Can you believe that there are only three months left until 2017? Where has all the time gone? The Wheel of the Year seems to be spinning very fast, soon the view of the trees from our window will change from a beautiful green to glorious autumnal hues. But the year isn’t over yet as some of the most important dates in the Pagan Calendar are coming up, along with a couple of quirky alternative events. So let’s have a look at the Pagan and Alternative celebrations in Autumn and Winter 2016.
We’ve had a great year here at The Quirky Celts. We’ve continued to bring you the best in alternative gifts and inspirational products, as well as having plenty of opportunities to go out and see the unusual side of North Wales. If you’ve been keeping up with our Facebook page, you will know that we have met one or two dragons…
Mabon: 22nd September 2016
Mabon is another name for the Autumn Equinox (or Fall Equinox for anyone in America). It is one of the four ‘Solar’ festivals which take place throughout the year and the word ‘Equinox’ describes the fact that there are equal hours of day and night.
Strangely enough, the name ‘Mabon’ has only been used since about 1970 – before then, there was no associations with any deity. Other names for this time are ‘Alban Elfed’, in the Druidic tradition, and ‘Harvest Home’.
The festival coincides with the final gathering in of grain, fruits and vegetables. The Celts and Pagans know how to celebrate and there are always feasts involved on special days. This day marks the time of darkening nights and the approach of winter.
Hobbit Day: 22nd September 2016
Lord of the Rings fans, this might be for you. September 22nd marks the birthdays of both Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, two of the most popular characters in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy books.
Starting in 1973, shortly after the death of the author himself, Hobbit Day has become a popular event in the United States of America. How long do you think it will be before we are all celebrating this day? Very soon we could be walking around barefooted, having built a special Hobbit House in our back gardens.
But for now, how about commemorating this day by having a ‘HobbitFest’ by reading all the books again. When you’ve done that there might even be time to watch those fantastic films in honour of J.R.R. Tolkien’s amazing imagination.
A word of warning though, don’t forget that the calendar of Middle Earth may not be the same as ours!
Black Cat Day: 27th October 2016
There aren’t many animals more synonymous with living a magical lifestyle than a black cat. Superstition surrounding this animal differs greatly depending upon which side of the Atlantic you live. In the United States, black cats have a terrible reputation for being unlucky. Here in the UK, they are thought of as being good luck symbols.
We have been known to run after black cats so that they can cross our path. There are even fairy cats, especially in Celtic cultures, called Cait Sidhe (or cat fairy).
Black cats have long been associated with witchcraft as they were often seen as being a witch’s ‘familiar’. In times of religious intolerance, a woman could be condemned as a witch for all kinds of innocent reasons. But as a black cat was thought to be a miniature demon sent by the Devil, ownership of a cat could be enough to bring suspicion on a person.
The whole history of the Witchcraft trials is fascinating, but horrific. But that’s another story for another blog…
Samhain: 31st October 2016
We celebrate this very special day as ‘Samhain’, but perhaps it is more popularly known as ‘Hallowe’en’. Although this name has been used for a long, long time, it is only recently that it has become such a massive commercial event. When you go into a superstore you can spot the orange and black themed merchandise vying for space alongside the red and green of Christmas.
As part of the celebrations come things such as pumpkins, trick or treating and scary masks, but where did those traditions come from? Well, mainly America, but join me later to find out their origins.
The festival of Samhain goes across two days, from dusk of the first, to dusk of the second. It designates the end of the Wheel of the Year and the beginning of the next. So Celtic Pagans, like ourselves, celebrate it as the New Year.
It is supposedly the time when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest and will allow the spirits to pass through. It is a very special time to honour your ancestors, and especially those who have passed over in the previous year. Some Pagans and Wiccans have what is called a ‘Dumb Supper’ where the favourite foods of those who have died are prepared. You can see similar festivals and special days in other beliefs and cultures, for example All Hallows Eve in the Christian church and Day of the Dead in Mexico. I can’t wait to write more about all of this as Samhain gets nearer. Have a look at our range of cards for Samhain.
Now, to get back to those traditions. In America, it is quite logical to use pumpkins because of their abundance in this season. Originally this tradition used turnips, especially in the Celtic nations. People used to carve into them and then a candle was placed inside. The spirits would find their way home by following the lights by the roadside, doorway or window and so return home.
‘Trick or treat’ was first noted in America in 1927, but again had its origins in both Celtic and Christian cultures. Celts used to dress up in strange costumes to scare away any evil spirits they believed would be roaming the earth on this particular night. Children would visit houses and offer a song or a poem in exchange for a gift of food. This was adapted by the church when children would offer prayers for the souls of people’s friends or family. For this, they would be given ‘soul cakes’ which led to the tradition of ‘souling’.
So now, on to the final occasion of 2016, and yes, it involves feasting once again (can you see a common thread running through these festivities?).
Yule: 21st December 2016
Yule, also known as the Winter Solstice or Midwinter, is the shortest and darkest day of the year. It follows the period of darkness following Samhain at the end of October.
But the Wheel of the Year is turning, and darkness turns to light as the days become longer. It won’t be long before you will be able to see the first signs of Spring. This change is represented by the birth of the Sun Child, emphasising rebirth after a long winter.
Traditionally, there was a battle between the Oak King and the Holly King. I want to go into the whole story of the Green Man in more depth in a later article. But just to tell you that each one reigns over half of the year. I’ll let you in on the result, it’s a bit predictable, but at Yuletide, the winner is always the Oak King. But just wait until the next fight in about six months time, when I can predict that the result will be a bit different!
So many of the traditions which we follow in our modern lives can be traced back to Celtic/Pagan origins. Nowadays we have a tree inside the house, but in the past, trees in the forest would have been decorated with fruit and flowers to celebrate the change of the Seasons. The wreath symbolises the Wheel of the Year, and holly, ivy and mistletoe were abundant at this time of year. Mistletoe is particularly linked to druidic rituals.
Have a look at our range of Yule cards, our selection gets better each year.
So this is just a short look at some of the Pagan and Alternative celebrations in Autumn and Winter 2016. We’re really looking forward to all of them – we’d love to know which special days you are looking forward to.
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