Festivals

Many years ago, we started a practice of celebrating, intermittantly, the eight seasonal festivals or sabbats of the ancient European calendar. The two solstices, the two equinoxes, and the four midpoints between them that represent the start and finish of the seasons are celebrated by many cultures, since they are empirically observable as “special” dates. The winter solstice is the longest night and the shortest day of the year, and the summer solstice vice versa. The spring and autumn equinoxes are the dates when the day and the night are of exactly equal length. The four points between them mark the beginning and the end of the four seasons.

All over the world major festivals are traditionally held on pretty close to these same dates. They contain many bits of mythology that are familiar from fairy stories and traditional Anglo-Celtic festivals. They are not religious festivals but are compatible with the whole range of spiritual beliefs. And for permaculturists, remembering and reinvoking the traditional plant based seasonal festivals is part of the culture of living within natural cycles.

Halloween

Halloween in the southern hemisphere marks the end of Autumn, the beginning of Winter, and the final harvest festival. The season of gathering in -firewood, mulch, water, pumpkins, warm clothes, books, tribe and wisdom.It is a time for celebrating all that has been garnered in the long term - a time for appreciating not just this year’s harvest but the harvest of the ages.A time for major feasting, and for remembering and honouring the ancestors and the wisdom they have gathered and left for us.

Remembering the ancestors can take many forms: multicultural stories of ancestors from all over the world, stories of Australia’s mythical ancestors that shaped the landscape from Aboriginal telling, stories of legendary or mythical heroes and heroines, and family and community history.

We often celebrate with a progressive dinner with storytelling and performances.

Yule

Yule is the Winter Solstice, the longest night. Season of warm fires and long evenings in front of them.Season of making and creating.

Yule is also a time for celebrating and cementing family and community. It is a celebration of hope and faith and trust in life’s renewal and rebirth. On this Silent Night, Holy Night in the depths of winter, in a humble way and only noticed by the wise, a Child of Promise is born.Because from now on the days will become longer.

Handmade Yule gifts and roast Yule dinner, and a bonfire to light up the longest night.

At Halloween we put our names in a hat, and draw a name from the hat.In the six weeks till Yule, we handmake a gift for that person. On the night of Yule we have a big bonfire, ceremonial gift giving, and a full-scale sit-down baked Christmas dinner with plum pudding to follow.

People find craftsmanship and creativity in themselves that they never knew they had.People receive the most amazing treasures. Most important of all perhaps though is that each of us spends six weeks meditating on how to delight one another.Our Yule has become a very precious tradition for us already, with Yule celebrations now that have been quite magical events.Black Horse children now look foreword to Yule as much if not more than Christmas.It has all the wonder and excitement and anticipation, without the crassness and commercialism, and I think we should be very proud of ourselves for inventing it!

Imbolc

Imbolc, Candlemas, or St Brigid’s Dayin the first week of August, celebrates Brigid, Goddess of Poetry, Midwifery, Smithcraft, and Wells, Anything New That is “In the Belly”. Creativity, Fertility, Inspiration, Seeds, Water, Hope,

The days are still short, but getting longer. Spring, though it may not show yet, is already here with its promise of new life.

Imbolc literally means ‘in the belly’.New life, although it may not be apparent yet, is already growing.It is a time of creativity and inspiration, a time when brand new things are started, a time to let creative juices flow,release frozen bottleneck and give birth to new projects.

Ostara

The Spring Equinox, ‘Lady Day’, the southern hemisphere Easter, falls around the 22nd September. The nights are warm, and the days already getting hot. The days are getting longer and the nights shorter as they pass the balance point.Spring has begun - season of warm, dry, windy days. Stock up on water, mulch the garden, and dust off the yellow overalls.

The celebration of the festival of Ostara uses all the fertility symbols - painted eggs, rabbits, seeds, fruit trees, garlands of flowers.It is a festival of courtship and wooing, of celebrating children, and planting the seeds of future fruits.

We often celebrate with a "Spring Clean and Giveaway".People take the opportunity to really spring clean, or just bring one thing Sort out the stuff that they have outgrown, moved on from, and think about what they want to make room for or bring in, and we have a ritual of selecting something from the pile to seal a resolution.

Beltane

Celebrated at the beginning of November, Beltane, or May Day, is about fire and spirit, purification, and letting go. This festival of wild abandon was one of the great holidays of the ancient Celts, involving twin bonfires and maypoles, both of which we have incorporated in the past. But the 2009 Beltane Punk Party was one of the most memorable celebrations.

Litha

The Summer solstice, the longest day. The nights retreat and the days are long and getting longer. The season of heat and storms and wind.

In these longest days it is easy to get wrapped up with projects and occupations. It can seem like the workday is never ending. We need to watch ourselves and each other for burnout. It is good to remember to relax and enjoy life. It is good to remember and indulge our physical selves. It is good to connect with all our senses, to feel the sheer physical joy of being.

It is also the shortest night of the year. The night when traditionally the little folk come out to play. A night of enchantment, when legend has it that if we do not learn to keep all our senses alive, our eyes and ears and nose open, they will trick us into remembering it.

A meeting in the Rainforest, late in the longest day, with candles and delicacies and indulgences ....

Lammas

The days are long, but getting shorter. The season of harvest and holidays, of long hot days with afternoon thunderstorms.

Lammas marks the end of the Summer and the beginning of Autumn. Time to celebrate harvests - the earth’s harvest and our own lives’ harvest. Time for feasting and acknowledging of our own and each others’ achievements and value to our community.

Lammas celebrates the male principle of activity in the world, prowess, achievement. The Celts called it Lugnassad, after a legendary warrier king, and held games and contests to celebrate it.

Mabon

The days are getting shorter and the nights longer, as they approach the balance point. Autumn has begun. The season of full dams, gumboots and leeches, and mowing whenever you can.

Mabon is the Autumn Equinox, the Harvest Festival. It is a time of racing to finish the harvest before the winter, a season of hard work and not enough time to do it. Mabon is a silly festival, a way of keeping your spirits up for the home run, markng the end of the long workdays, and the beginning of the season of long nights, of dreaming and looking inwards. Mabon was the first sabbat we ever celebrated, with the infamous war of the sexes at the Fig Tree. Wonderous as the story is for telling, it’s an impossible act to follow!

Mabon is also a festival of thanksgiving, where we take stock of the bounty the year has provided, so as not to take our good fortune for granted.