The Eight High Days
My personal traditions celebrate 4 major Holidays in my own personal traditions and a few lesser Holidays. ADF Policies indicate that a Grove will honor at least 8 High Days to maintain their charter. It does not however mandate that these feasts are celebrated according to nor in conjunction with the General Neopagan Wheel of the year. It merely specifies at least 8. These are adapted to suit whatever Hearth Culture a person or Grove is dedicated to. So, in place of Yule, a Roman ADF'er could celebrate Saturnalia in place of Yule. Below I've compiled the Holidays celebrated within my own Hearth Culture(Celtic, and particularly Gaulish/Brythonic Celtic) and my own understandings of the meanings of each.
1.Samonios/Samhain-Oct. 31st-Nov. 2
Samonios is the Feast of the Dead and a time to honor the Ancestors. It heralds the Darkening of the World and a plunge into the Cold grip of Winter. It is a time for Culling the Herd Sacrificing and utilizing the livestock that would not survive the Winter.It is the Final Harvest when the last stalks are cut and stored, as those that are left uncut and unharvested are considered to be unclean. This is the new year, the beginning of the First month of the Celtic Calendar and On the liminal night between which the Old Year Ends and the New Year begins, the veil between this world and that of the Dead is considered to be at it's thinnest. It is customary to leave a plate of food that night for the Spirits of the Dead.
Winter Solstice/Otherworld Feast-Dec. 21st
This is actually a Celtic Mythical Feast which John Matthews makes claims was commemorated by the Celts around the Winter Solstice. Whilst I am not entirely sure as to the Historical Accuracy of this, it seems a good time for it as the Final Harvest is over and the Food Stores are at their fullest. The Otherworld Feast was hosted in Irish Myth by Goibhniu the Smith of the Gods. He was actually a Triad with Luchta and Creidhne, also Craftsman Gods. He is found in Gaul under the name Gobannus and in Wales as Govannon. It was said that at this feast was served a pig that regenerated itself each time it was consumed and Goibhniu had brewed a special ale that conferred immortality to its drinkers. I've invented a feast of my own to commemorate this mythical scene, with Gobannus as the guest of honor. It would seem appropriate to serve Ale to the participants and delve into exactly what type of Immortality can be conferred on this mortal plane. It would also seem appropriate to include Pork in this feast as a symbol of plenty and to commemorate the magical pig served by the Smith God.
Imbolc-Feb. 1-Feb. 2nd
Imbolc is a celebration that was not on a set calendrical date when celebrated by our Celtic Ancestors. However,the Christianized Celebration of St. Brigid (a Baptized version of Brighid, a Celtic Pagan Goddess) was placed on February 1st or 2nd and this is the date adopted by the vast majority of Neopagans who celebrate Imbolc. The original celebration would coincide with the lactation of the ewes. Brighid was a Goddess connected to the Hearth, Healing, Fire, Wells, Fertility and Household Crafts. She appears all throughout Celtic lands under various guises. In Britain, Brigantia, in Gaul , Brigindo. Brigantia's Fire is primarily that of the Head and of the Hearth. This is a Celebration of the Home and the Family that dwells within. It is a celebration of the Fire that burns and serves to protect that family from the cold. It is a celebration of Hope, of Brigantia as a light in the Darkness. A Beaconing that Hails the renewed warmth and fertility of the Land. This is a traditional time to get that spring cleaning done. Perhaps to tidy up the home for a visit from Brigantia herself. The making of a Bridie Doll is another traditional Imbolc pastime. The Bridie Doll is a Doll fashioned from Straw. Another Straw effigy is that of Brighids Cross which is placed around the Fireplace or in the Kitchen to protect the home from Fire and Lightening.Bridies Bed should then be Fashioned from loose straw placed inside a Basket and the Doll should be placed inside. This is done to invoke fertility and bring back Life and Light to the Land. Remember also that this is a feast to celebrate the Hearth and Family so, Its a time to focus on those who matter to us most: Our Families.
Spring Equinox-March 21
This is a Festival that is generally celebrated by the Neopagan Community, however it bears no real precedent within Celtic Paganism outside of the various adaptations of more general Neopagan celebrations within the various Druidic Organizations. I have friends of more Germanic/Norse leanings who celebrate a Goddess by the name of Eostre about this time. In the agricultural year, It is a time to start planting for the new growing season. So planting will be the main theme I will discuss. It would seem then appropriate to start sowing seeds in a literal sense if you live on a farm. But for most of us, this is simply not applicable to us. So what then would be appropriate for us who live in the cities? Well, literal seeds are not the only seeds that can be sowed. I am referring to ideas for the trials and events that fall ahead. What "seeds" do we want to plant within our lives? It would be likely that Spring was also a time to start planning for the growing season amongst all our Ancestors, not just the Norse. So that then would be the focus at this time of year. I tend to utilize this time if I can to be among my friends within ADF even though this may not be a major celebration for me personally.
Beltane is one of the Four Celtic Fire Festivals along with Samhain, Imbolc and Lughnasadh. In this particular Feast. The Fire in question is that of the Sun. Particularly of the Sun-God Belenos. Belenos, along with other Celtic Divinities translated into Apollo by the Romans is also connected to Thermal Springs. The Union of Fire and Water in Celtic Theology is the Spark of Creation. In Irish myth, The original pair of Deities from whom the Gods sprang was Danu and Bile or Bel....or rather the Goddess of the River Danube(Danuvia) and Belenos. Belenos is thus the Fire of Creation and a God of Healing springs. This is significant in the Beltane celebration because Beltane translates from the Celtic Bele(Shining) and Tennos(Fire). So here we are honoring the Healing and Fertile Fires of Bel. The Spark of passion between lovers and the Creativity this represents. Also, the Healings Thermal Waters from that Cauldron of Creation that spill onto the land and renew its own Spark of passion and brings back the lush green of the fields and forests are honored at Beltane. Like Samhain with which the Celtic year began, Beltane is a time when the veil that separates the worlds is thin, as we are in a liminal time between the Light and Dark half of the year when the Light defeats the Darkness.
Feast of Epona/Summer Solstice-June 21
Ive found two different dates for this celebration. Ive chosent this one for practicalities sake as opposed to Historical Accuracy. And also because of the fact that the other date was likely a Roman Innovation. In all honesty, the only traditions I am aware of concerning this Deity is the placing of a Garland of roses in the barn. Epona is the Horse Goddess and the wreath is offered to Her that she might bring her blessings and protection to the Home , Family and their Horses, Mules and Asses. She is also a Fertility Goddess, The most obvious feature of this Holiday is the blistering but radiant Sun that shines above us. And so I also honor the Sun itself upon this day.
Lughnasadh on the Celtic Calendar is a celebration of the Second Harvest. There is a deep kinship between Lugus and the Goddess of the Land as Lugh is the God of Kings. And under his guidance, the land was fertile and the Harvest was reaped. The Grain Grew High to be Cut down and to grow High Again in the Future.Lugus loves games and on this day it is traditional to hold games in his honor.. Also, the burning of the Wickerman is a commonly accepted Modern Neopagan Custom. Faeasting and Baking is also traditional.
Autumnal Equinox-Sept. 21
The Autumnal Eqinox, like the Spring Equinox has no major relevance in Celtic Paganism. However, like the Spring Equinox, the Autumnal Equinox aka The Second Harvest can be a great time to fellowship. Three Cranes Grove, ADF has had a significant impact on my spiritual life and It was on this High Day that The Grove was formed. This is the Anniversary of the locally based community that Three Cranes created. On this day, they honor Teutates, the God of the Folk and Protector of the Tribe. It was this day that with His guidance, a tribe came together and had their first public ritual. Myself, I just like to eat. And it is the First Harvest, a time to share in Natures Bounty and to reap what was sown in the Spring.