Alban Arthan - the Winter Solstice - 21st December.
Solstice means ‘Sun stand still’ as the Sun at this time in the Northern Hemisphere appears to rise in the East and set in the West in the same place for several days. The time of Longest Night, the Earth seems to pause in the face of overpowering dark. But then the Sun is reborn and begins its long journey back to power. Alban Arthan means ‘Light of Winter’ or perhaps more poetically ‘Light of Arthur’ where Arthur is the personification of our Father the Sun who is reborn as the Celtic ‘Son of Light’, the Mabon, on this day. Alban Arthan therefore marks the time of completion and a new beginning.
Imbolc is the time of the quickening of the year with the first foetal stirrings of Spring in the womb of the Earth Mother. The first shoots and the appearance of the Snowdrop herald the fire of Spring to come. A rejuvenating Spring that will occur not only in the outer world of Nature but also within our hearts.
Winter sometimes seems so long we could be forgiven for wondering whether Spring will ever return. But the Earth Mother is merely sleeping through the darkness of Winter and while she stirs at Imbolc at the beginning of February, she is truly awake by the time of the Spring Equinox.
Alban Eiler means “the Light of the Earth”. This festival at the Spring Equinox marks the point in the year when day and night are the same length, Light and Dark are in balance and Light is gaining. The earth awakens, new life emerges, sap rises, buds shoot and spring flowers are celebrated as gifts from nature. Spring returns and rejuvenates our own life force.
At Beltane we honour the fertility of all living things. We celebrate the returning warmth of the Sun, the greening of the Earth. After the darkness and quiescence of the winter months, the gentle stirrings of Imbolc and the balance of Alban Eilir (the Spring Equinox), the natural world now tips into an exuberance of creation. We seek to bring into our own lives the strength, vitality, passion and joy that we now see present throughout the natural world. At Beltane, we honour Life.
Alban Hefin means “The Light of Summer” and Solstice means “Sun stand still”. Now is the balance point of the year as the natural world seems to pause as the waxing power of spring and early summer reaches its zenith. The Sun is at its height and the Land graces us with abundance. We welcome the Sky Father who with our Earth Mother brings us the Sacred Gift of Life. At this time we open our hearts to the warmth of their love that lives within us all.
At Lughnasadh we celebrate the Sky Father, Lord of Light, also called Lugh, the Shining One. Since Imbolc, his Light from the Sun has triumphed over the cold winds and frosts and with its strength has nurtured and matured the crops. Now is the last moment of rest before the harvest begins that will complete by Alban Elfed (the Autumnal Equinox). With the expectation of the abundance to come, this is a time of joy but also a time to turn our minds to preparing for the Autumn to come.
Alban Elfed means “Light of Autumn” and we celebrate the second harvest at this time of the Autumn Equinox. The fields are nearly empty and the crops have been stored for the coming winter.
To the Sky Father, the Lord of Harvest
To the Earth Mother, Lady of the Land
In reverence and respect
We give thanks for the fruits of harvest.
We give thanks for the richness that is now safely gathered in.
But at this time of plenty, we recognise that the word “Equinox” means “the time of Equal Day and Night”. After this celebration, we begin the descent into winter.
Samhuinn in the Scottish Gaelic means “Summer’s End” and is considered by some to be the time of the Celtic New Year. Others, place the New Year at Yule. But as we feel the first morning frosts, we know with certainty that we stand at the Gateway to Winter. And so at Samhuinn we give thanks to the Earth Mother and Sky Father for the fruitful harvest that will see us through the dark, bitter days that lie ahead. Samhuinn is also one of two points in the year, the other being Beltane, when the veil between this World and the Otherworld is stretched thin and we can join with our Ancestors to celebrate the bounty and love of the Earth Mother and Sky Father.