The ancient Celtic’s belief system was to heal and care for the whole person.
A huge part of that process was embracing the cosmos and their infinite power. Celebrating each of the eight solar festivals can add richness and color to your modern life, and can help you feel more connected to your natural ways.
The Celtic year is split into two parts: the dark half and the light half, and consists of eight key dates. This reflects the continuous cycle of birth, growth, and death, followed by renewal and rebirth.
All life, whether plant or animal, begins in darkness, and so Celtic cycles begin with the dark segment, the onset of winter.
Solar Festivals – The Dark Half:
Samhain (November Eve) is on October 31st.
Samhain is the single most important Celtic festival, marking the onset of the dark half of the year. It is considered to be ‘outside of time,’ when the veil between reality and the spirit realm is at its thinnest. So, divining the future is easier on this day.
To Celebrate Samhain:
- Celebrate Joy.
Wear a mask or costume. Traditionally, the Celts represented animals.
- Have A Bonfire.
This symbolizes cleansing and new beginnings.
- Decorate with Orange and Black.
Black represents death and the fading of the light. Orange represents the dawning of light that will occur during rebirth.
Yule (Winter Solstice) is on December 21st.
Yule is the time of the shortest day and longest darkness in the Northern Hemisphere. The Celts celebrated the rebirth of the sun by burning a Yule Log.
To Celebrate Yule:
- Have a bonfire or light a Yule Log to protect your home and bring prosperity.
- Decorate your home with Holly branches and Mistletoe.
- Write down that which you want to remove from your life and burn it in the flame of a candle.
Imbolc (February Eve) is on January 31st.
Imbolc marks the beginning of Spring and is dedicated to the Sun Goddess Brigit, the patroness of the hearth and home, and of poets and craftspeople. Sowing and planting begin on this day, and it is a time for purification and hatching new ideas.
To Celebrate Imbolc:
- Make corn doilies and set them adrift with a lit candle on a stream or lake.
- Read poetry.
- Collect some earth and keep in a grounding influence, so that any new ideas you are hatching do not get too far-fetched.
Oestre (Spring Equinox) is on March 21st.
Oestre marks the peak of Spring energies and renewed growth, when day and night are equal and in balance. It signals a time of outdoor activities when you can start to bring into effect the plans that you hatched in the winter.
To Celebrate Oestre:
- Plant some seeds in your backyard, or in a pot outside.
- Hold an Easter egg hunt to rejoice in the fertility of the earth.
- Play humorous games, wear funny masks, be silly or goofy.
Solar Festivals – The Light Half:
Beltane (May Eve) is on April 30th.
Beltane is the second most important Celtic festival, marking the onset of the light half of the year. As at Samhain, the barriers between reality and the spirit worlds are thin, so it is another powerful occasion for divining the future.
To Celebrate Beltane:
- Dance around a bonfire, preferably in a circle of stones.
- Bring hawthorn leaves or other greenery home and decorate a door or window with them.
- Dance joyously with friends around a maypole, tree, or standing stone.
Litha (Summer Solstice) is on June 21st.
Coamhain is the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere and was celebrated by the ancient Celts as a time of plenty when the sun is at the peak of its powers.
To Celebrate Coamhain:
- Light a bonfire just before sunrise, then face East and sing or yell welcomes to the sun.
- Start the day with a breakfast feast.
- Get out into Nature.
Lughnasadh (August Eve) is on July 31st.
Lughnasadh is the feast of Lugh, the Sun God who distributes riches in the form of crops and wild food. This festival traditionally marks the start of harvesting, it is the time when you can begin to reap the rewards of the ideas you germinated at Imbolc.
To Celebrate Lughnasadh:
- Bake a loaf of bread and hang it in a tree for the birds to eat.
- Have a family feast.
- Visit a natural watering hole or a well and give thanks.
Mabon (Fall Equinox) is on September 21st.
Mabon marks the end of harvesting when day and night are equal. At this time, the Celts stored food in readiness for winter and gave thanks for a bountiful harvest. It is a time for seeing the positive side of what you have and for identifying those aspects or ideas that could have growth potential for future development.
To Celebrate Mabon:
- Begin some form of study or learning pursuit.
- Complete repairs to your home and tend to chores.
- Enjoy indoor activities, making music, story-telling.
The Influential Moon:
The Lunar cycle influences the emotional side of human nature – feelings, instinct, receptivity, and imagination – and determines when those activities will be most effective.
Four phases of the moon are observed by the Celts:
- New Moon.
A time of darkness, peace, and rest. A good time for solitary activities. Not the best time to start something new, including planting.
- Waxing Moon.
A time of increasing moonlight. A good time to be an extrovert, cultivate ideas or plans.
- Full Moon.
The culmination of the moon’s energies when lunar influences are the strongest. A good time to host gatherings, be social as energies run high.
- Waning Moon.
This is when the outward energies of the moon are beginning to decline, it ushers in a time of introspection. Complete unfinished business, plant bulbs.
To follow the rituals and celebrate the festivals, I recommend marking these important dates on your favorite calendar.
I leave you with this Old Celtic Proverb…
May love and laughter light your days, and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours, wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world with joy that long endures.
May all life’s seasons passing, bring the best to you and yours.