What are Sacred celebrations ? When do Sacred celebrations occur? and Why do we celebrate Eight?
As we move through the seasons of the year and the turning cycle of nature there are key points that occur when something is changing or beginning/ending. Four of these key points are linked to astronomical occurrences and are called Solar Festivals. The other four intersperse them and are linked to events in the farming (livestock) year. These are called Agricultural Festivals or Cross-quarter days.
The four solar festivals occur on the two solstices; winter (the shortest day) and summer (the longest day), and the two equinoxes (the days when day/night are equal) which fall midway between the solstices.
The four agricultural festivals are interspersed between the solar festivals. Imbolc marking the very first signs of spring, Beltane marking the start of the summer when the cattle would be returned to the pastures, Lammas marking the first of the harvest and Samhain marking the last of the harvest and the beginning of the winter.
Our ancestors starting as hunter-gatherers, moving on to become pastoralists and then farmers were far more in tune with these changes within nature than we are living in our towns and cities and divorced from the real world. They lived ‘cheek by jowl’ with the natural world and their lives and survival depended upon their understanding of nature and the turning wheel of the seasons.
Out of this came came customs and practices, rituals and superstitions, things that had to be undertaken to ensure that life progressed smoothly and that; the Sun did return or the cattle were healthy, that the lands and the animals were fertile, that their houses and lives were protected, that the Gods/Goddesses or other spirits of nature were happy and would look favourably on them (some of these look downright weird to us today).
We know that our ancestors marked the four solar festivals, the two solstices and the two equinoxes because many of the stone circles and other stone monuments align with them. We also know that the four agricultural festivals were marked by the traditions and folk-lore that has been handed down to us. What we don’t know is whether at any given time any of our ancestors celebrated all eight of them.
What we do know is that this system is an amazingly effective way of staying in touch with the turning cycle of nature throughout the course of the year, allowing us to identify and connect with what is happening in the natural world.
These are our traditions, customs and practices and we need to keep them alive – after all we do not know what might happen if we don’t!!
Each celebration has its own page on which you will find all the information relevant to it.
For ideas on constructing your own celebration visit the relevant page – find out what it is all about, the history and beliefs surrounding it and the traditional customs & practices – select things that appeal to you and fit in with your lifestyle and put together your own unique version.
If you fancy making one of the traditional items you may find downloadle instructions on our Traditional Craft Instructables page.
So, exactly the same as to our ancient ancestors, it appears as if the Sun moves through our sky and has different positions (stations) at different times of the year, moving from rising in the North-East and setting in the North-West at the Summer Solstice, to the South-East and South-West at the Winter Solstice (in the Northern Hemisphere)