Modern (Wiccan-based) pagans have settled into celebrating 8 major holidays spaced evenly around the year, and based, for the most part on ancient celebrations. There were traditions of having fire festivals (partying around a big bonfire) at Mayday and Samhain, and at the solstice. There were, of course, harvest celebrations, and when the local technology supported it, the summer and winter solstices were noted as special occasions. It is far more likely that seasons were celebrated- harvest, yule, mid-summer, at what ever time was convenient. One doesn’t stop during the harvest to have a party, but is natural to have a blow-out when you have successfully insured that you will have grain (apples, meat, or whatever) for the next year.
After harvesting the grain and beans and fruits and storing those as carefully as one could, there was the animal harvest. Any surplus livestock would be slaughtered to reduce the amount of feed required to get the living ones through the winter, but this wasn’t done until it was cold enough that the meat wouldn’t go bad during the processing. The Saxons called November Blotmonath, the month of meat feasting. (Some meat was salted, some dried, some smoked, some preserved for a while by the cold. In the far north it would freeze. So this time of year was the time for feasts- blots, where you thanked the gods for the meat you were eating. Neighbors could stagger their slaughtering, enabling them to share the labor and the meat while it was still fresh. One didn’t slaughter an animal without thanking the gods, and maybe the animal, for the meat they were providing. Sites like Yeavering have signs if great halls, and collections of skulls, that probably indicate sacrifices and religious feasting. Modern Asatru celebrate Winterfinding as the start of winter- usually at a full moon in October or November (or a weekend near then convenient for the kindred members to get together). We must not imagine that our ancestors did differently- people will always have to negotiate to figure out whose house and what day they are going to get together for the holidays- no matter how they are worked out.
As modern people we have easy access to knowing when the solstices and equinoxes occur. It’s not too hard to watch to find when the sun has set at the lowest spot on the horizon and starts moving back northerly again. People also can set up markers to help them know when these celestial occasions occur- like the sun shining down the passageway at New Grange on the Solstice. Our house has something like that- the rising sun on the equinoxes comes through one bedroom window, through two doorways, and down the hall to hit the far wall of the house only on those days. It’s very cool, and probably totally accidental. But other than something like that, our ancestors probably didn’t have the same precise awareness of the astronomical dates as we have these days. They noticed the various harvests, the first fruits, and other seasons that dictated what they’d be doing for the next weeks- hence Mayday and Samhain (signalling the time of year when spirits would likely be active) as major celebrations. Since we can determine the Solstices and Equinoxes, we have plugged four more holidays between the celestial ones, and there are old celebrations like Candlemas and Walpergis night that fit in those general time frames.
It’s convenient to space the holidays evenly around the year, and many people have worked hard to find out how our ancestors celebrated, but even when we try to reconstruct, the holidays are placed for our convenience. This has been so as long as we have recorded history. The Romans, for example, moved the celebration of the New Year from the logical start of spring, at the equinox, to the Kalends (or first) of January, specifically because their laws settled that elections should take place at New Years. But after they had conquered all the nearby tribes, it took too long for a newly elected consul to get out to wherever the armies were going to attack the next “barbarian” tribe if he couldn’t start until after the Equinox, so they shifted New Year to mid winter. (Who knows why they didn’t change the law about when elections were held instead!) It’s fairly common knowledge that Christmas was switched from the spring (when shepherds are in the fields) to the same day as the Mithraic celebration of the Sol Invictus, so that changing holidays would be easier. There is plenty of precedent for making holidays convenient for the worshipers.
I am thrilled that there is breathing room between most of the major holidays. It’s pretty clear that most cultures think that the beginning of winter is a good time to get together with your friends and celebrate. Since we are still looking around for the site, settling on the date, and looking for speakers, readers and vendors, we don’t have that stuff to announce in December, so I will be posting about holidays this month. I hope you enjoy it, while getting together with your friends (at whatever level is comfortable for you!).
Walpergis Night- May Eve is April 30th; May 1st is May Day.
Many Pagans get together to show solidarity with each other and our ancestors by building bonfires, and dancing around May Poles.
Some remember that, as at Samhain, the veil is thin at this point in the yearly cycle, and it’s easier for our ancestors to visit this side. In Ancient Rome the Lemuria was held for three days in May. The family ancestors would be welcomed and fed, but then at the end (on the 13th) they would be sent away by tossing beans around the house and saying: “I send these; with these beans I redeem me and mine” (Haec ego mitto; his redimo meque meosque fabis.) nine times.
As with live relatives, sometimes we are glad to have them, sometimes we are glad to have them leave. While the benevolent dead became Manes or household spirits, the malevolent dead became lemures, spirits who would harm the living. These are the ones they wanted to banish.
In Northern Europe towns would erect May Poles and dance around them, and we still recreate the old ways- the dancing, the plays, with the hobby horse and Greenman. We welcome the coming growing season and the cycle of change, while at the same time, trying to connect with the past.
We no longer drive our cattle between two bonfires (or at least I don’t know anyone who does, there may be some who do), but we do recognize the need to purify as well as celebrate, to break with those parts of the past we want to let go, while holding onto the ones we love. Change usually includes choice, and sometimes taking responsibility for those choices is the hardest part of change. So let’s celebrate when we can, and enjoy the company of others who know what a magickal time this is!
Please join Tchipakkan on the New Normal 8 pm Wednesday, 12-21-16, 8-9 p.m. est.
In Dicken’s Christmas Carol Scrooge (and the audience) is taught by spirits or ghosts. One of the questions Scrooge asks is “Answer me one more question. Are these the shadows of things that *will* be, or are they the shadows of things that *may* be only?” (and the spirit only points to his gravestone). Interesting that the spirit of the future remains silent isn’t it?
This is one of the core questions any time we discuss divination or looking into the future, whether by astrology, visions or any other means. If it doesn’t happen, does that mean you blew the reading, and if it is pre-destined and you can’t escape it, why bother?
“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me.”
This is the point of this podcast (and if you already understand that, don’t bother listening, get on with your Solstice celebrations). If you’d like to join the discussion about the purpose of divination, and how we use it, please call in with questions or comments: 619-639-4606
The New Normal “airs” Wednesdays at 8-(nearly) 9 eastern time on www.Liveparanormal.com. Go to the website, sign in, and click on Shows, and the New Normal to listen.
If you are busy Wednesday, you can listen later at your convenience, shows are archived by date on LiveParanormal.com here, and they’re organized by date, topic and guest on Tchipakkan.com . And I put the link to the archives on the fb announcement in the discussions as soon as each show is recorded. Feel free to look through Past Events for those links.
Miss the show? Listen to the archive here!
Please join Tchipakkan on the New Normal 8 pm Wednesday, 2-24-16, 8-9 p.m. est.
Those who’ve known me for long know that my passions include history and food, and these come together to create a fascination with holidays. Why are certain days considered holy? Why do humans need holidays? What do they have in common?
Many times holidays provide an occasion for us to stop and orient ourselves with our culture, with the world around us (passing of seasons), or with the gods and spirits with whom we interact. Rites of Passage usually mark a change in our relationships with others- birth, death, marriage, becoming an adult, joining a group that is seen as different from other groups within our culture. Often we take these occasions to remind ourselves of old stories, we eat (or avoid) special foods, we clean ourselves and our living spaces. If these actions weren’t
important, they would not be so prevalent. Looking at what they mean, what they do, how they change us and our relationships, we can make them more meaningful in our own lives.
We’ll also talk about when we don’t celebrate the “mainstream” holidays, and try to get time off for minority religious or personal holidays, how does that effect your relationship with those around you, both those who share, and who don’t share your faith based holiday?
Please feel free to call in with any stories and descriptions about how you and your family and friends celebrate holidays. Do you have special meaningful ones, or do you just go along with whatever happens and take advantage of a day off to sleep in?
The call in number is: 619-639-4606
To listen live: open a window on your computer to www.Liveparanormal.com, sign in, and click on Shows, and the New Normal to listen. To listen later at your convenience, shows are archived by date on LiveParanormal.com here, and they’re organized by date, topic and guest on Tchipakkan.com .