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Wheel of the Year

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1 Wheel of the Year on Fri Jun 17, 2011 10:50 am

The Four Seasons are known as Solar Festivals, in that they mark a seasonal change caused by the Sun. The cross quarter days are marked by Fire Festivals and are usually celebrated as significant agricultural festivals. Together the Solar Festivals and the Fire Festivals make up the Wheel Of The Year. The Wheel Of The Year, is often broken into eight festivals, whether they are the eight Asatru Blots, Seasonal Festivals or Celtic Sabbats, and the observance of Solar energies at the solstices and equinoxes and the Fire energies on the cross quarter days, is a common theme throughout the world. The Festivals of the Wheel Of The Year also represent the active and dormant states of nature, man and agriculture. Each of the festival days was ruled by a governing deity, whether a God or Goddess, with each region having its own associated deity. From planting to reaping to winter to summer... the seasons were of great importance to our ancestors, for their very existence depended upon good harvests, mild winters, enough rainfall.

Samhain
October 31

Samhain (Summer's End) is one of our four Greater Sabbats, the highest holy day of witches. It is a cross quarter day, situated between Autumn Equinox and Winter Solstice. Samhain is a major festival with several aspects. It is new year's eve for witches, as well as our third and final harvest festival. Samhain inaugurates Winter, is the final chance to dry herbs for winter storage, and a night when fairies supposedly afoot working mischief. It is also the Day of the Dead for us as it was for the Celts, Egyptians and ancient Mexicans, the night when we remember our loved ones and honor our ancestors. We also celebrate reincarnation and note the absence the Sun (the god), who will be reborn at Winter Solstice as the Child of Promise. Astrologically, Samhain marks the rising of the Pleiades.One of the four greater Sabbats, of the Wiccan/pagan year. For the Celts, Samhain was the feast of the dead in Pagan and Christian times, its arrival signaled the close of harvest and the start of the winter season. Fairies were imagined as particularly active at this season. Also called Feile Moingfinne (Snow Goddess). The Scottish Gaelic Dictionary defines it as "Hallowtide. The Feast of All Souls. Sam + Fuin = end of summer." Eliade's Encyclopedia of Religion states as follows: "The Eve and day of Samhain were characterized as a time when the barriers between the human and supernatural worlds were broken... Not a festival honoring any particular Celtic deity, Samhain acknowledged the entire spectrum of nonhuman forces that roamed the earth during that period." Samhain is the Wiccan New Year. This is the time of year when the veil between the world of the dead and the world of the living is said to be it's thinnest. Spirits and souls of loved ones are said to have more power and ability to visit us. This is the time of year for remembering and honoring our dead, and many people will leave a plate of food and a glass of wine out for wandering sprits. (This is often called the Feast of Hecate) Samhain is also a time for personal reflection, and for recognizing our faults and flaws and creating a method for rectifying them.

Yule
December 21

Yule is deeply rooted in the cycle of the year, it is the seed time of year, the longest night and the shortest day, where the Goddess once again becomes the Great Mother and gives birth to the new Sun King. In a poetic sense it is on this the longest night of the winter, 'the dark night of our souls', that there springs the new spark of hope, the Sacred Fire, the Light of the World, the Coel Coeth. Fire festivals, celebrating the rebirth of the Sun, held on the Winter's Solstice can be found throughout the ancient world. The Roman festival of Saturnalia was held on the winter solstice, boughs of evergreen trees and bushes would decorate the house, gifts where exchanged and normal business was suspended. The Persian Mithraists held December 25th as sacred to the birth of their Sun God, Mithras, and celebrated it as a victory of light over darkness. In Sweden, December 13th was sacred to the Goddess Lucina, Shining One, and was a celebration of the return of the light. On Yule itself, around the 21st, bonfires were lit to honor Odin and Thor. The festival was already closely associated with the birth of older Pagan gods like Oedipus, Theseus, Hercules, Perseus, Jason, Dionysus, Apollo, Mithra, Horus and even Arthur with a cycle of birth, death and resurrection that is also very close to that of Jesus. It can hardly be a coincidence that the Christians, also used this time of year for the birth of Christ, mystically linking him with the Sun.

Imbolc
February 2

This is the seasonal change where the first signs of spring and the return of the sun are noted, i.e. the first sprouting of leaves, the sprouting of the Crocus flowers etc. In other words, it is the festival commemorating the successful passing of winter and the beginning of the agricultural year. This Festival also marks the transition point of the threefold Goddess energies from those of Crone to Maiden. It is the day that we celebrate the passing of Winter and make way for Spring. It is the day we honour the rebirth of the Sun and we may visualize the baby sun nursing from the Goddess's breast. It is also a day of celebrating the Celtic Goddess Brigid. Brigid is the Goddess of Poetry, Healing, Smithcraft, and Midwifery. If you can make it with your hands, Brigid rules it. She is a triple Goddess, so we honour her in all her aspects. This is a time for communing with her, and tending the lighting of her sacred flame. At this time of year, Wiccans will light multiple candles, white for Brigid, for the god usually yellow or red, to remind us of the passing of winter and the entrance into spring, the time of the Sun. This is a good time for initiations, be they into covens or self-initiations. Imbolc (February 2) marks the recovery of the Goddess after giving birth to the God. The lengthening periods of light awaken Her. The God is a young, lusty boy, but His power is felt in the longer days. The warmth fertilizes the Earth (the Goddess), and causes seeds to germinate and sprout. And so the earliest beginnings of Spring occur.

Ostara
March 20

This marks the Spring Equinox. This is the Pagan "Easter" - or rather, this is the day that Christians borrowed to be their Easter. It is traditionally the day of equilibrium, neither harsh winter or the merciless summer, and is a time of childish wonder. Painted eggs, baskets of flowers and the like are generally used to decorate the house. It is common to use this time to free yourself from things which hinder progress. As a day of equilibrium, it is a good time to perform self banishings and also perform workings to gain things we have lost, or to gain qualities we wish to have. The second of the 3 spring festivals, this Sabbat occurs in mid march when day and night are of equal length. This festival is also of fertility where seeds are blessed for planting soon after.

Beltane
May 1

This festival is also known as Beltane, the Celtic May Day. It officially begins at moonrise on May Day Eve, and marks the beginning of the third quarter or second half of the ancient Celtic year. It is celebrated as an early pastoral festival accompanying the first turning of the herds out to wild pasture. The rituals were held to promote fertility. The cattle were driven between the Belfires to protect them from ills. Contact with the fire was interpreted as symbolic contact with the sun. In early Celtic times, the druids kindled the Beltane fires with specific incantations. Later the Christian church took over the Beltane observances, a service was held in the church, followed by a procession to the fields or hills, where the priest kindled the fire. The rowan branch is hung over the house fire on May Day to preserve the fire itself from bewitchment (the house fire being symbolic of the luck of the house). This is a holiday of Union--both between the Goddess and the God and between man and woman. Handfastings (Pagan marriages) are traditional at this time. It is a time of fertility and harvest, the time for reaping the wealth from the seeds that we have sown. Celebrations include braiding of one's hair (to honour the union of man and woman and Goddess and God), circling the Maypole for fertility and jumping the Beltane fire for luck. Beltane is one of the Major Sabbats of the Wiccan religion. We celebrate sexuality (something we see as holy and intrinsic to us as holy beings), we celebrate life and the unity which fosters it. The myths of Beltane state that the young God has blossomed into manhood, and the Goddess takes him on as her lover. Together, they learn the secrets of the sexual and the sensual, and through their union, all life begins. Beltane is the season of maturing life and deep found love. This is the time of vows, handfastings and commitment. The Lord and his Lady, having reached maturity, come together in Perfect Love and Perfect Trust to celebrate the joy of their union. This is a time to celebrate the coming together of the masculine and feminine creative energies. Beltane marks the emergence of the young God into manhood. Stirred by the energies at work in nature, he desired the Goddess. They fall in love, lie among the grasses and blossoms and unite.

Midsummer
June 20

Midsummer or the Summer Solstice is the most powerful day of the year for the Sun God. Because this Sabbat glorifies the Sun God and the Sun, fire plays a very prominent role in this festival. The element of Fire is the most easily seen and immediately felt element of transformation. It can burn, consume, cook, shed light or purify and balefires still figure prominently at modern Midsummer rites. Most cultures of the Northern Hemisphere mark Midsummer in some ritualised manner and from time immemorial people have acknowledged the rising of the sun on this day. At Stonehenge, the heelstone marks the midsummer sunrise as seen from the centre of the stone circle. In ancient times, the Summer Solstice was a fire-festival of great importance when the burning of balefires ritually strengthened the sun. It was often marked with torchlight processions, by flaming tar barrels or by wheels bound with straw, which were set alight and rolled down steep hillsides. The Norse especially loved lengthy processions and would gather together their animals, families and lighted torches and parade through the countryside to the celebration site. The use of fires, as well as providing magical aid to the sun, were also used to drive out evil and to bring fertility and prosperity to men, crops and herds. Blazing gorse or furze was carried around cattle to prevent disease and misfortune; while people would dance around the balefires or leap through the flames as a purifying or strengthening rite. The Celts would light balefires all over their lands from sunset the night before Midsummer until sunset the next day. Around these flames the festivities would take place.

Lughnasadh
August 1

This is an Irish Gaelic name for the feast which commemorates the funeral games of Lugh, Celtic god of light, and son of the Sun. In the mythological story of the Wheel of the Year, the Sun God transfers his power into the grain, and is sacrificed when the grain is harvested. So we have a dying, self-sacrificing and resurrecting god of the harvest, who dies for his people so that they may live. Sound familiar? The power of the sun goes into the grain as it ripens. It is then harvested and made into the first new bread of the season. This is the Saxon hlaef-masse or loaf-mass, now lammas. Seed grain is also saved for planting for next year's crop, so the sun god may be seen to rise again in Spring with the new green shoots, as the sun also rises in the sky. There are many traditions and customs all over the country that are still carried on at harvest-time today. Lammas is a festival celebrating the first friuts of harvest, the friuts of our labours, and seeing the desires that we had at the start of the year unfold so rituals will be centred around this.

Mabon
September 22

Mabon marks the middle of harvest, it is a time of equal day and equal night, and for the moment nature is in balance. It is a time to reap what you have sown, of giving thanks for the harvest and the bounty the Earth provides. For finishing up old projects and plans and planting the seeds for new enterprises or a change in lifestyle. Mabon is a time of celebration and balance. This is the time to look back not just on the past year, but also your life, and to plan for the future. In the rhythm of the year, Mabon is a time of rest and celebration, after the hard work of gathering the crops. Warm autumn days are followed by chill nights, as the Old Sun God returns to the embrace of the Goddess. The passing of Mabon is inevitable and The Sun God should be mourned. We too, must remember that all things must come to an end. So the Sun God journeys into the lands of winter and into the Goddess' loving arms, but endings are a good time to celebrate our successes, thank our selves and those who helped us, and take part in the balance of life!

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