Wednesday, February 2, 2011

UNDERSTANDING QUARTER DAYS

Quarter Days of Samhain, Bealtaine, Imbolc, and Lughnassadh, are determined by the position of the sun.  Samhain is when the sun reaches 15 degrees of Scorpio, astrologically.  Bealtaine is 15 degrees of Taurus; Lughnassadh at 15 degrees of Leo, and Imbolc at 15 degrees of Aquarius.

The Druids measured a day from sunset to sunset.  That is why the descendants of the Quarter Days (appropriated and bastardised by the Roman Catholic Church), like Halloween, are "Eves."

The Druidic year was begun during the fallow time, at Samhain, after the harvest, during the twilight of the sun's cycle, and before the Winter solstice- the "dawn" of the year.

Samhain was the Druidic New Year. In fact, the two halves the year were named for the Greater Quarter Days, Samhain and Bealtaine. (In Irish the months of November and May retain those names.)


Why all of the pagan journals and almanacks cite the fixed dates of the Catholic Church-- or worse, this strange "lunar" attachment if there is a new or full moon near the date that year-- is troublesome to me.

For the most part it is not some sort of trickery to keep non-magickal folks from practicing on the "right" days.  It would be romantic to think so.  It is that simply not enough revivalists like Gardner studied astrology. 

Also, formerly human spirits will follow what the living are doing.  So while the doorway between the worlds opens naturally on November 7th, if all the witches are doing their thing on the 31st, of course their peeps on the other side are going to show up.

But if you tune in, you can feel it.  It is unmistakeable.

As far as what the days themselves mean, or why they exist, my theories follow.

The Druids were functioning during a time when humans were mapping out the coming and going of the spirits between the worlds.  Human spirits that inhabited this planet before, or were about to inhabit it again, and also the spirits of other life, and other dimensions and worlds. 

I am writing this during a snowstorm in 2011 A.D. or C.E.*  The average, working class American has ten thousand times the magick available to him or herself than all the Druids of all the ages combined.

During the time of the Druids people were more isolated, and did not command this world as we do now- with our heating and internet and Jimmy Choo shoes.  Also, they were much more vitally interested in basic survival.

I believe that then, even for the Druids (and all of the other Shamans and WiseMedicinePersons, Healers, etc), most of the communication with the other side took place during these naturally occuring "open doorways".

I believe the Fire Festivals were categorised in this way, and probably only shared these most basic attributes with each observance from tribe to tribe, and region to region.

The tribes named "Keltoi" by the Greeks were not necessarily agricultural.  They were herders and metallworkers, and raiders and thieves.  (A Celtic tribe invaded and occupied Rome in 387 B.C. or B.C.E.*).

They were eventually nomadic, no matter how long a tribe might linger, during the time of the Druids, before the end of the world came for "Celts" a shared language/religion/political structure, on Ireland's west coast, and with the Catholic Church.

I mention this because much current tradition blends an Anglo-Saxon agricultural cycle with this nomadic herder cycle of the Druids.

Not all of my beliefs and ritual observance is based on academics, but it is not all meditation and contemplation, either.  Nor is it really based on a current traditions, although the popular Wicca and Cousins (1734, ADF, etc) are what introduced me.

Samhain: The New Year, began at sunset, and fallow til the winter solstice.  When the spirits of the dead return.  A night for Divination and prescience.

And for feeling the empty space left by all those people, things, and places that had passed on that year. To see them on the other side, in their new world, and bid them farewell from this one.

The yearly slaughter and thinning of the herds would have taken place at this time.

The great-grandfather of the modern-day Halloween.

Imbolc: First Milk, and First Shadow.  The winter foals would bring fresh milk, especially welcome during hard winters.  And in the firelight, and then again at sunrise, the Priests would look ahead to see how much longer winter would be, and how cold, and how the ancestors would advise to see them through.

Bealtaine: The bright twin of Samhain.  Out into the newly abundant fields and breed! The spirits of the new are coming into the world! What is about to be concieved, born, celebrated! The wonderful summer days and nights are coming! And out in the fields with the herds, and with your family, and your sweetheart!

A day for celebration, marriages, dancing around the maypole- literally and figuratively!

A modern day Pagan saying, that is an example of the use of the fixed date for May Day, but that I like, is: "Hey, hey, it's the First of May! Outdoor fucking begins today!"  I substitue "First of May" for "the Day of May" or "Bealtaine Day" (be-all-tin-nah).

Lughnassadh: I believe this exact day would not have been marked except by Druids creating brides for Gods, or making enough Glamour to last through a long winter, or even re-animating a decapitated head (which they certainly believed could happen spontaneously). 

I believe at some point near this time there would have been a small feast day to gather strength for the coming shearing, smithing, and harvest; or the last raids, or expeditions to trade for wine.

This is a wonderful feast day from a modern day Wicca, and/or Anglo-Saxon agricultural perspective.  For the "First Harvest" and the "First Loaves".

Please feel free to share this, or to respond with any information either to the contrary or in agreement.  I feel the entire magickal community would be stronger if we returned to the solar origins of the Feast Days.

L.A. Lady Rae
laladyrae@gmail.com

* "BCE" Before Current Era, and "CE" Current Era, are in many circles replacing "BC" Before Christ, and "AD" Anno Domini (Year of Our Lord in Latin).

IMBOLC 2011

Imbolc, The Feast of First Milk from the winter born lambs, and the greater of the lesser two Quarter Days, occurs when the sun reaches 15 degrees of Aquarius. This does not happen on Groundhog Day or Candlemas anymore.

This year Imbolc occurs from twilight on the (EDIT) 3rd to twilight on the 4th of February.

(I had originally posted the night of the 4th, which is incorrect.)

L.A. Lady Rae
laladyrae@gmail.com