Old hallows eve, or Halloween to the man in the street is celebrated every year on the 31st of October. The night thought to have the thinnest veil between the living and the dead, when spirits come out and energies are among us… Or more recently, the night where kids get dressed up and go begging door to door for sweets.
Why I have a problem with this? Don’t think I dislike Halloween, I most definately do not, but we live in the Southern Hemisphere and this means that tomorrow is not in fact Halloween but rather Beltane or May Day is if is more commonly known by our Northern hemisphere counterparts. Halloween (or Samhain) was celebrated by traditional Pagans in May… Nowhere near October :) What frustrates me is those who mention Halloween is against their religion and therefore won’t dress up, yet I hardly take offense to the holiday being celebrated 6 months after the fact.
To put this simply for the non Pagans among us (I love you all, just by the way), Pagans live by the Wheel of the year… The phases of the moon… The changing of the seasons. Here is the Wheel of the Year for the Southern Hemisphere :
What we incorrectly celebrate as Halloween on the 31st of October is the night of the dead. It is the acknowledgement of the death of the god and the death of harvest, crops, life. It is a celebration of the end to acknowledge that before there can be a start, there must be a finish. This is Samhain. The end and the beginning of it all. While the premise is correct, the time of year is all wrong and should be celebrated in May (Autumn/Winter).
What we should really be celebrating is Beltane or better known as May Day (October Day for us?). The holiday that falls around Spring / Summer. The celebration of life, fertility, sexuality. It is when the God and Goddess become lovers and the start of true Summer… It is a festival of abundance and of course my favorite holiday! It’s a holiday of love and fire.
That said… It doesn’t mean I don’t love to celebrate and yes, I will be dressing up for ‘Halloween’ tomorrow… Just remember to get your witch hats out again in May, I will need someone to celebrate with then.
For those interested, here are brief descriptions of the Pagan holidays :)
Neopagans usually celebrate Samhain on 31 October – 1 November in the Northern Hemisphere and 30 April – 1 May in the Southern Hemisphere, beginning and ending at sundown. Some Neopagans celebrate it at the astronomical midpoint between the autumn equinox and winter solstice (or the full moon nearest this point). In the Northern Hemisphere, this midpoint is when the ecliptic longitude of the Sun reaches 225 degrees. In 2013, this is on 7 November.
Neopagans usually celebrate Beltane on 30 April–1 May in the Northern Hemisphere and 31 October–1 November in the Southern Hemisphere, beginning and ending at sunset. Some Neopagans celebrate it at the astronomical midpoint between the spring equinox and summer solstice (or the full moon nearest this point). In the Northern Hemisphere, this midpoint is when the ecliptic longitude of the Sun reaches 45 degrees. In 2013, this is on 5 May.
April 30/May 1
Northern Hemisphere Date: October 31st
Also known as All Hallow’s Eve, Halloween.
The Pagan year begins (and ends) with Samhain. It is a time of reflection, of looking back over the last year. This is the time when the boundary is thinnest between the worlds of living and dead; the powers of divination, the Sight, and supernatural communication are strengthened on Samhain night, and it is considered a powerful but dangerous time to communicate with lost loved ones. Pagans celebrate Samhain as an acknowledgment that without death, there can be no rebirth. At Samhain, the darkness increases and the Goddess reigns in her powerful aspect of the Crone. The God passes into the underworld to become reborn of the Goddess again at Yule. It is a time to honour those who have gone before us and it is a poignant co-incidence that Australia and New Zealand’s day of Remembrance for their fallen in war, ANZAC Day on April 25, should be so close to the southern Samhain.
Find out more about Samhain from Wikipedia and All Hallow’s Eve.
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Yule (Winter Solstice)
Northern Hemisphere Date: December (20-23)
Winter solstice or Yule is the shortest day, and also the longest night of the year. It marks the return of the Sun’s warmth and light, and the promise once again of a productive Earth. Pagans celebrate these aspects with candles, fire, greenery and feasting. At this time, Yule logs are burned. The Yule log must traditionally be the root of a hardwood tree, and in Australia mallee roots are ideal for this purpose, as are Tasmanian oaks and all types of Eucalyptus. The Yule log is burned down until nothing but a small piece remains, which is saved and kept to be used as a lighter for the following year’s Yule fire. A Yule tree is placed within the traditional Wiccan home, with a pentagram (five pointed star) at the top, symbolizing the five elements. Presents are exchanged and many Witches stay up all night to welcome the sun. This is symbolic of the Goddess giving birth to the God and then resting after her ordeal.
Find out more about Yule from Wikipedia and Midwinter’s Eve: Yule.
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July 31/August 1
Northern Hemisphere Date: February 2nd
Also known as Imbolg, Candlemas, Feast of Torches, Oimelc, Lupercalia and Brigid’s Day.
Imbolc is the time of the beginning of beginnings, the time to consider carefully what you will do with the year stretching before you. Imbolc brings the awakening of the life force when the first green shoots of bulbs appear. Life is stirring again and this marks the Goddess recovering after giving birth while the newborn God is depicted as a small child nursing from his mother. The God is growing, spreading sunshine all around causing things to grow. It is a time to honour the feminine and get ready for spring. At lmbolc, the Australian forests are bright with the colour yellow, the Acacia trees coming into full flower. Until fairly recently, the 1st of August was “Wattle day” in Australia (it has now been moved to the 1st of September).
Find out more about Imbolc from Wikipedia and Candlemas: The Light Returns.
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Ostara (Spring/Vernal Equinox)
Northern Hemisphere Date: March (20-23)
Also known as Eostre.
The Equinoxes are the balancing points in the cycle of the seasons, when the day and night are of equal length, reminding us of the harmony of the whole. Buds of flowers and leaf, all manner of eggs and just-born life are celebrated in decorations and imagery as Pagans rejoice in the Earth’s reawakening. The urge of spring is to do, create and bring in the new. Here light overcomes darkness with lengthening days bringing the magic of new growth. Ostara is associated with childhood and new life, and the God and Goddess are perceived as children, personifying youth and innocence before their entry into adulthood. The Goddess, as the Maiden, covers the earth with flowers and love while the God grows to maturity. This is a time to honour the masculine and to celebrate everything that is great about being alive.
Find out more about Ostara from Wikipedia and Lady Day: The Vernal Equinox.
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Northern Hemisphere Date: May 1st
Also known as Bealtaine, Walpurgisnacht, May Day, (Northern Hemisphere) & Novey Eve (in Southern Hemisphere).
Beltane, the beginning of the summer months is at the November cross-quarter. This is the festival of the Great Rite – of sexual union between Goddess and God. Beltane is the spring fertility festival and there is feasting and celebration – a great festival for lovers! Beltane is the most popular time for Witches to be handfasted. This is the time when the brilliant red flowers of the Flame Trees highlight Australian forests and gardens. Our famous horse race, the Melbourne Cup, is happily coincident with southern Beltane, being run on the first Tuesday in November and taken as an unofficial holiday across Australia.
Find out more about Beltane from Wikipedia and A Celebration of May Day.
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Litha (Summer Solstice)
Northern Hemisphere Date: June (20-23)
Also known as Midsummer.
This is the longest day of the year, and a time of joy and strength for the light. It is a time when the powers of nature are at their fullest. In the past this was often marked with bonfires and celebrants staying awake through the short night. To leap over the bonfire was to assure a good crop; some said the grain would grow as tall as the leapers could jump. Due to fire restrictions in Australia throughout summer, celebrations for this Sabbat tend to be quite different from those throughout the rest of the year. No candles can be lit, no cauldrons burned, and no open flames are allowed outside throughout much of the country. Litha falls in the dry stifling heat of summer in the southern part of our land, but in the north, Litha falls in the hot, wet season, and represents fruitfulness. In Australia the Sturt Desert Pea is a sacred flower of this time. This is a time of ascendancy of the God, at his most powerful now, while the burgeoning Goddess brings forth the bounty of the Earth.
Find out more about Litha from Wikipedia and A Midsummer’s Celebration.
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Northern Hemisphere Date: August 1st
Also known as Lughnasadh or Lunasa.
Lammas is the “cross-quarter” day marking the first harvest of early grain, where the first loaf of the bread from the harvest is broken and shared in the name of the Goddess. All crops associated with grain and of the season are sacred to this time. Much festivity is coincident with Lammas in Australia, with Australia Day being marked on January 26. It is a time to reflect on the successes of the year and to reward yourself for jobs well done. Lammas magic can be magic of facing up to change. The God gives his energy to the crops to ensure life while the Goddess, as Mother, prepares to transform into her aspect as the Crone. The God loses his strength as the days grow shorter.
Find out more about Lammas from Wikipedia.
Find out more about Lughnasadh from Wikipedia, and about both from Lammas: The First Harvest
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Mabon (Autumn Equinox)
Northern Hemisphere Date: September (20-23)
Also known as Madron.
Mabon is a balancing point in the light and dark of the year, the day when the sun has equal hours in and out of the sky. It is also the second harvest. At this time food is prepared for storage, jams and pickles are made, and fruits are candied and preserved for the coming winter. Pagans celebrate this as a rite of Thanksgiving, a celebration of harvest abundance, an appreciation of hearth, home, and family. It is a time to reflect on what it means to be a Witch and re-affirm your commitment to the Craft. This is the time when the Goddess is mourning the God even though she carries him within her, to be born again at Yule.