Understanding Pagan Holidays

A Neopagan Guide

To Established Current
and
Ancient Pagan Practices.

Updated 3-4-2002
Refined 7-14-2003

TSN, SBC Opening Statement: It is our goal to ultimately inform and expose to mankind those ancient traditions of pagan religions of which many are now christian traditions by presenting to the world as many known ancient and current pagan religious practices, as we can. All information presented here was gleaned from historical documents, encyclopedias, and actual pagan websites on the pagan Ariadne Spider Search Engine. After all, who knows pagans better than professing pagans? However, this page alone cannot cover all pagan practices, and a deeper search of this website will be necessary to uncover more hidden secrets.

Major and Minor High Days

There are four Major High Days (Samhain, Oimelc, Beltane & Lughnasadh), and four Minor High Days (Winter Solstice or "Midwinter," Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice or "Midsummer," and Fall Equinox) in the Neopagan Druid year, most of which are also celebrated by Wiccans and other Neopagans who hark back to traditions of the Celtic (the Major Ones), Germanic (the Solstices), or Mediterreanen (the Equinoxes) cultures. While the Minor High Days are easy to obtain from any good astrological ephermis or almanac, the methods for the calculation of the Major High Days will vary from group to group and individual to individual.

The most common practice for the calculation of Samhain, Oimelc, Beltane & Lughnasadh is to use the civil calendar days or eves of November 1st, February 1st, May 1st and August 1st, respectively. Another way is to use the weekend closest to each of these dates. Still others choose to use the sixth day after the new or full moon closest to each of these dates. Astrologically oriented Neopagans use the days upon which the Sun enters 15 degrees of each of the "Fixed Signs" of the Zodiac, to wit: Eagle Point=15 degrees of Scorpio, Man or Angel Point=15 degrees of Aquarius, Ox Point=15 degrees of Taurus and Lion Point=15 degrees of Leo. Still others use those days upon which the Sun hits 16 degrees and 18 minutes declination North or South of the Celestial Equator. This also makes them come halfway between the Solstices and Equinoxes, and usually gives results within a few hours of those given by the Fixed Signs method.

Major Pagan High Days Explained

Samhain (pronounced "Sô-un" or "sow-en" -- not "Sam Hain"): Is known in Modern Irish as Lá Samhna, in Welsh as Nos Calan-gaeaf (Calen-gaeof; that is, the Night of the Winter Calends), in Manx* as Laa Houney (Hollantide Day), and as Sauin or Souney; is the original festival that became "All Saints' Day," or "All Hallow's Evening," which was contracted into "Hallow-e'en" or the modern "Halloween." It is, also, know as All Souls Day, Day of the Dead, Third Harvest, Samana, Old Hallowmas, Vigil of Saman, Shadowfest, Samhuinn, and Martinmas.

* Note: Manx is the Celtic language of the inhabitants of the "Isle of Man."

Among other things, it is the beginning of the Winter Half of the Year (the seasons of Geimredh & Earrach) and is known as "The Day Between Years." The day before Samhain is the last day of the old year and the day after Samhain is the first day of the pagan "New Year". Being a day "between years," it is considered a very magical night, when the dead walk among the living and the veils between past, present and future may be lifted in prophecy and divination.

Samhain marks the beginning of the pagan year and is considered a time when the separation between life and death becomes thin. Accordingly, it is set aside as a time to honor ancestors and remember the dead. This is the third and final harvest of the year. In religions with "dying gods" this is when the old god dies and the goddess reigns alone as the wise and powerful Crone (pagan Trinity is the "Maiden"-"Matron"-"Crone").

Samhain basically means "summer's end" and many are the important mythological events that occurred on that day. It was on a Samhain that the Nemedians captured the terrible Tower of Glass built by the evil Formorians; that the Tuatha De Danann later defeated the Formors once and for all; that Pwyll won his wife Rhiannon from Gwawl; and that many other events of a dramatic or prophetic nature in Celtic myth happened. Many of these events had to do with the temporary victory of the forces of darkness over those of light, signaling the beginning of the cold and dark half of the year.

Oimelc ("ee-melc"): Known in Modern Irish as Imbolc and as Lá na Féile Bríde (Festival of "Saint Bridget"), in Manx as Laa'n Arragh (Day of Spring), and as "Candlemas" in English. Brighid, Bride or Bridget is yet another pagan goddess (actually a witch) turned into a "saint" by the catholics in order to co-opt her worship. This goddess was a triple-aspected (Trinity) deity (originally a Sun goddess) of Poetry, Divination, Healing and Smithcraft, whose followers kept an eternal flame burning in her honor. By analogy with the Gaelic names of the other High Days, we may safely assume that the holiday was originally called La'áOimelc and was the festival of the lactation of the ewes. In Paleopagan days (and, indeed, until the recent past) the sheep were very important animals, providing both food and clothing. The occasion of the birth of lambs (not to mention kids and calves) was a cause for rejoicing and a sign of life in the "dead" world of a Northern winter."Candlemas" is a catholic term for a holiday occurring February 1st or 2nd. This supposedly is in honor of a "Saint Blaise" and has no official connection with "Saint Bridget" (a witch) and her cult of fire, nor with the fact that this day was one of the four major fire festivals of Paleopagan cultures throughout Western and Northern Europe. Of course, the catholics don't mention a certain Slavic god named Vlaise, who was the Patron Saint of cattle, wealth and war, and who was worshipped with fire.

Oimelc begins the spring season of Earrach. February 2nd is also known as Groundhog's Day, a holiday so-called because American groundhogs were the local counterpart to the Irish hare (bunny) that was sacred to Bride or Bridget. Celtic belief is that good weather on Oimelc means that winter will continue, and that bad weather means winter is on the way out; hence the importance of the presence or absence of a sacred animal's shadow (a Bunny or a Groundhog).

Oimelc is, also, known as: Lupercalia, St. Valentine’s Day, Candlelaria, Snowdrop Festival, Festival of Lights, and Feast of the Virgin. This is the festival of the Trinity goddess as a Maiden and begins the season of growth and renewal. It is a time fertility, and new beginnings symbolized by the uniting of the god and goddess, or the goddess and her chosen consort.

Beltane: known in Modern Irish as Lá Bealtaine, in Welsh as Calan-Mai (Calends of May), in Scottish Gaelic as Bealtiunn, and in Manx as Shenn da Boaddyn, Laa Boaldyn, or Laa'n Tourey (Day of Summer); is, of course, the day we know in English as May Day. It is also called by a variety of other names, such as Roodmas, Summer Day, Walpurgistag, St. Pierre's Day, Red Square Day, etc. It is the beginning of the Summer Half of the Year (the seasons of Samradh & Foghamhar) and is a festival of forbidden joys. In some traditions this is the celebration of the coronation feast of the god, or the goddess' consort. It had always been a time of sexuality and passion during which normal constraints of fidelity are set aside. It is intended as a time to enjoy the bounty of the earth and the pleasures of physical sex.

A very large number of important mythological (and not so mythological) events are connected with this day, which balances out Samhain on the opposite side of the "Wheel of the Year." It was on a Beltane that Partholan and his followers, the first inhabitants and partial creators of Ireland, landed on that isle. Three hundred years later, on the same day, they returned to the Other World. It was on a Beltane that the Tuatha De Danann and their people invaded Ireland *. It was on a May Eve that Pryderi, the missing son of Rhiannon and Pwyll (Rulers of the Welsh Otherworld), was lost by them and later (on another May Eve) found by Teirnyon Twryf Vliant (and eventually restored to them). On every first day of May "till the day of doom," Gwyn ap Nudd fights with Gwyrthur ap Greidawl, for the hand of Lludd's fair daughter, Creudylad. Most of these events, again, as all over Europe, have to do with stories of the forces of light & safety defeating the forces of darkness & danger. This is why the Marxists chose May Day as their international Holy Day?

*Note: Tuatha De Danann is the Irish title for the ancient "Tribe of Dan," which was (is) supposed to be one of the original twelve tribes of Israel (Jacob). The Dannites named every place they conquered after Dan (Jacob's and Rachel's first born) as was their custom. However, it was not their custom to designate specific vowels; only the specific consonants of "D" and "N" were used. The "D" always preceded the "N" with any vowel or no vowel in between. Additionally the Dannites were a warrior tribe (1 Chronicles 12:35), and seamen (Judges 5:17). This could explain how some of them managed to escape from the Assyrians and relocate to Ireland at the time Israel was conquered.

The following places in Ireland appear to be the areas of conquest by the Dannites: Danslaugh, Dansower, Dundalk, Donegal (bay and city), Dungloe, Dingle, and Dunsmor.

Additionally, the following places appear to be other areas of conquest outside of Ireland: The rivers named Dnieper, Dniester, and Don. The Danish people, and the city named Denmark.

So why wasn't there a more Hebraic influence established on these areas of Dannite conquests? Yahweh, The Creator, would never have allowed the ancient Israelites to be conquered by the Assyrians had they loved Him, and kept their Covenant (Marriage Vow of Obedience) with Him. Instead they practiced pagan rituals and worshipped pagan gods. Therefore, Yahweh took away his protection, because He no longer favored them (gave them grace). So what is the implication here? Simple, the Dannites were pagan, and possibly more pagan than the nations into which they merged.

Lughnasadh: Known in Modern Irish as Lá Lúnasa, in Welsh as Gwyl Awst (August Feast), in Manx as Lla Lluanys, as Laa'n Ouyr (Day of the Harvest Season) or as Lammas, and to the English as Apple Day and Harvest Home. Essentially it is a harvest festival that signals the beginning of the harvest season and the ripening of the apples (as well as other fruits and vegetables). Applejack, hard cider, mead and other alcoholic beverages are consumed at this time (it's expected!) by many enthusiastic Neopagans.

This holiday is a day of mixed joy and woe (Irish wakes are an old tradition), for it is by now obvious that the days are getting shorter. Stories of the battles between Lugh and Balor (the light, Sun & Fire Yahweh and the dark one) are retold, as the autumn quarter of Foghamhar begins.

Minor Pagan High Days Explained

The Winter Solstice (also called Yule, Christmas, Xmas, Jul, Midwinter, and Saturnalia): usually occurring around December 21st or so of the civil calendar. Also, this is a day sacred to the Sun, Thunder, and Fire deities. Large fires were built outdoors and Yule Logs lit indoors, in order to rekindle the dying Sun and help it to return brightly to the Northern skies. Burnt logs and ashes from the Midwinter fires were kept as a talisman (charm) against lightning and house fires. It was also a custom in many parts of Paleopagan Europe to decorate live evergreen trees in honor of the gods (cutting down a tree [Xmas tree] to bring it indoors is considered [by Neopagans] to be a blasphemous desecration of the original concept). This is considered, along with Midsummer, the best day of the year to cut mistletoe. Among some Paleopagans, a date on or near this was celebrated as the birthday of Mithras and/or the Feast of Saturnalia (which the catholics co-opted to use for the birth of Christ).

Note: In 46BC, when the Roman "Julian" calendar was adopted, December 24th. was the shortest day of the year. Therefore, December 25th. was the first day of the year that the days started to get longer. Thus, the REBIRTH (Annual Birthday) of the SUN. In 1582 Catholic Pope Gregory 13th caused the present day "Gregorian" calendar to be adopted. By this time the shortest day of the year on the Julian calendar had shifted 10 days to the 15th of December, but the original December 25th "Birthdate" was retained for all Sun gods. The Gregorian calendar shifted the shortest day from the (Julian) 15th of December to the Gregorian 22nd of December. Today there is an approximate thirteen day shift between the Julian and the Gregorian calendars.

Yule marks that point in the year which celebrates the return of the light. It begins with the longest night ("Eve") of the year after which the daylight increases. This is also the rebirth of the Oak King, the Sun King, and all the "dying" gods of various religions. The reborn god is generally depicted in child form. The Roman Cult of Sol Invictus was an ancient Sun god worshipping group who worshipped the Sun god Apollo. Interesting note here is that on the original Roman Julian calendar this "Eve" date was originally set as December 24th, 46 BC., but was shifted to December 21st. in 1582 AD by the Roman catholic Gregorian calendar. However, Xmas (the Birthday of the Sun gods) kept the traditional December 25th. date.

This was a time of both fun and fear. The fear engendered by the failing of the light shaped a striking legend in Greek culture. It's the story of the Kallikantzaroi (ugly monsters of chaos) who, during most of the year, are forced underground, but during the 12 days of Yule (now Xmas), the gremlin like demons are said to roam freely on the earth's surface. They are known more for malicious practical joking than any real harm (braiding horse's tails, souring milk, putting out the home fire in a particularly indelicate manner). To scare them away, the Greeks kept their Yule logs burning. They also burned old shoes, believing the smell would repel the creatures. Any child born during the twelve days of Yule (Xmas) was in danger of becoming a Kallikantzaroi. The antidote? Binding the baby in tresses of garlic or straw or singeing the child's toenails!

The Spring Equinox: although sometimes known as the Festival of the Trees, is better known as the feast of (the German fertility goddess) Eostara (Ostara or Astarte), and (the Babylonian goddess) Ishtar or "Easter."

This is a time of perfect balance between light and darkness with the days and nights of almost equal length. It brings the first day of spring and a time of great fertility and growth. It is a celebration of the returning of life to the Earth. Bunnies, eggs and children are sacred at this feast and pagans in need of fertility talismans (charms) now color hollow eggs and (quickly) pass them through the ceremonial fires to take home and hang over their beds and in their barns. A fascinating source of almost forgotten Paleopagan symbols can be found by examining carefully the fantastically decorated eggs produced by folk artists from Europe (especially Eastern Europe and Russia), Mexico and South America. As a Minor High Day, it usually takes place around March 21st or so. Among some Paleopagan cultures in Southern Europe, the Spring Equinox was the date of the New Year (instead of Samhain), and indeed, some Druids refer to this holiday as "the New Year for Trees."

The Spring Equinox is, also, known as the Vernal Equinox, St. Patrick’s Day, Lady Day, Alban Eiler, and Feast of the Annunciation.

Note: The Summer Solstice: usually occurring around June 21st or so. Also known as St. John's Day, Litha, and Midsummer, it shares mythical elements with both Beltane and Lughnasadh. Like both, it is a feast celebrating the glory of summer and the peak of the Sun god's power. But in many systems of belief, it is the day of the biggest battle of the year between the Dark Sun god and the Light Sun god (the dangerous vs. the safe one), Who are usually brothers or otherwise intimately related. Midsummer is a peak from which the Sun can only fall, for it is the day on which the hours of light slowly begin to shorten.

Litha is the celebration of the longest day of the year when light is abundant. In some traditions it is considered the peak of the consort‘s strength before he begins his decline. The god is frequently depicted in his aspect as "Green Man". All night vigils and celebrations are common.

This day originally observed the first harvest of the year’s crops. The god is in decline as the nights grow longer but food is bountiful as the goddess continues to gain in strength and wisdom.

Fall Equinox: (often called Michaelmas) is the last pagan holiday of the year and occurs somewhere around September 21st or so. This is a thanksgiving feast and signals the beginning of the 'Hunting Season', for deer and other large game, in many parts of Europe and North America. Thus, it is dedicated to the Hunting and Fishing deities and the deities of Plenty, in thankfulness for benefits received and hoped for. Outdoor picnics in the woods are a popular tradition in those areas where the weather is still good at this time of year. It is, also, known as Mabon, Second Harvest Festival, Wine Harvest, Feast of Avalon, Alben Elfed, and Cornucopia.

This is the time of the year when the god’s power weakens toward his death as the goddess reaches her full maturity as the Crone. It is considered the end of the harvest and a time of gathering in for the forth coming winter. It is a family oriented period during which pagan families draw together and reflect on the value of home and hearth.

Mithraism

Mithraism, one of the major religions of the Roman Empire (predecessor to the Roman catholic religion), the Cult of Mithra, the ancient Persian god of light and wisdom. In the Avesta (the sacred Zoroastrian writings of the ancient Persians) Mithra appears as the chief yazata (Avestan, "beneficent one"), or good spirit, and ruler of the world. He was supposed to have slain the divine bull, from whose dying body sprang all plants and animals beneficial to humanity. After the conquest of Assyria in the 7th century BC and of Babylonia in the 6th century BC, Mithra became the god of the sun, which was worshipped in his name (Sun Worship). The Greeks of Asia Minor, by identifying Mithra with Helios, the Greek god of the sun, helped to spread the cult. It was brought to Rome about 68BC by Cilician pirates whom the Roman general Pompey the Great had captured, and during the early empire it spread rapidly throughout Italy and the Roman provinces.

Mithraism is similar to catholicism and Protestantism in many respects, for example, in the ideals of humility and brotherly love, baptism, the rite of communion, the use of holy water, the priest were called father, the adoration of the shepherds at Mithra's birth, the adoption of Sundays and of December 25 (Mithra's birthday) as holy days, and the belief in the immortality of the soul, the last judgment, and the resurrection. Mithraism differed only in the exclusion of women from its ceremonies and in its willingness to compromise with polytheism. These similarities, however, made the conversion of its' followers to catholicism (The Universal Pagan Religion) easy.

In ancient Greece the deities of the sun were Helios and Apollo (worshipped by The Roman Emperor Constantine). The worship of Helios was widespread; temples were built in Corinth, Árgos, Troezen (no longer in existence), and many other cities, but the principal seat was on the island of Rhodes, in the Dodecanese, where four white horses were sacrificed annually to the god. A similar sacrifice was offered on the summit of Mount Hagios Elias, in the Taïyetos Mountains, in Laconia. In time virtually all the functions of Helios were transferred to the god Apollo, in his identity as Phoebus. Sun worship has not only persisted, but has become the false christian standard through catholicism and Protestantism, as is evidenced by its disguised survival in such traditional pagan christian practices as the Easter bonfire and the Yule log on Xmas with fire being the symbol of the sun.

Zoroastrianism

Zoroastrianism, religion founded in ancient Persia by the prophet Zoroaster. The doctrines preached by Zoroaster are preserved in his metrical Gathas (psalms), which form part of the sacred scripture known as the Avesta.

Avesta, the prayer book of Zoroastrianism, forms the sacred books of the present-day Zoroastrians known as Parsis, who live in small communities in Iran and in India and Pakistan. The original home of these worshipers and of their holy scriptures was ancient Persia, and the faith they profess was that founded by the ancient Persian Zoroaster, one of the great religious teachers of the East. The doctrines of this ancient belief and a record of the customs of the earliest period of Persian history are preserved in the Avesta. Flourishing for six centuries prior the pagan christian era, the religion represented by the Avesta may have been the faith of the Achaemenids, the dynasty of the Persian kings Cyrus the Great, Darius I, and Xerxes I. The religion lost adherents after the conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC, and many of the sacred books were lost. It was revived but was then virtually destroyed in the 7th century AD by the Muslims in their victorious invasion. Most of the Zoroastrians were then compelled to accept the Qur'an (Koran), the sacred scriptures of Islam; many, however, fled to India for refuge and took with them what was left of their sacred writings. A few of the faithful remained behind in Persia and, although persecuted, they continued to practice their religion. These two groups, about 80,000 persons in India and 18,000 in Persia, were responsible for the preservation of the Avesta in its present form.

Warning

Words are cheap, and just because someone may not profess to be a pagan, does not mean that they are not a pagan. And by the same token, just because someone does profess to be a True Believer, does not mean that they are a "Follower of The True Hebrew Messiah." Our actions speak much louder than our words, and it is our actions that reveal the true nature of our heart. Do not think that anyone can fool Yahweh, The Creator, with words. Obedience to His Commandments (all of them) through true love is what He is seeking. It is only through obedience that the depth of our love can be measured, because it is impossible to obey Him if we despise His words (Commandments). Yahweh will not give "Grace" (favor) anyone who is not willing to become "One" with Him, and to become "One with Yahweh" is to spiritually "Marry Yahweh." To become "One with Yahweh" is to be "Like Him" in character (a Holy Spirit of Love), and the only way to "Marry G-d" is to voluntarily enter into a "Covenant" with His First Born Son, Yahshua (Jesus is the Anti-Messiah). This "Covenant" is a true confession (vow of "Obedience through Love"), because this is what is meant by confessing or accepting Yahshua as our Passover Lamb (sacrifice for sin). For it is not water baptism that saves us from certain death, but our "Baptism" by "The Holy Spirit of G-d" through our mutual (both Yahweh and us) infallible love based on our "Faith."

KNOW THIS ....... The Holy Spirit is not a Trinity, but is the "Mind", and "Character" of Yahweh. The Trinity is a pagan concept, absorbed and taught by pagan christian churches.






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