Yule / Winter Solstice

Yuletide, Winter Solstice, Midwinter, Winter Rite, Festival of Sol Invictus/Mithras, Saturnalia (Roman), Cuidle, Alban Arthan, Gŵyl Galan Gaeaf, Meán Geimhridh (Welsh)
December 21, 2013 (Northern Hemisphere)
Quarter Festival, Solstice, Lesser Sabbat

The winter solstice, or Yule, marks the shortest day of the year.  From this point on, days continue to grow longer until Midsummer (Litha), therefore Yule celebrates the return of the sun, and light’s triumph over dark.  Yule is also thought of as the time when the Goddess gives birth to her son, the God of Light, and the Oak King defeats the Holly King in the battle of the seasons.

Other Yuletide festivals include Saturnalia (Roman), Mummurs Day (Celtic), Meán Geimhridh, Alban Arthan (Welsh), and Hogmanay (Scotland).  It is thought that Christmas takes its origins from these ancient pagan festivals.  Even the date of December 25 coincides with the festival days of the ancient Persian God Mithras and the Roman God Sol Invictus.

Yule is a time for celebrations, feasting, lighting bonfires and candles (to celebrate the return of the sun’s light), evergreens, wreaths, holly, mistletoe, Yule trees, Yule Logs, and cups of wassail for good cheer.  It is a good time to work on introspection, balance, peace, love and harmony.  Yule represents new beginnings, rebirth and renewal, and hope for the future.

A gorgeous wreath and a horseshoe for good luck - perfect. #yule

© A Year And A Day (2013)

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Samhain

Third/Last Harvest, Blood Harvest, Halloween, Old Hallowmas, All Hallows Eve, All Saint’s Eve, Witch’s New Year, Feast/Day of the Dead, Ancestor Night, Feast of Spirits, Feast of Apples, Festival of Pomona, Samonios, Samana, Shadowfest (Strega), Nos Galan/Calan Gaeaf (Welsh), Vetrablot/Winternight (Norse)

October 31

Cross-quarter Fire Festival, Greater Sabbat

Samhain (SOW-in), also known as the Witch’s New Year, is one of the most important Wiccan sabbats.  It marks the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter.  It is thought that the veil between the worlds is thinnest at this time, therefore Samhain is a good opportunity to honour our ancestors and celebrate the cycle of death and rebirth.

Families would light candles in their windows and set a place at their tables for deceased ancestors as it was thought that they would return at Samhain.  However some spirits were not welcome, leading to people to try to hide their identity by wearing masks and costumes.

It is a time to honour goddesses of the Underworld, including Hecate, Hel, the Morrigan, Cerridwen, and Persephone.  Symbols of Samhain include carved pumpkins and gourds, pomegranates, apples, food offerings, faeries, balefires, masks, besoms, cauldrons, divination, and the waning moon.

eaa4c-pumpkinpatch1

© A Year And A Day (2013)

Mabon / Autumn Equinox

Herfest, Halig, Second Harvest, Harvest Home, Fruit Harvest, Wine Harvest, Festival of Dionysus, Cornucopia, Feast of Avalon, Michaelmas, Meán Fómhair, Gŵyl Ganol yr Hydref (Welsh), Alban Elfed (Druid, ‘Light of the Water’), Haustblot/Harvestfest (Norse)

September 22, 2013 (Northern Hemisphere)
Quarter Festival, Lesser Sabbat

Mabon is the autumn equinox, a time when light and dark are once again equal.  The nights continue to grow longer and the earth’s bounty diminishes.  It is the second harvest, where much of the remaining crops are being collected and stored before the long winter.  Mabon is a time of thanksgiving, where we stop to recognize all of our personal harvests and are grateful for what we have been blessed with.

Mabon marks the time when the Greek Goddess Persephone starts her descent into the underworld, and the mourning Demeter withholds life from the once bountiful earth.  Symbols of Mabon include apples, grapes, wine, gourds, pine cones, acorns, wheat, dried leaves, corn, sun wheels, and pomegranates.

© A Year And A Day (2013)

Lughnasadh / Lammas

Lady Day, First Harvest, Feast of Bread, Bread Harvest, Festival of First Fruits, August Eve, Gŵyl Galan Awst (Welsh ‘Feast of August’)
August 1
Cross-quarter Fire Festival, Greater Sabbat

Lughnasadh is the first of the three harvest festivals and falls halfway between the Summer Solstice (Litha) and the Autumn Equinox (Mabon).  Lughnasadh honours the craftsman god Lugh, who created the festival in honour of his foster mother Tailtiu.  Lúnasa is also the name for the month of August in modern Irish.

The first grains are harvested at this time, therefore wheat, barley, bread, whiskey and beer is significant.  Lughnasadh is also called Lammas, old English for ‘loaf mass’, in honour of the harvest.  Lughnasadh is also associated with corn dollies, sun wheels, bonfires, handfastings, the story of John Barleycorn, and the faery goddess Áine.

Beautiful Lughnasadh (Lammas) Altar.

© A Year And A Day (2013)

Litha / Midsummer

Midsummer, Summer Solstice, Samradh, Alban Hefin (Druid, Anglo Saxon), Aerra Litha, Gathering Day, Vestalia, Feast of Epona, Gŵyl Ganol yr Haf (Welsh)
June 21 (2013, Northern Hemisphere)
Quarter Festival, Lesser Sabbat

Litha, or Midsummer, celebrates the summer solstice, marking the longest day of the year.  The days are warmer, the earth is bountiful, and the Goddess and the God reach their peak.  Midsummer marks the end of the waxing year and beginning of the waning year, when the sun’s power begins to fade and the days grow shorter.  This is when the Oak King is bested by the Holly King, who will rule until Yule, when the cycle will start again.

Litha is associated with feasting, dancing, leaping bonfires, handfastings, flowers, oak trees, faeries, and the faery goddess Áine.  This is a great time to connect with nature and the outdoors!

MidsummerBonfire_Norway_Tumblr

© A Year And A Day (2013)

Beltane

Beltaine, Bealtaine, May Day, May Eve, Lady Day, Roodmas, Walpurgis Night
April 30th Eve to May 1st
Cross-quarter Festival, Greater Sabbat, Fire Festival

Beltane is a fertility and fire festival that celebrates the return of spring, the sun’s warmth and nature’s abundance.  As life springs forth from the fertile earth, this is a good time for all celebrations of fertility, new ideas, and prosperity.  Beltane is associated with bonfires, Maypoles, planting, handfastings, faeries, the Green Man, Morris Dancing, flowers, birds, bees, fertility magic, passion and love!

 

© A Year And A Day (2013)

Ostara / Spring Equinox

Ēostre, Oestara, Lady Day, Festival of Trees, Bacchanalia, Earrach, Gŵyl Ganol y Gwanwyn (Welsh), Alban Eilir/Eiler (Druid, ‘Light of the Earth’), Ostarablot (Norse)

~March 20-23

Ostara is the celebration of the vernal, or spring, equinox. It is a time to prepare for the beginnings of new life.  The hours of day and night are of equal length, with light overtaking darkness.

Ostara - Anthony Meadows - Llewellyn

Ostara roughly corresponds to the Christian Feast of Annunciation, also known as Gabrielmas, or ‘Lady Day’ in England, celebrated on March 25. Ostara is also associated with the Christian festivals of Easter, which is held on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox, and Passover, which falls on the first new moon following the vernal equinox.

Ostaras_Maiden_by_artoftheempath_DofGT

The name Ostara comes from the fertility goddess Ēostre, a Germanic deity associated with the hare and the egg, both symbols of fertility and rebirth. Ēostre is the Germanic name for the month of April, and is the namesake of the Christian festival of Easter.

Ostara Eostre

Various mythos surround this holiday. Ostara is a time of new beginnings, fertility, balance, new life, and rebirth. It is a time when the winter turns into spring, the light grows stronger and life stirs once again. As with the light, the forces of masculine and feminine energy are also in balance. In Wicca, it is thought that the young god and goddess grow into the Stag King and the Lady of the Beasts. In one version, the goddess and the god become betrothed and will consummate their relationship at Beltane. However, as Ostara is nine months to Yule, it is also thought that the goddess becomes pregnant at this time.

ostara_eggs_by_oshuna

Ostara is a time of beginnings, action, planting, feasting and socializing. It is a time to put your plans from Imbolc into action. Traditional activities surrounding this holiday include egg decorating, ringing bells, lighting new fires.

© A Year And A Day (2013), The New Pagan (2015)

Ostara – The Spring Equinox
Wiki – Ostara
Wicca.com – Ostara
Ostara