Pagan Holidays. There are few things as precious as getting to know your neighbors and building friendships over the cycles of the seasons. In addition, we could all benefit from putting in just three hours per week volunteering for the good of others with no monetary benefit to ourselves. These are tough times. We are often distracted and kept from practicing the rites that have come down through the ages. Perhaps it is more important now, than ever before, to get in the habit of sharing the seasonal markers with the family and friends that we find nearby. These rites and rituals have worked to keep us aware of the coming and going of the seasons, the various growth cycles and seasonal adjustments that must be made to appreciate and change with the seasons. Communities are what we make them and once you have experienced the cycle of Pagan celebrations, leaving them out of the cycle of the seasons seems like a hollow process. there is a rich tradition that can be rediscovered easily with a bit of study and a commitment to honoring the cycle of the seasons.
One of the easiest "tours" that one can take is to recreate a calendar that fits more precisely the time signature of life. I am still contemplating whether either aspect of the Pagan calendar is more important, the cycles of the Earth around the Sun, or the Moon through it's own phases. It is interesting that both must be of equal importance, just in different ways. Father Sun and Grandmother Moon both share a great deal with us, if we begin to learn to hear their song. What is really great about the pagan cycle of seasons is that once you understand it, and get used to having get-togethers, there is never more than a moon between them. Sometimes, the best events are Full Moon Gatherings. In some cases these are the easiest to organize and they are not as overtly pagan as some of the quarters and cross quarter celebrations.
This particular ECO-Tour will take one full year, or thirteen cycles of the moon to begin to understand. As the ECO-Tourist develops, each year offers the chance to learn more about the relationships between themselves, the Sun, the Moon, and many other factors that come to play during the course of each year. It has become easier and easier to find guides and wisdom about the pagan cycle of celebration, but in my own experience, strict tradition always loses out to just making time for one another and to make it a point to share time with others. In this age, as more and more people get comfortable in front of their idiot box, it is especially refreshing to just get out of the house every so often. The big events are pretty obvious, like summer and winter solstices, or the equinoxes in-between. If you locate these at the cardinal points of a circle, you can plainly see the year divided in quarters. Subdividing these again yields what are referred to as cross quarters.
Adding the big eight to the moonthly Full Moon Gatherings, which sometimes overlap one another, you can see that the cycles are an integral part of life, once you begin to pay attention to them. The Moon phases are the ones that guide many through their days, although most think it is the Sun. New Moons (no moon) is the best time to start new projects, make commitments and reflect on our inner selves. Just as many seeds like to be germinated at this time, so too do actions, events and projects. starting when the moon is occult (hidden) is a time tested way to synchronize our efforts to the monthly cycle of energy that flows from the moon. As you might guess, fullness is a time of completion, fruit and often-times harvest. We reap the benefits of what we sow at this time as well. That is a good reason to plan gatherings at this time. this way those in attendance can share their victories and the sense of completion that comes from honoring this sublime energy.
A fun thing to include in Full Moon events is the gift blanket. Each person brings something to give away, but rather than using it as a get rid of junk event, the gifts that we bring to the blanket should have some inherent value or meaning that we wish to share. as guests arrive, they place their items on the blanket and at the close of the gathering, each person picks an item from the blanket. Basic redistribution of objects that hold value and meaning for one another is a good way to enrich one another as well as feel closer, even when we part. Many like to segregate their Full Moon Gatherings by sex and several funny stories circulate around times that this rule was either ignored or overlooked. As much as I enjoy being flexible, perhaps this single aspect is not one to try to change.
Trying to invent the whole ritual cycle from scratch can be difficult, and many great reference books exist to help folks plan events, but the most helpful thing is to be aware of what the season says to you, how you wish to mark the specific event and what energies you most want to be attended to. Making, or working from a list of color combinations, foods to serve or songs or games to play can be a good way to start, but limiting our events to what is suggested in a book misses the point. The living planet, her people and the relationships amongst us are far more important than following a recipe or specific protocols. At a recent fall harvest event, each guest carved a pumpkin. several adult attendees said that it had been years since they carved a Jack-o-lantern. These same folks were overjoyed at the memories that were conjured by the activity. for some, the spice cakes of fall and winter are the most memorable part, for others a specific song or game will mean more than all the rest of the activities. whatever we do at these times, it is important that they be a reflection of how we are feeling, what we know to be the meaning of the season and to make the events as individual as those in attendance.
After all we do, it is important to develop relationships not only with the planet, our star and our largest satellite, and the people and creatures we share this place and time with, but to develop a relationship with our creator and the oft neglected spirit that resides within us. Remembering the gifts of life, love and sustenance that flow from the cornucopia of nature can be a humbling experience and honoring those around us who make life more precious can change all of our days. these celebrations have the power to influence our hearts and minds, even our spirits in times without the loving support of friends. Making time to sit around a fire, have a pot luck or story-telling session can seem awkward at first, but as we get in touch with the cycles of the seasons, it builds and grows into something we never want to let go of. When we experience integration into a timeless family, one that respects Mother Nature and the cycles of life, it is hard to explain, but there is a great comfort that comforts us and assuages much of the tension that mopdern life foists upon us.
Even if we devote ourselves to the pagan holidays as solitaries, (people who practice alone) just knowing that there are millions worldwide, doing more or less the same thing can be comforting. If you would like a bibliography of some of the printed resources that we use to plan our events, let me know. I do ask for a small donation to cover our time picking appropriate literature to use as a guide. If you wan to attend any of our events, let me know as well and we can plant a meet up.