Every week I tend to meet up with a small group of Pagans. These Pagans range in age, gender, career, experience, and paths within Paganism.
Tonight we we discussing the different Pagan holidays. I found it particularly interesting to ask each person:
What do you do to celebrate this holiday?
What do you associate with this holiday?
If you don’t celebrate this holiday why not?
As we (the whole group) went holiday by holiday I found it interesting that a large majority of people (myself included at times) celebrated a few “main” holidays.
Those holidays were:
I started to draw some interesting lines between things. All of these holidays fall in/around/near a Christian holiday OR a commercial holiday.
Beltane. Memorial Day. May Day (in some places)
Samhain. Halloween (widely accepted holiday even with Christians)
I asked the question:
Do you think perhaps we celebrate (we meaning the individuals in the group) simply because of familiarity with the Christian counter-part holiday?
Do you think we concentrate on these holidays because of the commercial appeal and overall ‘acceptance’ during this holiday?
Another point was raised that there are basically 4 celestial holidays. These holidays are based on a solstice or equinox. The other holidays are harvest holidays. These are based on harvest times of different crops.
One group member brought up the point that since we are no longer farmers/gatherers we don’t have the same connection with the land as we once did. Now that we’ve got supermarkets and can get any variety of fruit and vegetables all year round we have little working knowledge of harvest type holidays.
Is this a good or a bad thing? To bring proper balance should we observe each holiday’s counterpart?
These are all just thoughts/ideas I’m sharing. Feel free to chime in!
The answers were really interesting. I’ve been Pagan for the better part of 15 years. Perhaps even a few more, but I only consider myself a 15 year practitioner because I was still really super clueless during those first few years. During all my time as a Pagan I have also chosen some holidays which are ‘high’ holidays and some which aren’t.
After hearing everyone else’s feedback I then started to analyze my own observance of the holidays.
Did I not celebrate the others simply because of no personal connection – or – was I not celebrating simply because it was too much work?
I now bring the question here, to those who read this.
Are there holidays you don’t celebrate? Do you abstain simply because you don’t feel a connection to that holiday or is there another reason?
Every summer I return to my home state. Often there are at least two holidays I ‘miss’. I do not have and likely will never have a travel altar.
The first few times I felt really lost during Litha and Lammas. I had become so accustomed to celebrating a certain way that I didn’t now how to celebrate without all my ‘pretties’.
Its taken a few years, but I have finally learned that I don’t need any of my regular tools to celebrate. Once you’ve gotten into the habit of using tools its hard to imagine holding ritual without them. Trust me, though, it isn’t as hard as you think. You probably already do many of these things without really realising it!
This is what I do:
Spend most of the day outside. I greet the sun when I wake up. I thank God for helping all the crops grow. I admire all the flowers, wildlife, and spontaneous storms as they roll through. At night when the fireflies start to twinkle, the moon rises, and the bullfrogs start to croak I am still. I thank Goddess for shining through the darkness (if there is a dark moon – I empathise with her need to rest) and giving the nocturnal wildlife the light they need to see.
Typically I use this holiday as an excuse to gather wild flowers. I thank God and Goddess for the flowers.
Thanks. That’s all. I thank God and Goddess for all the fruits, vegetables, and grains I will eat to sustain myself through the dark months. I thank the God for his strength during summer, and give a heartfelt inner speech about what kind of success or prosperity I’ve had during the year to that point. I praise Goddess for all her motherly work. I spend these few days making ‘fall’ food such as pumpkin soup, bread/rolls, squash etc.
I use this holiday as a time to feast.
I don’t cast a circle in the normal sense. I find a way to just be still and be alone with the feeling you only get when you have a personal connection to the divine. It isn’t quite meditating, yet it isn’t a fully awake state. Its like a light daydream. Right before I feel myself hitting this state I take notes of the smells, temperature, animals (if outside) and my feelings. Offerings made during the time I have no altar are always simple. Sometimes its just the heel of a loaf of bread. Maybe its leftover lettuce or spinach from the big bowl of salad I made.
No one realises I’m having a little mini ritual. I don’t say anything out loud. Everything is kept very personal and silent. I make no hand gestures (this doesn’t mean I couldn’t – I just choose not to.)
Celebrating holidays without tools helped me appreciate what my tools really mean to me – and what they bring to my spells and rituals. While I am on vacation I don’t do any spell work. I use this time, instead, as a study time. I will spend this time learning new techniques and information which will guide me once I return home. I also use this time to catch up on reading. Since purchasing an e-reader I have been simply devouring books. Sometimes book stores with a variety of Pagan books is hard to find!
Before I leave my house – I cleanse my sacred space. I make sure my libation bowl is full. My libation bowl is a small crystal bowl which I fill with gathered rain water, a crystal of some kind, salt from my altar, and some ritual water (I make it myself but I think the popular name for it is Florida Water). I cast a circle and converse with God and Goddess to tell them that I will be away. I ask that they take no offence if the libation bowl dries (sometimes I am gone for 8 weeks or more). I burn some incense, light a candle, and ask that they see over my travels. I leave an offering of some kind (flowers, bread, salt, ashes from my incense) outside.
When I return – I start with lighting my working candle while I physically clean the entire room top to bottom while playing clearing music. Sometimes I find a good radio station on iTunes, at times I pop in a generic ‘nature sounds’ CD, and there are times I even sing. My intense physical cleaning includes all altar tools. I recharge everything for two days(technically one FULL day): a day in the sun — a night under the moon. Depending on the weather the items may be charged through the window in the light of Goddess. The moon doesn’t necessarily have to be full, but I normally prefer it that way. However, if I know I will be doing any workings or ritual soon after arriving home I will not wait for the full moon. Even when we cannot see Goddess she is always there. This allows me time to recuperate from traveling while everything cleanses and charges.
The time I spend with all my stuff when I return helps to strengthen the bond I have with those items. They are mine. They belong to me. Like any healthy and strong relationship, my passion is rekindled for these things when I have been away for any extended period of time. These things are not just things. They are my things. They are the physical representatives of other things. They each mean something to me.