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.
Bring Out Your Dead: Celebrating Samhain and Halloween
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.
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.
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.
Bekah Evie Bel
Is it really appropriate to take the focus off the dead and put it onto the Gods?
People ask, "so what are you supposed to be?" and I respond, "I'm me, in more interesting clothes than usual."
A ritual to honor the Mighty Dead of the Craft at Samhain or whenever the veil between the worlds is thin.
What follows are four myths I see repeated every Halloween-season that I'm just not comfortable repeating.
I feel all my ancestors within me. Listen, they say, you are the result of the stories of thousands.
As much as the veil thins outside of us, it thins inside of us, too.
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.
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.
Our ancestors didn't need a calendar to tell them Samhain was getting close—they could read the signs.
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.
Is Halloween a holy day for you? Do you experience any dissonance with honoring the ancestors while others are trick-or-treating?
Of all the sabbats or high days on the Wheel of the Year, Samhain is perhaps the most conducive to solitary observances.
Our modern Halloween traditions sometimes date back centuries, and sometimes only a few decades. They feel timeless even if they are relatively new.
There's something spooky and marvelous about Samhain-time, something that was expressed by the Celts and by more modern peoples afterwards.
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
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.
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.
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.
I'm all for reveling in abundance. Abundance is great. I like abundance a lot. But here's my struggle...
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.
Incorporating the tradition of the dying Corn Spirit, an Anglo-Saxon protective spell, and Inkubus Sukkubus!
Lammas is a "pregnant" time, full of expectation, succulence, and satisfaction.
One of these sabbats is not like the other ones, one of these sabbats just isn't the same.
Litha and the Solstice: Celebrating Summer
Litha or Midsummer, a time of bonfires, mugwort, mythical beings, nights and days of mischief and love. The veil is thin.
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.
The people of Charleston did the opposite of what the shooter anticipated. We came together, in love, in pride, in humility, and compassion.
In spite of all our technology crafted to isolate us from the natural world, human beings feel the call of the seasons.
St. John's Eve is thought of by many as the most important holiday in the New Orleans Voodoo calendar.
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.
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.
At Midsummer on our land in Brittany, the Celtic region of north-west France, we invoke Belisama, the Bright One, Lady of Summer.
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.
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
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 Day is coming.
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.
It was May Day magic. I never forgot the wonder of it, or the lesson of unity it taught me.
The eve of May is also called Walspurgis Night (from Walspurgisnact in German and Dutch) and Hexennact or Witches Night.
Only I could turn Beltane into yet another guilt trip. But only Peter could remind me what the day is really for.
I asked our writers at Patheos Pagan for their Beltane thoughts and got a variety of thoughtful and inspiring replies.
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.
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.
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.
An easy way to make a Green Man mask—great fun for adults and children!
Ostara and the Spring Equinox
I wanted to be done with religion. So I started a food business—and named it after a Pagan goddess and holiday.
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.
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.
Imbolc and Brigid's Day: Celebrating Spring
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.
This holiday actually has a number of different ways of observing and celebrating.
Today is Imbolc, the first day of Spring, one of the four Gaelic seasonal holidays.
We watch the snow outside our windows and think of the green leaves to come.
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.
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.
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.
As we celebrate Imbolc, let us use this cold, slow time of the year to prepare ourselves for a warm, vibrant Spring.
I asked the writers at Patheos Pagan their feelings on the holiday and got a variety of answers.
Imbolc is coming. I am ready for another turning of the year.
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.
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
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
Don't like the word Mabon for the Equinox? The easy answer is to simply not use it.
This autumnal equinox, when light and dark are held in balance, I'd like to share with you a poem of mine.
I thought I would share a couple of Autumn Equinox related recipes from my personal formulary.
In the 1970s Aidan Kelley tagged the Autumn Equinox with the name Mabon, and it took.
How will you celebrate the Autumn Equinox this year? Here's five simple ideas for your fall celebration!
Lammas is the grain harvest, Autumn is the fruit harvest, poised between the two: What shall we say to our Gods?
I don't know if Pagandom has a "favorite season," but most of my friends seem to love Fall the best.
Here's the script Mabon (Fall Equinox) ritual from a UU minister (and new Nature's Path author) in upstate New York.
Harvest is the glory of the Empress, the Harvest Mother who births are blessing. These words are to honor Her.
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.