Imbolc is a fire festival that celebrates the first signs of spring. Its name means “in the belly”, referring to the life growing beneath the earth. This is a time of new beginnings and setting your goals for the year. Therefore it is an optimum time of cleansing and purification. One way to incorporate this is a cleansing bath. Use a sea salt scrub to not only scrub away old skin but old habits as well. After the bath has been completed smudge yourself with a sage stick. Now you are free to start your new journey. Light a white candle and sit down and write your goals, the everyday, the spiritual and magickal.
Archive for the ‘Festivals’ Category
There are many alternative names to Imbolc (Feb 1st). These include Imbolg, Candlemas, St Bride’s Day, Brighid’s Day or Saint Brighid’s Day, Festival of Light, etc. Some see this as the start of the return of the longest day, especially as the ewes start producing milk prior to lambing. However, nature does not work to such a strict time scale and lambs are born 147 days after mating. Some take the blooming of Blackthorn as an indicator of Imbolc, but again this can happen at different times through the UK. One thing that is obvious at this time and that is the days are getting noticeably longer.
There are at least ten ways to celebrate Mabon. Find balance, hold a food drive, pick apples, count your blessings, honour the darkness, get back to nature, tell timeless tales, raise some energy, celebrate hearth and home and welcome the Gods of the Vine. As this is a time of balance, thanks and giving, the above activities are all apt for Mabon.
During the Autumn Equinox it is believed the Ancient Greeks celebrated the Eleusinian Mysteries (also sometimes referred to as the Elysian Mysteries). This seems to fit as it is a dedicated to Demeter to be part of harvest time. However, like many rituals of this time, the ceremony itself is shrouded in mystery. In China, Taiwan and Vietnam they celebrate a lunar harvest festival called Moon festival, Mooncake Festival or Zhongqiu. This is a celebration for Chang’e, the Moon Goddess, as this is the only day of the year that she can visit her husband Houyi, who lives on the sun. This is a celebration of the light/dark and yin/yang and this is done by eating mooncakes, matchmaking, lightning lanterns and fire dragons dances. Higan is the Buddhist celebration to the Autumnal Equinox and translates as “the other or that shore of Sanzu Rive”. It is believed that this euphemism for enlightenment, moving from the shores of ignorance on to the shores of Enlightenment. This is a celebration in the form of memorial service and visiting the graves of those that passed.
A little later on the 29th of September is the Michaelmas, (or the feast of St. Michael). Michael is considered the most important of the archangels and it is believed that he bested Lucifer. Because Lucifer translates as the light-bearer, it seems an appropriate time for this festival. As the Autumn Equinox is seen as the sun weakens, it can be a symbolical time of the death of Sun Gods. Michael is seen as protector against darkness and therefore an apt person for the coming winter months.
In many faiths, the apple is the symbol of the divine. Apple trees are a symbol of wisdom. The apple is a sacred symbol of the God and holds the knowledge of the ancestry within it. If you cut an apple through the middle it will reveal the pentagram hidden within it. While apples are the main symbol associated with Mabon, there are many others including squash and gourds, seeds and their pods, baskets, scythes and sickles, grapes and vines. This festival has a lot of food based symbolism as it was the time of big celebrations, or showing hospitality to those within your community. This was due to the fact that you may need to rely on them if you are the ones that run out of food. Therefore in rural villages especially, they was lots of feasting and drinking at this time. After all, grain can be made into bread or beer. At the feasting, tales are often told and at this time of years they are tales of death and rebirth, the two main ones being the tales of Demeter and her daughter, and Inanna entering the underworld. Modern Druids celebrate Alban Elfed which is still a celebration of light and dark. Asatru groups celebrate the Autumnal Equinox as Winter’s Night and celebration honouring Freyr.
Today is Modraniht or the Night of the Mother, an festival held by the Anglo-Saxon pagans. Bede talks about this in his 8th century work De Temporum Ratione, “began the year on the 8th kalends of January [25 December], when we celebrate the birth of the Lord. That very night, which we hold so sacred, they used to call by the heathen word Modranecht, that is, “mother’s night”, because (we suspect) of the ceremonies they enacted all that night.” There seems to be connections with other Germanic festivals of this time including Yule and those involving Disir, the collective female being. There are links with Modra (Mothers) with Germanic Matres and Matrones. This is just another example of the celebration of the divine female in Germanic winter festivals.
Vestalia is a festival that starts on the 7th of June until the 15th and is to honour Vesta, the Roman Goddess of virginity. At this time the temples were opened up and women entered to make offerings. The Vestal Virgins who guarded the sacred flame vowed thirty years of chastity. Rhea Silvia is one of the virgins who broken this vow by having sex with Mars which produced Romulus and Remus. The worship of Vesta was different to other deities as such had no stature representation, just the flame. This flame is both the flame of the hearth or the flame that lights a whole village.