My track record the last few years seems to have been to abandon my readers for most of the year, only to rally betwixt Yule and New Year with some kind of rah-rah polemic or opinion piece. I’m a little behind schedule in this respect, and I’m not sure I have anything worth saying as such.
The year has been fraught with the good and the bad, often the good coming first under the guise of the very bad. On some things the jury is still out; on other things it’s a case of adjusting and accommodating, remembering that life is not about avoiding discomfort but about ploughing on through to the other side. Discomfort does not mean you are on the wrong path … but then neither am I one of those people who believes that growth requires pain. Comme ci, comme ça! Life is not so easily put into boxes. The key is to remain flexible – something we can all improve at.
When I first began this blog, some 8 or 9 years ago, I used to pooh-pooh the occultists and pagans who seemed to hide behind their “secrets” and “initiated knowledge”. But now I am hesitant in my own writing because much of what I work on esoterically is private, not for public consumption because to bare all would be to bare my soul and make me more vulnerable than I am willing to be amongst strangers’ eyes; and a large part would not be understood by the main in the way that I understand and engage with it. For example, I laugh when I am still accused of being “wrong” and “immoral” for my LHP leanings, because that says nothing about me and everything about the ignorance of the accuser. Occasionally I am asked, “So what do you believe?” and I cannot answer that. The best answer I can give is to suggest that we have frequent discussions over the next few years and see. That is not to sound woo-woo or grandiloquent, it is just that words fail me to express the *experience*. Describe a sunset to someone who has been blind from birth. Even with my own spiritual mentors I struggle and I feel like such a fraud because I cannot put it into words. If I could open up my chest and push their hands inside and say, “Feel!”, that might help; if I could crack open my head and say, “Look!”, they would know. But instead, I read my studies and like a child I can only parrot, “Me too! Yeah, that’s how I feel/see/know!” So as much as I would wish to share my journey with you, I struggle. But “immoral” and “wrong” … >laughs out loud long and hard< oh boy, you’ll just never get it.
On a practical note, I am withdrawing from social media. I have spent the last day or so tidying up my web presence. I find the vacuous echo chambers tiring, draining, distracting and the epitome of delusion. Some manage to master their engagement so that it is beneficial to them. I applaud them. I cannot do that. To me it is at times an amusement, but for the most part vampiric. The plus side is that I shall instead be focusing more on blogging and writing. But this is primarily for myself. I have a secret hideaway elsewhere on the web that has become my writing haven, and I have here. Since I get few to zero comments and engagements on my blog, it will not demand the same ego-juggling (my own and others’) that social media like Facebook and Twitter do.
Since I intend to prioritise my occult study and practice this year, I am hoping that I will eventually find enough words to express tidbits of interest to you. It would be nice to see the fires burning again on this blog.
Until soon. Amour Amour.
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The Pagan Calendar is divided into eight ritual and celebratory events: four major and four minor celebrations that mark the passing of the year and celebrate a phase in the relationship between God and Goddess. This is sometimes referred to as the Wiccan Ritual Year or the Wheel of the Year. Since many pagans who celebrate these festivals are not Wiccan, we shall refer to it as the Wheel of the Year. Why a wheel? This is because the symbol that illustrates the sequence of the year is usually drawn in a circle, representing the continuous coming and going of the seasons and the years. A line has a beginning and an end, but a circle has always represented The Infinite.
[Image courtesy of Golden Valley Art]
[Copyright ©Golden Valley Art]
The four major festivals are called the “Greater Sabbats”, whereas the remaining four are “Minor Sabbats” and fall on the solstices and equinoxes.
These eight festivals of the Pagan Year are distinct from the “esbats” or monthly marking of the new moon and full moon.
Some pagans celebrate the festivals on the dates as dictated by the Gregorian Calendar, other pagans will celebrate the festival at the closest full moon, and others will look to the specific astrological conjunctions that mark the beginning of a festival.
According to Ronald Hutton (seminal historian on paganism), there is no evidence that pre-Christian people celebrated the eight festivals of the year. Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasadh were originally Gaelic quarter days. The concept of adding the equinoxes and solstices was adopted by modern Gardnerian Wicca in the 20th Century which also brought it more into line with Neo-Druidry. Many native peoples will have marked the equinoxes and solstices, which are observable in nature, but the actual eight-part Wheel of the Year is a more modern creation.
Some names for the God: Sun King, Green Man, Horned God, Father Nature
Some names for the Goddess: Mother, Maiden, Crone, Wise Woman, Mother Nature, Lady of the Wild Things
Samhain (31 October – 2 Nov)
Samhain (pronounced Sow-en) is considered the Pagan New Year. This is a time of celebrating the lives of those who have passed on and is a festival of the Dead. There is a general belief that the veils between this world and the afterlife are thinnest at this time of year, and as such it is a perfect time to welcome back the Dead, to remember them and hold feasts and celebrations in their honour. In paganism, death is very much a part of life, and is not seen as something morbid; it is a time to contemplate life and death as a sacred whole.
The old year dies and dissolves for the new year to begin. Death is merely a reminder of rebirth and how the Wheel of the Year keeps turning, even beyond the grave.
Other names: Halloween, All Hallows Eve, Feast of the Dead, Ancestor Night, Festival of the Returning Dead
Yule (19 – 23 December)
Yule, which is also known as the Winter Solstice, marks the longest night of the year when the sun is at its lowest point. Between Samhain and Yule, the Lord of the Night (symbol of death) has ruled and the Goddess in her Crone aspect has given us wisdom. Now it is the time when Light returns and the Great God/Sun or divine male is reborn. It is one of the four solar festivals.
Other names: Winter Night, Winter Solstice
Imbolc (1 – 2 February)
Imbolc (pronounced Im-olc with a silent “b”) celebrates the land awakening and the growing strength of the Sun/God deity following his rebirth at Yule. The Goddess is venerated in her maiden aspect (her three aspects being: mother, maiden and crone/old woman). It is a time of cleansing, purification and dedication. The young god approaches the maiden goddess with desire; their love igniting the creative energy we see in spring.
Other names; Candlemas, Brigid’s Day, Bride’s Day
Ostara (19 – 23 March)
An equinox is when the sun crosses the celestial equator – day and night are of equal length: for pagans this is a solar festival when the powers of winter and darkness are equal to the powers rising to bring summer and light. The Horned God rides forth on the hunt and heralds in a time of celebration. Winter is behind us and the potential for life and growth abounds.
Other names: Lady Day, Festival of Trees, Spring Equinox
Beltane (1 May)
Beltane is a time when the Great God and Goddess are united in sexual union: the mystery of the Sacred Marriage of God and Goddess, the Hieros Gamos/”greenwood marriage” that is often replicated within ritual through the year. Hence this is seen as a fertility festival, represented by such rituals as dancing around a phallic maypole. The God impregnates the Goddess creating the potential for life, the harvest of the land later in the year.
Other names: May Day
Midsummer (19 – 23 June)
The summer solstice marks the midsummer point of the year when the sun is at its highest point: the longest day in the year. One of the solar festivals; this is when the God is crowned Lord of Light and is at the height of his power. Having known complete love with the Goddess, he now turns and sets sail for the Land of Rebirth. From this point his powers start to wane and the days become shorter. The Goddess prepares to give birth to the fruits of the land, the annual harvest.
Other names: Litha, Summer Solstice
Lughnasadh (1 – 2 August)
Lughnasadh (pronounced loo-na-sah) is a grain/corn festival or festival of the first fruits when pagans give thanks not only for food, but for all gifts and blessings, granted by the bounty of the fertile Goddess of the Land.
Other names: Lammas, Festival of the First Fruits
Mabon (20 – 24 September)
Mabon is an equinox, which is when the sun crosses the celestial equator – day and night are of equal length: for pagans this is a solar festival. As the days lengthen, pagans once again consider the darker faces of God and Goddess. It can also be a time to honour old age and the coming winter. This is a second harvest celebration, giving thanks for and sharing the fruits of the earth to ensure the blessings of God and Goddess through the winter.
Other names: Autumn Equinox, Second Harvest, Wine Harvest
Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, by Scott Cunningham
Hedge Witch: Guide to Solitary Witchcraft, by Rae Beth
I originally had my Yule ritual planned for midday today, but then I woke unexpectedly a couple of hours before dawn. Once I saw the crescent moon and heard the wind gusting at the eaves, I knew I had to head out for sunrise. I donned my black head scarf and black shawl with its long fringes and laughed at myself as I strode down the streets heading for the river … I think I must have looked like a witch…
I was down by the river at 6.30 in the pitch dark. I cast off my spell into the waters, made my offering and then headed along the bank into the fields. The cows were just being herded in for milking. I’m glad I had my little torch with me as it helped me narrowly avoid a hedgehog who curled up and hid when I said hello. Across the dark fields which were laced with mist I saw trees silhouetted black against the horizon as dawn started to break.
Even in the dark I recognised a cluster of oak trees at the river edge laden with mistletoe. I leaned my back against one of them, waiting for sunrise. I looked up at the crescent moon glistening like a blade through the bare branches overhead, and out across the field at the emerging sun: beneath moonlight at sunrise … is there anywhere better in the world? As the sun rose I said my invocation prayer to Ra.
I scared a few fishermen before I left, which is always a bonus. Then I made my way home to a hearty breakfast and the most wonderful present from my dear, talented friend Arnametia. She has made me an athame from a naturally shed antler she collected in the woods during rutting season and a lapis lazuli crystal pyramid. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen and I can barely let it out of my hand. I just want to sit and hold it.
This is a good day to begin what will be a good year… under oath to Meretseger, nedj her.
May the blessings of Ra kiss your forehead, and may you always feel the breath of your gods at your cheek.
“Thanks, I’ll take these please.”
I place the book and crystal pyramid on the glass counter, and turn my head as a young man enters the shop. He stares intently at me with an openness I usually only see in the mentally impaired. Normally people steal a glance, lock eyes momentarily with a non-committal expression before looking away. He greets the assistant and looks at my purchases.
“A crystal pyramid. Awesome”.
Oh, I get it. He’s The-Man-Who-Walks-Up-To-You-In-The-Pub. The stranger, perhaps seeing something too open in my expression, seizes the opportunity to connect.
“I just got back from a mad Summer Solstice festival, yeah, down in Breinton. Course, Covent Garden is the business. That’s where you can get all the proper pagan clothes. You see I’m a pagan and I HAVE to celebrate the solstice.”
“Yeah, Celtic gods, An’allthat.”
Ah, An’allthat, that’s a new Celtic god to me, but I bow before his enthusiastic knowledge.
His assumptions prickle, and I can’t help but say, “We did our ritual this morning.” My goodness, am I really thumbing my metaphorical nose at him? Who is the youngster here?
At which point he starts groping inside his shirt and pulls out an ankh, nodding and grinning at my chest.
“Oh, yes.” I wear an ankh as well.
“Yeah, mine’s got a garnet in. My birthstone. So, yeah. This festival, it was so …”
Don’t tell me, awesome.
“I hadn’t heard of a pagan festival nearby.”
“Oh, yeah, an’ then we’ve got The Big Chill coming up.”
I think the organisers of The Big Chill would be surprised to hear they are a pagan festival. Suddenly I wonder if the Summer Solstice festival he attended wasn’t actually a music festival. And my suspicions are confirmed as he reels off more known music events, that are about as pagan as the Pope.
“So,” say I. “Will you be going to the Ludlow Esoteric Fair?”
“No Ludlow Esoteric Fair.”
“Is that at the castle.”
I explain where it will be, and mention the main aims of the conference. I mention Madeleine Montalban and The Regency Group.
“Oh, yeah,” he interrupts. “I went to the Conservationist Group thing in London. Thousands of people there. Well cool.”
I pause mid-breath and feel very old. Is this the generation gap that is yawning before my feet giving me vertigo?
He looks at me blankly. I start shoving my purchases into my bag. This conversation is going nowhere fast. He flips out a phone, and dials MD for Major Distraction, as I wave and smile at the assistant. He studiously avoids my gaze and pretends not to see me leave.
I walk away and wonder when it became so “awesome” to be pagan and so easy. Buy the clothes, go to the festivals, wear an ankh (that archetypal symbol of all things … Celtic?) and proudly tell whoever will listen, “Cos I’m pagan, yeah.”
© starofseshat 2008