Saturday, September 24, 2011

Day Eight: Holidays

Time for another "30 Days of Paganism" entry!

I celebrate the eight general spokes of the generic "Wheel of the Year". And I celebrate them all twice. That makes sixteen major celebrations, with another handful on top of that specific to Heathenry.

Most Heathens don't celebrate that many, I don't think, but I love holidays and I love the sort of sense of community, almost, from celebrating with my gods. On top of that, my Heathen holidays tend to be more human-oriented than my Hedgewitch ones, which are more world-around-me- and celestial-oriented. My Heathen holidays are celebrated either on traditional dates or are dependant on the weather, while my Hedgewitch holidays are wholly astronomical. I do occasionally refer to my Craft-related holidays as "sabbats", though I never meet anyone (living), and though they may have little to do with what other Pagan witches are celebrating.

So, starting with Yule, which is the major holiday in Heathenry. I start of with Mother Night on the night before Yule proper, which is usually the 20th of June. Yuletide stretches for 12 days, though I don't always hold blots on all, or most, of those days. Still, it's a time for battening down hatches. Oðinn is honoured primarily, but because the holiday is so long you can honour whomever you please.
I for my Hedgecraft, I celebrate the Solstice on the proper day, and if possible at the proper hour and minute. I refer to it as the Winter Solstice or Midwinter. I honour my Lord primarily but my Lady plays a role here too, one I am discovering further each year.

Next is a Heathen holiday, Thorrablot. One honours Thor for keeping us safe and whole in the cold part of the year. This is a favourite holiday of mine, a favourite I think of many Heathens, because it leaves you feeling particularly warm and safe. This sort of renews the bonds between you and Thor. It's wonderful.

Next comes Charming of the Plough/Idis-thing. I don't own a plough, so don't actually charm it. I also don't live near any farms, and it's not cold enough here for the ground to freeze. So, I focus my celebration primarily on Freyr and Freyja, and the Disir, and on spring itself. I tend to celebrate when I first smell spring in the air, which may be a little before or a little after the astronomical date.
I celebrate Candlemas as the beginning of spring proper, as close to the astronomical date as possible but I may delay it slightly if spring hasn't come yet. I use the Catholic name as I'm not comfortable with the word "Imbolc" just generally. I don't know how to properly pronounce it and it doesn't mean anything to me. Though this year I started referring to it as "Spring-tide" as well. This is a gentle sort of time, and it is cold though the flowers are beginning to arrive on blossom trees and with daffodils.

Next is the Vernal Equinox. Some years I'll hold a Hellenic ritual for Persephone too, as I'm fond of her and this is a time I strongly associate with her. The Equinox proper I celebrate at the proper time. Equinoxes are a time of balance for me and so I try to get it at the exact minute if possible. There is a switch-over from dark-time to light-time and I'm trying to represent that more properly in my rituals in recent years. My Lord and Lady don't have separate times of the year dedicated to Them, like spring/autumn or winter/summer, but there are particular holidays that stress one of Them more than the Other. This isn't really one of them.
Ostara is at this time of year although I don't tend to use that name. I associate the deity Bede mentioned with Iðunna as it makes sense to me. This is a youthful time, and Iðunna's apples give youth to the gods. I find parallels between Iðunna's primary myth - of being stolen and returned - and the wheel of the year (things growing old, then youth returning). So I honour her on this holiday. But I must admit I'm not particularly close to Iðunna. I may begin honouring other deities or ancestors as well, perhaps Handmaidens of Frigg.

Next comes the beginning of summer. I hold Walpurgisnacht on the night before May Day. It's a time to focus on death and those who have passed away, which seems odd at this time of year, but honouring and respecting death the night before means one can focus fully on life and joy the next day. I like that. I honour Hel, and sometimes Frigg and Freyja as well.
May Day of course is not in May for me, but I haven't found a name I like better yet. Summernights, maybe, as an opposite to Winternights. It is a time of wild abandon. One honours Freyr and Freyja. What's odd is that I'm not even particularly close to these two gods (though our relationship is growing), but they tend to get top billing in a lot of holidays. It's weird. At any rate it's a time of strawberries.
The astronomical date tends to fall a few days later. I refer to it as Beltaine, which perhaps I shouldn't as it has nothing much to do with the Irish holiday as far as I know. I have trouble letting go of the name, though. Hopefully a new one will occur to me as the holiday approaches. More love, more sex, and a welcoming in of summer. Early summer is a fantastic time: it's not yet hot, but pleasantly warm. Blue skies are a novelty, things are green, rich and bright and everything is simply joyful at the arrival of the coming growing season. It's one of my favourite holidays for this reason.

Next up is Midsummer. I use this word for my Heathen holiday as well - "Litha" is apparently an option but I don't like that name. It's a strange holiday for me as far as whom I honour goes. Others like to honour Baldur, which I feel I shouldn't really do as it's my fulltrui's fault he's where he is. I honour Sunna in part, though she seems so far away. When things are a bit open, I tend to go for someone who kind of fits, and whom I don't get to honour much. So Tyr, on this date, because I respect and like him a great deal and because apparently Things were held on this date.
Summer Solstice I try to hold at the proper time. Summer is a very lazy time, for me, for the world around me and for my country in particular as everyone gets about four weeks off at this time of year, and those who take their holidays at other times get four days of stat holidays. The entire country acts like they're stoned and laxxed out for at least two weeks. Everyone walks around half-dressed and barefoot in the sun. It's fab. Food is plentiful, it's too warm to want to do anything but not yet the horrible heat of late summer, there's still enough moisture everywhere and everything just sort of lies there. Animals, birds, plants. Because the sun is at its apex I honour the Lord primarily on this day, though my Lady gets Her due. It's also the time when days stop getting longer and start getting shorter, which is something I focus on.

Next holiday is Lammas. Loaf-mass, that is. I always feel the desire to bake bread, though I don't bake as a rule and wouldn't know how to make bread in particular. So I pop some of those dinner rolls in the oven that come half-baked from the supermarket and need about five minutes to finish baking. So they smell fantastic and are warm and good.
I celebrate my Heathen holiday as Freyfaxi. It tends to be earlier than Lammas proper. As a date that's traditionally connected to the harvest I honour Freyr (plus it has his name in it), but also Thor and Sif. Thor's lightning keeps the soil fertile and Sif is connected to the harvest with the myth about her hair being cut and replaced. (By Loki. Looking at it, we may have him to thank for seasons at all! ha.) As a date when I get a chance to connect with Sif, whom I quite like, I enjoy this holiday.
Lammas proper brings my Hedgecraft closer to the hearth, as a Craft holiday that I connect with home as well as with the world around me and celestial bodies. The baking, and so on. It's also a time when it's getting very hot. After the growing season, everything is tired and parched and ready for the autumn. I celebrate the arrival of autumn and the passing of summer, which at this point I am totally over.

Next up, Autumnal Equinox. This actually tends to come first on my calendar, before the Heathen holiday. I love autumn particularly. The same equinox deals apply as to spring, and I swap my gold altar candle for my black one. Nights are now longer than days, with all that implies.
Winter-finding is particularly connected to the weather. While some holidays depend on the smell of the coming season in the air, Winter-finding falls on the first cold day after the Equinox. I honour Oðinn, as a god of winter and of wisdom, and of the coming cold weather.

Then there's Lokablot, which is rare in the Heathen world and falls on April 1st. It's one of those precious rare holidays that's on the same date in the Southern as it is in the Northern hemisphere, and appears to be the Official Unofficial date for honouring Loki. Lokeans the world over have decided this apparently independent of one another. I drink to Loki on this date, usually shots of something like Cointreau. In its own way it's like a "new year" for me, a touchstone, and I value it highly.

Winternights comes next. The traditional date would be about May 1st but if I don't smell winter in the air or it doesn't feel right I'll delay it. I think it's one of the rarer Heathen holidays, as far as number of people holding it goes, but I like it as another opportunity to honour Hel and the ancestors.
Samhain is one of those holidays I had great trouble bringing myself to rename. I have a couple of ideas that I implemented this year: Old Year's Night and Nox Umbrarum (night of shadows). It's the date I bound myself to my path, whatever it might be, so it's an anniversary for myself in that sense. It's also one of my favourite sabbat of mine and a day I honour death and the dead. This year I stretched it out to two days, in order to honour the dead in their own right on the first day and the Gods on the second.

And then comes Yule again.....

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