extinguished and relit from the sacred fires the Druids made in the Circle. Also of note is the universal fertility drive. Many state that on this one night, no matter how strict your Gods are, that they will forgive you for winding up with another person who is not your spouse.

It is said that a child conceived at this time has a great destiny ahead of them. It’s possible, but I don’t know how likely. A child conceived now would probably not be born until Imbolic, and you hardly ever hear about a famous person having a birthday in Jan or Feb (famous presidents not included). It is also a time of removing the old and replacing it with the new. Making way in the groups and in the family for that which has outlived it’s purpose and allowing the new things to take it’s place.

From a sportsman’s point of view, this is the time when new young bucks start challenging each other for their position in the herd, and when the King Stag can be challenged to defend his right to the females. So, once again, the old making way for the new.

More information:

Mike Nichols’ Beltane
The Druid’s Celtic Calendar
Four major festivals of the Celtic CalendarOkay, take a break, walk around, and when you are ready, come back and skip to the end of this red part and continue with the information. Now that the riff-raff is gone, many of these sites that I have been putting as references are holding information on all the other holidays as well. Just a heads up so that you can start looking in greater detail.

Oh, and you are wondering how I found these excellent sites? Simplicity itself. I went to Northern Lights Search Engine and typed the holiday of my choice into the search window, and got all these excellent references. OH! You’re back! Great, onward and upward….


Called Midsummer, Alban Hefin, and Feill-Sheathain. Celebrated on the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. Usually this is June 21, although it can be the 20th to the 22nd. In my tradition, this is when the God goes to sleep, after his hard labor through the Winter. Leaving the Goddess to take care of us during the Summer.

Many would dispute this, citing that the Sun is up, The Sun King is in all his Glory. How can He go to sleep? To which I answer, my God is the Lord of the Beasts, not the Solar God. You say tomato, and I don’t say it at all….

According to some, the Mother is pregnant with the new God to be born on Yule when the Oak King dies. Interesting, no? Just like a typical male, going off and leaving his “wimmen” pregnant at home. (THIS IS A JOKE) Can you see where we got the “Father Time/Baby New Year” myth in current modern Western Culture?

More Information:

Mike Nichols Summer Solstice


Correct Spelling!!! Important!!!

Called Lammas, Cornucopia (Strega), and Thingtide (Teutonic). The last Fire Festival of the year, before the cycle repeats itself. Celebrated on July 31st – August 2nd. The midpoint of the Lady’s journey taking care of us. She is at the height of Her power now, and boy is it HOT….

This is probably the start of the Harvest season. Things that can be harvested now, should be, to be stored for later in the Winter. While this ceremony can be dedicate to Lugh, as the name would imply, most often in the Celtic Reconstructionist way, it is dedicated to his foster mother, Tailltu.

Mostly, what I have been able to glean from most of the sources I looked at was this, this is a time to thank the Gods for a good growing season, and to start harvesting the crops. If anyone else turns up more, I would be interested in seeing it.

More Information:

Mike Nichols on Lamas
Epona’s Celtic Cauldron on Lughnassdad


(Yeah! Last One!!!!!) Called Autumn Equinox, Lady Day, and Finding (Teutonic), this is another Harvest Festival. In my tradition, just as the Lady went to sleep and slept for three months, so the Lord now wakes and is reunited with his Lady. Thus the animals start running, and their blood becomes heated. And the game gets canny and begins to disappear into the woods content to fight to survive for another year.

There is a sacrifice for some during this Sabbat, but only a symbolic one. The Wicker Man, or the Corn Man, or John Barleycorn. It represents the plants going back into the Earth to begin the process of fertility all over again.

It’s of interest, that there is an article that should probably be read at this point, it’s the Death of Llew. In this wonderful article, there is a tie in to the King of Light, and a lot of good useful information. Read it if you wish to.

More Information:

Mike Nichols MabonOkay, not that I have overwhelmed you with information and facts, I’ll let you go for now. But next time, we will go over the way these Sabbats hang together, and start discussing the Esbats.

Till next time! And get your work done!

References and Resources

Mike Nichol’s Homepage
To Ride a Silver Broomstick by Silver RavenWolf (May 1993)Llewellyn Publications; ISBN: 087542791X

Message: Additional thoughts on the Festivals
Author: Chiming in – Ciaran Iceni

Date: Sep 7, 2000 11:39

I think that sometimes we, as primarily urban dwellers, forget that the cycle of festivals was developed in an agrarian world and as such it marks out the time of the agricultural cycle. For example, the festival of Imbolic occurs at a time when the ewes are giving birth to the lambs thus providing fresh food (from the milk and the lambs themselves) at a time when folks probably hadn’t had any fresh food in weeks. It is also the time of year when the lengthening of the days is first really noticable, once again the returning of the light after a couple of months of darkness would have been a reason to rejoice.

In addition the last three festivals of the Pagan year- Lamas, Mabon, and Samhain- are the three harvests. Lamas (loaf-mas) is the grain harvest, Mabon is the final fruit harvest (before the frosts come and blacken the fruit on the trees), and Samhain is the flesh harvest when animals who could not be over-wintered were slaughtered and their flesh preserved.

In my personal practice, I don’t see the God and Goddess necessarily as sleeping or awake at various time. I see them as expressing themselves thru their different names. In the winter, the Goddess is expressing herself thru her Crone identity and the God is the Hunter. In spring She is the Maiden and the God is Pan. In Autumn she is the Grain Mother and the God is Bacchus or Dionysus the Merry God of the Ripened Grape. For a more in depth look at Goddess energy thru the calendar, I recommend Z Budapest’s “Grandmother of Time”.

Message: Even more thoughts…
Author:Draconis CuChulainn

Date: Sep 7, 2000 14:39

It is pretty much understood, AFAIK, that the Celts were polytheists.  Which means they have different deities.  So I try to avoid such terms as “Goddess and God” and the “Goddess is asleep.”  However, there are cycles which are explained in a more Celtic worldview through stories and myths, though probably more prevalent in other cultures (like the legend of Persephone and Demeter).  But in any case, most ancient cultures have a legend which explains the seasons that names the different Gods and Goddesses associated with it.

But this is another story.. 🙂

As for the festivals… I’ve read once the meaning of the “twelve days of Christmas” in an astrological/real life meaning and what it actually was.  Something about there’s 12 days from this date and that date that was really significant but for the life of me I can’t find that now.  If anyone wants extra credit, a research project on what the 12 days are (and yes, they were important to our ancestors) would be a good idea.

Message: On sleeping Gods:
Author: Teacher – Daven Iceni

Date: Sep 8, 2000 01:01

Okay, I thought I made it plain that the God/dess sleeping or being awake was a personal feel from my tradition. Obviously I didn’t make that plain enough.

That whole cycle is personal to me and my tradition. I have very little justification on it from any “historic” or “religious” sources, other than the Demeter/Hades/Persephone cycle that Draconis mentioned. It is something that I came to when my intellect rebelled against a “Law” on the Festivals that was laid down by the Farrars.

In their excellent book, “The Witch’s Bible, Compleat”, Janet and Steward Fararr state that the Festivals are for the God, and the God alone, a celebration of his life, death and reincarnation. That the Goddess was not celebrated during the Festivals since every Esbat (Moon) was her time for worship. They even had a cute graphic that made it plain to me that the Goddess was more important in their way.

They claimed to have knowledge of this by research in the Folk Traditions of the Irish. And I rebelled.

I thought about it a lot, considered what I had learned from various teachings of others, and meditated on it a LOT. This answer came to me in a flash of inspiration, probably from the Gods themselves, although it can’t be substantiated either.

This cycle of sleep, wake, work, and sleep again made sense to me, and I only offer it to contrast what the traditional stories of the Festivals say.

I think I must once again put up the disclaimer:

This is a class on Basics of Paganism. Not how the Druids did things, or how they worshiped (although, that will be stressed when I find information on it). Mostly this is a polyglot of info from ALL pagan traditions, with a basis of Wicca, since that is what I am most familiar with. This class is to give one a starting point for researches into the Druids, and things that may have been important to them. As such, deep conversations on Divination, shape shifting, life after death, their customs and teachings will not be covered here. This is for those who are completely unfamiliar with Pagan beliefs in general to get a good foundation in what we DO know so that a Druid specific course of research can be undertaken without having to find out things like what a Fire Festival is.

I am not trying to teach Wicca here, although that seems like what is happening. I am in no way teaching the “law” of how the Druids worshiped, since this is an area that I am sadly deficient in. There are other threads for more Druid specific information here in Iona, and on some other boards.

Sorry for the confusion.

Message: My humble apologies Daven,
Author: tardy with good excuses, – Fleury CuChulainn

Date: Sep 20, 2000 23:49

I realize I promised you a post on Sunday but once I got more into the reading my source, the more I realized it was more zodialogical (if that is a word) than I thought, with many references to things a little odd and obscure.  It has taken me a few days to do a little more reading and re-reading to figure out just what the heck she’s trying to say, and even now I realize that it is more astrological in detail and not really what we are discussing but I will mention a few interesting points.  🙂

Firstly, she (Helena Paterson – complete source at the end of my post) gives names to the solstices much like the names CathPulug provided, but she never really explains why they are called by each name…  She also deals with the thirteen Celtic Lunar Zodiac divinations.  Each one attributed to a different tree and planetary ruler.

She claims there are nine significant days in the Celtic Lunar Zodiac.  Starting with the Winter Solstice, and traditional beginnings/rebirth, they are:

  • The Winter Solstice, December 22, she calls Alban Arthuan and she associates it with the Elder Tree sign.  She attributes it to the Entrance to Annwn (Welsh) and the Galactic Centre.
  • The Nameless Day, she claims is December 23.  She says that “according to ancient Druidic belief, the three sacred “Serpent Days” of the winter solstice started on the eve (sunset) of December 20 and ended as the sun (dawn) rose on December 24.”
  • Next we have Brigantia, February 1, which she attributes to Perception and equates with the Rowan Tree sign
  • The Vernal Equinox (she calls Alban Eilir) follows on March 21, which is equated with growth and the Alder Tree sign.
  • Beltane, May 1, she equates with purification and the Willow Tree sign.
  • The Summer Solstice, or Alban Hefin, on June 22 is equated with death and the “Entrance to Gwynvyd”.  It is represented by the Oak Tree sign.
  • Lamas, August 1, is equated with the Holly Tree sign and fruition.
  • The Autumnal Equinox, or Alban Elfed, on September 23, she equates with decay and the Vine sign of the Celtic Zodiac.
  • and finally, we have Samhain (November 1) equated with Transformation and the Reed sign.

So why the heck did I just type all of this?  Well I’m not too sure, but I found it interesting that she dealt more in depth about the solstices and equinoxes than with the fire festivals.  Granted it was a book on Celtic Astrology, but only a paragraph to describe all four fire festivals seemed a bit minimal to me.  Although I find the equinoxes and solstices to very quite fascinating, and I observe them all in turn with much reverence, I put more emphasis on my celebration of the fire festivals.

I also found her concept of the Nameless Day to be fascinating… if it is based in fact it would certainly explain where December 25th came about, being the first full day following the sacred “Serpent Days” of winter…

The book’s main emphasis is a chapter on each of the Thirteen Celtic signs so there isn’t as much discussion on these days in particular but as a summary, I found it a little interesting.  But it is each of these chapters that the significance of each tree is explained, but adding all that in would make this a disturbingly long post.  Anyone interested in them is more than welcome to contact me, or more can be posted upon request! 🙂

Anyhoo, I just thought I’d add an Astrological perspective to the Sabbats and Esbats we are presently discussing! 🙂

Helena Paterson, The Handbook of Celtic Astrology:  The Thirteen Sign Lunar Zodiac of the Ancient Druids, Llewellyn Books, 1994.

Message: To all the students:
Author: Instructor – Daven Iceni

Date: Sep 21, 2000 01:02

First, Fleury, well done.  Good research.  I’m proud of you…

Yes, the “Nameless day” that she describes does have a context with the Celts, or the English in general as the “and a day” in the phrase “a year and a day”.  It’s an extra day that comes right after the New Year.  Some place the new year on Samhain, where I think it ought to be, and some place it on Yule.

But according to astronomical calculation, there are 13 full moon cycles in a year, or, if one figures 28 days per moon cycle from FM to FM, then you get 364 days.  Since there was a shift in the days over time, that got noticed, someone decided to add an extra day in there to compensate for that change.  Thus giving us “a year (of full moons) and a day (the extra day)” or 365 days.

Remember, the Celts counted time by the Moon phase, and had 13 months.  For some reason (that I have yet to see explained to my satisfaction) the Celts celebrated a day from sunset to sunset.

What you get from all of this is Samhain, celebrated on Oct 31 by us, is truly supposed to be celebrated from sunset Oct 31 to sunset Nov 1.  Thus just about every date system that drifts by a day IS accurate.

To all of you:  I am refraining from posting the next lesson here for a multitude of reasons.

1)  I am allowing the new students (there are about 8 of them at this point) a fair chance to catch up on the posts.  When they report their readiness by posting here, we will move on.  So get cracking….

2)  I am loopy on pain medication right now.  I have an abscessed tooth that is EXTREMELY painful, and am taking medication to keep it under control, and it will be cut from my head on Friday.  So I don’t have the concentration to give to posting a complex lesson dealing with the Sabbats and Esbats just yet.

3)  RL crops up.  Among the things going on right now are a) a move.  We finally got our orders and I have to be out before Oct 1.  So we are scrambling to get an apartment.  b)  work.  It seems to be picking up for me, and thus leaves me with little time to log in here to post messages  c)  Other groups that I belong to are heating up and I am in the middle of the politics right now.  and finally d)  my volunteer work for The Witches’ Voice is taking some of my “free time” away from me.

I will continue to check up on things here as I can and answer direct questions, either here or on my message board.  But I don’t really have much time to lurk on AS for hours at a time right now.  I hope you all understand and will forgive me.

Please don’t let this discussion die.  Any of you that have experiences or thoughts PLEASE share them with everyone.  I am throwing this class open to a general discussion at this point, and I promise that I will participate as I can.

On a personal note, I wish that you all would start participating here.  Besides myself, I only see three people posting with any kind of regularity here, and that is disappointing.  I know that I have about 15 students here at this point, and I can’t be that good of a teacher that no one has any questions or comments.  So please, I’m begging you all, post.  Participate here.  When we were still on the Catuvallani board, this was one of the most active threads in Tara.  Just because it is here in Iona, don’t let it die.  It sometimes feels as though I am talking to myself.

Anyhow, most of this is the hydrocodone talking.  I await everyone’s conversation.

Stars light your paths.

Message: Does the author give sources
Author: wondering – Ciaran Iceni

Date: Sep 21, 2000 12:07

for her information? Her trees don’t match up with other sources I have for Druidic/Celtic correspondences. Since we actually have very few sources for Druidic lore, there has been quite a bit of romantic fluff written that owes more to the writer’s internal processes than to Druidic practices. Since the Celts were pretty much obsessed by groups of threes, I tend to question any set of Druid lore that is based on the more Greco-Roman sets of four. Has anyone here read “The White Goddess” by Robert Graves?

Message: Actually Ciaran,
Author: – Fleury CuChulainn

Date: Sep 21, 2000 21:52

In her introduction, she mentions The White Goddess, but then moves beyond it and seems to almost mix it with a few other sources and equates a lot of stuff with the Greco-Roman zodiac… which is a little hard to figure since there are only twelve… oh well…  I’m not really knowledgeable about the degrees of each zodiac point whether it be Celtic or otherwise, but both Capricorn and Aquarius seem a bit longer…

If it would help, she assigns the trees to dates and the Greco-Roman as follows (I’m including the degrees of the zodiac, even thought that’s just even more confusing to some, it might clarify for others. But I don’t have a degree sign, hence the * *G*)

Birch – December 24-January 20 – 02*00 Capricorn-29*59 Capricorn
Rowan – January 21-February 17 – 00*00 Aquarius – 27*59 Aquarius
Ash – February 17-March 17 – 28*00 Aquarius-25*59 Pisces
Alder – March 18-April 14 – 26*00 Pisces-23*59 Aries
Willow – April 15-May 12 – 24*00 Aries-20*59 Taurus
Hawthorn – May 13-June 9 – 21*00 Taurus-17*59 Gemini
Oak – June 10-July 7 – 18*00 Gemini-14*59 Cancer
Holly – July 8-August 4 – 15*00 Cancer-11*59 Leo
Hazel – August 5-September 1 – 12*00 Leo-8*59 Virgo
Vine – September 2-September 29 – 09*00 Virgo-06*59 Libra
Ivy – September 30-October 27 – 07*00 Libra-04*59 Scorpio
Reed – October 28-November 24 – 05*00 Scorpio-02*59 Sagittarius
Elder – November 25-December 23 – 03*00 Sagittarius-01*59 Capricorn

Anyhoo, I’m not sure if that makes any sense, but those are her tree signs and associated dates! 🙂  Are they that much different than what you have?

Message: Lesson 7, Part 3: Holidays Conclusion
Author: Teacher – Daven Iceni

Date: Oct 26, 2000 11:10

Lesson 7 part 3; Esbats and Sabbats

Well, since we got this far, let’s look at how these holidays hang together. We discussed the relevance of each of the days, and what we SHOULD be doing on them, but let’s look at why.

In a hunter/gatherer society, there is an EXTREME emphasis on the animals. The people are usually nomadic and follow the herds of “Game” wherever they go, or they don’t eat. While the men are out hunting the animals, the women are picking the plants to dye things, to give vegetables to their families, and raising their children. The work is (more or less) divided. As such, the male God is usually depicted as having horns, since what is being hunted usually has horns as well.

The Goddess, in contrast, is usually shown having a distended belly, exaggerated labia, huge breasts, and little or no individualistic characteristics, such as a face, head, hands, feet, or what have you. Because the focus for the Goddess was the fertility of the Earth and the herds.

It is from this kind of society that many of the ways we do things now come from. For instance, look in the night sky. There is the moon. As the Moon goes around the Earth, parts of it disappear, only to reappear later. And this happens multiple times during a “season”. Coincidentally, it also times out to the course of the menstrual cycle. So, the moon must be female. Makes sense.

Add to that now that if there is a mother Moon or Earth, you must have a father. Well, that leaves the Sun. So, Father Sky, Mother Earth, Lady Moon, Lord Sun… and on and on. The main thing that was seen was that everything moved in CYCLES.

When the society had advanced enough to take up permanent residence in some places, and to start raising domestic animals, the emphasis on the God lessened. Fertility became even more important since the crops came from the Mother, and the animals were female and their children would ensure the survival of the tribe. It even became commonly believed in some societies that the male didn’t have anything to do with a child. That a child was the gift of the Goddess. Thus it was really important to know who your mother was, but father’s didn’t matter.

Why do I point this out? Because it has an effect on what we practice today. If one looks up, and imagines that they are in the 200 BCE to 900 CE time period, then what they did then and what we do now become REALLY similar.

Take for instance the worship of the Goddess. That is what is supposed to happen on every Full Moon. When the moon fills we are supposed to have been honoring the Mother, as she swells, and as she reaches her peak we go crazy, since she is at her best. Well, then she goes away.

If you look in many “pagan” and “heathen” cultures, you will note that there are many different stories in those mythologies that are concerned with the sun/moon myths. Egyptian culture had one, I know that Native Beliefs have a story about father Sun and Mother Moon. And many other cultures have something similar.

So, the Moon was important to our ancestors. This means that they noted the cycle and the “monthly visitors” that our female friends have. So there was an automatic connection. And it could also be argued that they saw the moon cycle as a “year”. I’m not saying that the Celts did this, but think about how Methuselah in the Bible lived to be over 1000 years old. Impossible. I have heard this explained as the year was shorter, that it was a Miracle of God, and that there was less to kill off the population. But if a “year” is counted as one cycle of the moon, 80 solar years= 1040 Moon cycles. Think about it a bit.

However, there is so much more Moon lore out there. For example, clams that depend on the tides to open and close, when moved inland and one moon cycle passed, they synced back up to the tides, even thought there was no tide to work on them. And there is more.

So, the Moon exerts a powerful influence on us. Like driving people crazy during a full moon. Check with a hospital or jail sometime, and they will say that they get a majority of their cases during the FM.

Well, we have 13 of them a year. It may be that the Cologiny Calendar has only 12 FMs listed, but in our calendar, we have 13 now. I will list the moons as I have them, and will see if I can find more information on other names, but you never know. I could be wrong on this. I have been before.

January – Wolf Moon, Cold Moon, Moon After Yule
February – Snow Moon, Wolf Moon, Hunger Moon, Storm Moon
March – Chaste Moon, Quickening Moon, Storm Moon, Sap Moon
April – Wind Moon, Grass Moon, Seed Moon
May – Flower Moon, Planting Moon, Hare Moon
June – Strong Sun Moon, Dyad Moon
July – Blessing Moon, Honey Moon, Mead Moon
August – Wort Moon, Corn Moon, Thunder Moon
September – Harvest Moon, Barley Moon, Grain Moon, Fruit Moon
October – Blood Moon, Hunter’s Moon
November – Mourning Moon, Snow Moon, Frosty Moon
December – Oak Moon, Long Nights Moon, Moon Before Yule

Second Full Moon in one Month: Blue Moon.

Second New Moon in one Month: Dark (or Black) Moon.

There are other correspondences to this. I have seen a really good setup for Celtic Practitioners that relates the Moons with Ogham letters and with Trees. It’s an interesting way of doing things, and gives consistency to a year of celebrations.

Here’s a link you may like.
Dakota Moon Names

Celtic Moon Names

More Moon Names

Okay, so this is where we get some of our current time measurements from. Plus as I said, thirteen moon cycles along with one day add up to 365 days, which the classic saying “a year and a day” comes from.

Now, why are there so much emphasis put on the Moon cycle? Several reasons. 1) The Moon plays an important role in Wiccan Magick. 2) The cycle in the heavens is repeated here on the Earth (menstruation) thus proving “As above, so below”. 3) The Moon cycles are quicker than the Solar cycles, and 4) The Mother (Moon) is obviously more important than any God or Man (Sun).

I don’t hold that the female is more important than the male, but there are many out there who DO put this kind of emphasis on male/female relationships. Many for the reasons cited earlier.

And the Moon plays a part in Magick too. As it waxes and wanes, so too the tides of magick change and ebb and flow. As the Moon is waxing in strength, one should do magicks to increase, culminating on the night of the full moon, and vice versa.

How does this relate to what is going on now? Well, we still celebrate these days and events in our lives. The Moon cycles as the cycle of death and rebirth (makes sense seeing as how the moon ‘dies’ every month) and also the change of the seasons. Each of these cycles are important to us.

Everything is made up of a cycle. Look around. The soda on the table is a part of a cycle. You drink it, it passes through you (whether or not it nourishes you is another matter), you expel the waste, that waste gets purified, goes back to the water table in various forms, to be made into soda again, to be drunk by you…

You get the picture.

So cycles are important to most pagans, and the most obvious cycles are celebrated and venerated by them as well.

I must state that there is no evidence supporting some people’s ascertains that the Druids also worshiped the moon. On the contrary, it is more probable that the Druids worshiped the Sun, as evidenced by the Fire Festivals (solar calendar) and by some of the holy places they used. Like many of the standing stones. Those stones, not Stonehenge, but others, are usually set up to follow the movements of the SUN, not the moon.

Here is a simple diagram of what the “wheel of the year” should look like. As you can see, the Fire Festivals are marked in Red, and the Cross Quarters are marked in Blue. Mostly because when dealing with Druidry, only the Fire Festivals are important. Many split these two sets into “Greater and Lesser Sabbats” but I don’t like to do that. Implying one is more important than the other is wrong. All of these dates is important for one reason or another to the cycle of the year.

So, now we come to the end here. Remember that celebrating holidays is entirely up to the practitioner. I have seen advice in books and from other people that range from “you must celebrate every holiday without exception” to “do what you want”. This is a way of showing others and the Lord and Lady that you honor the Gods and that you wish to be appreciative of all that you have. If this is best expressed by spending time with your family, do so. If this means that you should go out into the woods and get nekkid and dance under the moon, do so. If you feel more comfortable with elaborate rituals, great. The holidays and the way they are celebrated are up to you.

Assignment: Take those lists of the holidays and what they mean to you out. With your notes on what the holidays actually mean and what is normally done on those holidays, I want you to write out in what ways expressing these holidays feels comfortable to you. You don’t have to get elaborate, nor do you have to write the entire ritual. Just write out how you think the expression of the feel and meaning of each Sabbat and Esbat should be done, for you. If you come up with an interesting one, post it and we can talk about it.

As always, post questions or comments here and I will get back to you on them as I can.

Stars light your path.

Originally posted 2011-11-08 14:38:29. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

One Response to “Lesson 7: Holidays”

  1. Helena Paterson says:

    Very interesting data on the Celts & Druids. While there is some confusion regarding reliable information – this is probably due to equating the Pagan Wiccan rituals/beliefs with the sacred Soli/lunar calendar year in Drudism – an altogether different dimension of time and space associated with the zodiac and, certain constellations. The druids actually warned about witchcraft and its practice – so their different beliefs have nothing in commom. Having been an honorary member of both groups/orders – it was the study of the Qabalah that brought everything into balance – and I am currently writing a book on the Qabalah to bring all world creation myths/gods into a practical working synthesis or book of magic. My books on Celtic Astrology etc. were written many moons ago – like to think that my own comprehension has evolved a little!

    Anyhoo – all best wishes – Helena Paterson

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