WYCHMERE SEED GROUP
EVENTS & ACTIVITIES
Modern Druids observe an eightfold cycle of festivals called the Wheel of the Year, which combines the four major solar events (solstices and equinoxes) with four "lunar" cross-quarter holidays that correspond with seasonal shifts and agricultural events in Old Europe. This cycle creates an opportunity every six weeks to tune into the magic and power of the seasons by engaging in ritual activities that orient us with the rhythms of nature. The eight holidays celebrated within Druidry include:
ALBAN EILIRLate March; also called the Spring Equinox, Ostara, or Lady Day
Alban Eilir is the Druid festival held at the Spring Equinox, whose name translates to The Light of the Earth. This is the time when those initial stirrings of Spring have given way to more overt signs of nature's budding fertility - symbols of eggs, rabbits, chicks, and flowers abound even in popular culture. In Druid tradition, the Spring Equinox is a time to remove the cloak of introversion that has nurtured us through the Winter months and step into the action demanded by the fertile and sun-filled portion of the year, as daylight begins to triumph over darkness. Just as we prepare our garden beds to take seed, so too do we determine which traits we wish to cultivate in our minds, bodies, souls, and communities in the year to come.
BELTAINEEarly May; also called May Day, Roodmas, Floralia, Calan Mai, or Walpurgisnacht
Beltaine is the cross-quarter day between the Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice and was traditionally considered the first day of Summer in Celtic lands. A celebration of the wild abandon of nature, Beltaine has historically been celebrated with huge bonfires, dancing (especially around a maypole or other phallic symbol), relaxed sexual mores, and setting aside inhibitions to indulge in passions of all kinds. In Druid tradition, Beltaine is a time to celebrate the abundance and procreative potential that comes from union, whether between the Earth and the Sun, or between lovers - personified as the Greenman and the May Queen in our rites.
ALBAN HEFINLate June; also called the Summer Solstice, Litha, Midsummer, or Alban Heruin
Alban Hefin is the Druid festival held at the Summer Solstice, during the high point of the Sun's power and the longest day of the year, when the land around us revels in the colorful and fragrant splendor of Earth's ripening. The name of the festival translates to The Light of Summer. Opposite the Winter Solstice on the Wheel of the Year, the Summer Solstice marks the transition when the growing light will slowly begin to fade. Just as the Sun King (represented by Oak) steps into power at Midwinter, now at Midsummer his counterpart, the Holly Queen/King, ushers us back toward their dark, wintry domain. But before the coming dark becomes apparent, we meet to rejoice in the height of the Sun's glory.
LUNASAEarly August; also called Lughnasadh, Lunasdal, or Lammas
Lunasa is the cross-quarter day between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox, and is considered the first of the three harvest festivals. The Sun's warmth and strength have matured the growing food crops, so that by now the first fruits of harvest appear. The festival celebrates these preliminary signs of a successful partnership between the Sun and the Earth. The theme of sacrifice is central to our ceremonies, and the spirit of the grain harvest (personified as John Barleycorn) willingly succumbs to his sacrificial death. His life will feed the people through the Winter, and is it this surrender that we honor at Lunasa.
ALBAN ELFEDLate September; also called the Autumn Equinox, Mabon, or Harvest Home
Alban Elfed is the Druid festival held at the Autumn Equinox, and is the modern pagan ritual of Thanksgiving, marking the second and most abundant of the year's harvests. The name of the festival translates to The Light of the Water, which relates to one of the Mysteries of the Druid Tradition. This is a moment of pause, a time of balance and equilibrium. We stand on a precipice, aware that after the richness of this festival we will knowingly plunge into the dark depths of Winter and turn again towards introversion. But now, in a moment of peace and stillness, we honor the fruits of our labor, harmonize to the balance of the Wheel, and enjoy the sweet abundance of the land and community that sustains us.
SAMHAINEarly November; also called All Hallow's Eve, Hallowe'en, or the Feast of the Dead
Samhain (SAH-wenn) is the cross-quarter point between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice, and was considered the beginning of Winter in Celtic lands. Samhain is seen as a liminal time when the boundary between the world of the living and the world of the dead (sometimes called Faerie or the Otherworld) can be more easily crossed, either literally or in our hearts and minds. At Samhain, we acknowledge the necessity of death and endings in the perpetuation of the cycles of life and creativity, and pay tribute to our beloved dead and Ancestors with offerings, feasts, and memorials in their honor.
ALBAN ARTHANLate December; also called the Winter Solstice, Yule, Mother's Night, or Saturnalia
Alban Arthan is the festival held at the Winter Solstice in the Druid tradition. The name derives from the writings of Iolo Morganwg, the 18th century radical Welsh poet whose writings and research were highly influential on the Druid Revival movement. Alban Arthan translates to The Light of Arthur (the legendary king who dies and is reborn) or The Light of the Bear, whose constellation rules over the Winter portion of the annual seasonal cycle. The reversal of the Sun's ebbing presence in the sky symbolizes the rebirth of the solar god and presages the return of the fertile seasons. Sacrificial offerings, feasting, gift giving, guising, evergreening, and the suspension of normal modes of conduct and civility have been common elements of this festival through the ages.
IMBOLCEarly February; also called Imbolg, Oimelc, Candlemas, or Saint Brighid's Day
Imbolc is the cross-quarter day between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox and traditionally marks the first stirrings of Spring, when snowdrops may appear and the growing strength of the Sun becomes apparent. For modern Druids, Imbolc is a celebration of the Goddess of Creation, known in Celtic lands as Brighid or Bride, who both fashions life out of her body and inspires the creativity of craftsmen, healers, and poets. The image of fire or candles rising from water in our Imbolc ceremonies represents the fire of inspiration lit within the sacred waters of the Great Mother who is the source of all life.