Chapter 25

 

 

CALENDARS

 

 

 

 

       The Celtic solar year was called the circle of Baal

  (Bealaine/Bliadhain) and was divided into halves.  The

  first half (waxing half) of the year began at dusk on

  winter solstice.  Already the longest night and the

  shortest day have passed.  The second half (waning half) of

  the year began at dusk of summer solstice.  Already the

  shortest night and the longest day have passed.  The solar

  year was then quartered by the equinoxes (days of balance)

  when night and day are of equal length.  These four

  important solar events were represented by four spokes of

  the solar calendar.  The time between the solar events was

  again subdivided by four calendar events which were

  represented by the other four spokes of the solar wheel.

       The Celtic day was also divided into two halves.  The

  first half (dark half) of the day began at dusk and the

  second half (light half) of the day began at dawn with high

  noon as its point of balance.

       A Celtic lunar/solar calendar was found in France at

  Coligny near Bourg-en-Bresse.  The site was in the border

  zone of the Sequani and the Ambarri tribes who both settled

  the area around BC 6th century.  The calendar was found

  with artifacts including a bronze statue believed to have

  been part of a temple where the calendar plaque was mounted

  for public use.  The time that the calendar was in use is

  thought to have been between BC 3rd - AD 1st century.  The

  script and numbers on the calendar are Roman and the

  language is Brythonic Celt.  Alban Wall, Stonehenge and the

  Calendar of Coligny, asserts that it contains no Roman or

  Greek elements and, like Stonehenge, is based on a 19-year

  moon/sun cycle.

       Pliny (AD 1st c), Stonehenge and the Coligny calendar

  all present evidence that the Celts began their month on

  the 6th day of the moon, which is the waxing half or 1st

  quarter, the day of balance.

       The Coligny calendar had 16 columns showing 62 lunar

  months plus two additional intercalary months, giving it a

  19-year cycle.  The month was divided into a bright half of

  15 days with the 3-day full moon at the center.  The dark

  half had 14-15 days with the new moon at its center.  The

  British and Portuguese, among others, still use the

  fortnight/15 days as a measurement of moon-time.  The first

  half of the moon-month had maximum light and the second

  half had maximum darkness. The second half of the moon

  calendar was called Atenoux or Athnugud (renewal).

       Some of the days and months of the Colingy calenday

  were marked good (Mat) or bad (Anm).  The Celts believed

  even into recent time that people born in the night could

  see ghosts and phantoms which could not be seen by people

  born during the daylight hours.

       The Celtic tree calendar as presented by Robert

  Graves, The White Goddess, divided the year into 13 months.

  The tree year began in December just after the solstice

  with the month of Beth, represented by the self-propagating

  birch tree that was used to drive out the spirit of the old

  year.

       The oldest zodiac is the lunar zodiac with 28 houses

  or stations in which the moon could be seen.  As the moon

  goddess lost in importance to her son it was overshadowed

  by the solar zodiac.  The Saros cycle of the lunar calendar

  synchronizes with the sun every 18.03 solar years.

  Stonehenge has a lunar aspect and there is an interesting

  lunar calendar called Sagres ("sacred") in southern

  Portugal at Cabo de São Vincente.  North America,

  especially in the province of Alberta, has many lunar

  calendars called medicine wheels.

       The solar zodiac calendar begins at the vernal equinox

  which is the day of balance in the waxing half of the sun

  year and the beginning of the bright half of the solar

  year.  The sun and moon both move west to east in

  relationship to the movement of the stars.

       The solar zodiac calendar is regulated by the

  constellation in a band which is 8º on either side of the

  elliptic path followed by the earth and its moon as the

  planet orbits the sun.  The band is divided into 12 equal

  sections called signs or houses and starts with the sun's

  position at the vernal equinox.  The modern-day zodiac was

  standardized by Hipparchus in BC 2nd century with Aries at

  the vernal equinox.  Before this time the starting

  constellation was Taurus.  The ancients did not use the

  zodiac to predict the complicated future events for

  individuals; such a concept is relatively modern.

       It has been suggested that the Celts used a 13-month

  calendar.  The constellation Libra, which is the house

  before Scorpio, was not used before BC 300 but the

  constellation Ophiuchus (Serpent Holder) was in use and

  fell between the houses of Scorpio and Sagittarius. The

  naming of the constellations had more to do with the

  mythology they told than with the physical appearance of

  the star configurations.

       In late September, the sunset and moonrise coincide

  for several days in the northern hemisphere and this is the

  time of the full moon called Harvest Moon.  The winter moon

  rises earliest and sets latest while the sun rises latest

  and sets earliest.

       Stonehenge is probably best known as a solar calendar

  but it was also an excellent lunar calendar.  The two

  calendars are in synchronicity every 19 years and the

  bluestone horseshoe was used to keep track of the cycle.

  The end of the 19-year cycle would see the conjunction of

  full moon and winter solstice sunset.  The moon would rise

  over the heelstone as the sun set through the arch of the

  Great Trilithon.

       The Greeks called the people who built and interpreted

  the calendars at Stonehenge Hyperborian (people of the

  north).  They reported that these people used wheat straw

  in their rites to the sun god who visited them every 19

  years on the great year.  He visited them from the time of

  the vernal equinox and played his harp until the Pleiades

  rose (in Taurus) before leaving again.

       The Celts have used constructions such as Stonehenge,

  Aubrey Circle, mountain ridges such as Edderton in

  Scotland, the calendar of Coligny and medicine wheels in

  America and Iberia to track the stars, sun, moon and other

  planets so as to divine the calendar events of the future.

 

 

 

 

Months of the Coligny Calendar

 

 

            first half                  second half

 

        Giamonios  - (Dec)           Samonios   - (Jun)

        Simivisonn - (Jan)           Dumannios  - (Jul)

        Equos      - (Feb)           Rivros     - (Aug)

        Elembivios - (Mar)           Anagantios - (Sep)

        Edrinios   - (Apr)           Ogronios   - (Oct)

        Cantlos    - (May)           Cutios     - (Nov)

 

 

 

 

The Five Vowels (Stations) of The Moon Goddess

 

 

  A (Ailm)   - New Moon         - black   - BIRTH     (hinge)

  O (Onn)    - Waxing Crescent

  U (Ura)    - Waxing Half      - red     - INITIATION

  E (Eadha)  - Waxing Gibbous

  I (Idho)   - Full Moon        - white   - EMOTION   (hinge)

  E (Eadha)  - Waning Gibbous

  U (Ura)    - Waning Half      - red     - REST

  O (Onn)    - Waning Crescent

  A (Ailm)   - New Moon         - black   - DEATH     (hinge)

 

 

 

 

 

The Robert Graves 13-Month Tree Calendar

 

 

 B - Beth   --- Dec 24 - 20 Jan

 L - Luis   --- Jan 21 - 17 Feb --- (Imbolic    - Feb 03-04)

 N - Nion   --- Feb 18 - 17 Mar

 F - Fearn  --- Mar 18 - 14 Apr --- (equinox    - Mar 20-21)

 S - Saille --- Apr 15 - 12 May --- (Beltainn   - May 04-05)

 H - Uath   --- May 13 - 09 Jun

 D - Duir   --- Jun 10 - 07 Jul --- (solstice   - Jun 21-22)

 T - Tinne  --- Jul 08 - 04 Aug

 C - Coll   --- Aug 05 - 01 Sep --- (Lughnasadh - Aug 07-08)

 M - Muir   --- Sep 02 - 29 Sep --- (equinox    - Sep 22-23)

 G - Gort   --- Sep 30 - 27 Oct

 P - Peith  --- Oct 28 - 24 Nov --- (Samhain    - Nov 06-07)

 R - Ruis   --- Nov 25 - 22 Dec --- (solstice   - Dec 21-22)

                         23 Dec --- (and a day)

 

 

 

 

ZODIAC SUN CALENDAR

 

 

 Aries       - Mar 21 - 20 Apr  - bear / ram

                                (equinox - Mar 20-21)

 

 Taurus      - Apr 21 - 21 May  - bull / elk

                                (Beltainn - May 04-05)

 

 Gemini      - May 22 - 21 Jun  - Mighty Twins / Orion Giant

                                (solstice - Jun 21-22)

 

 Cancer      - Jun 22 - 23 Jul  - ship / crab

                                (solstice - Jun 21-22)

 

 Leo         - Jul 24 - 23 Aug  - lion / lynx

                                (Lughnasadh - Aug 07-08)

 

 Virgo       - Aug 24 - 23 Sep  - virgin / earth goddess

                                (equinox - Sep 22-23)

 

 Libra       - Sep 24 - 23 Oct  - balance / bird

                                (equinox - Sep 22-23)

 

 Scorpio     - Oct 24 - 22 Nov  - scorpion / snake

                                (Samhain - Nov 06-07)

 

 Sagittarius - Nov 23 - 21 Dec  - archer on horseback

                                (solstice - Dec 21-22)

 

 Capricorn   - Dec 22 - 20 Jan  - goat horn / sea goat

                                (solstice - Dec 21-22)

 

 Aquarius    - Jan 21 - 19 Feb  - water bearer / phoenix

                                (Imbolic - Feb 03-04)

 

 Pisces      - Feb 20 - 20 Mar  - twin fish

                                (equinox - Mar 20-21)

 

 

 

 

SUN CALENDAR - The Harmony of Baal

 

 

NAME         Winter Solstice

ALTERNATIVE  An-fheill-shlinnein (great shoulder-borne

             feast-day)

TYPE         sun event

PURPOSE      death of the old / birth of the new

DATE         Giamonios (Dec) 21-22 / (2-day festival)

DEITY        Artio / Caer Ibormeith / Dianos / Belenos

SYMBOL       D / oak club / bull

RITES        bonfire / cider / veneration of nature

REMARKS      Winter solstice is the shortest day of year and

  follows the longest night.  The solstice was a 2-day event

  for the Celts at which they mourned the death of the old

  sun god and celebrated the birth of the new sun god.

       The 2 days of minimum light were helped by lighting

  black (old sun) and gold (new sun) candles.  A moon goddess

  such as Caer Ibormeith (yew) presided over this event.

       The first day of this event was concerned with the

  death of the sun god of the waning half of the year.  He

  was associated with the holly tree and the lynx.  The day

  began on the eve of winter solstice and continued until the

  sun's life was extinguished at the end of solstice.  The

  color of that day was black.

       A needfire of elder, the death tree, was lit on the

  eve of winter solstice and sacrifices were made throughout

  the day as the solemn event took place.  Only simple meals

  such as round oatcakes were eaten, washed down with a

  little water.

       The eve of the 1st day of the waxing half of the year

  was more hopeful, with the preparation of a feast and

  veneration to the Great Mother (moon).  Trees were

  ornamented and homes were decked out with scarlet berries

  from plants such as mistletoe, yew, ivy and holly and

  boughs of silver fir in honor of Artio, the deity who helps

  with births.  The mistletoe was important because it

  contained the soul of the oak tree until spring.

       As an act of sympathetic magic to help ensure that the

  son of The Great Mother would be born strong and friendly,

  a great birch or apple needfire was lit.  The Celts spent

  this night chanting and dancing their way into a frenzy

  waiting for the new born sun to show himself.  A portion of

  the Yule log was saved to start the needfire of the

  following year.

       When the new sun was born, the feast followed and the

  Celts ate and drank cider (or golden ale) in excess, then

  gave presents as charms to ensure abundance during the

  following year.  The sun god of the waxing half of the year

  was associated with the bull and the oak tree.

       The Coligny Calendar indicates that the Celts divided

  the solar year into two halves, with the solstices as the

  hinges.  The first half started at winter solstice in the

  month of Giamonios (December).

       In the solar zodiac this was the month of the goat and

  in the tree calendar the festival started at the end of the

  month of Ruis (elder), tree of death, and ended with B

  (birch), the tree of new beginnings.  The apple tree was

  known as the tree of eternal life.

       The god Dianos (Bright Phase) was of paramount

  important, being the god of new beginnings.  As a god with

  two heads looking in opposite directions he was associated

  with death and rebirth, doors, brightness and oak.

 

 

NAME         Imbolic

ALTERNATIVE  Imbolic {Imbolg} (Swelling Belly) / Oimelc /

             Oimelg

TYPE         calendar event

PURPOSE      to nourish the newborn sun god

DATE         Equos (February) 3-4 / (8-day festival)

SITE         Tara

DEITY        Brighid / Tea

SYMBOL       right-facing swastika-shaped fire wheels

RITES        bonfire / mead / chanting / song / instrument

REMARKS      In Ireland the festival of Imbolic was in honor

  of the fire deity Brighid (the bride) who was the wetnurse

  to the sun god.  This was the time when the cows began to

  lactate, the time of the Water Bearer in the zodiac

  calendar and the tree month Luis (Rowan) tree of substance

  food of the gods.  A needfire of rowan wood was lit, and

  firewheels in the shape of right-facing swastikas were

  constructed from rush and set ablaze.  The Imbolic festival

  also marked the beginning of spring season (Earrach).

       Sacrifices were offered, food and mead was in

  abundance and with the help of music and chants the Celts

  danced themselves into a frenzy, inviting the fire goddess

  to inhabit someone's body and walk among them.

       The Celts prayed that she would nourish the newborn

  sun deity and that he would grow strong and friendly.  Tea,

  a Celtic fertility goddess, was the patron of the feast

  (Feis Tara) that was held in honor of Brighid.  There was a

  prescribed order of presentation of the food served, with

  Bride cakes and dishes with rowan berries having special

  importance.  After the feast followed games of skill, music

  and stories by bards, entertainment by poets, horse races,

  foot races, and meetings between families, clans and

  friends.

       Mead was the drink of all the calendar events dealing

  with the sun god and any breach of the divine peace was

  instantly punishable by death.

 

 

 

NAME         Spring Equinox

ALTERNATIVE  Co-thad-thrath (co-joining timeperiod) / vernal

             equinox (equal night/day) / The Dragon's Head

TYPE         sun event / moon festival / earth festival

PURPOSE      sun god overthrew darkness / The Great Mother /

             awakening of the earth goddesses

DATE         Elembivios (March) 20-21 / (3-day festival)

DEITY        On-niona

SYMBOL       disk divided into light half and dark half

RITES        bonfire / mulberry wine / chanting / song /

             instruments

REMARKS      At the spring equinox, the young son god

  overwhelmed darkness and a 3-day festival was held to

  honour his mother, to purify the land, to celebration the

  emergences of the earth goddesses from their winter sleep

  and to begin a new cycle of events.  Furze fires were lit

  on hilltops in honor of fertility goddesses such as On-

  niona.

       During this event night and day were in balance, it

  was the beginning of the bright half of the year and the

  first day of the zodiac calendar with the end of Pisces and

  the beginning of Aries.  The day was also in the month of

  Alder (hottest-burning) in the tree calendar.

       The Great Mother (Triple Goddess) visited her admirers

  first as the hag, dressed in black and representing

  physical death.  It was a day of sacrifice, first by the

  druids, then by everyone.

       During the second day The Great Mother appeared as, a

  youth wearing white, signifying intellectual birth.  On

  this day (spring equinox) everyone visited the mother cave

  (unicursal maze) representing the womb of the earth goddess

  and asked for the return of the male oak spirit from its

  winter abode in the female mistletoe.

       On the third day of the festival, the Triple Goddess

  appeared as a maiden in the prime of her life and dressed

  in scarlet: the color of the spirit, fire and sexual

  energy.  The young goddess attended a day of feasting,

  drinking (mulberry wine), chariot races, games of skill and

  story-telling.

       All three days of the event were enhanced by dance,

  song, music and decoration by any new growth of leaves or

  flowers.  The Great Mother was the perpetual virgin, mother

  of all Celtic deities, mankind and all living things.  She

  was associated with the moon, fertility and continual

  motion.

 

 

NAME         Beltainn

ALTERNATIVE  Bealltain / Beltain (Brilliant Fires) / Beltane

             / Beltene / Belteine / Beltine / Cet-Saman /

             Cetshamain

TYPE         calendar event

PURPOSE      fertility festival / settle disputes

DATE         Cantlos (May) 4-5 / (8-day festival)

SITE         Uisnech, Ireland / Chartres, France

DEITY        Belenos / earth goddesses

SYMBOL       sun discs / 8-spoked sunwheels

RITES        bonfires / mead / beltane cakes / incense /

             chanting / music / dance

REMARKS      Beltainn {Beltuinn} marked the beginning of the

  summer season (Samhradh).  Beltainn had two fires and was a

  2-day event with 3 days of festival on either side.  Bel

  (god) teine (fire) was a fertility festival in which

  Belenos the male sun god and the female earth goddess

  fertilized nature (life force) and encouraged healthy

  livestock, game and foliage.  Belenos was associated with

  the bull and the oak tree.  This was the month of the bull

  in the zodiac calendar and the month of Saille (Willow) in

  the tree calendar.  Willow was also a tree of great

  importance to the moon goddess.  Hawthorn crowns were made

  for the god and goddess.

       On the eve of Beltainn all fires were extinguished and

  all wheels ceased to turn.  At the crack of dawn, the

  needfire was lit using two large very dry trunks of oak.

  The oak was rubbed together by 81 males working in shifts

  of 9 men each.  The Beltainn fires were special fires

  called Coelcerth (Gaelic), now known as bonfires meaning

  "good fires".

       Two large circles were drawn on the ground and the

  sods were cut out and placed around the edges.  The fuel

  for the fires was gathered by 9 teams of 9 men each who had

  to be free of metal.  In the center of each circle they

  erected an oak log (phallus).  Logs of the 8 remaining

  chieftain trees were then arranged like the spokes of the

  wheels of the sun god's chariot radiating around the two

  oak axles.  A tent of the wood was constructed at the hub

  with the spokes radiating from it.

       The phallus was usually the tallest tree to be found

  in the area.  It was limbed, barked and made smooth.  Ropes

  were tied to the top and wound around the trunk.  People in

  costumes of birds then held onto the ends of the ropes,

  jumped into the air and flew around the pole as the ropes

  unwound.  Residues of this ritual are still visible in

  Maypole festivities.

       Circular Beltainn cakes (Tcharnicanare) made from

  eggs, milk and oatmeal were quartered and put into a

  container of calf skin.  All the members of the tribe then

  filed by and retrieved a quarter of the wheel-cake.  The

  person who picked the cake with the charcoal-blackened mark

  on it was called the cailleach bealtine (Beltain Carline)

  and became the sacrifice.

       The sacrifice was slain and cut into quarters with two

  sections placed on each hub.  The hubs were then lit from

  the needfire and the festival was on.  The members of the

  tribe circled the fires in a sunwise direction 3 times.

  Next, two young bulls were ritually killed.  The cattle

  were driven 3 times between the fires of Beltainn with a

  rowan stick in order to purify them and to stimulate

  fertility.

       The festival was associated with spring flowers and

  new boughs of leaves from the hawthorn which was sacred to

  the moon goddess.  People wore bright colors to enhance the

  cycle and to help it on.  This was a precarious time of

  year because winter stores were still the main source of

  food, as most new growth would not yet be ready to eat.

  Circular cheeses were rolled down the hills in a sunwise

  direction and the feast that followed was of mead, boar,

  game, sweet milk, milk curdled over the fire and, most

  importantly, fresh beef.

       During the feast, incense was burned and music was

  provided by the bards.  The festival included ritual

  ecstatic dancing around the phallic stone, ceremonial acts

  of bowing and kissing, and leaping over the Beltaine fires.

  There were different types of races, entertainment by bards

  and poets, friends and family were together and a festive

  atmosphere prevailed.

       Beltainn Sunwheels (Maltese crosses) made of ash were

  set ablaze and thrown or rolled into the fires.  That night

  the red and white dragons, representing the sun and the

  moon, performed sacred rites throughout the night.  The

  druids beat skin drums and blew horns, and male and female

  warriors beat their swords against their shields until the

  dragons finally pass out from drinking too much mead.  On

  the following morning the sun was greeted with "Good

  morning and show your eye".

       Special cups were carved into stone to catch dew,

  which was collected each morning of the festival before

  dawn and used for purification rituals.  Ivy was also used

  for collecting dew.  Women made ropes of cow-tail hair and

  dragged them through the grass to collect dew to beautify

  their faces, then hung them by their cows to ensure a

  greater quantity of milk.  Branches of the rowan tree were

  also placed over doorways and barns.

       The Partholean, Nemedian, Danann and Goidel all landed

  in Ireland on Beltainn.  The Celts of Ireland held their

  Great Assembly on Beltainn at Uisnech, the navel of

  Ireland.  The Gauls also held their Great Assembly on

  Beltainn at Chartres which was in the territory of the

  Carnuti tribe.  This was a time when disputes were settled

  and the druid's word was law.

 

 

NAME         Summer Solstice

ALTERNATIVE  Grian Stad (sun stop)

TYPE         sun event

PURPOSE      death of the old / birth of the new

DATE         Samonios (June) 21-22 / (2-day festival)

DEITY        Artio / Balor / Belenos / Lugh

SYMBOL       T / holly club / lynx

RITES        bonfire / mead / blood / battle of the Titans

REMARKS      Summer solstice is the day of maximum light and

  the beginning of the waning half of the year.  This was the

  day that the sun god, associated with the oak tree and the

  bull, was defeated by his son who was associated with the

  lynx and the holly tree.  The solar event coincides with

  the departure of the Mighty Twins (Gemini) and the arrival

  of the ship (Cancer) in the zodiac calendar and is in the

  month of Duir (Oak) in the tree calendar.  The two great

  battles of Magh Tuireadh in Ireland were fought on summer

  solstice between chieftains who represented the bull and

  Lynx gods.

       The oak god was made drunk on heather mead then led to

  the sacred site with 12 standing stones and an altar stone.

  The sun god was tied in the 5-fold position with willow

  thongs to an oak tree that had been trimmed into a T.  As

  the sun set the sacrifice was then beaten until he passed

  out, then blinded, flayed, castrated and impaled with a

  mistletoe stake.  He was then cut into joints on the altar

  stone where his blood was caught in a basin and used to

  sprinkle the people of the tribe so they would be vigorous

  and fertile.

       The flesh of the oak god was then roasted over twin

  oak fires that were either lit from a needfire or from a

  lightning strike, which was even more sacred.  When the

  meat was cooked, the 12 males who were left out of the 13

  chosen as initiates for the god chewed his flesh as they

  danced and chanted in a frenzy around the two fires in a

  figure of eight.

       The head and genitals of the sacrifice were saved and

  the head was cured with smoke or oil and used by the druids

  as an oracle as they did with the head of Bran.

       Death was considered a precursor to fertility, and the

  festival which followed honored female fertility deities

  such as Artio (Artemis), a moon goddess who was associated

  with bears, bees and the production of honey.  The Manx

  wore a sprig of Mugwort (Artemisia Vulgaris) on their

  person during this day.  The celebration which had begun

  with the sacred fires and sacrifices was followed by

  feasting, drinking, dancing and music.  During this

  festival, the youth performed ritual displays to impress

  the opposite sex.  This is the longest day of the year and

  the heat of sun grows in intensity.

       The Coligny Calendar shows that summer solstice was

  considered the beginning of the second half or waning half

  of the year and was in the month of Samonios (June).

 

 

NAME         Lughnasadh

ALTERNATIVE  Bron Tro Gain (Trogain's Sorrow) / Lughnasa /

             Lughnasad {loo-nas'-ad} (Lugh's Wedding)

TYPE         calendar event

PURPOSE      thanking the Great Mother / trial marriages

DATE         Rivros (August) 7-8 / (15-day festival)

SITE         Emain Macha / Croagh Patrick / Wexford

DEITY        Carman / Lugh / Tailtiu

SYMBOL       T / holly / lynx / 4-spoked wheel

RITES        bonfire / mead / first sacrifices / sacred foods

             / ritual combat

REMARKS      In Ireland, Lughnasadh was a 3-day festival in

  honor of the sun god associated with the lynx and the holly

  club.  The festival began with a torch procession to the

  highest site in the area such as Croagh Patrick, where the

  main bonfire in Ireland was held.

       The calendar event of Lughnasadh occurs while the sun

  is in the house of Leo (lynx) of the zodiac calendar.  The

  month of Tinne (Holly), the bisexual tree, has just ended

  and Coll (hazel) perfection is just beginning in the tree

  calendar.  The festival also marks the beginning of autumn

  (Foghmhar).

       A larger than usual needfire was lit and the night was

  passed in fasting and keeping a quiet vigil for the first

  rays of the sun god.  As soon as the sun god appeared,

  "First Sacrifices" were made, to show appreciation for the

  blessings that the sun god and the earth goddesses had

  bestowed on the people.

       The festival of the highland cattle herders was an old

  festival called Bron Tro Gain and came to Ireland with the

  Nemedians or the Firbolg.  Bulls were sacrificed and this

  was the time when the cattle were taken to their winter

  pastures where they were fattened for winter slaughter.

  Some cattle were slaughtered in August so that their meat

  could be dried and the skins cured in the hot sun.

       At Emain Macha in Ulster, Lughnasadh also served as a

  wake for the goddess Tailtiu.  A re-enactment of the events

  that led to her death was held and the races and other

  games were her funeral games.  At Wexford in the province

  of Leinster, the festival was associated with the goddess

  Carman.

       Lughnasadh was also a commemoration of Lugh himself as

  a harvest festival as well as a cattle and horse fair, with

  chariot races, mock swordplay, women's races, entertainment

  by musicians and poets, and meetings between friends,

  family and clans.  The feast itself began by eating curd

  cheese circles and butter made from the cows' milk of that

  morning.  Special bread was also made from grain that was

  cut, dried, winnowed, ground and baked on a rowan fire that

  day.

       During the festival of Lughnasadh, deeds of violence,

  levying debts, abductions and the divorcing of a husband or

  a wife were all prohibited on penalty of death.  Trial

  marriages of 11 days were consummated on this day.

 

 

NAME         Autumn Equinox

ALTERNATIVE  Co-thad-thrath (co-joining time period) / fall

             equinox (equal day/night) / The Dragon's Tail

TYPE         sun event

PURPOSE      prepare the sun for resurrection

DATE         Anagantios (September) 22-23 / (3-day festival)

SYMBOL       disk divided into dark half and light half

RITES        bonfire / triangle cakes

REMARKS      The autumn equinox is another day of balance

  between dark and bright, when the nights and days were of

  equal length.  Bonfires were lit on the morning to lend

  strength to the sun god who is losing to the powers of

  darkness.  In the zodiac calendar this was the end of the

  virgin earth goddess (Virgo) and the beginning of the house

  of balance (Libra).  It is the month of Muir (Blackberry)

  in the tree calendar a plant of resurrection.

       Furrowed triangle cakes were eaten in honor of the

  mother goddess who would guide the spirit of the oak tree

  to the mistletoe where it would abide for the winter.  This

  was the beginning of the dark half of the year, a time when

  preparations for winter began.

 

 

NAME         Samhain

ALTERNATIVE  Feis na Samhin (Feast of Samhain) / Samain

             {shah-vin} (Night of the Dead) / Sainn / Saman /

             Samhainn / Samuin / Savain / Saven / Savin /

TYPE         calendar event

PURPOSE      remembrance of the dead

DATE         Cutios (November) 6-7 / (7-day festival)

SITE         Hill of Ward

DEITY        Tlachtga

SYMBOL       8-spoked wheel

RITES        bonfire / mead / sacred food / donated firewood

             / sacred dances / rites of protection

REMARKS      The festival of Samhain noted the triumph of

  dark over bright and the beginning of the winter season

  (Geimhreadh).  It was the time of the long winter nights

  when the deities of the underworld had the responsibility

  of maintaining order.

       The eve of Samhain began by breaking the day's fast

  with a feast of goose, chitterlings (boar intestines) and

  bread baked from acorn.  All fires were extinguished and no

  wheels were allowed to turn until the next eve.  During

  Samhain the door between this world and The Otherworld

  opened upon each other, permitting spirits from either side

  to roam freely.  The hearth was prepared for relatives who

  had passed on as a show of respect for the dead and to keep

  them happy.

       During Samhain night, it was possible for those brave

  enough to raid The Otherworld for treasures, but the time

  between first cockcrow and daybreak was better spent asleep

  in the safety of one's home.  Most warriors spent the night

  in their forts eating, drinking and boasting of their past

  brave deeds in an attempt to keep the souls of dead

  warriors at bay.

       The following eve the great needfire was lit on the

  Hill of Ward in Ireland in honor of Tlachtga, a goddess of

  knowledge.  The needfire was lit by a druid on a specially

  prepared site.  A circular trench was dug using the cut-out

  turf to make an inner shelf.  The wood was rowan and was

  donated by the chieftains of Ireland.  The Samhain fire was

  lit by using a specially-built wheel with 8 spokes and an

  axle of sacred wood.  The axle was placed on the starter

  wood and a long rope was wound once around the axle and

  pulled so that the wheel spun in a sunwise direction.  The

  friction from the wooden axle against the starter wood

  created enough heat to start the Samhain fire (Tlachtgha).

       The head chieftains of Ireland then brought fire from

  the sacred needfire at Tlachtga to their provinces and all

  the hearth fires were relit with a torch from the chieftain

  fires.  The Rites of Protection were performed to any

  corners in the home, thresholds, chimneys, windows and any

  other openings.

       When the druids lit the needfire at Tlachtga which was

  12 miles from Tara, a white bull was sacrificed, marking

  the end of the grazing season.  Selected people swung

  burning brooms and fire-balls around their heads during

  special sun dances.  Filidhs divined using hazelnuts and

  apples in association with fire and water.

       The feast was held at Tara afterwards.  The night was

  spent feasting with games, entertainment, and sword dances

  performed by 8 warriors.  As at all calendar events, both

  instrumental and vocal music was important.  Poets and

  bards remembered the brave deeds of the warriors now living

  in The Otherworld and sung their praises and beat their

  drums.  Mead was the drink of most calendar festivals, and

  any breach of the Divine Peace was instantly punishable by

  death.

       Through the art of dancing, singing and use of

  intoxicants, the Celts could achieve ecstatic states which

  would allow the gods to walk among their admirers.

       After the festival, cattle were slaughtered and salted

  away for winter which was very rough in some Celtic areas.

  This was also the time for wars and combats.  The dark half

  of the year was the time of the warriors and each made sure

  his or her weapons were ready.  The druids prepared their

  Aspen rods which they used to measure corpses.

       The festival was in the month of Scorpio (serpent) of

  the solar zodiac or the old month of Ophiuchus (serpent

  holder).  It was also the month of Peith (Guelder Rose) or

  Ngetal (reed) of the tree calendar.