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Pagan Holidays:
Celebrating the Primordial Forces

Since time immemorial humans have celebrated the unknown and primordial forces that surround us with great festivals and holidays.

Many argue that these traditions gave way to our modern holidays through appropriation, but modern Pagans are reclaiming and retooling the ancient celebrations for a contemporary age. Holidays like Yule, Ostara, Litha, and Mabon mark the solstices and seasons, while Beltane, Lammas, Samhain, and many others are throwbacks to our primordial roots—celebrating fertility, the harvest, and the unknown.

Here our writers explore the varied celebrations and devotions that accompany Pagan holidays and examine how they enhance Pagan spirituality.

For more information on Pagan holidays and practices please visit our Pagan Channel, and/or our Pagan library page.


Bring Out Your Dead: Celebrating Samhain and Halloween

#31DaysofSamhain Movie List

#31DaysofSamhain Movie List

Lilith Dorsey

The are witches and wizards, vampires old and black, ancestors, voodoo stuff, a couple of musicals, and some scary stuff too. So here we go, in no particular order my #31daysofsamhain movie list.

Happily Heathen: Winternights — The Heathen Samhain?

Happily Heathen: Winternights — The Heathen Samhain?

Cara Freyasdaughter

Winternights is one of my favorite holidays. I love when summer finally gives way to Autumn—the smell of the dying leaves, harvesting the last fruits, starting to hunker down for the winter. To me, it is a natural time to start pulling inward and focus on family, hearth, and home. But is it the Norse version of Samhain? No, it is not.

When the Samhain Bell Tolls for You

When the Samhain Bell Tolls for You

Heron Michelle

Samhain is the sabbat where the witchcraft set before us includes accepting grim realities, like someday I will be evicted from this meat-suit, whether I'm ready or not. Part of living as a beneficial Witch includes taking responsibility for our lives by preparing for that moment, on all levels.

Samhain – for the Dead or for the Gods?

Samhain – for the Dead or for the Gods?

Bekah Evie Bel

Is it really appropriate to take the focus off the dead and put it onto the Gods?

Some Zen Pagan Halloween/Samhain Reflections

Some Zen Pagan Halloween/Samhain Reflections

Tom Swiss

People ask, "so what are you supposed to be?" and I respond, "I'm me, in more interesting clothes than usual."

Samhain Ritual for the Mighty Dead

Samhain Ritual for the Mighty Dead

Jason Mankey

A ritual to honor the Mighty Dead of the Craft at Samhain or whenever the veil between the worlds is thin.

4 Halloween & Samhain Myths

4 Halloween & Samhain Myths

Jason Mankey

What follows are four myths I see repeated every Halloween-season that I'm just not comfortable repeating.

Memoir at Samhain: Hearing our Ancestors, Finding Our Voice

Memoir at Samhain: Hearing our Ancestors, Finding Our Voice

Amy Beltaine

I feel all my ancestors within me. Listen, they say, you are the result of the stories of thousands.

The Other Side of the Hedge: The Thinning of the Veil

The Other Side of the Hedge: The Thinning of the Veil

Christopher Drysdale

As much as the veil thins outside of us, it thins inside of us, too.

Pagan Thoughts on Death and the Afterlife

Pagan Thoughts on Death and the Afterlife

John Beckett

It is part of the human condition: we are alive, we are aware that someday we will die, and we don't know what that means.

From the Poison of Death We Distill the Antidotes for Living

From the Poison of Death We Distill the Antidotes for Living

Heron Michelle

The Mighty Dead walk among us for this liminal time between times, so we light the lanterns, and set them a place of honor at our tables.

6 Signs It's Getting Close To Samhain

6 Signs It's Getting Close To Samhain

John Beckett

Our ancestors didn't need a calendar to tell them Samhain was getting close—they could read the signs.

Make Your Own Flying Dead For Samhain

Make Your Own Flying Dead For Samhain

Lilith Dorsey

This is one of my new favorite Pagan crafts—the Flying Dead. Anyone can make these if they are old enough to handle the glue gun.

Why This Pagan Won't Be Honoring Ancestors on Halloween

Why This Pagan Won't Be Honoring Ancestors on Halloween

John Halstead

Is Halloween a holy day for you? Do you experience any dissonance with honoring the ancestors while others are trick-or-treating?

Samhain: A Solitary Ritual

Samhain: A Solitary Ritual

John Beckett

Of all the sabbats or high days on the Wheel of the Year, Samhain is perhaps the most conducive to solitary observances.

The Origins of Halloween Things

The Origins of Halloween Things

Jason Mankey

Our modern Halloween traditions sometimes date back centuries, and sometimes only a few decades. They feel timeless even if they are relatively new.

Samhain Past: History, Myth, & Mystery

Samhain Past: History, Myth, & Mystery

Jason Mankey

There's something spooky and marvelous about Samhain-time, something that was expressed by the Celts and by more modern peoples afterwards.

Samhain vs. Halloween

Samhain vs. Halloween

Jason Mankey

Halloween and Samhain both share a date in many circles, but outside of a few decorations very little else.

Lammas & Lughnassadh: Celebrating the First Harvest

Lugh, Lucifer and the First Harvest

Lugh, Lucifer and the First Harvest

Coby Michael Smith

Lammas or Lughnasadh refers back to the ancient rite of offering the first fruits of the harvest to the Old Gods to ensure a safe and bountiful harvest time.

A Lammas Meditation: Lugh and the Golden Field of Your Life Story

A Lammas Meditation: Lugh and the Golden Field of Your Life Story

Karen Clark

Lugh can guide you in the Lammas tasks of harvesting your soul lessons that have come to full fruition, and of discerning those things that must be cut away.

Lughnasa: Bad Harvest

Lughnasa: Bad Harvest

Melanie Morel-Ensminger

As we look toward Lughnasa, the traditional Celtic celebration of the harvest...my mind turns toward what we as a nation are reaping from our history.

Lammas: Struggling With Abundance

Lammas: Struggling With Abundance

Gwion Raven

I'm all for reveling in abundance. Abundance is great. I like abundance a lot. But here's my struggle...

A Return to Lughnasadh

A Return to Lughnasadh

John Beckett

I'm very happy that after a four year break, this year we're returning to Lughnasadh and honoring Lugh, the Master of All Arts.

A Group Lammas Ritual

A Group Lammas Ritual

Megan Manson

Incorporating the tradition of the dying Corn Spirit, an Anglo-Saxon protective spell, and Inkubus Sukkubus!

Witch on Fire: Lammas Sacrifice and the Sacred Mission

Witch on Fire: Lammas Sacrifice and the Sacred Mission

Heron Michelle

Lammas is a "pregnant" time, full of expectation, succulence, and satisfaction.

Lughnassa or Lammas: What's In a Name (or Date)?

Lughnassa or Lammas: What's In a Name (or Date)?

Jason Mankey

One of these sabbats is not like the other ones, one of these sabbats just isn't the same.

Lammas, Season of Sacrifice

Lammas, Season of Sacrifice

Vivianne Crowley

We humans seem to be hard-wired for reciprocity. When we receive, we also feel the need to give.

Lammas for Urban Pagans

Lammas for Urban Pagans

Sable Aradia

Eat your food and leave a portion of it for the deities you've been working with, and for your household spirits.

Litha and the Solstice: Celebrating Summer

Outside the Circle: The Bad Fairies Of Litha

Outside the Circle: The Bad Fairies Of Litha

Danette Wilson

Litha or Midsummer, a time of bonfires, mugwort, mythical beings, nights and days of mischief and love. The veil is thin.

The Summer Solstice: Cake for Áine

The Summer Solstice: Cake for Áine

Morgan Daimler

We acknowledge, formally, what we live with everyday—the knowledge that the world we live in is shared by myriad spirits and is touched by the Gods.

Making History at Solstice

Making History at Solstice

Holli Emore

The people of Charleston did the opposite of what the shooter anticipated. We came together, in love, in pride, in humility, and compassion.

Photo Sunday: Solstice

Photo Sunday: Solstice

Adam Lee

In spite of all our technology crafted to isolate us from the natural world, human beings feel the call of the seasons.

The Darker Side of Solstice: St. John's Eve

The Darker Side of Solstice: St. John's Eve

Lilith Dorsey

St. John's Eve is thought of by many as the most important holiday in the New Orleans Voodoo calendar.

How Hobbits Celebrate the Summer Solstice

How Hobbits Celebrate the Summer Solstice

John Halstead

The reason "Litha" was adopted by Neo-Pagans may have had less to do with the 8th century monk, Bede, and more to do with Hobbits.

Summer Solstice Poem

Summer Solstice Poem

Katrina Rasbold

We give thanks unto the Mighty Ones. For the harvest in the field. For the sun and rain and earth and wind. For the sword and wand and shield.

Midsummer Blessings of Belisama

Midsummer Blessings of Belisama

Vivianne Crowley

At Midsummer on our land in Brittany, the Celtic region of north-west France, we invoke Belisama, the Bright One, Lady of Summer.

Firefly Solstice

Firefly Solstice

Allison Ehrman

For four days a year, I lose myself in a teeming crowd of people, soaking up their youth, their exuberance, their love for life and heartache for loss.

Ways to Celebrate the Summer Solstice

Ways to Celebrate the Summer Solstice

Jason Mankey

Lots of ideas to help plan your Midsummer ritual or gathering. The Summer Solstice is full of mythology and lore that makes for effective ritual.

Maypoles and the Green Man: Celebrating Beltane

Songs for Beltane: It's All About Loreena

Songs for Beltane: It's All About Loreena

Peg Aloi

The music right for Beltane can be as eclectic as you like, but I find a mixture of traditional festive songs and sensual instrumentals are a great mix for rituals, Maypole dances, mystery plays, or post-ritual feasting.

May Morning in Oxford

May Morning in Oxford

Yvonne Aburrow

May Day is coming.

A Beltane Spell

A Beltane Spell

The Witches Next Door

Beltane—It's great! What could be better than Maypoles, gathering with community, dancing, singing, eating and cavorting all on a warm spring day.

Beltane: Unity and Wonder

Beltane: Unity and Wonder

Melanie Morel-Ensminger

It was May Day magic. I never forgot the wonder of it, or the lesson of unity it taught me.

Walpurgis Night

Walpurgis Night

Spiritscraft

The eve of May is also called Walspurgis Night (from Walspurgisnact in German and Dutch) and Hexennact or Witches Night.

Cat, It's Beltane

Cat, It's Beltane

Cat Chapin-Bishop

Only I could turn Beltane into yet another guilt trip. But only Peter could remind me what the day is really for.

Patheos Pagan Writers on Beltane

Patheos Pagan Writers on Beltane

Jason Mankey

I asked our writers at Patheos Pagan for their Beltane thoughts and got a variety of thoughtful and inspiring replies.

An English Beltane Festival

An English Beltane Festival

Megan Manson

I am very lucky to be living in a part of the UK where celebrating Beltane is still very much alive and well, and not just among Pagans.

Life-Making With the Green Man

Life-Making With the Green Man

Karen Clark

For everything there is a season, and Beltane is the time to embrace your life-making instincts for the new and beautiful to take root and flourish in your world.

Beltane and the Gifts of Darkness

Beltane and the Gifts of Darkness

Morgan Daimler

Bealtaine is a holiday that celebrates both the dark and the light, just as life is ultimately about finding a balance between the two that works for each of us individually.

Make a Recycled Green Man Mask

Make a Recycled Green Man Mask

Megan Manson

An easy way to make a Green Man mask—great fun for adults and children!

Ostara and the Spring Equinox

My Complicated Relationship With Ostara, Easter, and Basil

My Complicated Relationship With Ostara, Easter, and Basil

Annika Mongan

I wanted to be done with religion. So I started a food business—and named it after a Pagan goddess and holiday.

A Brief History of Ostara

A Brief History of Ostara

D.C. McBride

The history of the modern Ostara is a knotty one. Its roots stretch back into the distant Proto-Indo-European past, while its practice has been influenced by the Christian Easter.

The Sexiness of Ostara

The Sexiness of Ostara

Rev. Catharine Clarenbach

Maybe it's climate change. Maybe it's the crazy combinations of rain and sun that are here, in a place still new to me. But Ostara is just sexier than I used to give it credit for.

The Spring Equinox: Moving Towards the Light

The Spring Equinox: Moving Towards the Light

Morgan Daimler

Spring is in the air and I can feel the shift from winter's dark to summer's light.

Ostara: The Season of Preparation

Ostara: The Season of Preparation

John Beckett

If Imbolc is the season of contemplation, Ostara is the season of preparation.

Imbolc and Brigid's Day: Celebrating Spring

Pagan Festivals Late Winter, Early Spring

Pagan Festivals Late Winter, Early Spring

Jason Mankey

Since everyone seems to enjoy my rather snarky round-ups of outdoor festivals I thought I should do the same with the indoor ones too.

You Call it Groundhog Day, and So Do I

You Call it Groundhog Day, and So Do I

Peg Aloi

This holiday actually has a number of different ways of observing and celebrating.

Brigid and the Chinese Dragon

Brigid and the Chinese Dragon

Liz Fisher

Today is Imbolc, the first day of Spring, one of the four Gaelic seasonal holidays.

It's Been a Year

It's Been a Year

Maggie Beaumont

We watch the snow outside our windows and think of the green leaves to come.

Imbolc In The Reclaiming Tradition

Imbolc In The Reclaiming Tradition

The Witches Next Door

Outside of initiatory oaths and our personal vows to each other, these pledges are the most deeply personal and magical spells we do all year.

My American Imbolc

My American Imbolc

Morgan Daimler

Throughout the year we honor the three Brighid in many ways but this holiday above all for us is a time to renew our connection to them.

Holiness and Hallowing at Imbolc

Holiness and Hallowing at Imbolc

Tamilia

Whether or not you tend to notice subtle increases in temperature, or slowly lengthening days, I invite you to turn your awareness to holiness, the current of sacred worth and boundless potential.

An Imbolc Meditation

An Imbolc Meditation

John Beckett

As we celebrate Imbolc, let us use this cold, slow time of the year to prepare ourselves for a warm, vibrant Spring.

Patheos Pagan Writers on Imbolc

Patheos Pagan Writers on Imbolc

Jason Mankey

I asked the writers at Patheos Pagan their feelings on the holiday and got a variety of answers.

Anticipating Imbolc

Anticipating Imbolc

Cat Chapin-Bishop

Imbolc is coming. I am ready for another turning of the year.

Brigid and the Light and Shadow of Soul Work

Brigid and the Light and Shadow of Soul Work

Karen Clark

On the eve of Imbolc, light a candle in a private corner of your home. Bring your face close and let its flame dance its teasing warmth across your skin.

Celebrations of Fire and Ice

Celebrations of Fire and Ice

Dana Corby

Of all the festivals of the Pagan year, Imbolc, February 2, is the most complex, the most mystical.

Yuletide: Awaiting the Return of the Sun

Yuletide: Celebrating the Winter Solstice

Yuletide: Celebrating the Winter Solstice

Patheos Contributors

As the nights grow longer, and the light begins to fail, Pagan traditions celebrate the silence and darkness that comes before the return of the sun. Patheos contributors reflect on the season, and provide resources for a celebration of its traditions.

Mabon and the Autumnal Equinox: Giving Thanks

Mabon Outrage (And Why We Love the Autumnal Equinox)

Mabon Outrage (And Why We Love the Autumnal Equinox)

Jason Mankey

Don't like the word Mabon for the Equinox? The easy answer is to simply not use it.

Love in the Balance, A Poem for the Equinox

Love in the Balance, A Poem for the Equinox

Heron Michelle

This autumnal equinox, when light and dark are held in balance, I'd like to share with you a poem of mine.

A Mabon Formulary

A Mabon Formulary

Sable Aradia

I thought I would share a couple of Autumn Equinox related recipes from my personal formulary.

The Rantin' Raven: Who Was Mabon?

The Rantin' Raven: Who Was Mabon?

Dana Corby

In the 1970s Aidan Kelley tagged the Autumn Equinox with the name Mabon, and it took.

Five Simple Ways to Celebrate the Autumn Equinox

Five Simple Ways to Celebrate the Autumn Equinox

Molly Khan

How will you celebrate the Autumn Equinox this year? Here's five simple ideas for your fall celebration!

Meditating at Harvest In an Interplanetary Age

Meditating at Harvest In an Interplanetary Age

Vivianne Crowley

Lammas is the grain harvest, Autumn is the fruit harvest, poised between the two: What shall we say to our Gods?

The Blessings of Autumn

The Blessings of Autumn

Jason Mankey

I don't know if Pagandom has a "favorite season," but most of my friends seem to love Fall the best.

Mabon Ritual in a Time of Global Warming

Mabon Ritual in a Time of Global Warming

Erica Baron

Here's the script Mabon (Fall Equinox) ritual from a UU minister (and new Nature's Path author) in upstate New York.

Mabon Song

Mabon Song

Katrina Rasbold

Harvest is the glory of the Empress, the Harvest Mother who births are blessing. These words are to honor Her.

It's Mabon—Or Something Like That

It's Mabon—Or Something Like That

The Witches Next Door

Here's the thing about Mabon—We're not all that concerned with what the day is called or even how ancient it is (or isn't), but we do like what it means to us.

Pagan Holidays Photo Tour

13 Halloween Facts Lost to History

13 Halloween Facts Lost to History

Patheos

Find out how Halloween became our beloved festival of the things that go bump in the night.

Sex, Fire, and the Harvest: 15 Pagan Holidays

Sex, Fire, and the Harvest: 15 Pagan Holidays

Patheos

A selection of major Pagan holidays, and some of the more obscure ones.