Search This Blog

Monday, 26 July 2010

Wiccan Holidays

Wiccan Holidays Cover Wiccan holidays have existed since before Christianity. There are now several similarities found between the two.

Depending on who you ask wicca is either a new found religion or one of the oldest religions to be, and to be honest both of these statements would be true. Just as any other religion Wicca has conformed and grown over the years. Todays’ Wicca is an extension of the wiccan religion that was traced back to Gardnerian witchcraft which was founded in the UK during the late 1940s. But just as in any other religion Wicca holidays can still be found today.

WICCA is based on the symbols, seasonal days of celebration, beliefs and deities of ancient Celtic society. wiccans recognize the existence of many ancient Gods and Goddesses, including Pan, Diana, Dionysius, Fergus, etc. However they also view the God and Goddess as symbols, not living entities. In the trees, rain, flowers, the sea, in each other and all of natures creatures. This means that they believe in treating “all things” of the Earth as aspects of the divine.

And this brings us to the point of our topic today. There are eight commonly-recognized and celebrated Wiccan holidays. Four of these (the quarter days) are held at the time of the solstices or equinoxes. The other four are cross-quarter days, held roughly in between one solstice and the subsequent equinox. Historical research shows that these holidays were probably celebrated throughout Europe and the British Isles in pre-Christian times. Many of the festivals were so popular that the Christian church could not prevent the common people from commemorating them, so they were appropriated and held under the aegis of various (and frequently spurious) Christian saints. The popularity of these ancient holy occasions is linked to changes in the earth and sky, the seasons, and the natural year-round seasonal shifts that dramatically affect human beings, animals, and plants.

BRIGANTIA or as it is more commonly known as Imbolc (the day when newborn lambs begin to nurse) or, to the Christians, Candle-mas (the purification of the Virgin), Brigantia is usually celebrated February 2. It marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring, when buried seeds begin to stir within the earth. It also marks the beginning of the third of the year which belongs to the Maiden aspect of the three-fold goddess. “Brigantia” is the day of Brigit, an Irish goddess of smith-craft, healing, and poetry. The old Saxon and Norse communities knew her as Birgit, the lusty, spring-loving consort of Ullr, the god of winter. The color of this day is red.

THE VERNAL EQUINOX usually falls around the 20th of March. There are exactly 12 hours of darkness and 12 hours of light on this day, so it marks the changeover from the dark to the light half of the year. It is a time of conception and new growth. Roman Catholics turned spring equinox into the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (March 25, Lady Day).

BELTANE is May 1, traditionally celebrated by twining ribbons “round a Maypole, an obvious fertility ritual. The name of this holiday is taken from various solar fire deities known to Celtic and Norse peoples. Its color is white. The Norse goddess Iduna, keeper and creator of the runes, is good to honor on Beltane. Beltane fires were lit on this evening, and people leaped through the smoke to purify themselves and insure fertility. It was customary to extinguish the fire in all the households in a village, then kindle a magic flame in a nine-square grid from which the center piece of turf had been removed. This fire was made with an oak spindle in an oak log socket, and was used to relight everyone”s hearth. Beltane was also traditionally celebrated by couples who made love in the woods. In Germany, this holiday was known as Walpurgisnacht.

SUMMER SOLSTICE occurs around June 21. In medieval times, celebrations of this year were labeled the feast of St. John the Baptist. Bonfires were kindled on the highest points in the district to celebrate the son achieving the highest point in its circuit. Flaming sunwheels were rolled downhill, and burning torches were carried sun wise around buildings to bless them. This day is sacred to the great mother goddess, especially Cerridwen. The Maiden gives way to Mother aspect of the goddess.

LAMAS announces the beginning of fall on August 1. Its traditional color is brown, and it commemorates the grain harvest. It is named after Lugh, a god of light, and an Anglo-Saxon word for “loaf of bread.” This is a time of thanksgiving and feasting.

FALL EQUINOX happens at About September 23, the light begins to decrease, and the dark half of the year commences. This is the second harvest festival, the harvest of fruits. Wine making commences now. The community begins to prepare for winter, and the Mother prepares to yield way to the Crone.

SAMHAIN falls on the last day of October, and is still celebrated today as Halloween. It was customary to slaughter livestock on this day and begin smoking meat. In the old Celtic calendar, this was the end of one year and the beginning of the new. The veil between the realm of the living and the dead is especially thin on this holiday. In Latin countries, the Day of the Dead is commemorated around this time of year. It is customary to do a divination on this day for what the coming year will bring.

WINTER SOLSTICE falls on or about December 21. Also known as Yule, this is a major holiday, when the sun reaches its weakest point, and we have the shortest day and the longest night of the year. The Crone is in full force. Many religions have placed the birth of their solar hero gods and saviors on this day: Jesus, Horus, Helios, Dionysus, and Mithras all claim Yule as their birthday. Since this day also represents the point at which the sun begins to wax, it represents rebirth and regeneration.

Books You Might Enjoy:

John Yarker - Arcane Schools
Melita Denning - The Aurum Solis
Gerald Gardner - Witchcraft Today