There are many flavors of modern day Paganism.
All Pagans don't celebrate the same holidays
but the eight Wiccan Sabbats are a lovely model
anyone who wants to live his or her life attuned to the cycles of Nature.
Yule / Winter Solstice on or near December 21st
Here in the northern hemisphere, nights get longer and days get shorter until
the day of the Winter Solstice
when the cycle reverses.
The word Yule comes from the Norse Jul meaning wheel.
On this darkest of nights, the
Goddess becomes the Great Mother and once again gives birth
to the Sun God. This is a fire festival so celebrate with a Yule log in the fireplace,
candles on the table and lights on the tree.
Evergreens, holly, ivy and mistletoe, symbols of fertility and everlasting life,
remind us that the cold darkness of winter will eventually give way to the warmth & new growth of
Imbolc / Imbolg / Candlemas - February 2nd
Imbolc means, literally, 'in the belly' (of the Mother) and in the womb of Mother Earth
new life is truly stirring. The young Sun God is growing and his strength is beginning
to be noticeable. If you look closely, you may notice a snowdrop or a crocus
pushing its way out of the still-cold earth. This is traditionally a day of purification, of
sweeping out the old to make room for the new... both physically and emotionally.
Celebrate by lighting LOTS of candles to encourage the young Sun; if you like to make them yourself,
this is an auspicious day to do it. As nuts and seeds symbolize new beginnings,
enjoy some sesame cookies or nutbread while visualizing yourself co-creating a loving,
joyous & prosperous future.
Ostara - Spring Equinox - on or near March 21st
Named for Eostre the Teutonic
Goddess of New Life,
Ostara is the first day of Spring.
Light and darkness are in balance, but the light is growing stronger as days
continue to grow longer. The Young Sun God continues to mature and grow; small tender leaves
appear on the trees, young buds are swelling
and, here in New York, cheerful white and yellow daffodils
are already in full bloom. The Life Energies are building quickly now
and the very air seems to vibrate with promise. Celebrate by coloring eggs, an ancient symbol of fertility.
Beltaine / Beltane / May Day - May 1
From the Irish Gaelic Bealtaine meaning Bel-fire
(the fire of Bel, Celtic God of light)
Beltaine is primarily a fertility festival;
the Land represented by the Goddess is now ripe and fertile
and the Sun God expresses His Love for Her.
Celebrate by establishing a woodland or garden shrine and
gathering flowers to adorn your living space... and yourself!
Midsummer / Summer Solstice - on or near June 21st
Midsummer is the longest day of the year. It's not harvest time yet, but
Mother Nature is impressively lush. The veil between the Faerie realm and
our world is thin so don't be surprised
if you catch a glimpse of an otherworldly someone on Midsummer's Eve!
Celebrate with a bonfire and if you're into herb magick, any plants gathered at
this time are particularly powerful. Or just stroll through a park or woodland area
and bask in the glory of our natural world.
Lughnasadh / Lammas - August 1
Even though Lughnasadh occurs at the warmest time of the year,
it marks the time at which days become noticeably shorter and so
is considered the starting point of the autumn quarter of the year.
The autumn season contains three harvests, and Lughnasadh is the
first of these, the time when the first corn harvest is cut.
The name is derived from Lugh (pronounced 'loo'),
a Celtic deity of light and wisdom. At Lughnasadh,
bread from the first harvest was eaten in thanks. Baking, sharing
& eating bread is a wonderful way to celebrate this holiday and if you
can, attend a Renaissance Faire, Medieval Festival or Highland Games
competition. The jousting matches and caber & sheaf tosses were no doubt inspired
by that aggressive war god Lugh :-)
Mabon / Autumn Equinox - on or near September 21
Mabon is the time of the second harvest, when fruits are ready for collection.
The land is showing clear signs of the journey towards winter - leaves are beginning to turn
and birds are gathering for migration.
Mabon is a time to consider which aspects of your life you wish to
preserve and which you would prefer to discard.
This is the Pagan Thanksgiving, a time to
appreciate and enjoy the fruits of your labors.
Commemmorate Mabon by making wine, feasting with friends,
planting bulbs to bloom in the spring and put out
feeders to help those brave birds who don't migrate get through the long winter ahead.
Samhain, All Hallow's Eve, Hallowe'en - October 31
This is the Last Harvest and New Year's Eve to the ancient Celts.
Being "between years," it is considered a very magical time,
a day when the veil separating the the physical plane and spiritual realms
is most permeable. This is a good day to practice divination: scrying, Tarot readings and Rune casting
are all particularly effective.
The practice of donning costumes... especially scary ones...
grew out of
the ancient fear of evil spirits passing through the veil along with the
benevolent ones and pumpkin carving evolved from the practice
of painting hideous faces on gourds to keep "gouls and goblins"
away from the home. Samhain is also a day for honoring our ancestors and
one of my favorite rituals is the Dumb Supper... laying an extra place
at the dinner table for those who have passed over to the Summerlands.
As we contemplate the Wheel of the Year,
we come to recognize our own part in the eternal cycle of Life.
Here are some excellent books
on celebrating Pagan style to help you create your own holiday traditions.
A practical guide to earth-centered seasonal celebration with a Celtic Pagan flavor.
Beginning at Samhain and progressing through the magickal year, Ms Cabot covers the origins
of the holidays and suggestions for personal and group celebration including
sample rituals, preparation, garb, herbcraft, spellcraft, magical stones,
traditional recipes & crafts.
A lovely introduction to Imbolg and the Goddess Brigid, with
rituals, crafts, and recipes to make this holiday a memorable and meaningful one.
There's also a nice big section on making your own candles.
Some spells and rituals, fairy & flower lore and lots of fascinating folk history tracing
the origins of the Green Man & Jack-in-the-Green, the May Queen & King, the Hobby Horse and t
he Mummers. Some creative craft projects and recipes too: learn to make pentacle hair
braids, a May Pole centerpiece and quick-and-easy May Wine.
Cait and Maura lead you through a year of earth-centered festivals, describing
projects, special meals and ways to create family traditions that honor the
mystery and sacredness of the circle of seasons. And though the activities in
this book are all child-friendly, adults (like me!) love them too :-) Some of my favorites
are the home-made rainstick, dream pillow and turnip spirit guide.
History of the eight witches' Sabbats as celebrated around the world plus lots
of practical suggestions on adapting these ancient rites for
modern day Pagans celebrations. Includes both solitary and group rituals,
with recipes, crafts, and foods, plant, and symbol correspondences for each Sabbat.
This book of rituals presents detailed celebrations for each of the eight Sabbats
based on the Farrars own Book of Shadows. There are also well researched sections on mythology and lore,
plus additional rituals for casting a Circle,
the Great Rite, Handfasting, and Requiem.
I haven't read this one yet but it looks interesting: a book specifically about the
Wiccan tradition originated in the 40's and 50's by Gerald Gardner.
Celtic in origin,
encompassing rituals as practiced
in the south of England, Gardnerian Wicca incorporates within its rituals and philosophy
ideas first published by Charles Leland (Aradia - Gospel of the Witches).
A nice introduction to Samhain past and present that combines
scholarship with creativity and sense of fun. It explores the popular
holiday of Halloween as well as
the more serious and spiritual side of Samhain as Pagan Sabbat.
History and lore, spells, rituals, craft ideas and one of the best
collection of Samhain recipes I've seen.
Subtitled a Complete Guide to the Magic, Incantations, Recipes, Spells, and Lore,
this book is just that.
There is plenty of Samhain lore... symbols, rituals, foods, and superstitions...
but this mainly a book of practical magic to help you celebrate in
Pagan style with rituals, spells, herbs, omens,
divinations, recipes and craft ideas.
Learn about the deity for whom Lammas aka Lughnasad is named
as well as Odin, Adonis, and Dionysos, other sacrificial gods whose rites
occurred around this time of year. There are also plenty of
recipes and spells and inspiration for crafts and games. Since Lugh was a warrior
god, Rennaisance Faires & Medieval Festivals with
jousting tournaments and Highland Games are especially appropriate at this
time of year. This is a wonderful treasure trove of information on
perhaps the most obscure of Pagan holidays.
Explore the Pagan & regional roots to many of our
contemporary rituals & celebrations.
Includes homemade crafts & gift ideas.
seasonal recipes, and a December calendar listing traditions
for every day of the month.
Each month listing begins with a brief history of the month itself, birthstone, flowers,
and astrological signs. Each day has a magickal tidbit such as God/dess observance days,
festivals, birthdays, or history. The illustrations are beautiful and give the book an almost "medieval" feeling.
Pagan and Cat inspired jewelry
There's also a section on crystal healing & gemstone magic.
Magickal Light Candle Luminaries Some of the most beautiful votive candle holders I have ever seen, online or off.
Designs include Gods and Goddesses; Totem Animals; Fantasy Creatures;
Celestial Moons, Stars
Pagan, Spiritual & Magickal symbols and Celtic and Gothic inspired artwork and
some just-for-fun things too. I am addicted to these candle holders :-)
Pagan Greeting Cards cards for Yule & all the Sabbats... handfastings & other rites of passage
featuring Gods & Goddesses, faeries, Celtic knotwork, animal Totems, zodiac signs & more