Imbolc (Held between 31 Jan and 2 Feb)
Cross quarter day – the midpoint between the longest night (Yule) and days and nights becoming equal length (Ostara)
Imbolc is the start of Spring. It celebrates the rebirth of the light and the awakening of the earth after the winter. Pagans often celebrate Imbolc with bonfires and flames to welcome in the coming of the light. Pagans of old would have used this festival to ask their Gods for blessings for the harvests in the coming year.
Imbolc is a sabbat of purification focused on stripping away the old to make way for the new. It embodies the elements of regrowth and renewal.
It is a time of divination, to look forward to the year ahead and to contemplate what the year will bring.
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Ostara (Held between 19 and 22 March)
Spring Equinox - Days and nights are equal length.
Ostara is the festival of birth and new beginnings. Traditionally it would celebrate the birthing of the Spring lambs. It marks the start of the growing season, the planting of seeds and the renewal of life.
It is a time to celebrate the promise of the coming Summer.
Common pagan symbols used for this festival would be eggs (traditional symbol for the start of life) and the Hare of fertility.
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Beltane (1 May)
Cross quarter day -The midpoint between days and nights of equal length (Ostara) and the longest day of the year (Litha)
This is another Pagan fire festival and is often celebrated by “jumping the bonfire.” Beltane reminds Pagans of their links with the world of magic and is believed to be the day of the year when the veil between the world and the world of faery is at its thinnest.
Beltane is a fertility festival and associated with the phallic symbol of the maypole. Handfasting (Pagan marriage) often takes place at this time of year.
Beltane is considered by Pagans to be the first day of the Summer. Witches will often burn their broomsticks at Beltane and replace with a new one for the coming year.
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Litha (Celebrated around June 21st)
Summer Solstice (Longest day of the year)
Litha is a transition festival marking the change from cultivation to harvest. Celebration of maturity and strength.
Litha acknowledges the Sun at its highest power and nature at its most abundant point of the year.
Pagans (especially witches) believe that herbs gathered at Litha will have greater magical properties.
Litha reminds pagans to count their blessings and be thankful for what they have. This is slightly tinged with the sadness of the promise of what is to come as after Litha the days start to shorten as the dark half of the year approaches.
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Lammas (1 August)
Cross quarter day. The midpoint between the longest day of the year (Litha) and days and nights being of equal length (Mabon)
Lammas is the first of the three harvest festivals.It celebrates the bringing in of the first harvests of the years. For the modern pagan it is an opportunity to take stock of your life, see what you have reaped from your life so far in the year and make any necessary changes.
Lammas is a time of plentiful abundance and revelling in nature's bounty.
Pagans may well make a corn dolly from the reaping of the corn harvests. The spirit of the corn is represented by the doll and then released Imbolc the following year to ensure another good harvest.
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Mabon (around September 21st)
Autumn Equinox (days and nights are equal length).
The second harvest festival of the year. A time of reflection and evaluation of the year. Preparations are made for the coming winter. Traditionally a time for pickling and preserving. This is often a time for charity and giving to the needy to ensure they have food for the coming winter.
The equinoxes are a time to look at balance and harmony in your life.
At Mabon, the year is old and the festival recognises a celebration of old age and wisdom.
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Samhain (31 October)
Cross quarter day – the midpoint between days and nights being of equal length and the longest night.
Samhain is the best known of the Pagan festivals and popularly termed Halloween.
Samhain celebrates the cycle of death and rebirth. The veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest. The festival, often called "The day of the dead" is used to remember those who have passed on and to honour departed ancestors.
Witches will use this time for spirit work, to communicate with the dead. Offerings of food may be left and many participate in the "dumb supper," where a place setting is set for someone deceased and mourned and the meal eaten in silence to remember the person with respect.
Samhain is a time of finality and organisation. It is a time to put worries and problems to bed so they do not spill over into the coming year. Many Pagans will use Samhain as a time to look for the positive aspects of negativity in their lives. It is the festival of looking for the silver lining to the cloud.
Samhain is traditionally perceived as the start of the Winter
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Yule (Celebrated around December 21st)
Winter Solstice (Longest night of the year)
A celebration to mark the beginning of the strengthening of the Sun and the return of the light. It is a time of peace and happiness as the wheel turns from the dark to the light.
Traditionally Yule is a time of rest. The crops have been harvested and the planting season is yet to arrive. The dressing of the Yule tree symbolises the return of nature and the return of Spring to the earth.
The Yule log promises the return of the light.
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Image http://www.sxc.hu/browse.phtml?f=view&id=1101043 (bosela)