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Original versions of ancient Celtic calendars have been lost, but
scholars believe the Celts used a lunar calendar, based on the thirteen
moons of the solar year, as well as recognizing solar
Solstices, Equinoxes, and the all-important cross-quarter days between
Beltaine and Samhain, are the
most important cross-quarter holidays of
the year. They appear
to be based on the rising and setting
(respectively) of the Pleiades star system from which, it is rumored,
the Shide or Elven race originally came to Earth.
To understand the Celtic
calendar, we must have a basic understanding
of the astrology on which it is based. In many cultures of the Western
World, the Pleiades constelation plays an important role, for it
occupies a unique place in the heavens.
In myths dating back to the
dawn of history, the
neighboring constelation of Orion embodies the story of the
three Magi (magicians) who followed a star to
newborn king. Orion's three belt stars are called the
kings, and Sirius the dog star is said to be the star they follow each
year as the constelation of Virgo (the Virgin) gives birth to the Sun
(Son) at the Winter Solstice each year.
This astrological story of the birth, death, and resurection of the son
virgin has been repeated for thousands of years in the mythology
of many cultures. In the
Celtic world, Lugh (also spelled Llew) is a Sun god, born of a
virgin. He is killed/destroyed and reborn each year. His
holiday is called Lughnasa, celebrated on August 1st.
particularly in northern latitudes where the dark nights were very long
during winter, the return of the Sun each year was a major
celebration. And, since the Celts began each day at sunset
and each season began
in the quarter preceding a Solstice or Equinox, Samhain (the
cross-quarter day before Winter
Solstice) became the biggest holiday of the year. It was seen as the
beginning of the new year and is now celebrated as Celtic New Year.
Celts often use the lunar tree calendar created by Robert
Graves, which is based on the Ogham tree alphabet. There is some
controversy about whether all of the letters of the Ogham were actually
named for trees, but it is clear that some of them share names with
It is unlikely
that the tree calendar was used by the ancient
Celts, but it has now become part of the living and evolving tradition
Celtic tradition and magic.
Interesting article on Ogham and the tree
& Cross-quarter Days
days are well-documented ancient Celtic celebrations of the
of the solar year. This wheel of the year is generally
modern magical traditions. Beginning
and ending with Samhain
(Halloween), which is
commonly recognized as the "Celtic New Year," on October 31st (or technically November 6th or 7th), each
a particular meaning and feeling to it.
on the length of daylight relative to darkness, the solar calendar
celebrates eight main holidays through the year. The Solstices
have been said to represent
the masculine - positive pole and the Equinoxes the feminine - negative
The cross-quarter days are energetic openings in the year when the veil
between our world and the Otherworlds is thinnest.
Each Solstice or Equinox is
related to one of the four directions,
Litha - Summer Solstice, the
longest day, is
related to the element of Fire and the South, while Yule - Winter
Solstice, the longest night, is
traditioally connected with the element of Earth and North (though some
place Air in the North and Earth in the East). Ostara - Spring Equinox
represents Air and East, while Mabon - Autumn Equinox
represents the Water element and the West. Day and
are exactly equal on the Equinoxes.
The Placement of
In Western magical traditions you will often find Air associated with
East, and Earth associated with North, though these placements may not
be ideal for every situation.
There are many variations of this arrangement. Depending
on where you live, the elements may be aligned with different
will have to tune in to feel where they
like to hang
out in your area - and don't be surprised if they sometimes change
places! After all, each of the elements can be anywhere and everywhere.
There is some
evidence pointing to the probability that Air was originally
placed in the North in the ancient mystery schools. See Re-thinking the Watchtowers - 13 Reasons Air
Should Be In The North by Mike Nichols,
who's other writings
I also highly recommend. This is a question each practitioner must
resolve with their own experimentation, depending on where they live.
Sometimes it is best to go along with the traditions practiced by
groups in which you participate, for the sake of consistency. Magic is
a fluid, living practice, not a set of rigid rules that must be
Cross Quarter Days
the quarter days (Solstices and Equinoxes) are the cross-quarter days. These
are the most important and magically potent holidays.
Just as a crossroads,
or any place or time "between" one thing and another is more powerful
magic, the times exactly between the quarters are recognized as doorways into
the Otherworlds. This is why Samhain, Beltaine, Imbolc, and Lughnasa
are so widely celebrated in the Celtic tradition, with Samhain
and Beltaine, being the most important holidays of all.
Due to the fact that Druids, witches, wizards, and
else who might have kept these traditions alive, were systematically
persecuted and killed, and that they also did not believe in writing important
things down, we
really have very little solid evidence about who they were, and how
they actually lived and celebrated. Yet
modern magical historians have been able to piece together a semblance
of their traditions by studying the ancient myths, gathering folk lore,
and intuitively "channeling" information.
is important now
is that the information actually "works" in our modern magical context,
and that it forms
a cohesive whole. The
Celtic magical tradition is still
evolving and it always will be. It is a living, growing spiritual path
that can never be "nailed down." Even so, we have a rich and varied
mythology on which to draw, so the ancient roots of modern Celtic magic
are very much alive, connecting us to the wisdom of our ancestors.
E-mail Magic Course
learn more about these fascinating calendars, the Celtic Holidays,
the Ogham tree alphabet, and how to use them in your magical practice,
up for the Celtic Mystery School Magical
E-mail Correspondence Course.
of the year includes the four
Hallows of the Irish Faerie tradition, as well as the eight chakras of
the Hindu tradition.
(By the way, there are fascinating connections and correlations between
the Celtic and Hindu traditions.) Since the Celts are an Indo-European
race, which means they may have come from India originally, it
makes sense to recognize the chakras in our magical tradition. There
are eight main chakras in the human body, including the hypothalamus
throat chakras), which is said to be the newest chakra we
of this calendar came to me in the middle of the
night. When I saw it with
the related colors, I was amazed at how the rainbow spectrum and the
all fit together within the context of the magical wheel of the year.
Though it appears to begin with Ostara, the true beginning and ending
is Samhain, for things are not always as they appear. Though
this calendar can be seen as a spiral, it is also a circle that
turns again upon itself. Imagine a
spiral within the circle of the year, starting with red at
outside in the
East, and ending with violet at Imbolc, spinning into white in the
of the circle, as follows:
1. Ostara -
First, or root chakra is our physical center that "roots"
us to Earth
Sword of the Four Hallows
Fourth, or heart chakra -
connection with others,
physical and spiritual
the power of Lugh at his height