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.

Autumn equinox – Autumn quarter point, Wednesday 22nd September

The autumn equinox is the herald of winter – a time to celebrate the harvests and accomplishments of summer and make plans for the coming winter season. The Celts celebrated Dragon Day at the Autumn equinox, when the dragon went underground for the winter, and they invoked him to carry fire energy into the realms within. The dragon is an ancient elemental energy symbol that represents earth energy, fire, courage and regeneration – the treasures of the soul that you’ll need to take with you on your journey into the dark inner realms of winter.

Autumn equinox energy

Nature shows the way for us to be at this time. As the trees and plants withdraw their sap deep inside themselves, you should also withdraw into the dark womb of the spiritual world. This is a time for you to rest, sleep and be renewed, a time to get in touch with your power, strength and inner focus and wisdom. Plant and nurture your ideas and plans in the unconscious now, so that they can blossom in the Spring.

The double spiral is the symbol of the Autumn equinox, representing the point of balance between the inner and outer worlds, the importance of the inner as well as the outer journey. Balance and reconcile the opposites now, night with day and dark with light, because they are part of the whole. We need both sides to be balanced and whole: seen and unseen, known and unknown, creation and destruction, death and rebirth, materialism and spirituality.

Be thankful for the blessings and gifts you have been given since the Spring and welcome the return of the dark energy, the power within. Rest, re-charge and connect to your spiritual path, and let the eternal cycle of change bring renewal and new opportunities to explore and understand yourself.

How to celebrate

Hold a harvest feast for friends and family – ask each guest to bring food or drink they have made, using as much natural earth produce as they can. Light lots of candles and celebrate the good things the year has brought you so far.

Make a talking stick which can be passed around the table for each guest to give thanks for something they have personally appreciated – the person holding the stick is the only one who can talk and they cannot be interrupted! Cut or find a stick about 40 to 60cms long and decorate it in your own individual style. You can strip the bark and oil the exposed wood, or try wrapping coloured thread around it, tying on bells, shells, stones or feathers, or even carving patterns or symbols on it.

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!