… a thought making crooked all that is straight.

Pagan Festivals

Self and Other …

Whoremoans [sic]… Yesterday was a day when things flipped on the edge of a coin. Great one minute, in tears the next; everything feeling poignant. Months ago in such a hormonally driven state I cried when I saw a dancing dog. Really? It’s just a dog. But it’s dancing! Sob!

The brilliant biting sun of yesterday replaced today by clouds and a deeper chill. The ground is still too warm, throwing up crocuses and spring flowers which will all be killed with the first frost. So much death on the horizon – winter creeping up and taking us by surprise. The reasoning mind noting the excess of berries on the tree; people drawing on old folklore about heavy berry harvests meaning a harsh winter. Geese flying in Vs, unsure which direction they should head in. Robins happy but not looking fat enough to survive, as the instinct to overeat and build a fat reserve is inhibited by the plethora of insects still buzzing on warm days … even the odd wasp and bee. Bees should be sleeping deeply and dreaming of flowers by now.

I sat in the garden yesterday writing A Plan, saw Other (the local stray cat – named Other by me and my neighbour as he is the “other cat” who doesn’t belong round here). I called to him. The look of recognition and joy touched me as he scampered down the wall and pegged it down the long garden to see me (good job he didn’t start dancing). Normally he is such a reticent cat. Our first moment of contact was during a session of yoga in the garden. I settled into lotus for meditation and when I opened my eyes there he was sitting in front of me just staring – from awareness of Self to Other. That was the first time he let me touch him. Since then he can be approached cautiously. The last time his lip caught on a fang and I saw the beautiful skull underneath his black and white fur: “When you die, will you rot in my garden? Will you? Hmm? Will you? Purrrr. Do that for me!”

I’m in skull withdrawal and the paltry offerings of commercial Halloween do nothing to satiate my need for bone or decorative skullwork. Samhain fast approaching. Some acquaintances off doing their own thing – apparently I’m too “dark” for them. I think they are right. I have something else planned with Others: part of three days of ritual – one day for me, one day for a man I care deeply about, one for me and my friends. And so my own awareness expands from Self to Other.

Last night I finally finished Leonora Carrington’s book, Down Below. This is the problem with reading 20+ books at the same time, I am a water-book-boatman, skimming over the waters, drawing lines between ideas and reading deeper meanings into connections between multiple sources. I believe each moment to be an opportunity to experience a greater lesson than just the words on one piece of paper or the words from one person’s mouth. Rarely do I dive into just a single book, but that too is a refreshing and different lesson, necessary at times.

Her final words describe how she slipped from madness to lucidity through the words of a “reasonable man”. The world in which she had guided the planets and seen the true nature (or warped nature) of those around her dissipated like mist on the river. “He ‘deoccultized’ the mystery with which I was surrounded…” She realised that medication was just medication not a form of hypnotism, and that her obsessions with one man (who patently took advantage of her vulnerable state) could be broken by having sex with another.

All in all a most unsatisfactory ending; but such are endings in life. Encounters, situations and people are rarely cut clean and tied up with a nice bow. It’s a blood and guts affair that hurts, but with awareness it is a pain of purging not festering.

An awareness of Self and an awareness of Other – at times an inseparable dance or a balderdashing bashing of heads. But My time is currently one not of moulding Myself to anOther’s needs and feelings but of re-creating My sense of Self and Being. If Other fits My “occult” world, it may stay; if not, it may be deoccultized, as I continue to defy that thing called a “reasoning and reasonable mind”.

©StarofSeshat 2011


THE WHEEL OF THE YEAR

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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

Recommended Reading:

Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, by Scott Cunningham
Hedge Witch: Guide to Solitary Witchcraft, by Rae Beth

©StarofSeshat 2011