Like most modern pagan traditions our temple follows a calendar similar to the Wiccan Wheel Of The Year such as the one pictured here. What are these Pagan Holidays and what are they all about? Well, let’s talk about that.
Samhain – Let’s begin with Samhain! Why? Well, to the ancient Celts Samhain marked the final festival of the year and the end of summer. But also afterwards the new year on the Celtic calendar began. So, essentially, it’s the Celtic New Year’s Eve. Our modern holiday of Halloween has it’s origins in this holiday and it is considered a time at which the veil between the world of the living and that of the dead is at it’s thinnest. So it is considered a good time by many to remember departed loved ones, practice the arts of divination (tarot, runes, scrying, etc.) or to hold seances in order to reach the other side and perhaps gain some wisdom or just to touch base. Many of the practices held to this day to celebrate Halloween have their origins in ancient pagan traditions or to a time when Christianity was still a new arrival in once predominantly pagan parts of the world.
Yule – Somewhere between December 20th and 23rd we have Yule and yes, to this very day some Christmas carols speak of yuletide and decking halls with boughs of holly. These, as well as bringing in an evergreen tree to decorate, hanging a wreath, kissing under the mistletoe, etc. are all pagan traditions and bring a lot of fun and atmosphere to the holiday season. In many ways our Christian friends and family would feel very much at home with our way of celebrating this day. We decorate our homes, exchange gifts, sing songs, burn a yule log and feast pretty much as everyone else does at this time of year. What’s not to love about that?
Imbolc – At or near February 1st or 2nd comes Imbolc or as many folks here in the United States nowadays know it, groundhog day. Some consider this to be the day the ewes begin giving milk. It has always been a time to look for signs of the coming spring and an end to winter’s hold on the land though. In Celtic lands this day has always been sacred to the goddess Brighid (or Brigid, Brigit, Brighit and a few other spellings I’ve seen used) who was so loved by the people of her lands that the church made her a saint so that people could still pay homage to her. Throughout Ireland and other nearby places there are still many wells dedicated to Brigit. She is the “exalted one” and goddess of all things perceived to be of relatively high dimensions such as high-rising flames, highlands, hill-forts and upland areas; and of activities and states conceived as psychologically elevated, such as wisdom, excellence, perfection, high intelligence, poetic eloquence, craftsmanship, healing ability, druidic knowledge and skill in warfare.
Ostara – Around March 19th to 22nd is Ostara (or Ēostre ) celebrating the spring equinox and from it are traditions commonly associated with the modern Christian celebration of Easter these days. We do things like stuff colored eggs with candy and have the kids (of all ages) hunt for them. In addition to being a celebration of the arrival of spring this day is sacred to the goddess Ostara from whom comes the name of this sabbat because she brings renewal and rebirth from the death of winter. There are also many tales tying the hare (which later became the Easter Bunny) with the goddess Ostara.
Beltaine – Then we’re half way around the wheel from where we started at Beltane (Beltaine) on May 1st. Beltane has long been celebrated with, dancing around maypoles, feasts and rituals. The name comes from the fire of Bel (Belinos) which is a name for the god of the sun. As summer begins, the weather becomes warmer, the flowers bloom, and an exuberant mood prevails. In old Celtic traditions (and among modern pagans) it is a time of unabashed sexuality. Oftentimes marriages of a year and a day are undertaken at Beltane because of it’s association with new beginnings and fertility. Yes, this is the pagan sex festival you’ve probably heard all about. Some of the rumors might even be true. But who knows? 😉
Litha – June 21st brings us Litha, Midsummer, Summer Solstice, call it what you will but here in Texas it’s the beginning of sweltering heat which will last well into September usually. Nearly every agricultural society has marked the high point of summer in some way manner. The word itself is from the Latin word solstitium, which literally means “sun stands still.” Litha is a time to find a balance between fire and water. According to Ceisiwr Serith, in his book The Pagan Family, European traditions celebrated this time of year by setting large wheels on fire and then rolling them down a hill into a body of water.
Lughnasadh – Lughnasadh (or Lughnasa also known as Lammas) – Lughnasadh (Loo – Nah – Sah) means the funeral games of Lugh, another name for the sun god. Many think the funeral is his own, but actually the funeral games he hosts are in honor of his foster-mother Tailte. Because of this, the traditional Tailtean craft fairs and Tailtean marriages (which last for a year and a day – Yes, there’s that year and a day thing again) are also celebrated at this time. This is considered to be a time to begin reaping what we have sown, and bringing in the first harvests of grain, wheat, oats, and more. Lammas refers to loaves of bread so the feast following this ritual is usually accented by bread in it’s many forms and styles.
Mabon – Last but certainly not least comes Mabon ( also Meán Fómhair or Alban Elfed) at the autumnal equinox. It is the second harvest festival of the year, Lughnasadh being the first and Samhain the third and final. Apples and other fruits are often associated with this observance. It’s basically a ritual of thanksgiving for the fruits of the earth and a recognition of the need to share them to secure the blessings of the gods during the coming winter months. It is said that the name Mabon was first used by the poet Aidan Kelly sometime around 1970 in reference to Mabon ap Modron a character from Welsh mythology.
At Temple Of the Standing Stones we consider an esbat to be a clergy meeting and ritual held each month at the time of the full moon. This is usually a time for magickal workings to be done, ritual tools and other items to be cleansed and charged and temple business to be discussed. Our full moon esbats are skyclad rituals and are only open to initiated priests and priestesses of the tradition and their spouses. No observers are allowed, no non-skyclad people may be present in sight of the ritual space and no minors may attend. These rituals are intended only for the clergy and all must attend in perfect love and perfect trust and in equal standing. We usually hold an esbat on the nearest Saturday night to a full moon but sometimes we will schedule them for Friday nights if there is a schedule conflict with another event. In the event of a Blue Moon (second full moon within a calendar month) however, we do something special. Instead of a skyclad ritual we have a silly and fun ritual of some sort and invite anyone to attend. These Blue Moon rituals might involve wearing costumes or other amusing twists not normally seen. Think Tigger’s Full Moon Ritual with characters from a popular children’s book series or a Chocolate Ritual for examples.
THE NEW MOONS
New Moons rituals are held on the nearest Saturday evening or occasional Friday evening to the new moon of each month. The New Moon is a good time to make a new beginning, to ask for a new love, job or circumstances in your life as well as healing or renewing your commitment to an old resolution. These events are not skyclad and ritual robes are appropriate to wear if you have them. Otherwise casual attire is fine. Temple Of the Standing Stones New Moon rituals are open to members of the temple whether Dedicant or Initiate and their guests. Seekers may come but please RSVP ahead of time so we are properly prepared for the number of attendees.