A few weeks ago I got told I was a secular pagan and that I could not be someone who was taking paganism and my faith seriously. This came about because I had told her that I did not celebrate Ostara / Eostre at the Spring Equinox and that I disagreed with her stance that if you were pagan you must celebrate the sabbats of what is commonly called the wheel of the year. It was also her firm belief that to celebrate the sabbats seriously they must be done on certain dates. Sadly my explanation of why I did not celebrate or see a need to, at the Spring Equinox fell on deaf ears. I do in my own way celebrate the festival I know of as Eostre, but for me the first full moon in April seems the most appropriate time. As I intend to write a post nearer the date on my feelings about Eostre, I thought first it would be a good idea to write down how I see the festivals in my pagan faith and the seasons.
Now I as a pagan I do know of the wheel and give a respectful nod to the festivals listed on it, but by no means am I tied to it. I follow the Holy Tides of the northern religions and being mindful of them is of more importance to me. The wheel of the year is a relatively recent invention, though most of the festivals which are listed on it do have their origins in the pre christian festivals and some of them I do celebrate as part of my faith. The names of the festivals listed on it, (Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lughnasadh / Lammas, Mabon, Samhain and Yule) come mainly from a mixture of both Celtic and Germanic festivals that we have some historical sources for, with a couple of more modern names for what we believe may have been ancient festivals being added in. I have no problem with the wheel of the year, being a list of festivals that have been welded together from different cultures I can see how it has wide spread appeal. I'm also sure that many of our ancestors did celebrate festivals at the times that coincide with the wheel, though there are no historical sources that say all these festivals were celebrated in pre christian times. The wheel as a set of festivals comes mainly from the modern Wicca tradition. What I do have a problem with is being told that as a pagan I must celebrate these festivals and at set times.
In our modern world we seem to be fixated by dates, yet our calendar in the western world alone has been changed enough times, that saying well such and such a festival falls on this day is entirely meaningless. It always amuses me that people insist that Summer Solstice on the 21st of June, is also the first day of summer, they know this because the calendar tells them it is, yet in the very next breath they will talk of the day as Mid Summers day. Now surely simple logic would declare it can not be both the first day of summer and mid summer? The same is said of Mid Winter being the first day of winter. We seem to have lost our common sense somewhere along the way and just become reliant on being told where we are on a set calendar. Our ancestors did not have our modern calendars, theirs were based on the movement of the moon and the agricultural year, accordingly their festivals reflected this. Due to this few dates of festivals, would have had a universal date of celebration, apart from the solstices.Also due to seasonal variations in different regions the same festival could be celebrated weeks apart from one area to another. Our ancestors were people who in general lived close to the land and took notice of her changing moods and seasons in relation to their own location. Take Winter nights, a holy tide that for me signals the start of winter, in many heathen calendars you will find it can be listed as being from around the start of October till the early part of November. I myself choose to celebrate this tide on the first of November. Now why would I fix myself on a calendar that states that this holy tide falls on the 15th of October when in my area, winter still seems some weeks away. We have now got to the stage where we try to fix mother nature and her seasons in to our calendars, attaching firm universal dates for the start of each season and making no allowances for the different regional weather patterns in our northern hemisphere. If we just slow down and listen to what the earth is telling us, we can actually feel when the seasons begin to change and the festivals we choose to celebrate, should flow from that feeling becoming a natural part of our beliefs not just some date on a calendar. I truly believe that most pagans are free thinkers, who have chosen, the not always easy option of following a religious path that does not involve dogma, a path of their own choosing that speaks to their inner spirit. We should not be swayed by those who wish to insist that there is only one way to celebrate our pagan faith.
This is my personal thoughts about the seasons. I am a strong believer in dualism, (male / female, night / day, body / soul, etc) and like many historians who believe our ancestors only had two seasons (Summer and Winter), this also seems to be a natural idea. I think that these two seasons were then again split in two so winter and spring as the light half of winter went together and autumn was the dark half of summer, which is how we derived our four seasons. Winter in the location I live arrives around the 1st of November it gradually lightens to it's spring half around the start of February, for me the Spring Equinox is the height of spring not the start. The summer season begins on the 1st of May turning slowly to autumn in August. Many of the festivals I choose to celebrate are linked in to either the moon or the seasons, I feel in this way I connect more with my faith and ancestors. It also means though at each year the dates of some of the festivals may change. I do use dates for convenient but I try not to tie myself up in knots over particular dates. I think any gods or ancestors looking down on us would find it most amusing that we now have this need to fix everything into a firm place on the calendar. Charming of the plough is a tide I celebrate roughly around the 6th of February, for others it comes in January, but for me the time is right for this celebration when I have seen the snowdrops appear. I can not know how or even if this is a festival that my ancestors also celebrated and it's original meaning is not exactly relevant to our modern world, yet it is one I feel a connection to. So like most things about our pagan faith it is one I have adapted to how it fits in to my life in the world now. I think this is the right thing to do. I don't believe anyone has the right to say, you must celebrate this festival and on this day in order be serious about your faith. No traditions remain static, all of them develop as time progresses. Surly the most important thing is to celebrate what has personal meaning to you, in a way that makes you as an individual feel more connected to your gods and chosen faith, at a time that feels right and with true intent. I feel the old gods and our ancestors are just pleased that we are returning back to our roots of belief and small matters of calendar dates are insignificant to them.