SGC Admin: From our inbox to you from: Patti Wigington: Paganism/Wicca Expert
Customs and Traditions of the Winter Solstice
The winter solstice, or Yule, is coming up on December 22, for our readers in the northern hemisphere. This celebration has a long-standing history, from back in the days of Mithras, through the Nordic tribes, and among a number of other cultures. Let’s take a quick look at some of the time-honored traditions of this winter celebration that is observed all over the world.
If you’re one of our readers below the equator, you’re gearing up for Litha, the summer solstice, and the longest day of the year. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom for links to some great info about the customs behind the celebration of midsummer!
Many cultures have winter festivals that are in fact celebrations of light. In addition to Christmas, there’sHanukkah with its brightly lit menorahs, Kwanzaa candles, and any number of other holidays. Let’s look at the history of solstice celebrations. Also, be sure to read about winter customs around the world.
This time of year has been celebrated in many ways in many cultures. From the Roman Saturnalia to the Italian La Befana, the Feast of Frau Holle, and the Neopagan tradition of the Oak and Holly King, just about everyone has marked this season with a celebration.
Wondering why we go caroling or kiss under the mistletoe at Christmas? Ever ponder the mysteries of the holiday fruitcake? Believe it or not, many modern Christmas traditions can trace their origins to early Pagan societies. Ten Christmas Traditions With Pagan Roots
It’s a time of celebration, so just for fun, let’s look at ten great things about the Yule season. Also, let’s look at something that’s NOT a Pagan celebration at all, just because we get a lot of messages about it every year.
Depending on your particular tradition, there are many different ways you can celebrate Beltane, but the focus is nearly always on fertility. It’s the time when the earth mother opens up to the fertility god, and their union brings about healthy livestock, strong crops, and new life all around. Here are a few rituals you may want to think about trying — and remember, any of them can be adapted for either a solitary practitioner or a small group, with just a little planning ahead.
April’s showers have given way to rich and fertile earth, and as the land greens, there are few celebrations as representative of fertility as Beltane. Observed on May 1st, festivities typically begin the evening before, on the last night of April. It’s a time to welcome the abundance of the fertile earth, and a day that has a long (and sometimes scandalous) history. Try some of these rituals and ceremonies for your Beltane sabbat celebration.
Setting Up Your Beltane Altar It’s Beltane, the Sabbat where many Pagans choose to celebrate the fertility of the earth. This Sabbat is about new life, fire, passion and rebirth, so there are all kinds of creative ways you can set up for the season. Try some of these ideas to get your altar ready for your celebrations!
Beltane Prayers By the time Beltane rolls around, sprouts and seedlings are appearing, grass is growing, and the forests are alive with new life. If you’re looking for prayers to say at your Beltane ceremony, try these simple ones that celebrate the greening of the earth during the fertility feast of Beltane.
5 Ways to Celebrate Beltane With Kids Every year, when Beltane rolls around, we get emails from folks who are comfortable with the sexual fertility aspect of the season for adults, but who’d like to reign things in just a little when it comes to practicing with their young children. Don’t worry! Here are five fun and easy ideas for celebrating the season with your kiddos.
Beltane kicks off the merry month of May, and has a long history. This fire festival is celebrated on May 1 with bonfires,Maypoles, dancing, and lots of good old-fashioned sexual energy. Let’s look at the history behind the Beltane season
Interested in learning about some of the traditions behind the celebrations of May Day? Learn why the Romans had a big party, why we dance around a Maypole, what a hobby horse is, and the reasoning behind all those bonfires.
May 1 will be the sabbat Beltane, also known as May Day or Walpurgisnacht. Beltane begins at sundown on April 30. Traditionally, couples stay out overnight “bringing in the May,” or gathering spring flowers and greenery with which to create garlands, crowns, and bouquets. It is a time of joyous celebration of the fertility displayed by the land as it further opens to the touch of the sun: trees have put forth new leaves and are now flowering, the new grass is lush and thick; the days grow ever longer, and the rains nourish the new crops in the fields.
This festival is opposite Samhain on the Wheel of the Year, and like that Sabbat, it is a night of divination as the veils between worlds grow thin. The ancient Celts recognized only two seasons– summer and winter– and as Samhain was the beginning of Winter, the dark half of the year, so Beltane recognizes the beginning of Summer, or the light half of the year.
Beltane is also called Walpurgisnacht in Germany. Foods associated with Beltane include anything dairy– as the livestock is now feeding on new grass which improves the quality of milk and cream– as well as mead and other alcoholic beverages.
Traditions and Rituals
Beltane is considered a sexually licentious time. It is the beginning of the season favoured for marriages and handfastings, as well as for re-enactment of the Great Rite, the union between the God and the Goddess. Much poetry and folklore exists describing the abandonment with which dancing, singing, and playing leads to lovemaking. Children conceived on this night are called “children of the Gods,” and are said to be blessed.
The Maypole is perhaps the most recognizable accessory to Mayday celebration. A dancing game in which mean and women interweave ribbons attached to a high pole (passing one another with plenty of kisses), this action is another form of the Great Rite, the pole representing the God, and the ribbons which slowly enfold it representing the Goddess.
Colors: Blue, Green, Pink, Red, Yellow, White.
Gemstones: Amber, Malachite, Orange Carnelian, Sapphire, Rose Quartz.
As we get ready to celebrate Imbolc in the northern hemisphere, for many Pagans, it’s a time to honor Brighid. She’s a Celtic goddess of the forge and the hearth, and has come to symbolize, for many people, the blessings of domestic life. She’s also the patroness of poets and bards, artisans and craftspeople, as well as those with healing gifts. Obviously, not all traditions celebrate Brighid this time year, but if yours does, this is a perfect opportunity to get to know her better.
For our southern hemisphere readers, it’s nearly Lammas, also called Lughnasadh. This harvest sabbat not only marks the season of the threshing of grain – in some traditions, it’s a season to honor Lugh, the Celtic craftsman god. Like Brighid, he is a patron of artisans and crafters. Be sure to read the links at the very bottom for some information on Lugh, and how you can honor him during this time of year.
In Irish mythological cycles, Brighid (or Brighit), whose name is derived from the Celtic brig or “exalted one”, is the daughter of the Dagda, and therefore one of the Tuatha de Dannan. Her two sisters were also called Brighid, and were associated with healing and crafts. Read more about Brighid here.
Not sure where you’re headed these days? In addition to being a goddess of hearth and home, Brighid is also representative of the crossroads. Let her guide you and inspire you with this simple divination ritual technique.
Imbolc is a time when the days suddenly seem to be getting longer, and the snow is beginning to melt, showing us small patches of earth and green. At this time of returning spring, our ancestors lit bonfires and candles to celebrate the rebirth of the land. Celebrate the many aspects of Brighid with this simple group rite.
According to legend, Brighid’s mantle, or cloak, was a magical piece of material indeed. Learn about the story of Brighid’s mantle, and how you can incorporate this aspect of her myth cycle into your magical practice.
Brighid’s cross has a wide range of symbolism to many different people. While it figures prominently in many Christian legends, it is also a popular symbol in many Pagan religious paths. Here’s how you can make a Brighid’s cross of your own to decorate your home or altar. More »
In many traditions, the goddess Brighid is welcomed into the home at Imbolc. In addition to making a Brighid doll, she is given a bed near the hearth fire. Make a Brighid’s bed to welcome this goddess into your own house.
In some magical traditions, a corn doll representing the goddess Brighid is placed in a position of honor in the home – usually in the kitchen or near the fireplace. Here’s how you can craft a simple corn doll to symbolize Brighid’s presence in your house.