Celebrated on October 31 (pronounced Sa-when)
Also known as Witches’ New Year , Day of the Dead, All Souls Day
Samhain is the last of the Harvest festivals. The days are getting shorter and the Veil between the worlds is thin – it is the easiest time to contact the Beloved Dead from this plane. It is a time to rest, to reflect on the year that has passed.
It is also the time to remember those who have passed on during the year, and those who have already crossed to the Summer Isles. We take this journey in our ritual knowing that there is communion, blessing, and healing in talking with the Ancestors. It is a difficult journey, but we know that death is a transition between this world and the next, not the end of life.
This is the Witches’ New Year, and a time to reflect on what has been done, and what we would like to do in the coming year. We feast together, leaving a plate for the Ancestors to feast with us. It may be a somber ritual, but there is hope as well, for without death, there would be no life. Without death, there would not be room for something new. Without death, we do not learn.
Celebrated on the Winter Solstice, usually around December 20-22
Yule is a shared holiday in scope with many other religions. It marks the longest night of the year and the return of longer days, and gives hope for the Spring to come. We typically celebrate with all the usual trappings: trees, decorations, greens, ritual, and food. Some groups keep vigil all night and greet the dawn with singing, drumming, or just watching the sun rise. Generally, the ritual focuses on the rebirth of the Sun and making a wish for the coming spring.
Celebrated on February 2 (pronounced IMm-og)
Also known as St. Brigid’s Day, also Brid
This is the time of the awakening. The days are lengthening, and the ground isn’t so frozen or as wet. Crocuses are blooming and everyone has the urge to start doing instead of staying cooped up inside. It is time to make ready for the new.
It is the birthdays of trees: time to get into the mud and plant trees, the almonds, plums and magnolias are blooming.
Imbolg has two aspects to it: First, it is Brigid’s holiday, and as such it is a Bardic holiday. Singing, dancing, storytelling, drumming, poetry, and other performing arts can be done in Her honor. Second, it is also time to make ready for the new, so physical and ritual cleaning is also done at this time. This can also include the mental cobwebs, so rituals of cleansing are also appropriate.
Celebrated on the Spring Equinox, usually around March 20-22
March Madness: Bacchanalias, Mardi Gras, Purim (what happens in Ostara stays in Ostara)
It is time to finally come out and play! Take off your shoes and squish your toes in the mud. It is time for bringing up the new, planting the seeds.
Ostara is marked by the copius amounts of bunnies and chicks that show up on the altar. But it is also the time where we ask for what we would like to harvest in the Fall. Rituals using seeds or eggs are common, to symbolized planting of the seeds of new life and new growth, physically and spiritually.
Celebrated on May 1
Beltaine (also Beltane or Bealtaine), takes its name from the traditional Irish May Day celebration. The UK and Ireland have many customs associated with May Day, which have coalesced, along with other lore, into the neopagan Beltaine holiday. Though at a surface level rituals such as dancing around a May Pole are innocuous, their symbolism is unequivocally sexual.
Beltaine is very much a celebration of sex, per se. Sex and sexuality are held highly sacred by most neopagan paths, and ours is no exception. Though, at first sight, it might appear that this requires literal adoption of magick based upon gendered polarity, this is unnecessary because the divine orgasm, in and of itself a transcendental experience, is not predicated upon heterosexual sex.
Celebrated on the Summer Solstice, usually around June 20-22 (pronounced Lith-ah)
The light is bright, the days are warm, but with it comes the knowledge that the Harvest will soon be here.
Where Beltane celebrated the sexual, passionate side of fertility, Litha celebrates growth of the seeds that were sown. Remember that fertility can about more than just making babies. It can be about fertility of thought, creativity, crops, land, livestock, fish, and food.
The plants grow tall, towards the sun. They are not ripe, yet, but we know that the growth at Midsummer will make for a bountiful Harvest. Rituals are typically held outside, during the day, if possible, and can be for inspiration, love, protection, and divination for the coming Harvest.
Lammas (or Lughnasad)
Celebrated on August 1 (pronounced Lahm-as or Loon-ah-sah)
Lammas or Lughnasad is the first Harvest Festival, and celebrates the first bounties of the Harvest. What you have sown in the spring is now coming ripe and bearing fruit.
Lammas, being the first of the Harvest holidays, is a time to celebrate life. Feasts (pot luck, bbq, etc) are common to this holiday, as is giving libations to the Earth in thanks for a bountiful crop, especially bread and beer. Traditionally, wheat weavings and corn dollies are made at this time to protect the home for the fall and winter.
Celebrated on the Autumnal Equinox, usually around September 20-22 (pronounced May-bon)
The Harvest is pretty much done, and now it’s time to celebrate the wealth of the Harvest together. Mabon is also known at the Witches’ Thanksgiving. We are giving thanks for a bountiful harvest, not only of food, but of ourselves.
We usually celebrate this time of year with a traditional Thanksgiving feast with all our family and friends. (You know, turkey, potatoes, gravy, and all the rest!) We give thanks for what has come into our lives, and for those who have been there to share it with us.