THE 8 PAGAN FESTIVALS
Pagan holidays, also known as the Wheel of the Year, are festivals designed to mark the changing of the seasons and aid in spiritual celebration and growth.
The eight main Pagan holidays celebrated around the world include:
Samhain – celebrated on October 31st, this is the Pagan New Year, marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter.
Yule – celebrated on the Winter Solstice (usually December 20th–23rd) it marks the return of the light in the world.
Imbolc – celebrated on February 1st, it is a celebration of the early stirrings of spring.
Ostara – celebrated on the Spring Equinox (March 20th or 21st) it is a celebration of fertility and new life.
Beltane – celebrated on April 30th or May 1st, this is a celebration of fertility and the blossoming of nature.
Litha – celebrated on the Summer Solstice (usually June 20th–23rd) and is a celebration of the sun and its power.
Lughnasadh/Lammas – celebrated on August 1st, this is a celebration of the first harvest.
Mabon – celebrated on the Autumn Equinox (September 20th–23rd) this is a celebration of the second harvest.
These holidays are celebrated in many different ways, depending on the person or group of people. Common ways to mark the holidays include feasts, rituals, and activities like bonfires.
Samhain marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the cold, dark winter. It is believed to be a time of great power, when the veil between the physical and spirit realm is at its thinnest and communication with the dead is easiest.
The festival is celebrated over the course of three days, beginning on October 31st. During this time, it is customary to honour the gods and goddesses of the harvest, such as the Celtic gods Mabon and Cernunnos, and the goddess Modron.
Rituals of Samhain include lighting bonfires to symbolise death and rebirth, offering food and drink to the gods and goddesses, and dressing in costumes to disguise oneself from any roaming spirits. It is also customary to practice divination and scrying in order to receive blessings from the gods.
Animals associated with the festival include black cats, spiders, snakes, and bats. Foods associated with the festival include apples, nuts, grains, and root vegetables. Plants associated with the festival include rosemary, yew, and oak. Stones associated with the festival include jet, obsidian, and hematite. Many use these items to decorate their homes and welcome in the spooky season.
Yule marks the winter solstice, the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, it celebrates a time of rebirth and renewal, a time to honor the gods or goddesses and the turning of the sun.
Many cultures have special rituals that honour Yule, such as the burning of the Yule log, where a large log is burned either inside the home or as a large bonfire to bring about luck and success in the coming year. More common rituals include the exchange of gifts and tokens, a symbol of friendship and love, as well as the decorating and adorning of a Yule tree. Although these practices originated in the pagan faith they are now practiced in conjunction with the christian holiday of Christmas.
Animals such as goats, reindeer, and horses were seen as sacred to Yule, and many performed rituals in honor of these animals, such as offering them food, to bring luck. Foods such as Yule cakes, apples, and sun bread were eaten, and plants such as mistletoe, holly, and ivy decorated their homes. Certain stones such as rubies, garnets, and amethysts were also associated with Yule as symbols of protection, luck, and prosperity.
Yule is a time of celebration and joy, as Pagans come together to celebrate the return of the sun, and the return of fertility to the land. It is a time to show gratitude for the blessings of the natural world and to honor the gods who bring light and life to the world.
Imbolc or Candlemas is a festival that celebrates the first signs of spring. It falls halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.
The festival traditionally honors the Celtic goddess Brigid and is celebrated with a variety of rituals, with fire being the main focus. Fire represents both the light of the sun and the fire of Brigid.
Rituals vary, but many include, lighting candles to welcome the sun, cleansing, decorating with flowers, fasting, drumming, and meditation. Offerings are made to Brigid, the goddess of healing, smithcraft, and poetry. Brigid is seen as a powerful force in the creative world and will light a fire of inspiration to all that worship her.
Animals associated with Imbolc are the lamb and ewe, which represent fertility and rebirth. Traditional foods are dairy products, vegetables, herbs, and lamb. Plants representing the festival include crocus, primrose, snowdrops, sage, and juniper, these are used to decorate the home. Stones associated with Imbolc are amethyst and moss agate, as they embody the essence of the season.
Imbolc is a time for honouring the changing seasons, purifying one's soul, and reflecting on the journey ahead.
Ostara marking the spring equinox celebrates the return of life and the renewal of nature. It is a time of joy with hope for the future and fertile land.
Rituals performed during Ostara involve activities such as planting seeds and flowers, decorating eggs, and lighting fires. Focused on joyous celebrations and revelry, the festival includes feasts, dancing, and singing.
When it comes to gods and goddesses, Ostara is typically associated with the Germanic goddess Eostre of dawn (also known as Ostara). Other deities associated with the festival include the Greek root Aphrodite and the Roman goddess Venus for her association with fertility.
Animals, plants, and stones that represent this festival include rabbits, which symbolise fertility. Daffodils and tulips that bring the first pop of colour to our world, and finally rose quartz and citrine, which are thought to bring love and joy. Foods traditionally eaten during the festival include eggs, honey, and cake.
The celebration of Ostara signals the end of winter and a time of renewal and hope. It is a time to pay homage to the beauty and abundance of nature.
Beltane marks the transition from spring to summer ushering in the brighter, warmer days and celebrating fertility, purification, and growth. Beltane is the time when the gods’ and goddesses’ energies are the strongest on Earth, and it is believed that their blessings can come to us in the form of health, wealth, and love.
The most important rite of Beltane is the great bonfire. It is said that the fire represents the Sun God, welcoming him back to fight for his place in our world once again. Beltane is also celebrated with a maypole, a pole decorated with ribbons and flowers which is the central point for a fun and playful dance.
The gods and goddesses celebrated during Beltane are those associated with fertility, such as Cernunnos, The Great Horned God, The Dagda, and the Triple Goddess.
The festival is celebrated with a great deal of symbolism. Milk, honey, and other sweet-tasting foods were often used to symbolise abundance. The wearing of green clothing, symbolic of new life and earth, was also common and wooden figures of the gods and goddesses of fertility were created to keep in the home. Hawthorn, ivy, and primrose, as well as stones, such as emerald, quartz, and jade, were also used to symbolise the strength of the season.
Beltane is a wonderful time to celebrate the coming of summer and enjoy the beauty that nature has to offer.
Litha, also known as Midsummer, marks the summer solstice. Celebrating the longest day of the year, welcoming light and warmth from the god of the sun.
The main rituals associated with Litha include greeting the sun at dawn, offering libations to the gods and goddesses, fire-leaping, and singing and dancing. Many make wildflower wreaths to decorate their homes and crowns to wear while celebrating.
Animals associated with Litha are birds, deer, and other creatures of the wild, while the colours of the season are yellow and green, with the stones of the sun being amber, garnet, and citrine. Traditional foods eaten during Litha include oatcakes, elderflower cordial, elderberry wine and mead, fruits of the season, and bannock. Herbs and plants connected to this festival are St. John’s Wort, yarrow, chamomile, and lavender.
Litha is a time of honouring the sun, the fertility of the land, and all of nature, and of asking for a plentiful harvest, health, and abundance. It is a time of joy and revelry, of dancing and singing, and of connecting with the divine through celebration.
Lughnasadh or Lammas traditionally marks the beginning of the harvest season in the Northern Hemisphere. The festival is named after the god Lugh, who is the deity of the sun, light, and harvest.
This festival is seen as a time to pause and celebrate the abundance of nature, expressing gratitude for the bounty of the earth. Rituals and offerings are made to the gods and goddesses of the harvest and to the spirit of the land. Common practices of the festival include blessing crops and making offerings of food, flowers, and stones.
Animals such as cows, sheep, and chickens were often sacrificed during Lughnasadh as a way to thank and honour the gods for their bounty. Popular foods for this festival include bread, apples, honey, and pomegranates. Herbs such as rosemary and mint, along with flowers and plants such as chamomile, daisies, and poppies are used to decorate the home and create wreaths. Stones like peridot, moonstone, and citrine are also associated with this festival and are believed to have healing properties.
Overall, Lughnasadh is a time to give thanks for the abundance of nature and celebrate the start of the harvest season.
The pagan festival of Mabon is celebrated on the autumnal equinox, typically falling between September 19th and 22nd. It is a festival of thanks and gratitude, to mark the second harvest and to celebrate the change from summer to autumn.
Mabon is associated with the Goddess Modron, the great welsh mother, and her son Mabon, who is heavily linked with the sun and harvest.
In more primitive times, animals such as sheep and cattle were sacrificed, as a way of giving thanks for the abundance of the harvest. While we might not partake in sacrificing anymore, many still celebrate this festival with a large feast. Foods such as apples, honey, nuts, root vegetables, and grain-based dishes are usually consumed, as a way of incorporating the fertility of the Earth into the celebrations.
Plants such as ivy and marigolds are used to decorate homes and gardens, while stones such as obsidian, aventurine, tourmaline, and carnelian are used to represent the changing seasons. Generally, Mabon is a time for reflection and appreciation of the gifts of the Earth, as well as celebration and rejoicing in the bounty of the second harvest.
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