These were all funerary rituals to symbolically honor Tailtiu but also served the community as a final celebration before summer ended. "Wheel of the Year." In Celtic belief, the fertility god Cernnunos went into the underworld at or around the time of Mabon and returned to earth at Ostara or Beltane as the Green Man. People who gathered around the log would sing songs and throw a piece of holly, symbolizing challenges of the past year, into the flames.
As the spirit world was inhabited by all kinds of beings in addition to the souls of the dead, such as fairies and sprites and who could seduce and abduct mortals, one also had to be wary of traveling at night when their powers were most potent. The oldest known wheel found in an archaeological excavation is from Mesopotamia, and dates to around 3500 BC. This paradigm was reinforced by the next Sabbat of Yule. In this context, however, 'darkness' should not be equated with evil or sadness but understood as simply a part of the human condition: there must be regenerative darkness for there to be light. The name is thought to come from the phrase “Bel’s Fire”, a reference to Bel, the Celtic sun god but literally means “bright fire” (Grimassi, 40). Samhain was recognized as a time when the veil between the living and the dead was at its thinnest. (2019, January 28). For only $5 per month you can become a member and support our mission to engage people with cultural heritage and to improve history education worldwide. Cite This Work Mabon celebrates the Autumn Equinox through thanksgiving and reflection on what one has gained and lost over the year. Imbolc (meaning "in the belly" from Old Irish and referencing pregnant sheep) is the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox and celebrated rebirth and purification. The name is a modern-day creation, coined as recently as the 1970s CE by the Wiccan writer Aidan Kelly, but the practice of observing the Autumn Equinox is quite ancient. By pausing to reflect upon gratitude for what one had been given in a year, as well as what one had lost but still cherished in memory, one maintained balance. Yule Bonfireby Brian Colson (CC BY-NC-ND). (32).
Wheels first appeared in ancient Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq, more than 5,000 years ago. Yule also celebrated the triumph of the Oak King over his brother the Holly King, two symbolic entities who represented the seasons. In the ancient Celtic culture, as in many of the past, time was seen as cyclical.
Ostara was observed through feasts & celebrations involving colored eggs, rabbits, chicks, & flowers. The seasons changed, people died, but nothing was ever finally lost because everything returned again – in one way or another – in a repeating natural cycle.
This association of 2 February with the promise of spring continues to be celebrated in the United States as Groundhog Day and in the Christian tradition as St. Brigid’s day where the former sun wheels are now reinterpreted as Brigid’s crosses. Web. Although the Wheel of Year recognized today is a modern construct, the world-view it represents is quite old. Grimassi notes how the modern-day practice of the Easter Egg Hunt probably comes from ancient rituals involving a labyrinth and an egg (Grimassi, 39). Later, wheels were fitted to carts, which made moving objects around much easier. In this same way, the bonfires (originally bone fires in which the offal and bones of slaughtered animals were burned) symbolized a triumph of light and order over darkness. Common practices at Litha, besides feasts and fires, had to do with protecting one’s self from unseen forces. According to varying traditions, at Ostara the goddess re-emerges from beneath the earth where she has been sleeping for months or it is the time when she becomes pregnant with the sun god who will be born the next Yule or both of these concepts are sometimes combined. To protect against fairies and their spells, the head of the household would place a rowan branch in the ceiling of the house on Beltane and perform a cleansing ritual of carrying a lighted candle from the front door to the back, to the four corners of the house, and from one side of the main room to the hearth, forming a kind of 'net' of eight points symbolizing harmony and balance. The modern-day Wheel of the Year was first suggested by the scholar and mythologist Jacob Grimm (1785-1863 CE) in his 1835 CE work, Teutonic Mythology, and fixed in its present form in the 1950s and early '60s CE by the Wicca movement. The association of Ostara with the rabbit and the egg is quite possibly an ancient one, though, and there is evidence of a link between such symbols and ancient spring celebrations generally. https://www.ancient.eu/Wheel_of_the_Year/. Related Content Although this motif is best known through the story of Persephone and Demeter from ancient Greece, almost every ancient civilization had a story involving a god or goddess who goes down into the underworld and later returns to bring life and prosperity to humanity. Pranks performed the night before the Samhain celebration symbolized chaos while rectifying those pranks the next day meant the restoration of order. It celebrated the triumph of light over darkness and also the knowledge that, going forward, darkness would overtake the light. The invention of the solid wooden disk wheel falls into the late Neolithic, and may be seen in conjunction with other technological advances that gave rise to the early Bronze Age. Mark has lived in Greece and Germany and traveled through Egypt. Tailtiu was one of the earliest deities of Ireland who selflessly devoted herself to preparing the land for plowing and, after doing so, died from exhaustion. At Yule, a tree was decorated outdoors in honor of the birth of the sun god and gifts were offered. This was considered the turning point of the year when the Oak King surrendered his reign to his brother the Holly King and the days would become shorter. Yule celebrated the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, after which the days grew longer.
Halloween bonfires and the practices of so-called 'mischief night' are traceable back to Samhain. Dancing was also an integral aspect of the celebration, often taking place around a tree in ancient times. In ancient Pagan times, the Winter Solstice was the time when people believed the new sun god of the year was born. While fairies could be benign presences, they were most often seen as mischief-makers who enjoyed playing tricks on humans. The Sabbats the wheel highlights, by whatever name they were known in the past, helped the people remain balanced in an uncertain world and, for those who still adhere to the old beliefs, continue to do so in the present. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Although time in the modern world is usually regarded as linear, the cyclical nature of life continues to be recognized. Last modified January 28, 2019.
Disguising oneself with a mask and costume also helped to protect a person from these entities.
Books "Wheel of the Year." Brigid was the goddess of medicine, poetry, fertility, the forge, and sacred springs. He has taught history, writing, literature, and philosophy at the college level. Contrary to modern-day Wiccan claims, there is no evidence of an ancient Wheel of the Year in its present form but it is clear that the Celts of thousands of years ago celebrated the festivals the wheel highlights, even if these celebrations were known by another name now long lost. Cernunnos was among the most popular of the Celtic deities, especially in Ireland, where his followers posed the greatest challenge to the early Christian missionaries. A piece of the Yule Log was saved to start the next year’s fire, symbolizing continuity. One gave thanks at Samhain for what one had been given in the previous year and reflected upon what one had lost, especially one's ancestors and loved ones who had passed on to the other side. However, if one had wronged someone who had passed on, that spirit could return seeking compensation - and so one wore a mask so as not to be recognized. Ancient History Encyclopedia. As the dark days gave way increasingly to light, all of nature awoke, and this included the unseen entities of the land such as fairies and sprites. The Wheel of the Year is a symbol of the eight Sabbats (religious festivals) of Neo-Paganism and the Wicca movement which includes four solar festivals (Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice, Fall Equinox) and four seasonal festivals (celebrating or marking a significant seasonal change). Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/Wheel_of_the_Year/. Solid wheels, which came first, were common until the 15th century B.C. Mark, Joshua J.
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