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Postby Horizon » 31 Mar 2013, 23:04

I ran across a webpage which offered the statement that Halloween was not necessarily celebrated on Oct 31/Nov 1st by ancient people...but rather at the first frost--when ever that might be. To me this makes a lot of sense--the day when the frost kills everything. I probably wouldn't call it first frost, but rather the first hard frost--the one that does actually kill crops and flowers.

For me, this would put Halloween somewhere in mid September. Might even be before the Autumn Equinox. At any rate--it would destroy the equal segments of time contained on the Wheel of the Year.

But now I am wondering....it really would be closer to nature for me to celebrate things when nature actually did them. Same for Beltane--said to be celebrated when the first Mayapple or Hawthorne blooms appeared. I'd probably be looking at late May, Mid June for this one.

Does anyone celebrate Halloween and Beltane on other than the usual dates assigned to them on the Wheel of the Year? I haven't looked into Lughnasa or Imbolc yet so not sure how those would work out with my climate...but the idea of first hard frost as the time of Halloween, when the killing frost might more bring forth a time when the veils are the thinnest between the worlds, versus a date on a calendar, seems quite appealing.

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Re: Halloween

Postby Ulchabhán » 01 Apr 2013, 09:34

I think that the strongest likelihood is that Samhain, Imbolc, Beltaine and Lughnasa fell at pretty regular dates throughout the year in ancient times. We know that there were likely significant gatherings on Samhain in early Ireland, which would have required organisation, travel to the location etc, thereby making a commonly known, specific date more likely. Also the modern dates we have for the festivals are not really that modern, very soon after Britain and Ireland adopted the Julian calendar (later to be replaced by the Gregorian one of today) the festivals were assigned their dates by people who had traditional knowledge of when they should be observed. Imbolc was placed on February the 1st in Ireland, and in England the weather lore that surrounds the Christian festival of Candlemas (February 2nd) demonstrates that quite universally this date (or these 2 dates) were considered the beginning of Spring and as such I believe it is very likely that the pre-Christian observations of Imbolc would have fallen quite closely around our 1st and 2nd of Feb. The same pattern can be seen with the Irish Beltaine and the British May Day. Or Lughnasa and Lammas, and Samhain and Halloween. (Actually the Julian Calendar to which these dates were originally assigned would make the festivals fall a couple of weeks later than our modern dates).

The current dates do quite beautifully mirror the climate and modern-day agricultural cycles of Britain and Ireland. The first spring flowers do appear around Imbolc. Summer crops are planted, and good warm long days do really begin to be felt in May. The wheat does ripen and is harvested from Lughnasa onwards (indeed this past year it was on Lughnasa day itself that the farmer near me harvested his wheat). Samhain does mark the end of the harvest season and the return of grazing animals down to winter pastures and the slaughter of some of them in readiness for the coming harsh, dark months. (Again this past year the livestock of my local farmer diminished considerably from the fields just before Samhain, send off to slaughter I presume.

The climate of countries around the world are not the same of course, and hence there is a reasoned case for people to observe these festivals at other times, that better reflect the natural cycles of the places in which they live. The beauty of these festivals is that they truly do connect you with the rhythms of the natural world, which I guess might not be quite the case if their observance does not fit the climatic realities of the place in which you live.

I would say there is an advantage for people to observe these festivals at the same time however, and that is it creates a sense of fellowship between people the world over.

I guess it's a question of balance ultimately, and each individual must do what feels right for them.

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Re: Halloween

Postby Gwion » 01 Apr 2013, 12:16

I’d say; do what works for you.

I’ve always found myself more moved by the “agricultural” cycle than the “astronomical” one and trying to force the former into an astronomical straightjacket is a mistake (for me). I’ve read that the combining of the two systems into the eight-festival Wheel of the Year appears to be a modern concept, possibly even originating from discussions between Ross Nichols and Gerald Gardner. If you only have four (agricultural) festivals, the danger of them overlapping or occurring out of sequence disappears and so does the need for absolute rigidity over dates.

As Ulchabhán says though, I also think it’s likely that, historically, they came to be held at, at least, partially pre-arranged times so that people could gather together. Perhaps they were arranged a bit like Easter (the first Sunday after the first full moon after the equinox). So perhaps Samhain might have been celebrated on the first full moon after the first hard frost etc.

I’d say if you’re celebrating alone, why not let Nature be your guide, if you’re joining others, look for consensus.

Disclaimer! This is a purely personal view and I have neither academic evidence nor teaching of recognised druid groups to support it.
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Re: Halloween

Postby Sciethe » 11 Dec 2014, 19:26

Hi Horizon, Gwion's right here:
I’d say; do what works for you. I’ve always found myself more moved by the “agricultural” cycle than the “astronomical” one and trying to force the former into an astronomical straightjacket is a mistake (for me).
I personally can't get on with the eightfold wheel, but I do use it as a sort of social calendar. I'm a gardener and I work with the seasons and the plants and trees; that is the way I celebrate my spirituality as well (and at the same time)- very often I don't know what the day or date is anyway. :blink:

First frost is certainly a very important moment.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him. For he is of the tribe of Tiger. Christopher Smart

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Re: Halloween

Postby xidia » 11 Dec 2014, 20:10

I also came across a theory that posited that a Celtic festival of the dead would likely have been held in late winter/early spring, to commemorate those who have gone before, particularly those who died in the winter just passed.

I was lucky enough to be outdoors over the couple of days when Summer became Autumn here, which was lovely to experience.

I do like the idea of marking the key climatic changes as and when they appear, rather than by the Fire Festivals, and treating the Wheel of the Year as a social calendar.

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