Holidays

Major and Minor High Days of the Reform

The calendar of the (Reformed) Druids contains eight High Days, also known as holiday. The following excerpt from our historical documents relates the method used to calculate the correct dates.

Mabon the Autumn Equinox

Autumn Equinox is the second harvest. The Celts and Britons did not observe this Sabbat until the Norse invasions. With the significance of three to the islands, the people accepted it and added the Sabbat to their practices. It is commonly known today as Mabon (may-boon) for the Welsh God of Fertility. It is known as the “witches thanksgiving” and is likely more the precept of Thanksgiving, observed in the U.S. and Canada. It is the old Anglo-Celtic break from the harvest time to celebrate the yield and give thanks for the harvest and other blessings.

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Lughnasadh

The First of the three harvest festivals is the holy day of the first grains. This holiday is to honor and give thanks for the harvest, ready at this time, primarily grains (corn, wheat, barley etc) and other early vegetables like squash and cucumbers. The Irish Celts celebrated Lugh (the Shining One) who is the God of many skills in the Tuatha de Danann. He is also the God of harvest, fire, light and metallurgy and the protection of the weak and ill. It is from him that the harvest was named. Much of the customs we use today are derived from the festival of Lugh.

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Litha the Summer Solstice

The summer solstice is the time of the longest day of the year and is the end of the light half of the year. This is when the sun is at its peak of power and the Goddess is heavy with pregnancy. This is concurrent with the fields filled with ripening harvest and the cattle growing full with offspring. This is a festival observed by most cultures of the world. It is known by many names such as Litha, Vestalia (roman) Gathering Day (Welch) and the Feast of Epona (Gaul).

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Beltane

Beltane is the Celtic fire festival marking the beginning of Summer and honoring the God of the Sun. The celebrations at this time extend all over Europe and also further into Phoenicia and Mesopotamia. It is commonly observed in most cultures with sacred fires celebrating the dead and ancestors, purification, sexual union of the Sun God and the young Goddess, and heightened fairy activity.

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Ostara the Spring Equinox

Ostara was an important day to the ancient Greeks, Romans, Nordic and Germanic people. The Celtic lands didn’t pay much attention until the Nordic invasions when the two cultures influenced each other. Thus the way we understand the traditions stories, customs, and practices today is primarily derived from the Teutonic practices. Ostara is the Germanic virgin Goddess of Spring. The Teutonic Goddess Eostre also honored at this time is the name from which Christians derived Easter.

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Imbolc

Imbolc was not originally a Sabbat as we honor it. In the areas where it was observed, it was to honor the Goddess who was bringing back Spring. In the northern lands, where this was mostly observed, winters are harsh, dark and cold. Many people died over winter and were isolated from trade, socialization and communication. Thus those societies sought the aid of the Goddess to bring back the sun and spring as soon as possible. In Ireland, where most of the customs for Imbolc come, Brigid was honored as the waiting bride. This custom survives today as St. Brigid’s Day.

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Yule the Winter Solstice

It is most commonly known as Yule after the Nordic celebrations at this time. As Samhain is the most demonized by the Church, Yule was adopted and most venerated as the birth of their God, Jesus. This is the time when the Goddess gives birth to the God who died at Samhain who returns to restore light to the world. As it is now, this is a time of great celebrations, excitement, and happiness with the rebirth of the God with decorated trees, festival lights, wreaths, feasting, bells etc all still part of the celebrations.

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Samhain

Samhain is the third harvest, marking the end of the light half of the year and beginning the dark in the Celtic traditions. The name has two possible sources – Samana for the Aryan God of Death and Samhraidreadh – Gaelic for “summer’s end”. The Celts use this point for the New Year because of the measurements of the sun by the ancient standing stones in Britain and Ireland. It is also because of the end of summer and beginning of winter in their tradition. In European traditions, it is when the old god dies and the crone goddess begins her mourning.

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High Days and Sabbats

“Spiritual ritual is a process by which traditional symbols are linked with spiritual powers and with archetypes in the mind. By combining these symbols in traditional and innovative (modern) ways we can open our souls to contact with the transpersonal and the divine.” 1

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