Category: eZine Article
We are at the half way point
on the wheel
Having come through the
dark cold times
we welcome the
calling in the light
big bright bonfire.
Tradition historically also varies widely throughout Gaul.
Traditional activities include leaping over the fire and leading livestock through twin fires to purify and protect, ensuring good health and fertility in the year to come. Many communities would extinguish the home hearth, relighting from the communal Bealtaine fire for the coming year.
Handfasting was also common at this time, when couple would commit to each other in marriage.
Cultural revivals often place Bealtaine, as it is known in Ireland, on May 1st, and so of course the festival begins on May-Eve or April 30th. The astronomical quarter point marking mid-way between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere is May 5th in 2013.
Historical customs include decorating the “May Bush” of Hawthorn or Rowan, and so it would make sense that this would fall when the Hawthorn blooms. Because of the change from the Julian to the Gregorian Calendar in the 1500s, what used to be May 1st would now fall around May 11th.
Whenever you call in the summer light, Bealtaine (like Samhuin) is thought to be a time when the veil is thinnest, when the Sidhe are on the move. Capture the morning dew, or the spring water if you are lucky enough to live by a spring, on Bealtaine morning. This may be used throughout the year in ceremony and healing.
(Dingle is host to the annual Féile na Bealtaine)
The Celtic Wheel ~ Lughnasadh
Lughnasadh (pronounced Loo-NAH-sa) is named for the Celtic God Lugh, King of the Tuatha de Danann, whose phallus of light pierces the Mother Earth bringing forth the fruits of that union.
This is the time of First Fruits. Historically, the first sheath of grain harvested was blessed and buried at a height on a hill or mountain. In some areas, and over time, this was baked on a fire of protective Rowan, protection being invoked for this year’s harvest and for the next year’s seeds by walking sunwise around the fire and/or home and fields (the core of the customs continued through the ages, even as they varied widely by location and time as well as prevailing beliefs in that they were syncretized into the rituals of Christian Ireland and Britain).
Around this time – from the Summer Solstice to Lughnasadh at the many Pattern festivals – the water source of each township is ritually blessed in gratitude. For an example, people gather at Brigid’s Well in County Clare on August Eve (July 31st or for Christians the nearest Saturday night) and spend the night. In the morning rather than going to Church, the gathered will pray and perform ancient rituals, whether the elaborately orchestrated Christian rituals with set prayers while walking sunwise around the various spots at the water source, or the redreamed Pagan Celtic based rituals.
Just as Lughnasadh is thought to signify the marriage of the Sun Lugh to the Earth Mother, in times past it was a time when handfast marriages were arranged and commited ritually between a couple willing to commit to a year together. At the end of the year, if compatibile, the commitment could be made more permanent. If, however, it was thought by the couple that it was best to separate, there was no shame either for them or for any child coming of the union.
A time of feasting, of games, of fun.
A time to climb to higher ground.
A time to bless the water sources.
A time to make a commitment for the coming year.
This August Eve, harvest some fruits and vegetables. Create a delicious meal to share with others with joyful playing and dancing. Share the harvest with close friends and strangers – with those who have and those who are hungry.
As you harvest, so shall you harvest next year.
Harvest the seeds for your next year’s reaping, whether seeds from plants to be sown in the spring, or the seeds of your relationships and your imaginings to be cared for and brought to fruition over time.
Remember the waters, take time to visit your water personal and communal water source and your wild waterways. Hold a water ritual and bless the waters, and all the waters. For the waters of all time and space are one. This is made clear in the oft quoted statement that we drink Cleopatra’s bathwater. Feel the waters on your fingers and lips knowing that all beings past present and future have held these same waters within and without. Commit to ensuring that the waters of one are available for all, and remember the many areas with little or no waters, and those with too much waters.
Climb a mountain, or the highest area nearby. Climb the mountains of your mind and take in the higher perspective of where you have been in your existence and where you are headed such that, through adjustments in direction, right action will grow through the coming year to fruition.
Make a commitment for the coming year to another person, to a principle, to a task or practice. Give to this with your whole beingness, and commit that in a year you will reevaluate the wisdom of this commitment by it’s fruits, making your choice whether to continue this commitment according to your best understanding of the higher good of all.
The wheel is turning,
Happy Lughnasadh All,
Since the time of the industrial revolution, our celebrations marking the points on the ever turning wheel of the year have faltered, and even died in many cases. This has been at the expense of community. Marking the seasons as a community is a much needed way to continually weave the threads of connection into a beautiful tapestry, ever changing and growing as does the land and the community itself. Ever honoring each and every part of the community, and our connection to the land and it’s other inhabitants. We can thank the Goddess that there is a resurgence in these sacred ceremonies and festivals which we both remember and cocreate, and a returning understanding of their importance .
As with all the points on the Celtic wheel, it is not known whether it was a true preChristian festival, or a folk custom tending to elements of this time of year in the agrarian calendar. It is clear, however, that it combined with the Catholic calendar into a syncretized celebration, the essence of which varied through time and location.
Further north the festivals marking the coming of the light were the forerunners of Candlemass, incorporating the honoring of Mother Mary. In Ireland, where there was a history of feasting and attending to the lactating herds, honoring of the Goddess Brigid easily shifted to honoring the Catholic Saint Brigid. Even today, there is an eternal fire kept in her name at her supposed birthplace in Kildare.
Once Christianized, these festivals became subject to the tides of political change. The laws denouncing certain rites, and promoting others, were polarized by the tension between Catholic and Protestant rulers and rulings, and the practices, except in outlying districts, depended on who was in power at the time.
No matter what the true origins of Imbolc was, no matter whether Saint Brigid was a historical person or a mythological depiction of the Goddess, this was always a time to recognize the beginning of spring in Britain and Gaul. To honor fertility and the nourishing lactation of the mother. To honor women.
Ronald Hutton in his book “The Stations of the Sun” when speaking of Candlemass customs in Whales wrote:
“As in the Gaelic areas where Brigid was welcomed, a feast at the opening of spring had developed into a means … of paying respect to womanhood.”
It is at this time that the herds are moved from their winter fields, which are then readied for planting, by now well manured. Although there may well be some difficult and frosty times ahead, the light is growing and preparation begun. Now is the time to celebrate the ending of the winter season, and to herald in the spring.
All of you mothers out there will remember the time when in labor, the time when you come to the end of your rope, when you hit transition. It is during transition that, although you feel you simply cannot go on – you know simultaneously that it is almost over. Your precious gift is soon to emerge.
For although this is a time of bleak tiredness, it is also a time of great hope and anticipation.
Such is Imbolc. The coming of the light, and of the milk.
The start of spring.
Light candles and dedicate them to your mother,
and to The Mother.
Come together in community.
Feast and make mary merry.
And allow the hope and light of grace rekindle your fire and passion
as we walk into spring
First of the Four Celtic Fire Festivals
The Celtic Wheel begins at sunset Oct 30 with Samhuin,
the first of the four fire festivals,
and traditionally lasts three days and nights.
The harvest is in , and it is a time of beginning decay.
In the northern hemisphere, the cold winds come and the fields turn fallow.
Farmers assess the livestock and decide who to slaughter,
and who might last the winter months.
There is plenty, but preparations are underway for the austerity of winter.
This is also a time to honor the dead.
Those who died in the previous year in particular,
and all the ancestors.
A time to feast,
remembering to feed those who walked the Earth before you.
The veil is thin,
and this is a time when you are most able
to connect with
your loved ones on the other side,
known and unknown,
and send them gratitude.
You may need assistance from them,
and asking for them to help you gives them great pleasure
as they are invested in the successes of their descendants on Earth.
These “Days of the Dead” also serve to remind us that there is more than what meets the eye,
and that there is life after life.
There is a natural tension between that which we want to leave behind,
and that which we we want to bring forth and manifest in the coming year.
Choose carefully, so that in these days of deep magic your heart’s desire will be called to you,
and your fears will fall away.