In my Native Scotland, any reason to gather together and celebrate is a good reason. In my last blog, I described the eight major festivals of the Celtic tradition. In my own life, I still honor them in my own way, sometimes with a group and sometimes with something deeply personal. Every year, it is different. Every year, it is special. Marking time in this way provides a powerful sense of connection to the Cycles of Life and the cycles of my own life.
Yule – December 21st (Winter Solstice)
This year, I celebrated Yule by spending it with a group of friends in a meditation circle at a local community hall. We shared poetry readings, silent meditation, followed by tea, hugs and catch up chat. We each lit a candle, placed it on a small altar in the center of the circle and silently meditated on Peace and Calm in our own lives and the world at large. Each year, we share this same meditative Peace Gathering on the Summer Solstice (June 21st). I went home and lit my own candle on my personal altar to mark this important turn of the year when our days slowly become longer. At Yule there is still time for rest and gathering resources but with the promise of light returning.
Imbolc – February 2nd
On Imbolc, I was staying with some dear friends and we marked this festival with a ceremony of our own. We created a beautiful altar with the 4 elements represented (air ,earth, fire and water), shared a wonderful meal together and voiced our hopes and aspirations for the coming year. We asked Goddess Bridget to midwife these infant projects into being in the coming year. Wine and chocolate were involved as is necessary in all good ceremonies and blessings. The moon was in its waxing infant stage which was particularly appropriate.
Ostara – March 21st (Spring Equinox)
The most memorable Ostara celebration was a few years ago with a group of women friends. We gathered in one the members house bringing hard boiled painted eggs and newly baked goodies to the feast. Her granddaughter was to be initiated into our group so we congregated out in her garden on a mild March night under a full moon. Full Pagan Ceremony was observed and it was very moving to hear this young emerging woman welcomed into the nurturing support of our sisterhood.
Beltane – May 1st
Beltane, I celebrate where possible by building a fire on the beach and have even persuaded my husband to jump the flames with me to consolidate our union. Mainly I just like to watch the sun go down behind the hills and watch the flames. In Edinburgh this is a big celebration attended by hundreds who wend their way up Carlton Hill by torchlight, accompanied by half-naked fertility dancers and drummers.
Litha – June 21st (Summer Solstice)
Mid Summer is another opportunity for a “Peace Gathering” and meditation with friends. Once home I again build a fire outdoors in the magical evening light. At this time of year the evenings never seem to end with light up until almost midnight and never complete darkness. I don’t want to miss a minute of the constantly changing light and colors in the sky.
Lammas – August 1st
Lammas brings a round of flower shows and highland games with displays of home grown produce and pipe band competitions. Lots of opportunities to come together from scattered rural communities and share our bounty from the growing season. Local beer and good malt whisky flow freely at these events.
Mabon – September 21st (Fall Equinox)
Mabon sees the days grow shorter but makes for beautiful moonlit nights. My favorite way to celebrate is by taking a walk on the full moon up the winding path above the village to the highest point on the hill. The light is so clear no need for flashlights. At the top we stop to admire the view over Loch Fyne with the moon over the water and tiny lights twinkling in the settlements along the shores. We gather in circle, light a candle and pass round the Quaich (ceremonial cup) filled with mead. We each voice our gratitude for something which has come to fruition in the year passing as we take a sip from the cup.
Samhain – October 21st
Samhain is my favorite festival on which I try to always gather with friends and share a meal. This is the celebration of the year coming to an end and a new cycle just about to begin. At this time the veil is thin between the worlds and the presence of our ancestors, those who walked the wheel before us, is most keenly felt. We set a place for them at table and share their stories with lots of laughter and tears. The Quaich is once again passed among us, this time with a sip we honor each of our loved ones. Once the feast is over, having each placed something from our plate on the empty platter, we ceremonially take the offerings and scatter them in the garden on the woodland edge to share with our animal and bird relatives.
The Cycle Continues
And thus my year is marked by a continual cycle of gatherings and celebrations some simple, some grand. There is no hard and fast rule, right or wrong – celebrating the Turn of the Wheel is personal and what works for you. You may like to follow these festivals yourself, noting them on your calendar and acknowledging their passing. You may like to light a candle at each date or even gather friends to share a meal, stories and good company. Whatever you do make sure it is filled with joy and peace, giving you a sense of place and time, keeping you connected with the cycles of Nature and with those you love.
Remember to end each gathering with a blessing:
“Merry meet and merry eat and merry meet again. The Circle is open but not broken.”
Upcoming Study Group (Teleconference)
Fri Mar 17 at 12:30pm EST (1 hour)
Join me (Janis McCall) and Joel Ying to explore Marking Time with the Celtic Calendar. In the modern world, we often mark time once a year on New Year’s Day and are less connected with the other times of year. Learn how these festivals can bring you into deeper presence and awareness in your life. With these festivals, we mark the passing of time and seasons. As metaphors, they help us navigate the changing seasons of our lives.
Join the online study group today at LivingthePresentMoment.com/studygroup.
Be on the call live or listen to the recording later.