sophiacatherine: A sign to Tir na nOg (25 km away if you swim) (Tir na nOg sign)
[personal profile] sophiacatherine
So it's getting towards that time when I need to start organizing and writing up what I've done over the last year (which is mostly scribbled in various journals at the moment), so that I can submit it as my ADF Dedicant Path documentation. So expect a few more of these essays to start appearing here, as I organize my work into real essays, with references and everything. (Currently this one is much too long - planning to edit later!)

Autumn Equinox

Modern neopagans have celebrated the Autumn Equinox since Gerald Gardner created the eightfold Wiccan Wheel of the Year, with the help of Ross Nichols (Hutton). Wiccans and some Pagans today call this festival 'Mabon', which is a name that Wiccan priest Aiden Kelly gave to the festival in honour of a Brythonic god (Ravenheart and Ravenheart 227). It is also called 'Harvest Home' by many Wiccans, while to OBOD druids, it is Alban Elfed, which means 'The Light of the Water' (OBOD). It is the second harvest festival of three that Wiccans celebrate (Nichols). Wiccan traditions relating to the festival include making corn dollies in honour of John Barleycorn and celebrating the harvest (Nicols). Revival druidry also celebrates the harvest at this time, but it is additionally focused on the balance of light and dark at the Equinox (OBOD). In contrast, in the Wiccan solar cycle of the Horned God, covens celebrate the decline of the God and the descent of the Goddess into the Underworld at this time, which draws on the myths of Persephone and Inanna (Grimassi).

Although the Gaelic people in Ireland and Scotland only celebrated the four Quarter Days, and not the equinoxes, there is still relevant folklore that I can use to help in my celebration of this High Day, in a way that is meaningful within my Gaelic hearth culture. In particular, in Scotland and Ireland, Là Fhèill Mìcheil (St Michael's Day) was celebrated at about this time of year, as has been documented by Carmichael, Campbell and Danaher. Carmichael relates St Michael to the sea, which may suggest he is a modern incarnation of an older Gaelic sea-god, and says he also has connections with horses for Gaelic culture (Carmichael). St Michael's Day is also to some extent connected with the harvest - in Scotland, a cake called 'struan Micheil' was baked on St Michael's Day, which was made of all the cereals grown in the field that year (Carmichael Kindle loc. 2800). Other folklorists also find evidence of a focus on autumn in early (if post-Christian) Gaelic culture - Campbell says that in the Scottish Highlands, autumn was called Fogharadh, and he argues that it is related to the words for 'hospitality' and 'abundance' (Campbell Kindle loc. 2511) . Campbell represents St Michael's Day as a celebration of the first-fruits of the harvest. He also writes of a potential link with the Cailleach, as harvest goddess, describing a dance dedicated to her called called 'Cailleach an Dudain' (Campbell Kindle loc. 2952). Campbell describes a number of other customs of this feast day, including a great horse race that took place in Barra at Michaelmas, where each woman in attendance brings a large bannock-cake to the race day (Campbell Kindle loc. 3145-3148), which may again suggest a harvest theme. Over the past few years, I have taken this theme of harvest and abundance for my own celebrations of the Autumn High Day, focusing on the fulfillment of the harvest.

Seren of Tairis argues that these St Michael's Day customs are likely to have shifted from Lúnasa, in a post-Christian environment, as a response to the new ecclesiastical holidays (Seren). While I can see the argument for this, it does seem that some communities marked the harvest at this time. While I do not think that the Autumn Equinox was ever widely celebrated in pre-Christian Gaelic cultures, I think that there are customs that can be drawn on by Gaelic hearth members of ADF, in order to mark this High Day in a meaningful way. For me, as a dedicant of Cailleach Bhearra and Manannan, the customs relating to the Cailleach as harvest goddess and to the sea spirits are very interesting, and I have drawn on these by honouring Bhearra and Manannan in my Autumn High Day rite, as well as Macha (although my celebration of her at this time is based on UPG). On a future Autumn High Day, I would like to go down to the sea and make an offering of an effigy to the sea spirits, as was done with a Christian theme in Scotland on St Michael's Day in the past. While it's not clear whether this is any kind of pagan 'survival', it is an old Gaelic custom that I would like to fit into my celebrations of this High Day in some way.

Works Cited

Campbell, J. G. Witchcraft and Second Sight in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. AlbaCraft Publishing, 2012 [1902]. Kindle Edition.
Carmichael, A. Carmina Gadelica Volume I: Hymns and Incantations. Amazon Media, 2011 [1928]. Kindle Edition.
Danaher, K. The Year in Ireland. Dublin, Mercier, 1972.
Grimassi, R. Encyclopedia of Wicca and Witchcraft. St Paul, MI, Llewellyn, 2000.
Hutton, R. The Triumph of the Moon. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999.
Nicols, M. The Witches' Sabbats. Portland, OR, Acorn Guild Press, 2011. Kindle Edition.
OBOD, "Autumn Equinox - Alban Elfed". Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, 2013 <>.
Seren, "Là Fhèill Mìcheil"., 2010 <>.
Zell-Ravenheart, O. and Zell-Ravenheart, M.G. Creating Circles & Ceremonies: Rituals for All Seasons and Reasons. Franklin Lakes, NJ, Career Press, 2006.

Date: 2013-10-01 09:35 am (UTC)
mdehners: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdehners
It's always amused me how even the most "anti-Wiccan" Lore-Nazis get obsessed trying to "fit" Wiccan theology onto actual pre-C systems. It's harder in CR due to the thoroughness of the Church's work in Celtic Lands but as you present, "The Truth is Out There" for those willing to dig;>....

Date: 2013-10-02 02:34 pm (UTC)
mdehners: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdehners
Considering the Founder had been, it's hardly surprising;>! I personally tend toward the cross quarter days anyway, even back IN my Wiccan days. Here in normal yrs on the Panhandle the seasons actually line up with the quarters. Winter Solstice is about the time we get our 1st Frosts. Spring Equinox is generally around the time the Deciduous plants leaf out. Summer Solstice is Bloody Hot;>. Autumn Equinox the 1st leaves begin to fall and the Pears are ripening.....


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Naomi J./Leithin Cluan/Sophia Catherine

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