Celtic Festival

The Celtic wheel of the year

For information on the Celtic Festivals that make up the Wheel of the Year, scroll down the page.

Spring Equinox – Spring quarter point, Wednesday 20th March

This is officially the first day of Spring, marked by a day and night of equal length. This is the festival of balance between all sorts of opposites: day and night, light and dark, the inner and the outer world, active fire energy with the passive water energy of the unconscious. At the Spring Equinox, we can think about how to achieve this balance within ourselves which will help us to change and move forward in new ways

This is the time of the Christian Easter, which overlays a much more ancient festival honouring Oestre, the goddess of light who brings fertility (her name is based on the word oestrus, which is the fertile time in an animal’s cycle). Although this connection has been replaced with the theme of rebirth and resurrection, the concept of fertility still remains in the symbol of the egg which represents potential life and promise for the future. Working to the old lunar calendar, Easter is timed for the first Sunday after the first full moon of the Spring Equinox.

In pagan tradition, the Spring Equinox celebrates the union of the Spring maiden with the sexually potent young male which brings fertility to the whole of nature. On a personal level, we can think about balancing the male and female energy within ourselves – joining the energy and power of the rational conscious mind with the energy and power of our intuition and inner wisdom. In this way, we can all manifest new life on many different levels as the dragon in the earth and in us wakes up.

Spring Equinox energy

All around you nature is waking up and coming to life as the sun grows warmer, encouraging the Spring flowers and the early blossoms on the trees. You can now throw off the limitations of the cold Winter and go for what you want. Be a little wild and reckless like the weather, take risks and celebrate your life as you make things happen. Start a new project, take a trip or make plans for the rest of the year – earth’s energy is balanced now and ready to spark into new life.

How to celebrate

Meet up with some friends for a shared breakfast before venturing out into the most wild and powerful place you can find. Take dowsing rods or pendulums with you and see if you can trace any earth energy paths. Spend some time meditating with the trees, just leaning with your back against the trunks and sensing the powerful life force and spirit within them. Everywhere you look, notice the signs of new Spring life and celebrate the end of Winter.

With thanks to Glennie Kindred for her excellent source book Sacred Celebrations.

Celtic wheel of the year

In this modern age of city living and science-ruled society, many of us have lost touch with the ebb and flow of the seasons and our place in the natural world. The Celtic festivals remind us of our closeness to nature and help us celebrate our connection with all living things, inspired by the turning of the seasons reflected on the changing face of the land. Some of these Celtic festivals are still honoured today – although often without recognising their true origins.

There are eight Celtic festivals marking our cycle through the wheel of the year (the most current one is described at the top of this page):

Samhain – Autumn cross quarter festival, end of October/beginning of November

Winter solstice – Winter quarter point, 20 to 23 December

Imbolc – Winter cross quarter festival, 1st/2nd February

Spring equinox – Spring quarter point, 21 – 22 March

Beltane – Spring cross quarter festival, end of April/beginning of May

Summer solstice – Summer quarter point, 20 to 23 June

Lammas (Lughnasadh) – Summer cross quarter festival, end July/beginning August

Autumn equinox – Autumn quarter point, 20 – 23 September

Samhain – Autumn cross quarter festival, end of October/beginning of November

The winter solstice marks the shortest day and the longest night, when the Celts acknowledged the great turning wheel of the year and of time itself (yule actually means wheel in Norwegian). The winter solstice was a time to pause and look back at the dark period since Samhain when the earth and its people had turned inward to gather energy and nurture dreams, and to look forward to the approaching return of the sun and a new season of activity.

The Celts did not view time in a linear way. The solstice was another station on the wheel of life – a part of the endless cycle of birth, death and then re-birth of something new. They decorated their homes with evergreens which represented this cycle of everlasting life – Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe which still have their place in Christmas celebrations today. Yule logs, candles, decorated trees and presents all have their roots in this ancient honouring of the sun’s return, bringing with it a new season of light, warmth and activity. The church deliberately chose this time of year to celebrate the arrival of its own Son!

In many cultures there are myths of sun gods and, further back, goddesses, who are born at this time, sacrificed or taken into the underworld with the end of the summer, and reborn to begin the cycle again at the winter solstice. This is the sun’s birthday!