Celtic Holidays Calendar
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Celtic HolidaysCeltic Calendars
& Holidays



Though the original versions of ancient Celtic calendars have been lost, it appears that the Celts used a lunar calendar, based on the thirteen full moons of the solar year, as well as recognizing solar Solstices, Equinoxes, and the all-important cross-quarter days between them.

Beltaine and Samhain, are the most important cross-quarter holidays of they 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.

PleiadesTo understand the Celtic calendar, we must have a basic understanding of the astrology on which it is based. In many cultures in the Western World, the Pleiades constelation plays an important role, for it occupies a unique place in the heavens.

In myths that date back to the dawn of history, t
he neighboring constelation of Orion embodies the story of the three Magi (magicians) who followed the star to the newborn king. Orion's three belt stars are called the three 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 of the virgin has been repeated for many 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.

In times before electricity, particularly in the northern latitudes where the nights were very long and dark during the winter, the return of the Sun each year was a major event for celebration. And, since the Celts began each day at sunset and each season in the quarter preceding the 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.


Lunar Tree Calendar

Neo-pagan 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 trees.

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 of modern Celtic magic.

Interesting article on Ogham and the tree calendar

Ancient oak
Quarter & Cross-quarter Days

Cross-quarter days are well-documented ancient celebrations of the seasonal changes of the solar year. This wheel of the year is generally accepted in modern magical traditions. Beginning and ending with Samhain (Halloween), which is commonly recognized as the "Celtic New Year," on October 31st, each holiday has a particular meaning and feeling to it.

Based 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 pole. The cross-quarter days are the 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, or "airts." 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 traditions 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 night are exactly equal on the Equinoxes.


The Placement of the Elements

In Western magical traditions you will usually find Air associated with East, and Earth associated with North, though these placements may not be ideal for every situation. Depending on where you live, the elements may be aligned with different directions. You 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 slavishly followed.


Cross Quarter Days

Between each of the quarter days are the cross-quarter days. These are the most important holidays and are considered even more magically powerful. Just as a crossroads, twilight, or any place or time "between" one thing and another is more powerful for working magic, the times exactly between the quarters are 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.

Celtic quarter and cross-quarter days


Due to the fact that Druids, witches, wizards, and anyone else who might have kept these traditions alive, were systematically persecuted and killed, and that they also did not believe in writing 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.

What is important 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.
 

Faehallows E-mail Magic Course

To learn more about these fascinating calendars, the Celtic Holidays, the Ogham tree alphabet, and how to use them in your magical practice, sign up for the Celtic Mystery School Magical E-mail Correspondence Course.


The Faery Calendar
 
This wheel of the year includes the four Sacred 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 were an Indo-European race, which means they probably came 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 (between the heart and throat chakras), which is said to be the newest chakra we are developing.

A vision 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 chakras 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 the outside in the East, and ending with violet at Imbolc, spinning into white in the center of the circle, as follows:

1. Ostara - Spring Equinox

the First, or root chakra is our physical center that "roots"             us to Earth and survival
the color red
the Sword of the Four Hallows (Spear in some traditions)
the direction East
the element Air 
2.  Beltaine

the Second, or polarity chakra - balance, sexuality, and                       community
the Maypole and May Day celebrations represented sacred                     sexuality and the union of Goddess and God
the color orange
3. Litha -Summer Solstice

the Third, or solar plexus chakra - mental center, connected with           individuality, will, "gut feelings," and personal power
the color yellow

the Spear of the Four Hallows (Sword in some traditions)

the direction South

the element Fire
4. Lughnasa

the Fourth, or heart chakra - connection with others,                   balance between physical and spiritual
celebrating the power of Lugh at his height

the color green
5. Mabon - Autumn Equinox

the Fifth, or hypothalamus chakra is our emotional center -                   connected with unconditional love
the color aqua or turquoise
the Cup or Cauldron of the Four Hallows
the direction West
the element Water
6. Samhain

the Sixth, or throat chakra from which we speak our truth,                     communication
celebrating the darkest of the dark before the dawn of the new             year, and the thinnest veil between the worlds
the color blue
7. Yule - Winter Solstice

the Seventh, or third eye chakra is our spiritual center,                      governing intuition, perception of Spirit, and the Otherworld
the color indigo
the Stone of the Four Hallows
the direction North
the element Earth
8. Imbolc

the Eighth, or crown chakra is our connection with Source and               portal to our Inner World where we find Oneness
celebrating milk for the new lambs and the first signs of Spring

the color violet 
 9.  Center

Oneness, wholeness, and balance - completion
the color white - all spectral colors combined in perfect balance
the element Ether


Again, the elements can be moved around to fit your own location and tradition. It is never a good idea to get stuck in dogmatic beliefs about the way things "should" be. Magic is very flexible and it works best when we feel relaxed and comfortable with all aspects of what we are doing. In fact, it doesn't work at all unless we feel completely aligned with our practice. That is why consensus is so important when working in groups!

Celtic Mystery School E-mail Magic Course

To learn more about these fascinating calendars, the Celtic Holidays, the Ogham tree alphabet, and how to use them in your magical practice, sign up for the Celtic Mystery School Online Magic
Course.



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