Before the advent of Christianity was Pagan worship. Paganism deals with the worship of nature. Pagans see the divine in all that is earthly. There is something divine in every living flora and fauna, man and woman, in the light as in the dark. Pagans are attuned to the seasons of nature, to life as much as in death.
It is a “religion” which is in a way connected with witchcraft. It is a polytheistic religion where there are gods and goddesses. Paganism is broad term that applies to Hinduism, Buddhism and Wicca. If the God of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam and Christianity) refers to an all Mighty God, the gods and goddesses of paganism refer to the deities that are from nature or nature itself – wind, rain, sun and moon. It also refers to the aspects to symbols of nature and human nature itself. The four ancient elements of pagan worship –earth, wind, fire and water – are also the elements involved in other ancient practices such as geomancy and feng shui.
To date the most popular neo-pagan religion is Wicca. It is primarily a spiritual religion that is largely based on the pre-Christian cults from Europe. Its main thrust is that there is a divine force that is the source of all powers.
There are eight major pagan festivals celebrated by Wiccans and other pagans. Yes, just like other religions, they have a set of religious festivals that they observe and celebrate.
Yule is from December 20-23 or coincides with the winter solstice which is the longest night of the year which is also the point when the days will be longer than the night as spring draws near. It is a celebration of the Goddess worship where she gives birth to the divine sun child who shall eventually be the lover and father of the next child in the cycle. This is the time to exchange gifts and eat and be merry. The Christian practice of Christmas was actually this holiday. In the quest to convert pagans to Christianity, Christmas was moved to this time during the Byzantine era.
Candlemas or Brigid’s Day is celebrated by the Wiccans on February 2. Brigid is the symbol of fertility and femininity who happens to also be the Celtic goddess of fire and inspiration as in healing and poetry. The Celtics were very much into Brigid that the Catholic church of that time assimilated Saint Brigit into their roster of saints so that her pagan followers would not be part of the druids. The druids lost their hold on when Catholic warrior, Saint Patrick, drove the snake-taming druids away.
Eostar Ritual is held on March 20-23 during the spring equinox. This is the spring festival as observed by Wiccans and Celtics as they praise their gods and goddesses for the coming of spring. It is a very colorful holiday where feasting and socializing with fellow believers are important. It is interesting to note that this is the also when the Christian Lent is observed.
Beltane which is celebrated on April 30 to May 1 is a very important pagan holiday. This is the day when the god and goddess unite for the conception of the sun-child. This is pagan holiday not modified by the Roman Catholics because of the very nature of the celebration. However, the concept is still unknowingly practiced during this time because of the Maypole. The pole serves as the phallic symbol while the vines of flowers represent the womb. This is that one holiday where the practice of sexual orgy is observed. Participants are encouraged to act on their own physical union with their loves ones. Clothes are optional. It is the time to get “drunk” on love, food and drink. It is a pass for “free love” and many marriages are observed during Beltane. It is their belief that a child conceived on this day will have great power.
Litha is the summer solstice held from June 20-23. It is the longest day of the year and is a celebration of the triumph of light over darkness. Wiccans don colorful clothes and beautiful flowers.
Lughnasad is celebrated on August 1. This is the Wiccan celebration of the corn ritual which is in a way a thanksgiving celebration for a good harvest. Some pagans see this as the day to bake bread and cake for the coming winter.
Mabon is the fall equinox that falls from September 20-23 dependant on the actual astronomical reading. This is not a largely celebrated holiday. It deals with the weaving or braiding of cords to cast spells and wishes they want in their lives.
Samhain is Halloween day, October 31. Wiccans believe that this is the time of the year when the gates between the worlds are not guarded as tight so that dimensional openings and “magic” are at its peak. It marks the death of the year king and thus should be observed as a somber holiday.
Suggested News Resources
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