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?
Mabon is also known as the Autumn Equinox. Here’s a hint – on an equinox that means that day and night is equal. So Vernal Equinox (aka Spring Equinox or Ostara) means that the daytime hours and the nighttime hours are equal.
Mabon shows the official coming into Autumn by the summer days now growing shorter and becoming equals with the night.
What’s the point in celebrating Mabon?
Its officially the final harvest before Winter fully sets in. Some places on this beautiful planet begin to get nightly frosts after this holiday. In olden times it was likely a good reason to gather as a community or family to celebrate while daily life was still easy. Best to do it now rather than in the dead of Winter when things could certainly be difficult.
Times have changed! Winter isn’t harsh and cruel as it used to be!
Please remember for some it is. Some are totally self sufficient – or rely heavily on their gardens. Unless they live somewhere tropical they will not grow anything else without aid of modern technology.
What can I do to celebrate Mabon?
If this is your first Autumn Equinox that you’re recognising … welcome! Typically Mabon falls somewhere between September 20-24. Want to know the exact day for the year? Punch it into the search engine of your choice! I’ll save you a little trouble and tell you that this year Mabon is on September 22.
– Try making a large dinner and invite your friends and family. If they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving or Mabon they will probably ask you “What’s the occassion?!” You can either tell them, or just say “I haven’t seen you in a while so I thought I’d invite you over! Hayyyyyy!”
– Pick some apples (if you can). This time of year is typically apple picking time. In the South (USA) we also gather pecans and walnuts around this time of year. You can’t make banana nut bread without the nuts!
– Greet the darkness. Spend one whole day and night without electricity. Go to bed when its dark enough to do so. Gain some perspective on just how hard we, as humans, work on this planet. Hell, maybe even get a little angry over how the introduction of artificial light has caused us (as people) to lose a lot of sleep as well as become enslaved by ‘the grind’ (aka our jobs.) We don’t go to bed when its the right hour – we go to bed when we’ve finally wound down from whatever crazy day we’ve had. One day and one night – don’t use any artificial lights. I understand you have to go to work, but you don’t have to use them at home that night. Try it. Its quite enlightening (hahaha).
– Center yourself and find some balance. As the days and nights equal out – maybe you could use some equalisation. Maybe you’re drinking too much or in a bad mood too often. Now would be a great time to re-center and refocus. Just as our Mother Gaia is doing.
– Give thanks and count your blessings. This one really goes without saying.
During my Mabon ritual I like to talk about Persephone. Persephone was the daughter of Demeter. Many Gods loved her and tried to woo her. While she was out being the little nymph she was – Pluto burst through the Earth and abducted her. Demeter neglected the Earth in every sense of the word while she searched for her missing daughter. Eventually Helios (the Sun – who sees everything) told Demeter what had happened. Finally after hearing the prayers and cries of the starving humans Zeus demanded Pluto release Persephone.
Pluto agreed. He had a trick up his sleeve, though. He released Persephone but Hecate was the only one powerful enough to walk Heaven, Earth and the Underworld. Hecate assisted Persephone by lighting her way and guiding her out of Hades. Pluto gave Persephone a pomegranate while she was making her way out of Hades. She ate four kernels while in the underworld. The Fates said anyone who ate or drank in the underworld was doomed to stay there for eternity. Due to eating only 4 kernels Persephone must only stay 4 months in the underworld with Pluto every year.
Even though Persephone was abducted against her will … even though by all accounts she shouldn’t have to stay with Pluto in the underworld – she has so much honour and integrity that she does stay those 4 months. Persephone is a representation of spirit, hope, honour, integrity, courage, and faith. All of these traits were required by our ancestors to survive the winter.
So tell me, how do you celebrate Mabon?
I plan to do a video about it in a couple weeks’ time.
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.
Ostara is also known as the Vernal Equinox. For a couple days daylight and darkness are even. The Earth is in balance as the Maiden reaches full fertility. She is receptive. Now is the time to plant things with fertility at its peak and conditions lending themselves to growing crops.
Popular trends during Ostara are pastel colors, eggs, and rabbits. Things you can incorporate during your Ostara ritual:
- Leafy greens
- Seeds (pine nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds)
- Dairy foods
Go for a walk and enjoy the changing season. Be sure to put out containers to catch the spring rain to use as your ‘Goddess Water’ for your altar. This water, as it has come directly from the Earth, needs no consecration, purification, or charging. You can, of course, charge it under a full moon or the sun if you’d like. Charge it under the Moon to work with feminine energies. Charge your water in sunlight if you are attuned to the element of Fire or want to work with masculine energies.
Many of you know that Imbolc (pronounced EM-bulk) is just around the corner!
What is Imbolc? Well, it is one of the 8 Sabbats. Its also sometimes called Candlemas. Think of it as the Spring starting to kick within the womb of Earth. It is a time to celebrate the lengthening of the days.
There are many traditional stories about Imbolc/Candlemas. Groundhog Day is a spin on an ancient Celtic tradition where they thought if the weather was nasty – the hag stayed inside and gathered no more wood for the winter (meaning Spring will come sooner). If the weather is lovely – then the hag is out gathering wood and Winter will last a bit longer. This is of course the Laymen’s Terms. I tend to just give the basic idea so as not to drone on and on (I do that sometimes.)
This is the time of year (first couple weeks of February) that the ewes give birth en masse. In England they called it “Lambing Season”.
Here is a list of things associated with Imbolc/Candlemas
Activities Usually done at Imbolc/Candlemas
- Light a candle in every window (never leave candles unattended! Just light one in the room you’re in)
- Hiking and searching for signs of Spring
- Making Priapic Wands (wand made out of an acorn, ribbons, a stick, and a bell. Its meant to be phallic to represent fertility. Instructions to make one is below*)
- Bon Fires
(some) Deities associated with Imbolc:
- All Virgins/Maiden Goddesses
- Gods of Love and Fertility (such as Eros)
Symbols of Imbolc/Candlemas:
- ‘Out with the old – In with the new’
Herbs associated with Imbolc