THE CELTIC YEAR

The following page details an eight-fold wheel of the year, which is made up of four “Earth Feasts” and four “Solar Feasts”. This is the spiritual year I personally subscribe to at this moment in time. It is important to note that not all Celtic Reconstructionist celebrate all of these holidays. In short, some may celebrate only those which have been shown by the Coligny Calendar. It is up to one’s research and personal preferences as to which are celebrated.

My personal reasoning for celebrating an eight-fold year is best described by Alexei Kondratiev in the following quote:

“The solar feasts- the solstices and equinoxes- may or may not appear in the Coligny Calendar (which is perhaps, as we have seen, a late synthesis of ideas from various sources), but in tradition they are clearly secondary to the earth feasts, and may not be an ancient part of the Celtic Heritage at all. Some purists maintain that only earth feasts should be commemorated in a Celtic context, since the rituals associated with the solar feasts are almost always made up of material related to the nearest earth feast, usually carried forward in time. But the fact remains that most Celtic-language communities have given the solar feasts a place in their ritual Year; so that, whatever their historical origin may be, they have become a part of Celtic tradition “

Celtic Rituals: An Authentic Guide to Ancient Celtic Spirituality

So we must keep in mind that the Earth Feasts hold higher spiritual and historical importance, while the Solar Feasts may be practiced due to personal or community importance. Solar Feasts should also not be seen as equal and precise cross-quarter days, as practised in other neo-pagan religions. It is a very interesting topic but I won’t go into further detail here.

One important aspect of the Celtic ritual year is the duality of light and dark, or Samos and Gaimos. This duality is prominent in all things, throughout the whole year. However, for the ritual year, the Samos-half is considered to reign from the beginning of Bealltainn to Samhain, and the Gaimos-half is considered to reign from the Beginning of Samhain to Bealltainn.

Once again, this page is by no means an in-depth look at the Celtic year and I hope to further discuss everything later and update this page as I continue my education. I just want a place where all the holidays are summarized!

Let’s dive in! (all holiday names will be in Gàidhlig (Scottish Gaelic)

Samhain

  • Date: Approximately October 31-Nov 1
  • Type: Earth Feast
  • Importance: Marks the beginning of a new year, the end of the samos-half of the year, the end of the agricultural cycle
  • Themes: Renewal, hospitality for the dead, trickery and disguise, timelessness, sacrifice
  • Activities: honouring ancestors and family who have passed, letting go of old or bad habits, divination, bonfires, a great feast

Winter Solstice “Grian-Stad An Geamhraidh”

  • Date: Approximately December 21
  • Type: Solar Feast
  • Importance: The observance of the darkest day of the year
  • Themes: darkness and light, being in the depths of the gaimos-half of the year,
  • Activities: burning of the yule log, a great feast, general themes you see in Christmas minus the uniquely christian elements and the commercialism

Imbolc

  • Date: Approximately February 1-2
  • Type: Earth Feast
  • Importance: Marks the mid-point of the gaimos-half of the year,
  • Themes: Winter is “pregnant” with summer, returning of fertility, awakening of life, moving toward light
  • Activities: Brighid worship, purification, lighting candles or bonfires to encourage the sun

Spring Equinox “Co-Fhad-Thràth An Earraich”*

  • Date: Approximately March 21
  • Type: Solar Feast
  • Importance: gaimos is weakening, samos is growing stronger
  • Themes: fertility, renewal, waking of the “sleeping sun”
  • Activities: egg painting, working with flowers

*The Spring Equinox is the only ritual/day which has little evidence of having any special significance to the ancient Celts.

Bealltainn

  • Date: Approximately May 1
  • Type: Earth Feast
  • Importance: The beginning of the samos-half of the year
  • Themes: Light, energy, youth, purification, healing, fertility and death
  • Activities: bonfires, sun worship, decorating with flowers and greenery, purification by fire or water, making rowan equal-armed crosses, a great feast

Summer Solstice “Grian-Stad An T-Samhraidh”

  • Date: Approximately June 21
  • Type: Solar Feast
  • Importance: The observance of the longest day of the year, the climax of samos energy
  • Themes: preserving light and energy, preparation of the harvest, healing, protecting and nourishing growth (of crops)
  • Activities: gathering of medicinal herbs, bonfires, divination

Lùnastal

  • Date: Approximately August 1
  • Type: Earth Feast
  • Importance: The Harvest, the beginning of the summer heat fading
  • Themes: Lugh’s reign, harvesting the fruits of the samos half of the year , fertility magic, strengthening tribe and community
  • Activities: Lugh worship, burial of flowers, honouring and enjoyment of the first fruits of the harvest, visiting of holy wells, horse racing, making corn dollies, spending time with family and community, weddings

Fall Equinox “Co-Fhad-Thràth An Fhoghair”

  • Date: Approximately September 21
  • Type: Solar Feast
  • Importance: End of the main Harvest, balance between night and day, gaimos energy regaining its strength
  • Themes: inward reflection, preserving the earths fertility, balance, encroaching darkness,
  • Activities: communal feast, collecting and harvesting, preparing for the cold days ahead, spending time with family