The Hedge – The eight festivals and their corresponding times

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The eight festivals and their corresponding times are:
• Samhain – sunset of 31st October to sunset 1st November. If
working by the moon, it is the first full moon when the sun is in
Scorpio. If working by the natural landscape, it is when the first
frosts bite. Samhain was termed the Celtic New Year, as it marked
the ending of one cycle and the beginning of another. The Celts
reckoned their days from sunset to sunset, and so the start of the
year would begin in the dark time at the beginning of winter.
Samhain marked the first day of winter.
• Winter Solstice – falling sometime between 20th to 22nd
December, can change year upon year. Marks the midway point of
Celtic winter, hence often called Mid-Winter Solstice. It is the time
of the longest night and shortest day. Three days after this solstice,
the sun begins to rise and set further north on the horizon. It was a
time of celebration at the returning of the light, and the
lengthening days.
• Imbolc – sunset of 31st January to sunset 1st February. If working
by the moon, it is the first full moon when the sun is in Aquarius. If
working by the natural landscape, it is when the ewes begin to
lactate as the lambing season begins, or when the first snowdrops
appear. Imbolc was an important time, for it heralded the first
signs of the end of winter. Fresh milk was now available to
supplant the meagre and dwindling winter stores, so fresh butter
and cheeses could keep the community going until other food
became available.
• Spring Equinox – falling sometime between 20th to 22nd March,
can change year upon year. Marks the time when the days become
longer than the nights. It is a time when nature starts to show her
bounty, as daffodils bloom, nettles become proficient once again,
and wild food begins to appear once more in the hedgerows. Fields
were sown around this time.
• Beltane – sunset of 30th April to sunset 1st May. If working by the
moon, it is the first full moon when the sun is in Taurus. If working
by the natural landscape, it is when the hawthorn tree comes into
bloom. This marked the beginning of summer for the Celts, when
cattle were taken from their winter lodging and into their summer
pastures, often cited as being driven between two bonfires for
purification (and to get rid of fleas, ticks and other nasties). It was
a time of fertility, when the fields began to show their bounty, and
gatherings and festivals were held in honour of many courtships.
• Summer Solstice – 20th to 22nd of June can change year upon
year. Marks the mid-point of summer in the Celtic calendar, hence
often called Mid-Summer. It is the time of the longest day and the
shortest night. Three days after this solstice, the sun begins to rise
and set further south on the horizon. It was a celebration of the
greatest light, and a reflection on the coming autumn and winter.
• Lughnasadh – sunset of 31st July to 1st August. If working by the
moon, it is the first full moon when the sun is in Leo. If working by
the natural landscape, it is when the first crop of wheat is
harvested. This often marked the beginning of the harvest season,
and can be viewed as the beginning of autumn. Many myths and
folklore surround the harvesting of the first crop, such as keeping
the last sheaf and making a corn dolly to ensure the blessing of
fertility for a good crop in the following year.
• Autumn Equinox – falling sometime between 20th and 22nd
September, can change year upon year. Marks the time when the
nights become longer than the days, and we shift into the winding
down of the year. Often called Harvest Home in the UK, many
local parishes still celebrate this with community gatherings. More
crops are being taken in, and the sounds of the combine harvester
can be heard long into the night.
This is a brief overview of the eight festivals. The Hedge Druid’s Craft is
mainly based on locality, and so to see the changing of the seasons in
relation to the eight festivals is a great way to keep in tune with nature
and her wonder. For those who don’t live in the countryside, having
these times marked can remind us of what our ancestors celebrated, and
what is happening beyond the confines of human urbanisation.