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Festivals (Sabbats)

The Wheel of The Year

Jun 19 2010 12:00 AM | admin in Festivals (Sabbats)
Yule on or about 21 December

This is the celebration of the Winter Solstice or Midwinter, the time when the light returns to the earth and often seen as the start of the light half of the year as days begin to become longer. Yule and Yuletide have become associated with Christmas, this has happened due to the early Christian church adopting Pagan festivals to celebrate their own Holy Days. The church leaders saw that their Pagan converts were still attending the old Pagan festivals and sought a way to equate the 'new' religion with the old.

Our Saxon ancestors introduced the word Yule to describe their midwinter festival around the winter solstice or the full moon in December. In our beliefs this is where the Wheel of the Year has it's natural beginning. The word comes from the Nordic joi or jol, and is related to the Anglo Saxon hweal, meaning a wheel. The Saxons celebrated the winter solstice with a festival called Mother Night on 24 December. This was dedicated to the goddesses Holda and Freyja. It marked their New Year.

Our Celtic ancestors also celebrated winter solstice. At Newgrange in Ireland their is a passage grave built so that on the winter solstice a ray of sunshine penetrates the inner sanctum and illuminates three spirals carved on a stone slab. The may have signified the sun fertilising the body of the Earth and so wakening her after her winter sleep to the renewed cycle of life. It may also represent the (re) birth of the sun child in the womb of the Great Mother Goddess.

A similar event occurs at Maes Howe in Orkney and several other stone circles throughout the British Isles. Perhaps these places were seen as gateways to the 'Otherworld' where the dead could be contacted or the living pass between the worlds.

Esoterically the midwinter and solstice period of Yule and the Twelve Days is known as 'the in-between time' or 'the time between time'. As the sun appears to stand still in the sky the old year is dying and the new year waits t be born. It is a strange and magickal time, still seen in secular society's tales of 'Christmas Magic' and 'miracles'. These are folk memories of the ancient past when midwinter was a magickal and unearthly time.

Many folk rituals were performed at Yule to welcome back the sun or to encourage it's return with sympathetic magick. These often involved the lighting of fires and one custom which has been adopted by modern witches is the Yule Log. This was traditionally a log of ash or oak, the male tress of the God, it was a large branch collected from the woods on Christmas Eve and taken home. On the way home, any stranger passing it had to bow and raise their hat to the log, otherwise it was believed that bad luck would follow in the New Year.

In Scotland, the Yule Log was called the 'Christmas Old Wife'; the log was collected by the head of the household and then carved to represent an old woman. When it was thrown on the fire, it represented the ritual burning of the Cailleach or winter hag goddess. In Cornwall the log was chalked to represent a male figure (the God).

In some urban areas the Yule Log was replaced with a Yule Candle, this was a large red or white candle decorated with holly. This was burned for a short period each day of the Twelve Days. This has been adopted by some traditional witches today where central heating has replaced open fires in homes.

The God at midwinter is represented as the sun child and in folk mythology by the magickal figure Father Christmas. In 17th century England he was known as Lord Christmas or Old Father Christmas and was an old gentleman in a furry, hooded gown. He carried a knobbly stick or club and wore a crown of holly leaves. As such he was a representation of the spirit of midwinter, or the Old God as the Holly King. In 1809 the American writer Washington Irving 'invent...
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Yule

Jun 19 2010 12:00 AM | admin in Festivals (Sabbats)
Yule on or about 21 December

This is the celebration of the Winter Solstice or Midwinter, the time when the light returns to the earth and often seen as the start of the light half of the year as days begin to become longer. Yule and Yuletid...
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Samhain

Jun 19 2010 12:00 AM | admin in Festivals (Sabbats)
Samhain 31st October (or Halloween)

To the Celts November 1 was Samhain, meaning Summer's End. In Wales it was called calan gaef or the first day of winter, while Halloween was nos calan gaef or winter's night. Despite the Wiccan persisten...
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Ostara

Jun 19 2010 12:00 AM | admin in Festivals (Sabbats)
Ostara (around 21st March)

This is the Spring Equinox and occurs between March 20 and 22 and is regarded by many as the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. This is a celebration of Spring and growth, the new life that springs u...
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Midsummer

Jun 19 2010 12:00 AM | admin in Festivals (Sabbats)
Midsummer - Litha (21st June)

Midsummer, or Litha as it was known by the ancient Germanic peoples, is the period of time centred upon the summer solstice and the religious celebrations that accompany it.

In the folk traditions o...
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