Paganism embraces Wiccan, New Age, Astaru, Druidism and many other spiritual paths. Variations occur in deities, symbols, and terminology. Most are earth centered with a respect for nature. Pagans embrace a return to earlier times when perhaps the pressures of modern civilization did not exist. Keep in mind that pressures from ancient times did exist (starvation, plague, war). Maybe not so different pressures. Family and kin are very important. In aims and golas paganism does not deviate much from the aims and goals of christianity. Live a good life and do no harm. Respect the earth and honour your ancestors. Wiccan holidays are fairly representative of pagan holidays. Astaru follows old Norse traditions, and as such may have a slightly different cant on holidays. Wiccan holidays are closely related to the old Celtic celebrations. Most pagan religions or spiritual paths relate to the equinoxs, solstices and days which fall halfway between them. They roughly correspond to agricultural schedules of northern europe such as planting, and harvest.
The Pagan Roots of Modern Holidays
Many Pagan traditions are still seen today.
Many of the holidays we celebrate today are considered Christian, but the origins of many modern-day holidays are older than Christianity.
The Christian holiday of Easter commemorates the crucifixion of Christ, and his rise from the dead into heaven. Then where do all the symbolism of bunnies, and eggs come from? It's more than coincedence that the early Pagans had a holiday to mark the Spring Equinox, called Ostara, usually celebrated around March 21st. With the return of spring, came the birthing of the farm animals for the year. Which is why we see bunnies, chicks, eggs and little lambs as symbols for this holiday. Part of the Ostara mythology involved the return of various deities from the underworld (symbolic of the end of winter). So it's not surprising that this holiday got enmeshed with the Christian story of the ressurection of Christ.
Even non-Pagans use the term "Yule" around the Christmas holidays. Yule is celebrated on the Winter Solstice (December 22nd), on the shortest day of the year. Since the days get longer from this point in the year, Yule is a celebration of the returning sun and the rebirth of the God who died at Hallowe'en. As with Easter, the Christian story of the birth of Jesus fits nicely with the Pagan mythology of a God reborn. Traditions such as wreaths and Yule logs are remnants of the original beliefs. Gifts were exchanged at Yule long before the Wise Men offered their gifts to the baby Jesus.
Well, it's not specifically Christian or celebrated as intensely as the two holidays just mentioned, Groundhog Day is still part of the modern-day year. Candlemas (or Imbolc) is celebrated on February 2nd. Because spring is just starting to show itself at this time of year, there were various superstitions about predicting the weather, and how long it would be until the end of winter. The original idea was to watch for a hedgehog, but as people immigrated to North America, the tradition changed to a ground hog to suit local wildlife.
Ok, everyone knows that Hallowe'en is a Pagan holiday, but there are many misconceptions surrounding what the holiday really means. Pagans call the day Samhain (SOW-en or sow-EEN). The old God dies on this day, and the Goddess mourns him until his rebirth at Yule. We use this day to honour and remember our loved ones who have passed on. In an effort to diffuse the interest in this heathen holiday, the Church created All Saint's Day (November 1) as a holy day to recognize all the Catholic saints. But it wasn't a powerful enough idea to wipe out the traditional Hallowe'en celebrattions. Ironically, many Christians do not approve of the celebration of Hallowe'en because of its Pagan origins, not realizing that almost all of the holidays they observe had Pagan beginnings.
Why are major Christian holidays layered on older Pagan festivals? The central reason is that as Christianity was struggling for acceptance in Europe, the country-folk would not give up their age-old traditions. By blending the old with the new, it was easier for the Church to convert the locals.
What are the Wiccan holidays and what do they mean
The Wiccan calendar is often referred to as the "Wheel of the Year", emphasizing the cyclical nature of the world around us. Each holiday has a wealth of history and tradition surrounding it, but this page should explain the basics of each Sabbat and how we celebrate.
Approx. Dec 21
Winter Solstice, Saturnalia, Alban Arthan
The holiday of Yule was celebrated long before Christians adopted the date. Many of the Christmas traditions we see today stem from old Pagan customs. As the solstice, it is the longest night of the year. From this day forward, light begins to return and we celebrate the rebirth of the Sun God.
Traditions: lighting the Yule log, wreath making, gift giving
Correspondences: pine, holly, myrrh, cinnamon,
Candlemas, Imbolg, Brigid's Day
Imbolc is a day to celebrate the first glimpses of Spring, and it is also dedicated to the Celtic Goddess Brigid. Non-Pagans celebrate today as Groundhog Day. Make new starts in life, as you give your home a thorough cleaning.
Traditions: Burning fires and candles, cleaning, making a bed for Brigid
Correspondences: carnation, rosemary, chamomile, milk
Approx. March 21
Spring Equinox, Lady Day
This is another holiday that has been overlaid with Christian meanings (Easter). Eggs and bunnies are typical symbols, representing new birth and new life. Plant the seeds of long-term goals.
Traditions: Colouring eggs, decorating with flowers
Correspondences: jasmine, daffodil, lotus, new spring flowers
May Day, Walpurgis Night
The God born at Yule is now a man, and the sacred marriage between God and Goddess is consumated. Beltane is a celebration of fertility, growth, love and passion. However you celebrate Beltane, do it with joy and happiness.
Traditions: Dancing around the May Pole, lighting bonfires
Correspondences: Rose, lilac, vanilla
Approx. June 21
Litha, Summer Solstice, Whitsun
Midsummer is the longest day of the year, and the strength of the Sun God begins to wane. The Goddess has left her Maiden form of Imbolc and is now in her Mother aspect. Refill your herb collection for the coming year.
Traditions: Fairy magick, collecting herbs
Correspondences: Orange, lemon, honeysuckle, vervain
As the first of the three harvest festivals, much of the symbolism for Lammas revolves around grains and bread. Sacrifices were common, though mostly symbolic, in order to ensure the continued success of the harvest.
Traditions: Bread baking, making corn dollies
Correspondences: corn, sandalwood, heather
Approx. Sept 21
Autumn Equinox, Cornucopia
Day and night are equal again, and the weather grows colder as winter approaches. This is the second harvest festival. Rituals of thanks at this time have brought about the modern holidays of Thanksgiving. Take some time to think about what you are thankful for.
Traditions: Making and drinking of wine, share with the less fortunate
Correspondences: grapes, blackberries, cedar, patchouli
Hallowe'en, All Hallows
Samhain (SOW-en) is the one Sabbat that is also widely celebrated amongst non-Pagans. The God has died, and the Goddess mourns him until his rebirth at Yule. It's the last harvest festival, and the end of the Wiccan year.
Traditions: Divination, honouring the dead, carving Jack o' Lanterns
Correspondences: pumpkins, apples, sage, mugwort