Mabon Short History

Mabon, (pronounced MAY-bun, MAY-bone, MAH-boon, or MAH-bawn) is the Autumn Equinox. The Autumn Equinox divides the day and night equally, and we all take a moment to pay our respects to the impending dark. We also give thanks to the waning sunlight, as we store our harvest of this year’s crops. The Druids call this celebration, Mea’n Fo’mhair, and honor the The Green Man, the God of the Forest, by offering libations to trees. Offerings of ciders, wines, herbs and fertilizer are appropriate at this time. Wiccans celebrate the aging Goddess as she passes from Mother to Crone, and her consort the God as he prepares for death and re-birth.

Various other names for this Lesser Wiccan Sabbat are The Second Harvest Festival, Wine Harvest, Feast of Avalon, Equinozio di Autunno (Strega), Alben Elfed (Caledonii), or Cornucopia. The Teutonic name, Winter Finding, spans a period of time from the Sabbat to Oct. 15th, Winter’s Night, which is the Norse New Year.

At this festival it is appropriate to wear all of your finery and dine and celebrate in a lavish setting. It is the drawing to and of family as we prepare for the winding down of the year at Samhain. It is a time to finish old business as we ready for a period of rest, relaxation, and reflection.


Originally from Bewitching Ways

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Mabon Long History

Mabon, pronounced May-bon, MAY-bun, MAY-bone, MAH-boon, or MAH-bawn, is the Fall Equinox, named after the Celtic God of the same name. This lessor Sabbat is known, not only by the name of Mabon, but also that of Harvest Home, Winter Finding and Alban Elved plus various other names, such as The Second Harvest Festival, the Festival of Dionysus, Harvest of First Fruits, Wine Harvest, Feast of Avalon, Equinozio di Autunno (Strega), Alben Elfed (Caledonii), or Cornucopia. The Teutonic name, Winter Finding, spans a period of time from this Sabbat to Oct. 15th, Winter’s Night, which is the Norse New Year. The Druids call this celebration, Mea’n Fo’mhair, and honor The Green Man, the God of the Forest, by offering libations to trees.

Since most European peasants were not accomplished at calculating the exact date of the equinox, they celebrated the event on a fixed calendar date, September 25th, a holiday the medieval church Christianized under the name of ‘Michaelmas’, the feat of the Archangel Michael. In medieval times, rents fell due and contracts were settled at Easter and at Michaelmas.

The Autumnal Equinox is an instant frozen in time. Mabon marks the halfway point between the zenith of the Sun at Litha and it’s nadir the night before Yule when our earth is at a complete equal facing with the sun which, at the equinox, enters the sign of Libra. This is the second time of year that day and night are equal, the first time being at Ostara. However, unlike at Ostara when the days will grow longer than the nights, after this day the darkness is beginning to gain over the day. Mabon marks the beginning of Autumn and the death of the land, that is to come, but it is also a celebration of life, as it is the second, and largest, harvest of the year. At this time we stop and relax and enjoy the fruits of our personal harvests, whether they be from toiling in our gardens, working at our jobs, raising our families, or just coping with everyday life. The full moon closest to the Autumn Equinox is known as the “Harvest Moon,” since farmers would also harvest their crops during the night with the light of the full moon to aid them.

The month of September also marks the “Wine Moon,” the lunar cycle when grapes are harvested from the arbors, pressed and put away to become wine. Wine and grapevines were considered sacred by early Pagans., The following of Dionysus, a God of Resurrection, reached its height of popularity in the eighth century BCE and the pagans of this following honored wine and the grapes as symbols of rebirth and transformation. Generally, wine is associated with the God, and the Goddess with bread created from the crops.

Mythically, Mabon is the day of the year when the God of Light is defeated by his twin and alter-ego, the God of Darkness. We see the Autumnal Equinox is the only day of the whole year when Llew, light, is vulnerable and it is possible to defeat him. Using astrology as a guide and metaphor we see that Llew now stands on the balance of Libra/autumnal equinox, with one foot on the cauldron of Cancer/summer solstice and his other foot on the goat or Capricorn/winter solstice. He is betrayed by Blodeuwedd, the Virgin (Virgo) and transformed into an Eagle (Scorpio).

Historically Mabon seemed to be a version of Young Huntsman and Divine Youth who, with the coming of the Romans, became associated with Apollo (as Maponus/Apollo) and was to the Greeks seen as the God, Mercury. He acquired his attributes of God of the Sun, Music, and Hunting and was very popular among the Roman soldiers stationed along Hadrian’s Wall, especially during the cold, gloomy winter. Faces of Mabon were found carved into the wall and were ritually blank as the mark of a youth who has studied or suffered for too long. Lochenmaben (a village) and Clochmabenstane (a standing stone), both in Dumfriesshire, were named after him.

Mabon is a Welsh name meaning “great son,” and refers to the Son of the Great Mother, The Divine Son of Light. H.R. Ellis-Davidson quotes the Venerable Bede, who translates Modron as the Mothers — plural. Modern translators give it as the Mother — singular. Linguistic evidence may well support the plural interpretation, for although Mabon ap is unequivocally Welsh, Modron may not be: in Saxon, the singular of Modron becomes Modr — recognizably mother. Suddenly we have, not as was always believed a corruption of the Latin Matrona, but good Germanic. Mythologically this festival celebrates the story of Modron, the Great Goddess of the Earth, and the birth of her son, Mabon. According to the mythology, Mabon disappears (or is kidnapped) three days after his birth (thus, the light goes into hiding). Mabon is veiled in mystery in the womb of the earth, here personified as his mother, the Great Protector and Guardian of the Otherworld. Though his whereabouts are a mystery, it is only here that he can once again renew his strength and gain new wisdom in order to be reborn to the Goddess as the Son of Light. This is accomplished at Yule (Winter Solstice), with the aid of the ancient and wise animals: Stag, Raven, Owl, Eagle and Salmon. One can readily see the connection of this myth to the natural events occurring during this time. It also speaks to us of the Wiccan Mysteries of Life, Death, and Rebirth, and the sacrificial nature of the God.

As the wheel of the year turns some traditions ready for a funeral. Mabon symbolizes the male side of the Harvest and is the son of the Great Mother Earth, Mabron also known as Maponus in Britain and Gaul. Mabon may also be seen as the child who is born at Yule and is the God of the Sun. He grew into a an energetic toddler at Imbolc. The forests were his playground for the sprightly youth with golden hair at Ostara. At Beltane we see him matured and with his new bride. During the growing season he has sent the warm winds from the South, glowing with all his might, to help the crops grow. He is a man in his prime at Litha, and, at Lughnasadh, a leader, provider and a teacher of His people. Now it is Autumn, winter is not far behind, and Mabon is a man of advancing years, still strong in intellect, but caged in a weakening body and dying like the harvested plants of the earth. The sacrifices of Lammas were successful and the bounty has come. While we thank him for all this hard work we realize he is returning home to the Otherworld, a wonderful and enchanted faerie place, so that he may be reborn at Yule to help us once again. In many traditions the Otherworld is equated with the Mother’s womb. Because the passing of Mabon is inevitable he should be mourned but we must remember that as with all cycles there are things that must end, but the ending is always a good time to celebrate our successes, thank our selves and those who helped us, and take part in the balance of life.

Mabon’s Mother, Madron is also tired now and is the kindly Old Grandmother Crone who watches over all of us with her wisdom. Her daughter the Mother Goddess is also here to celebrate the Harvest in which she has helped us grow. The Goddess, full with child, cradles her dying lover in her arms. He slowly withdraws into her arms.

In addition to the crops there were seeds to be prepared. The harvested crops may feed us over the harsh winter months but, in order to renew them at the end of this time, we must be sure to collect and store the seeds for their eventual rebirth. Contained within them is the mystery of Life in Death in the image of the Wicker Man, the Corn Man or John Barleycorn. In some cultures the last sheaf of grain to be harvested became the Barley-mother, the Old Woman, the Maiden, to be honored until spring and then re-planted. One of the most widespread traditions is the corn dolly made out of the last sheaf of wheat cut. Known variously as the Wheat Bride, Kern Baby, Old Woman, Wheat Mother, etc. it was kept carefully throughout the winter, then either plowed into the fields the following spring, or burned and the ashes scattered over the fields. Each district also had their own customs concerning the making of the dolly. Some simply made the doll from the cut stalks (averting their faces so that the Grain Goddess couldn’t tell who had struck the killing blow) while others left a tuft of wheat uncut, plaited it , and then had the men throw their scythes at it until it was cut. Some places made the carrying of the Corn Dolly to the house a kind of game where one man tried to run back with it without anyone else taking it away from him. This could be an early form of “football” and where the tradition of this game began. The embodiment of the Spirit of Vegetation, the dolly was put in a position of honor in the home. Sometimes a communal dolly was kept in the church and a large feast took place after the last of the harvest was in.

The sacrifice of John Barleycorn was another symbol known and used by many traditions. He is the spirit of the vegetation that is ‘sacrificed’ to harvest the food that will sustain the people through the winter months and into the next growing season. It should be noted that the annual mock sacrifice of the Wicker Man figure or John Barleycorn may have been the origin of the misconception that Druids made human sacrifices. The charge of human sacrifice was first made by Julius Caesar, who probably did not have the most unbiased of motives, and has been re-stated many times since. However, the only historians besides Caesar ,who make this accusation, are those who have read Caesar and use his reference. In fact, upon reading Caesar’s “Gallic Wars ” one finds that Caesar never actually witnessed such human sacrifice. Further, he never claims to have talked to or met with anyone else who witnessed such an event either. There is not one single eyewitness account in any historical manuscript that documents a human sacrifice performed by Druids. Further there is no archeological evidence to support the charge because if human sacrifices had been performed at the same ritual sites year after year there would be physical traces. No such evidence has ever been found, nor is there any native tradition or history, which lends support to this assumption. In fact, tradition seems to point in the opposite direction because the Druid’s reverence for life was so strict that they refused to lift a sword to defend themselves when massacred by Roman soldiers on the Isle of Mona. Irish Brehon Laws forbade a Druid to touch a weapon, and any soul rash enough to unsheathe a sword in the presence of a Druid would be executed for such an outrage. This in itself makes it highly improbable that the Druids ever would have condoned, led or performed any type of human sacrifice.

On another note the Fall equinox is the mating season for deer, and marks the beginning of the hunting season in many places. In British folklore this time of year is associated with Herne the Hunter, who leads a wild phantom chase through the forest, heralding confusion and change. In one Craft tradition the Fall Equinox is called “the Night of the Hunter,” when weak livestock which will not survive the winter must be slain.

This season also brings to mind the mythology of Persephone and Demeter. Some groups choose to celebrate the Sabbat by enacting this story in their Sabbat Circles, emphasizing the Mystery contained within the cyclical faces of the ever-constant Goddess

Today we realize that this is not only a time of the physical balance of day and night, but a time of magickal balance. Forces of dark and light are trading places once again in their cycle. Since this is one of the two days of balance in the year, along with Ostara, is it traditional to clean house. It is at this time that you begin to rid yourself of all of the clutter around your home and in your daily life. The thresholds of the house are blessed to protect those living inside. Foods are harvested, canned and stored, wood is chopped, animals begin to hibernate in preparation for the winter, and new clothes are bought and made for the colder times that await. Balance the outdoor activities with the mental activity of reading and storytelling. The harvest theme of Mabon cannot be denied. With all of the blessings we have received it is natural to use this time of year to show our gratitude.

Mabon has become a celebration of three main themes. These are reflection, grace, and balance. Although these themes are present every day, now is the day that we should give them our full attention.

In the physical realm this is the time for looking back upon the efforts of the past–not just this year, or the last, but also of your lifetime. Look back at this time and be sure to congratulate yourself on all those things you have done well, while, at the same time, being sure to think of things you wish to improve. As with any effort you may put forth there is always work on someone else’s part that allowed you to build upon it. Mabon is an excellent time to give thanks to all the time and energy put forth by others to help you. The work done by others not only helps you by making your work easier, it gives you a base to build higher than you could without it.

A feast of plenty on this day, in honor of the God, is traditional. Whereas cornbread was most appropriate at Lammas, wheat bread is best now to coincide with that harvest. Apples are ripening now, and nuts may be ready, as well. Do not forget fruit juices of apple and grape, whether or not fermented. One idea for a ritual gesture, it is to start a tradition of passing a “cup of gratitude” at this feast. To do this a chalice is filled with wine, blessed and passed around the table clockwise. As each person takes it, they speak about what they are thankful for and once they have spoken of all of their blessings, they drink from the cup, or pour a small amount into another cup, and then pass it on to the next person.

Magically speaking, this is an excellent time to perform spells around the idea of balancing out your life. Remove any guilt, and replace it with love and acceptance. The light half of the year from the spring equinox, until Mabon, is the best time of the year for outward turning magick. This magick is that which draws from and effects forces which lie outside of yourself. Spells which turn upon inner forces and mostly effect your own self will become more and more important as the dark half of the year grows in power.


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Litha Short History

Litha is the Wiccan Sabbat that marks the Summer Solstice and usually occurs around June 21. It marks the first day of summer on traditional calendars, but it is actually the Midsummer mark for Pagans.

Litha marks the longest day of the year, the day when the sun reaches its apex and is aspected to zero degrees Cancer. This is a day that celebrates the God in all his glory. It is also the time of year when the Goddess is glowing with motherhood in her pregnancy.

In Wiccan lore, once again the Holly King and the Oak King battle. This time, it is the Holly King who is victorious, and from this point on, the days grow shorter.

For those of you familiar with Shakespeare, you might remember the play centered around the Solistice: “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream”. It is believed that Midsummer Night’s Eve is a special time for those who believe in the Faerie traditions. Like Samhain, this is a day where the veils are thin between the realms of the Sidhe (the Faerie realm) and the world of mortals. It is a time for merriment and the making of wishes.

Litha marks the first of three harvest celebrations. This is the time to gather the herbs from your garden. Tradition suggests using your boline or a scythe to cut the plant by the moonlight. Some suggest chanting the use of the planet while doing so.

Honey is a popular symbol for this time (one of the names of the June Full Moon is the Honey Moon). Serving Meade as well as dipping your cake in honey during the feast part of your ritual, symbolizes the sweetness of life and the season.

As we’ve seen happen in the past, Christianity has tried to hone in on our holiday. They have declared it John the Baptist’s birthday. I’ve read that other Saints in the Church are remembered on the day they’ve died. But not so with John the Baptist. He is the only Saint recognized on his birthday. They celebrate the Solstice with the Jack-in-the-Green to the Feast of St. John the Baptist, often portraying him in rustic attire, sometimes with horns and cloven feet (like Pan).

Litha Long History

Litha, or Mid-Summer’s Day, falls on the Summer Solstice and is known as one of the ‘quarter days’-Equinoxes and Solstices-that divides the year evenly into quarters. The Summer Solstice occurs when the sun reaches the Tropic of Cancer, hence this is the date the sun also enters the astrological sign of Cancer. For the northern hemisphere, this is when the planet is tilted to give us the most sunlight. Although this day is the longest of the year it is generally not the warmest. It is the day that the sun overpowers the darkness, and it is this source of energy that we use in our magic with themes of power and protection. The date of the Solstice varies from year to year, falling sometime between June 20th through 23rd. Old calendars marked time from sunset to sunset, so you may want to start your celebration on the eve of the Solstice which is after sunset on the day before the Solstice.

Litha is a celebration of the bounty of Summer. There are many flowers, with the bright pastel spring blooms giving way to the rich intensity of Summer flowers. The fields have been seeded, the plants are growing, some early crops may be harvested but most of all there is promise of the larger harvest to come in both the field and trees. Now we must trust that there will be enough rain and sun, and not too much of either or of the wind, so that we may harvest sufficient amounts to see us through the coming winter.

The youthful energy of spring and Beltane have mellowed into maturity; emotional maturity and love now matches the sexual maturity or lust of the earlier season. If Beltane was the lustful courtship of the Lord and Lady, this is Their wedding. Their passion is no less, but has increased in depth. Love is now their guiding force, and Lust is merely the spice .

This day is also known as Midsummer, because, for the pagan community, Summer officially starts at Beltane (on May 1) and ends on Lughnassahd (August 1) with this day falling in between the two. Other names that this holiday is known as are Litha and St. John the Baptist Day. For those who are of the Christian faith this the date chosen for honoring John the Baptist, cousin and fore-seer of Jesus Christ. The Christian church began doing after realizing how widespread and ingrained the festivals of this day were. St. John, the cousin of Jesus of Nazareth, was considered one of the most important saints, leading you to see the importance that the Christian church put in “claiming” this holiday. Litha is a word supposed to derive from one that is Saxon denoting the opposite of Yule.

Traditionally, Litha is a time sacred to the Sun King, for this is when He is at His strongest. The God is in his prime. He has reached the peak of His power, and His rays are such that none dare look at Him for fear of being blinded by His light. With this power comes the heat of Summer, the promise of fruit and grain, and a great harvest to come. His potency ensures the continuity of life in the face of the oncoming darkness. He is ever-living, ever-returning with virility, fertility and strength. He guides us in our own personal growth, just as he guides the crops and creatures of Earth. His marriage with the Goddess now makes Him Her protector as well as her lover. He is a full grown man, and due to the merry making of Beltane, a father.

At Litha the God can be seen in many different traditions and mythologies. In the Oak King/Holly King myth, the Sun King has two separate personalities. These personalities are so strong that, to some, they become different entities, the Oak King and the Holly King, each ruling one half of the year. The Oak King was born at Yule to the Great Mother, and in his light and splendor begins to turn the Great Wheel and start the lengthening of the days. The beginning of the sun’s decline is symbolized by the return of the Holly King, the Spirit of Winter, at the moment after the Solstice. It is on mid-Summer that the dark half of the sun god begins to gain power. Often, mock battles are played between representatives of the two gods who fight over the attentions of the lady Goddess. At the Summer Solstice the dark Holly King (to some beliefs as the Wren) slays his light twin the Oak King (to some beliefs as the Robin) and begins his half-yearly reign which ends with the Holly King’s death at midwinter when the scene is reversed and the Oak King is triumphant. The eternal dueling of these light and dark brothers gives life to the primary tenant of western Goddess worship, “there is darkness in the light and light in the darkness.” Although the Dark God is defeated, he has weakened the God of Light who has now begun to die. As everything in nature comes to its peak and then declines, so too must the God in His aspect of the Sun. With decline comes transformation, and so it is with the God, who takes on many aspects and wears many crowns.

The Earth Mother is also at Her finest at this time. The Goddess is becoming Mother, the seed that was planted earlier in her womb is growing with the son/sun. She blossoms just as the earth blossoms with abundance. She basks in the light of her lover and grows with child each day. The land is glowing with flowers and ripening fruit as the Goddess glows and ripens, as well. Like the animals and plants, we feed off of this warmth, and take a moment to rest on this Sabbat.

Once again, thinking back to our ancestors, we know that they found this to be a peaceful time. The crops were planted, their animals had usually birthed by this time and they had a slight lull as they awaited the time of the first harvest. Among humans there is change in the type of energy. Where spring made us sprightly, Summer makes us passionate. Flesh is revealed; sensuality is at its highest expression; heat makes us languid, yet the cooler nights are energizing.

Mid-Summer is said to be a mystical time when the forces of magic are increased and fairies roam our world. Fairies, elves and sprites are purported to be most easily seen at Mid-Summer, dancing in fairy rings. As portrayed in Shakespeare’s “A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream,” it is a night much like Samhain, when the veils are once more thin between the realms of the Sidhe (or fae) and the world of mortals. This is the night when mortals have strange experiences, and when faeries troop across the land. Litha is a “day outside of time,” and the strange experiences one might have are likely to be comic, harmless, or even beneficial. Litha has an “upside down” quality about it – things are often reversed or mixed-up. It is a time for merriment and the wish making. There is a tradition of celebrating Litha where one makes wishes after gathering flowers(especially St. John’s Wort) either to hang in your home as protection amulets or to tied onto the tops of roofs as a symbol of a wish that you want carried into the next world.

The Sun festival was a noisy time, with singing, dancing, and drumming lasting the whole night through. In some places in Germany, tall fir-trees were set up in open places and decorated with flowers, and red and yellow eggs. The younger folk danced around these trees during the day, and the older ones during the evening.

Homes would frequently be decked with such plants as birch, white lilies, roses, and Saint John’s Wort. Saint John’s Wort was of particular importance to the Mid-Summer celebrations and in addition to wearing it and spreading it about the house, young girls would often use it to help divine the future of their love lives. Mistletoe, Mugwort, Vervain, Basil and many other herbs are harvested in ritualistic manners to preserve their energies for use in the colder times on Litha. Amulets of the past year are buried or burned and new ones, often for protection, are made for hanging around and outside the house.

Mugwort, in particular, was gathered on the mid-Summer’s eve, to be worn as head wreaths during the next day; these were then hung on the house or barn to act as protective charms for the ensuing year. To gather this herb today you would be barefoot, ideally, and cut the stems with an iron-free blade or “snip” them by pinching with your fingers. First ask permission of the mother plant, explaining why and how you will use the plant; then offer something in exchange. Custom says silver, but compost, fertilizer pellets or a special stone are also fine “payment”. Don’t let the herb touch the ground once it’s cut, but place it on a white cloth. Act quietly and with reverence.

As the days start to lose their light from this point, many cultures encouraged the Sun to return. Bonfires were representative of the Sun and they are still used on this day for that reason. Other sources of flame would include lanterns carried by revelers “walking the march,” who were often attended by dancers and costumed players dressed as a variety of costumes. Flaming torches were carried around the fields and orchards to drive off insect infestations and other detriments to a good harvest. In Germanic countries smaller lanterns were set afloat on rivers and lakes as well. In other areas people would extinguish their home-fires, and then re-light them with a flaming torch or brand from the Mid-Summer fire.

In many cultures the bonfires were attended by all the villagers. Each person who attended would have contributed to its blaze. Besides adding light for the nighttime festivities, the fires where thought to ward off ill-meaning spirits and leaping of bonfires for purification, health, fertility, and love was common with the height of the leap thought to govern the eventual height of the crops in the fields. The bon fires are traditionally kindled from fir and oak with assorted herbs throne upon the flames. This was a time that might also entail the members of a village straddling brooms, pitchforks or other tools and jumping as high as they could to show the crops how high to grow while circling the bonfire or the fields themselves. In Germany, Mugwort and Vervain were tossed into the Mid-Summer fire upon leaving it, with the words, “May all my ill-luck depart and be burnt up with these.” Herbs were also used by some peoples as a smudge, the smoke clearing bad influences from crops, animals, and people. Pigs and cattle would be driven between two fires to preserve their health and ensure their fertility or they might be driven through the fires to cure the sick and protect the sound. Afterward, some of the ashes from the herbs and charred wood of these huge fires would be taken to spread in the gardens among the cabbages. These ashes would keep the cabbage worm under control and it is not known if it was done for this purpose, alone, or if this was merely a beneficial “side effect.”

In Europe, it was a festival of lovers as well as that of fire. As each young unmarried couple leapt the flames, others speculated as to who would marry within the year. In other traditions lovers would leap fires together, or throw flowers to each other across the fire. Both flowers and fire were used to give omens for love and marriage. It is not surprising that roses, which bloom at this time, were used in many festivals and divination rituals, for their fragrance was said to be as sweet as love.

In many places sun-wheels were common on this holiday and that of Lughnasadh. They were wheels that were often rigged with straw and pitch, set aflame, and sent rolling down the hills toward a stream, pond or other body of water. Two young men would do their best to guide it, while one or more followed with torches to re-light the wheel should the fire die out. . The longer the blaze, the better the harvest. A successful roll, extinguished in the watercourse, guaranteed an abundant harvest, as well.

Saint John the Baptist also has much importance in relation to this holiday. It was the custom in England, on St John’s Eve, to light large bonfires after sundown, providing light for the revelers and warding off evil spirits. There would be feasting and partying, dancing, games, bartering and all forms of celebration and, as in other areas, leaping the fire was a common practice. It should be noted , interestingly enough, that St. John, though a Christian figure, was seen by the early Celtic-Catholic people as a very pagan one. He was known as “the Oak King” and had a strong connection to the nature in the wilderness . He was often depicted as a horned figure and, at times, with the lower portion of his body as a satyr, as though people regarded him as a Christian Pan. This may seem very odd to a modern person, but keep in mind the fact that the early Christians, particularly those it the British Isles often simply put knew names to old deities. Modern day Christians celebrate mid-Summer is Saint John’s Day and celebrates his birth, much as Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ in coincidence with Yule. The reason given as to why Saint John’s birth is celebrated when every other Saint’s day occurs at death is that John is a special case since he was born exactly six months before Christ to announce the coming of the Messiah.

In ancient Rome, a “festival of jollity and drunkenness” was celebrated by the Plebeians and slaves in honor of Fortuna, the Roman Goddess who was the personification of good fortune. She was originally a Goddess of blessing and fertility and in that capacity she was especially worshipped by mothers. Because she was considered the Goddess of Luck the word fortune comes from her name. At first, she was regarded as a kind of fertility Goddess or bearer of prosperity but, gradually, she was invoked exclusively for good luck-or lamented to for the lack of it! As the Goddess of Chance, she was consulted about the future at her oracular shrines in Antium and Praeneste (now Anzio and Palestrina). A favorite subject in ancient art, the Goddess Fortuna is usually depicted holding a rudder in one hand and a cornucopia, or horn of plenty, in the other. The rudder signified that she guides the destiny of the world; the cornucopia, that she was the provider of abundance. Known as Tyche to the Greeks, Fortuna was worshipped extensively throughout the Roman Empire and had oracular shrines at Antium and Praeneste (now Anzio and Palestrina). . The festival involved features of both fire and water. (The water link is noticeable in the Church’s choice of St. John the Baptist for this day.) Events included foot-races and boat-races, and plenty of wine and merry making. During the Middle Ages, she was depicted as Dame Fortuna who, spinning the wheel of fortune, seemingly at random, would grant goodness to one while she beset others with misfortune.

In nearly every culture, the Summer Solstice has been recognized, revered and even feared. The Sun is at its height, but at the same moment begins to decline. Only hope, ritual and belief would ensure its return at the Winter Solstice to our ancestors. Litha is a time for healing of all kinds, and protection rituals. This is a good time for clearing away non-useful energies, and establishing a stable base. Litha is about joy. It is about being completely alive, as the earth is at its zenith. Everywhere you look, it is green and life is abundant. Weave flowers into your hair – dance and frolic, take a big, deep cleansing breath of Summer air. Pick summer strawberries or other early fruits and vegetables. Know how fortunate you are to be a part of this wonderful circle of life and the turning wheel of the year.

Beltane Short History

Beltane is the last of the three spring fertility festivals, and the second major Celtic festival. Beltane, and its counterpart Samhain, divide the year into its two primary seasons: Winter and Summer. Beltane joyfully heralds the arrival of summer in full garb. It is said that if you bathe in the dew of Beltane morn, your beauty will flourish throughout the year.

Beltane literally means “fire of Bel”. Bel is the known as the bright and shinning one. On the eve of Beltane the Celts build two large fires, created from the nine sacred woods. In the honor of summer they were lit, and the herds were ritually driven between them, to purify and protect the herds. The fires celebrate the return of life and fruitfulness to the earth. Celebration includes frolicking throughout the countryside, dancing the Maypole, leaping over fires, and to “go a maying”.

Beltane marks the handfasting (wedding) of the Goddess and God, the reawakening of the earth’s fertility in its fullest. This is the union between the Great Mother and her Young Horned God. This coupling brings new life on earth. It is the unifying of the Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine to bring forth the third, consciousness.

May is the month of sensuality and sexuality revitalized, the reawakening of the earth and Her Children. It is the time when we reawaken to the vivid colors, vibrant scents, tingling summer breezes, the rapture of summer after a long dormant winter.

It is customary that Handfastings, for a year and a day, occur at this time. These are the trial marriages, that typically occur between a couple before deciding to embark on life eternal. It was understood by our ancestors that one does not really know another until they live with them, and things change. With this understanding unions were entered upon, first as a test period, and then a further commitment. Always knowing that it is only through the choice of both to remain, can the relationship exist.

Beltane brings our brightest hopes for the future. Hopes of love, prosperity, friendship and peace. As we dance among the glorious scented flowers, feeling the fresh dew covered grass on our feet, our thoughts wander through our lives and love blessing us with their wondrous gifts of ecstasy.

Beltane Long History

There are four great festivals of the Pagan Celtic year and the modern Witch’s calendar, as well. The two greatest of these are Halloween (the beginning of winter) and May Day (the beginning of summer). Being opposite each other on the wheel of the year, they separate the year into halves. Halloween (also called Samhain) is the Celtic New Year and is generally considered the more important of the two, though May Day runs a close second. Indeed, in some areas — notably Wales — it is considered the great holiday.

May Day ushers in the fifth month of the modern calendar year, the month of May. This month is named in honor of the goddess Maia, originally a Greek mountain nymph, later identified as the most beautiful of the Seven Sisters, the Pleiades. By Zeus, she is also the mother of Hermes, god of magic. Maia’s parents were Atlas and Pleione, a sea nymph.
The old Celtic name for May Day is Beltane (in its most popular Anglicized form), which is derived from the Irish Gaelic ‘Bealtaine’ or the Scottish Gaelic ‘Bealtuinn’, meaning ‘Bel-fire’, the fire of the Celtic god of light (Bel, Beli or Belinus). He, in turn, may be traced to the Middle Eastern god Baal.

Other names for May Day include: Cetsamhain (‘opposite Samhain’), Walpurgisnacht (in Germany), and Roodmas (the medieval Church’s name). This last came from Church Fathers who were hoping to shift the common people’s allegiance from the Maypole (Pagan lingham – symbol of life) to the Holy Rood (the Cross – Roman instrument of death).

Incidentally, there is no historical justification for calling May 1st ‘Lady Day’. For hundreds of years, that title has been proper to the Vernal Equinox (approx. March 21st), another holiday sacred to the Great Goddess. The nontraditional use of ‘Lady Day’ for May 1st is quite recent (within the last 15 years), and seems to be confined to America, where it has gained widespread acceptance among certain segments of the Craft population. This rather startling departure from tradition would seem to indicate an unfamiliarity with European calendar customs, as well as a lax attitude toward scholarship among too many Pagans. A simple glance at a dictionary (‘Webster’s 3rd’ or O.E.D.), encyclopedia (‘Benet’s’), or standard mythology reference (Jobe’s ‘Dictionary of Mythology, Folklore & Symbols’) would confirm the correct date for Lady Day as the Vernal Equinox.

By Celtic reckoning, the actual Beltane celebration begins on sundown of the preceding day, April 30, because the Celts always figured their days from sundown to sundown. And sundown was the proper time for Druids to kindle the great Bel-fires on the tops of the nearest beacon hill (such as Tara Hill, Co. Meath, in Ireland). These ‘need-fires’ had healing properties, and sky-clad Witches would jump through the flames to ensure protection.

Frequently, cattle would be driven between two such bon-fires (oak wood was the favorite fuel for them) and, on the morrow, they would be taken to their summer pastures.
Other May Day customs include: walking the circuit of one’s property (‘beating the bounds’), repairing fences and boundary markers, processions of chimney-sweeps and milk maids, archery tournaments, morris dances, sword dances, feasting, music, drinking, and maidens bathing their faces in the dew of May morning to retain their youthful beauty.
In the words of Witchcraft writers Janet and Stewart Farrar, the Beltane celebration was principly a time of ‘…unashamed human sexuality and fertility.’ Such associations include the obvious phallic symbolism of the Maypole and riding the hobby horse. Even a seemingly innocent children’s nursery rhyme, ‘Ride a cock horse to Banburry Cross…’ retains such memories. And the next line ‘…to see a fine Lady on a white horse’ is a reference to the annual ride of ‘Lady Godiva’ though Coventry. Every year for nearly three centuries, a sky-clad village maiden (elected Queen of the May) enacted this Pagan rite, until the Puritans put an end to the custom.

The Puritans, in fact, reacted with pious horror to most of the May Day rites, even making Maypoles illegal in 1644. They especially attempted to suppress the ‘greenwood marriages’ of young men and women who spent the entire night in the forest, staying out to greet the May sunrise, and bringing back boughs of flowers and garlands to decorate the village the next morning. One angry Puritan wrote that men ‘doe use commonly to runne into woodes in the night time, amongst maidens, to set bowes, in so muche, as I have hearde of tenne maidens whiche went to set May, and nine of them came home with childe.’ And another Puritan complained that, of the girls who go into the woods, ‘not the least one of them comes home again a virgin.’

Long after the Christian form of marriage (with its insistence on sexual monogamy) had replaced the older Pagan handfasting, the rules of strict fidelity were always relaxed for the May Eve rites. Names such as Robin Hood, Maid Marian, and Little John played an important part in May Day folklore, often used as titles for the dramatis personae of the celebrations. And modern surnames such as Robinson, Hodson, Johnson, and Godkin may attest to some distant May Eve spent in the woods.

These wildwood antics have inspired writers such as Kipling:

Oh, do not tell the Priest our plight,
Or he would call it a sin; But we
have been out in the woods all night,
A-conjuring Summer in!

And Lerner and Lowe:

It’s May! It’s May! The lusty month of
May!… Those dreary vows that
ev’ryone takes, Ev’ryone breaks.
Ev’ryone makes divine mistakes! The
lusty month of May!

It is certainly no accident that Queen Guinevere’s ‘abduction’ by Meliagrance occurs on May 1st when she and the court have gone a-Maying, or that the usually efficient Queen’s Guard, on this occasion, rode unarmed.

Some of these customs seem virtually identical to the old Roman feast of flowers, the Floriala, three days of unrestrained sexuality which began at sundown April 28th and reached a crescendo on May 1st.

There are other, even older, associations with May 1st in Celtic mythology. According to the ancient Irish ‘Book of Invasions’, the first settler of Ireland, Partholan, arrived on May 1st; and it was on May 1st that the plague came which destroyed his people. Years later, the Tuatha De Danann were conquered by the Milesians on May Day. In Welsh myth, the perennial battle between Gwythur and Gwyn for the love of Creudylad took place each May Day; and it was on May Eve that Teirnyon lost his colts and found Pryderi. May Eve was also the occasion of a fearful scream that was heard each year throughout Wales, one of the three curses of the Coranians lifted by the skill of Lludd and Llevelys.

By the way, due to various calendrical changes down through the centuries, the traditional date of Beltane is not the same as its astrological date. This date, like all astronomically determined dates, may vary by a day or two depending on the year. However, it may be calculated easily enough by determining the date on which the sun is at 15 degrees Taurus (usually around May 5th). British Witches often refer to this date as Old Beltane, and folklorists call it Beltane O.S. (‘Old Style’). Some Covens prefer to celebrate on the old date and, at the very least, it gives one options. If a Coven is operating on ‘Pagan Standard Time’ and misses May 1st altogether, it can still throw a viable Beltane bash as long as it’s before May 5th. This may also be a consideration for Covens that need to organize activities around the week-end.

This date has long been considered a ‘power point’ of the Zodiac, and is symbolized by the Bull, one of the ‘tetramorph’ figures featured on the Tarot cards, the World and the Wheel of Fortune. (The other three symbols are the Lion, the Eagle, and the Spirit.) Astrologers know these four figures as the symbols of the four ‘fixed’ signs of the Zodiac (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius), and these naturally align with the four Great Sabbats of Witchcraft. Christians have adopted the same iconography to represent the four gospel-writers.

But for most, it is May 1st that is the great holiday of flowers, Maypoles, and greenwood frivolity. It is no wonder that, as recently as 1977, Ian Anderson could pen the following lyrics for Jethro Tull:

For the May Day is the great day,
Sung along the old straight track.
And those who ancient lines did ley
Will heed this song that calls them back


By Mike Nichols
This file may be freely distributed provided that the following conditions are met: (1) No fee is charged for its use and distribution and no commercial use is made of it; (2) This file is not changed or edited in any way without the author’s permission; (3) This notice is not removed. By Mike Nichols, copyright by MicroMuse Press.

Ostara Short History

Once again, night and day stand in perfect balance, with the powers of light on the ascendancy. The God of Light now wins a victory over his twin, the god of darkness.

Ostara is a fertility festival celebrating the birth of Spring and the reawakening of life from the Earth. At the moment of the Vernal Equinox night and day stand in perfect balance, with light on the increase The energies of Nature subtly shift from the sluggishness of Winter to the exuberant expansion of Spring. It is a time of great fertility, new growth, and newborn animals. The Goddess blankets the Earth with fertility as she bursts forth from Her Winter’s sleep. The young God stretches and grows to maturity as he walks the greening fields and delights in the abundance of nature. In some traditions this is the time that the young Sun God now celebrates a hierogamy (sacred marriage) with the young Maiden Goddess, who conceives. In nine months, she will again become the Great Mother. In other traditions the sacred marriage is celebrated at Beltane.

Traditionally, Ostara is a time for collecting wildflowers, walking in nature’s beauty and cultivating herb gardens. This is the time to free yourself from anything in the past that is holding you back. At this time we think of renewing ourselves. We renew our thoughts, our dreams, and our aspirations. We think of renewing our relationships. This is an excellent time of year to begin anything new or to completely revitalize something. This is also an excellent month for prosperity rituals or rituals that have anything to do with growth.

The Christian religion adopted many Pagan symbols for their celebration, called Easter. Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox. It must be remembered that the early Christians initially did not celebrate Christ’s resurrection or rebirth but made the Jewish Passover their chief festival. The concept of Easter was not introduced until later when the early missionaries tried to convert the German pagans. These Pagans resisted and so instead of the church abolishing their spring festival they merely “adopted” it. The theme of the conception of the Goddess was adapted as the Feast of the Annunciation by the church, as well. It occurs on the alternative fixed calendar date of March 25 which was also, at one time, Lady Day when the equinox was originally celebrated by many.