approximately Dec. 21
Theme: First day of Winter; Rebirth; Stillness
Type: Solstice/Solar Holiday; longest night of the Year
Night and darkness have reached their apex and the Wheel turns to restore balance. The dawn heralds the return of the sun, bringer of light, warmth, and growth. In the days following Yule, the sun?s power grows steadily, encroaching upon the night, pushing back the darkness.
The Yule tree (recognized in modern times as the ?Christmas tree?) is an ancient symbol of life, fertility and vitality. Even in the dead of Winter, the Yule tree is evergreen ... a reminder of the life-force of Nature. Trees are brought into the house and decked with lights to celebrate Life and the returning of light after the darkest night.
Yule is also a celebration of dawning potentiality. As darkness gives way to light, the Earth lies sleeping. To us, the Earth appears dead, dormant, but deep within her soil lies the slumbering seed awaiting the power of the newborn sun to activate its growth. At Yule, we look within ourselves for the sleeping seeds, and identify the situations, blessings, activities we would like to germinate and grow in the coming year. We honor the need for the regenerative stillness, the rest before the energetic growth of springtime. Yule is a time of transformation and rebirth. Rituals and personal healing work centered around rebirthing are customary at this time.
February 1 (beginning at sundown)
Theme: Quickening, Purification; Preparation; Initiation
Type: Seasonal Holiday ~ 1st Spring Festival
Imbolc is a time of quickening. The Earth begins to stir from her long winter slumber. We sense the rising of sap in the trees, the awakening of seeds deep in the soil and the promise of the coming Spring. The seeds of personal growth, which slept within us at Yule, begin to germinate.
This holiday is a traditional time for initiations and dedicating oneself to new levels of spiritual exploration & commitment. Initiations and dedications are transformational ceremonies, which quicken new growth and invite our spirit allies to support us in in the next phase of our evolutionary journey.
Imbolc is a sacred feast of the great Celtic Goddess Brighid. In honor of the growing light (and of the Brighid?s perpetual flame) it is customary to burn candles to celebrate this feast. This is a traditional time for candlemaking; an ideal time to make &/or bless candles to be used for sacred work throughout the year. On Imbolc night, people divine for insight about the direction of spiritual exploration and work for the coming year.
approximately March 21st
Theme: First day of Spring; Emergence; Fertility; Balance
Type: Equinox/Solar Holiday; balance of night & day
Ostara marks the first day of Spring. It is a celebration of the awakening of the Earth. All around us, the Earth reveals her vitality ... in the soft haze of first greening, in the swelling of buds, in the song of the robin. The seeds within the soil have sprouted and are pushing out into the sunlight. Likewise, within us it is time for the seeds we have nurtured since Yule to come into the light and begin to flourish. It is a time of new beginnings, the freshness of dawn. The Earth is young again and so are we. In the Greek myth, Persephone returns from the Underworld to be welcomed in joy by her mother Demeter, who decks the world in Springtime as a celebration. Now is an time for planting or for decking your home or altar with flowers. Many people bless the seeds for their gardens on this day.
Ostara is a fertility feast, both summoning and celebrating fertility. It is traditional to dye or paint eggs on this day. The egg is an ancient symbol of fertility and possibility. Eggs are often painted with symbols, images or colors to magickally evoke qualities or events which we desire in our lives. This, of course, has become a custom associated with Easter, but its origins reach far back into the indigenous traditions of Europe.
It is a time to embrace both the light and the darkness, to acknowledge the dualities within ourselves, to bring polarities into balance, and honor the balance in all things.
Traditionally, bonfires were lit on this night and cattle were driven between the fires to purify them and promote fertility. People leaped over the flames for fertility and good luck.
Ostara takes it?s name from the Teutonic Goddess Eostre or Ostre, whose name is also the origin of the Christian holiday Easter. Ostre was traditionally honored on this day, but it is appropriate to honor the Divine Feminine in all her maiden forms.
Beltane (May Day)
April 30 (beginning at sundown)
Theme: Growth; Fertility; Passion; Creativity
Type: Seasonal Holiday ~ Final Spring Festival
Beltane is the last of three Spring festivals, a celebration of Spring in its fullest expression. At this time, the Earth pulses with the energies of growth and vitality. Fertility and life are all around us. The vitality and passion of Beltane expresses itself through the flowering and pollination of plants, the fertility of animals and the loving sexual embrace of human beings. Traditionally this was a time for blessing fields and animals for fertility and abundance.
Through these rites the passion of the Earth is made manifest and the fertility of the Earth is stimulated. Beltane is still a popular time for handfastings (a non-legal bonding ceremony) or marriages.
Irrepressibly, the creative imperative bursts forth into new forms and expression. We can ride Earth's passionate wave, tapping into this powerful surge of creative energy.Joy, celebration and creativity are the hallmarks of Beltane.It is not a time for deep contemplation or meditation, but rather a time to be immediately and passionately present in the moment as we dance with the energy and rhythms of the Earth, and celebrate life and growth in all its forms -- within and without. At this time of year, we can energize projects and new life directions and honor the growing fullness of our lives.