Lady of the Lake
"Samhain" pronounced SOW-in, means "End of Summer". Its historical origin is The Feast of the Dead in Celtic lands. Samhain, popularly known as Halloween, is the Witches' New Year.
Divination is heightened this night. This is the time of year for getting rid of weaknesses. A common ritual practice calls for each Wiccan to write down his or her weaknesses on a peice of paper or parchment and toss it into the Cauldron fire. Jack-o-lanterns, gourds, cider, fall foliage can be used as altar decorations.
Around Dec. 21
The Christian tradition of a Christmas tree has its origins in the Pagan Yule celebration. Pagan families would bring a live tree into the home so the wood spirits would have a place to keep warm during the cold winter months. Bells were hung in the limbs so you could tell when a spirit was present.
Food and treats were hung on the branches for the spirits to eat and a five-pointed star, the pentagram, symbol of the five elements, was placed atop the tree.
A solar festival, The reindeer stag is also a reminder of the Horned God. You will find that many traditional Christmas decorations have some type of Pagan ancestry or significance that can be added to your Yule holiday. Yule is celebrated by fire and the use of a Yule log. Many enjoy the practice of lighting the Yule Log. If you choose to burn one, select a proper log of oak or pine (never Elder). Carve or chalk upon it a figure of the Sun (a rayed disc) or the Horned God (a horned circle). Set it alight in the fireplace at dusk, on Yule. This is a graphic representation of the rebirth of the God within the sacred fire of the Mother Goddess. As the log burns, visualize the Sun shining within it and think of the coming warmer days. Traditionally, a portion of the Yule Log is saved to be used in lighting next year's log. This piece is kept throughout the year to protect the home.
'Candlemas' is the Christianized name for the holiday, of course. The older Pagan names were Imbolc and Oimelc. 'Imbolc' means, literally, 'in the belly' (of the Mother), for in the womb of Mother Earth, hidden from our mundane sight but sensed by a keener vision, there are stirrings. The seed that was planted in her womb at the solstice is quickening as the new year grows.
The holiday is also called 'Brigit's Day', in honor of the great Irish Goddess Brigit. She was considered a goddess of fire, patroness of smithcraft, poetry, and healing. The Roman Catholic Church could not very easily call the Great Goddess of Ireland a demon, so they canonized her instead. Henceforth, she would be 'Saint' Brigit, patron SAINT of smithcraft, poetry, and healing. They explained this by telling the Irish peasants that Brigit was 'really' an early Christian missionary sent to the Emerald Isle.
Around March 21
Beltane is one of the Greater Wiccan Sabbats and is usually celebrated on May 1st, but can be on the night of April 30th, depending on your tradition. Beltane is the time of the sacred marriage which honors the fertility of the Earth; it represents the divine union of the Lord and Lady.
This Sabbat is primarily a fertility festival with Nature enchantments and offerings to wildlings and Elementals. The powers of elves and fairies are growing and will reach their height at Summer Solstice.
(Lughnassadh, the Celtic festival in honor of the Sun God, is held on the 7th)
During Autumn,we begin to see the waning of the Sun more obviously now as the days continue to grow shorter until the Wheel of the Year spins around again to Yule. At the Autumn Equinox, the days and nights are equal. It is a time of balance, but light gives way to increased darkness.