Many people don’t realize that there really is no rule book for Pagans, there are no commandments and no list of things that you have to follow, or you will be banished to Mordor for eternity. Most of the rituals or practices followed today by the Pagan Community are those that have been passed down from our ancestors, and one thing to remember is there is no right or wrong way to be Pagan.
In many of our communities, I have seen many questions asked and a lot of confusion around the Pagan/Wiccan “Holidays.” Keep in mind these are soft guidelines, and the way I see or have seen these dates loved, celebrated, and the meanings behind them. Also, keep in mind, something a lot of people don’t realize is that in the Southern Hemisphere, these dates are different than in the Northern Hemisphere, so I will put both dates in and I will add the coinciding “Christian Holiday’s” also to help people navigate a little easier.
SAMHAIN (Halloween)- October 31st (Southern Hemisphere May 1st)
Samhain is an extraordinary holiday. It marks the beginning of the New year for Pagans. It also marks the end of the harvest season and “the beginning of the dark days.” Many different cultures believe the veil between this world and the next is thinner on the days of Samhain. When the veil thins, the worlds cross to a point. We celebrate Samhain by dancing, feasting, and lighting fires. We celebrate the closer connection to the ones that have gone before us. I do not think there are possibly enough words to explain the significance of this day. As we draw closer, I will be sure to touch on the subject a little more.
YULE, WINTER SOLSTICE (Christmas)- December 21st (Southern Hemisphere June 21st)
Dates can vary depending on the year; it usually starts between the 21st and 23rd.
Yule or the Winter Solstice is when the dark half of the year relinquishes to the light half. It is the sun’s rebirth and the time that we celebrate returning from the darkness. Heathens gave gifts during the yuletide and even decorated a ‘green tree’ to honor their Gods or Gaia (Mother Earth) in celebration and thanks for the strength to have endured the dark times.
IMBOLC, BRIDGID, BRIGID (Groundhog’s Day)- February 2nd (Southern Hemisphere August 2nd)
Imbolc, also known as other names like St. Bridgid’s Day, Brigid, etc., marks the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. Ways to celebrate include cleaning your home, offerings to Bridgid or other Gods to bless your home. It is a festival of purification and dedication. Celebrated because it holds the promise of Spring.
OSTARA, SPRING EQUINOX (Easter)- March 21st (Southern Hemisphere September 21st)
It marks a time where light and dark are again in balance. Signifies the return of Spring, Fertility, and renewal. I usually celebrate a personal favorite by planting new seeds, decorating (eggs, bunnies, signs of growth, and fertility), even just walks to enjoy and celebrate the warmer weather.
BELTANE (May Day)- May 1st ( Southern Hemisphere October 31st)
Celebrates the coming of Summer, usually celebrated as a fire festival. A time of fire and fertility. Halfway between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice. Known as a day where the veil is thinned also, Southern Hemisphere is celebrating Samhain. Some believe that the veil is thinner for the peaceful or the children on the other side. Some customs leave offerings for fairies also.
LITHA, SUMMER SOLSTICE- June 21st ( Southern Hemisphere December 21st)
The sun on this date is at its highest point. Marking the longest day of the year and the shortest night of the year. It is the first day of summer also. We celebrate the power of the sun on this day. Blooming and crops are usually in full growth, and as with most rituals, it is commonly celebrated with bonfires and food. One common custom is to dance around the fire and jump through the fire for good luck. (Please do not try this at home)
LAMMAS, LUGHNASADH, FIRST HARVEST- August 1st (Southern Hemisphere February 2nd)
Several other names, including ‘Loaf Mass’ and others, symbolize the first Harvest of the season and the grain harvest. Now is the time we have begun to reap what we have sown. Months of hard work have come to fruition, and the first harvest is usually a sign of good things to come. For some of our ancestors, this was the first time having wheat or bread for months. It was commonly believed to be bad luck to harvest wheat before this day because it meant the previous year’s harvest was insufficient to last through the season. Celebrated with a meal. Usually, fresh bread being the centerpiece, after a long day harvesting, the farmer’s wife would have also worked hard to help and to prepare the bread the same day as harvest.
MABON, AUTUMN EQUINOX, THANKSGIVING, SABBAT— September 21 (Southern Hemisphere March 21)
Obviously, the dates for all of these traditions vary. Still, traditionally they all celebrate the same purpose, so I added them together to show that even though the dates vary, they are along the same lines of the same traditions. The Autumn Equinox symbolized the turning point into winter. The days become shorter, and the weather starts to change. Traditionally for most of these traditions, it marks the last harvest and a celebration of the hard work they put in along with celebrating the bounty Mother Earth provided. Usually, to celebrate a feast occurs to enjoy what has been grown before, time to store and ration to prepare for when the cold moves in.
Keep in mind some of these dates vary; this is just a guideline to provide a small look into what these traditions and celebrations mean. There is no wrong way to celebrate, just as there is no wrong decision. If you celebrate Christmas, Haunnika, Yule, and Passover all at the same time, you will be busy, but you will not be wrong.
We just recently celebrated Beltane. I celebrate by starting my seeds in pots, weeding out my garden, and getting my little piece of mother nature ready to plant and bloom. It doesn’t seem very festive, does it, yet it is my tradition every year. Barefoot, dirty, and grounded, I am happy at the end of the day; that’s what matters for you too.
As always, if you have any suggestions or questions, I would be happy to share what I know.-The Un-Traditional Mother