the 1st of February belongs to Brigid…

February 1 or 2

Brigid was a Celtic goddess whose festival was celebrated on February 1st and 2nd. Brigid’s Day, or Imbolc, heralded the middle of Winter and anticipated the coming of Spring. It was a festival of purification. (The word February itself comes from the Latin Februus, the god of purification and the dead.)

The Catholic church has been at odds with Brigid’s legacy for most of its existence. The bishops of Ireland found the goddess’s pagan following to be too deeply embedded in local tradition to be stomped out. Even the newly-converted Irish Christians refused to stop worshipping their exalted patroness. The Church decreed, If you can’t win ’em, join ’em. Brigid became Saint Brigid.

Over the centuries two Brigids emerged. One Brigid was transformed into Mary’s “midwife” at the birth of Jesus. (The position of Jesus’s mother was taken.)

In the other the she became the daughter of a Druid father ( and in some stories of a Christian mother from Portugal kidnapped by pirates!) and was named after the Celtic goddess. She lived from 451 to 525. She was known for her generosity as a young woman, and devoted herself to God, deflecting proposal after proposal from eligible suitors. She was baptized by St. Patrick himself and became a devout nun and Abbess, eventually founding the Abbey at Kildare in the 5th century.

St. Brigid of Kildare

In the Celtic tradition the Abbey at Kildare is believed to have preceded the so-called Saint herself. It was an ancient shrine to the Goddess before Christianity ever reached the Emerald Isle. There priestesses kept alight an eternal flame at the shrine until the 1220s when a Bishop, angered by the Abbess’s ‘no men allowed’ policy and the Druidic rituals, ordered the sacred flame to be put out.

The last insult to Brigid was her expulsion from the list of Saints in the 1960s. During Vatican II she was decanonized due to insufficient proof of her existence, after volumes of creative embellishment written about the supposed nun’s life and deeds over the centuries.

Brigid is affiliated with wisdom, healing, metal-work or craftmanship, flames and fire, and childbirth, even though she was a virgin in the Christian tradition.

In The Goddess Path: Myths, Invocations & Rituals Patricia Monaghan writes:

When we face the possible end of a relationship, when our bills are higher than the tiny resources we have, when we are emotionally drained by negative working conditions–it is all too easy to cling to what we have known previously…Brigid tells us otherwise…transformation is the only way to survive.

Likewise Imbolc is the transformation of winter into spring.

…the day on which you assume a new name; the day on which you pledge to make specific changes in your life. [Imbolc] could be thought of as a kind of goddess-specific New Year’s Eve.

In writing of St. Brigid, the Catholic Patroness of Ireland, (1907) Joseph Knowles notes:

St. Brigid received from her people a worship which history accords no other saint…She was the light that shone over their Island to direct the footsteps of the daughters of Erin in the paths of virtue and sanctity. In speaking of her they discarded the prefix Saint, and called her, in homely, yet reverent fashion, “Mo Brighe”–or “My Bride.

Note how Knowles reverses the carry-over from Brigid’s pre-Christian goddesship.

In the British Isles Brigid’s Feast and Imbolc merged with Candlemas. Both involves the ancient druidic lighting ceremony and purification rites, originally meant to honor Brigid. Some calendars list February 1 as Imbolc, others February 2. Most likely the celebration began on the evening of February 1 and concluded the following day, as was the tradition of the time.

On Brigid’s Day, Selena Fox, author of Lore and Riutals recommends:

“Do a self purification rite with Elemental tools–

cleanse your body with salt (Earth)

your thoughts with incense (Air)

your will with a candle flame (Fire)

your emotions with water (Water)

and your spiritual body with a healing crystal (Spirit)

Bless candles that you will be using for rituals throughout the year.

Invoke Brigid for creative inspiration.

Take a Nature walk and look for the first signs of Spring.”

One ritual of Brigid’s Day was to plant or hang straw cross from the previous year’s harvest around the outside of the house and in the rafters in honor of the goddess of flame, to protect the house from fire. “An odd gesture,” writes Patricia Monaghan, “for a collection of old straw ornaments in the attic seems to encourage, rather than prevent, house fires.

Brigid and her Cross

(Brigid’s Cross)

On Imbolc 1993 the Brigidine Sisters of Ireland relit the Kildare flame.

Brigid resources:

Brigid: the Goddess Who Wouldn’t Die

Brigid: the Survival of a Goddess

St. Brigid

Brigit or St. Brigid?

Brigid of the Celts

Brigit the Exalted One


Brigid’s Day Celebration

Brigid’s Day Foods

Imbolic Customs and Lore


October 31

Pagan: “a follower of a rustic or provincial religion”
from the Latin pagus, meaning a rural district.

The word “pagan” goes all the way back to the Greek root pagos meaning “that which is fixed”. “Fixed” as in “staying in position”, not like, your dog.

After crossing the Adriatic, the Romans used the word pagus to refer to a rural district. Pagan came to mean “country-dweller”.

Under Constantine, Christianity was not only tolerated, the religion replaced paganism throughout the Empire, with a top-down implementation. [For a more scholarly discussion, see the deleted “Storm” scene from X-Men 1.]

Long after Europe had converted to Christianity, some country-dwellers continued to worship their local and regional deities and observe the seasonal rituals of their ancestors to ensure prosperous harvests. Eventually the name for country-dweller became synonymous for followers of the old religions.

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What makes Halloween so special among American holidays is that it appears to harken back to its pagan roots without the veneer of a Christian holiday, like Easter and Christmas. While Celtic and Germanic traditions such as Walpurgis Night (Witches Night) and Beltane (May Day) have all but died out, Halloween is among the most widely celebrated holidays in the U.S.

And while several national holidays (such as Memorial Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Labor Day) are celebrated with parades, sports events, or barbecues, Halloween has several holiday-specific traditions that are celebrated at no other time of the year. This puts it in a small class of holidays that include Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, New Year’s, and Independence Day. Yet unlike the above holidays, Halloween is not recognized by the U.S. government. Nobody gets the day off. And still Halloween captivates the country at large and is becoming increasingly popular in Europe. This may be why Halloween has been singled out as contrary to the teachings of Christianity by some sects.

In truth, the holiday owes as much to traditions picked up during the celebrations of the ‘All Saint’s Day’ as to its pagan past. An observer of the Celtic holiday Samhain would hardly recognize the holiday today. Samhain was a cross-quarter day (directly between the equinox and solstice) when the Celts would practice acts of divination—predicting the future.

Some historians believe it was also a day to commemorate the dead, which is why the Pope moved All Saints’ Day–originally May 13–to November 1 to compete with the age-old local pagan traditions.

German and Irish immigrants brought their harvest traditions with them to America in the 19th century, such as the good old pagan bonfire on All Hallow’s Eve.

Hallowe’en masquerade parties were fashionable in Victorian America at the end of the 19th century. By the 20th century, the holiday belonged to the kids.

Which came first, the trick or the treat?

The British tradition of playing pranks on one’s neighbors on the night before Guy Fawkes Day (instituted 1606) traversed the Atlantic, taking hold on All Hallow’s Eve. On the nights leading up to All Soul’s Day, youths would take gates off their hinges, soap up neighbors’ windows, and create all-around havoc and mischief. (Now October 30 is known as Mischief Night). Today kids are much less prone to pull pranks on Halloween, but are more than happy to receive their sugar-coated pay-off.

Halloween is at once a caricature of traditions of rustic peoples, as seen through the eyes of their former enemies, and a wholly unique celebration, that has picked up its own imagery and rituals throughout the centuries.

On Paganism and Etymology

Halloween: Customs, Spells and Recipes


Vernal Equinox – on or around September 21 (Northern Hemisphere)
“Blessed be, by the Lady and the Lord, on this Mea’n Fo’mhair. It is the time of the second harvest, one of fruit and wine abundance. Tonight holds equilibrium of all things. Everything is in balance with one another. God and Goddess, Life and Death, Light and Dark.”
Immortal Boundaries, Aubrey Jones

References to the Welsh god Mabon ap Mydron (Mabon, Son of Modron, or ‘Great Son of the Great Mother’) date back well over a thousand years. Today the name Mabon conjures up images of ancient Celtic rituals, of the fruits of the harvest, of flickering flames beneath an autumn moon.  So you may be surprised to learn that ‘Mabon’—in reference to the autumnal equinox—dates not to the Dark Ages, but to the Disco Age (a dark age in its own right), the 1970s.

The holiday Mabon was coined by a grad student, Aidan Kelly, as part of a religious studies project. Kelly was following the Celtic and pagan tradition of naming holy days after gods and goddesses. Lughnasadh honors the Irish sun god Lugh. Beltane is believed to originate from Ba’al. The spring equinox is named for the German goddess Ostara, from which our word Easter also derives.

There was a holiday known as “Mabon’s Day” in Wales in the 19th century. But that holiday was named for William “Mabon” Abraham, a labor leader responsible for improving miners’ working conditions in Wales, (Mabon is a colloquialism for “young leader” in Welsh) and took place on the first Monday of each month.

Since the 1970s, the autumnal holiday Mabon has gained wide acceptance as a Wiccan and neo-pagan celebration in North America. The Celts, however, didn’t observe the autumnal equinox as much as the cross-quarter days of Lughnasadh (early August) and Samhain (Halloween), the latter of which was Celtic New Year.

The “Second Harvest” is known by many names: Cornucopia, Wine Harvest, Harvest Home, and the Feast of Avalon.

Avalon, one of the many Celtic names for the Land of the Dead, literally means the “land of applesCelebrating new-made wine, harvesting apples and vine products, and visiting burial cairns to place an apple upon them were all ways in which the Celts honored this Sabbat.

Edain McCoy, Celtic Myth & Magick

It’s a joyous celebration, but whereas the spring festivals celebrate birth and fertility, at the time of the harvest, Mabon participants remember their ancestors.

A similar tradition exists in Japanese culture. On the equinox, the Japanese visit the graves of their ancestors. It is known as O-higan, or “the Other Shore.” Buddha is said to walk the earth when night and day are equally divided.

Mabon is also known by variants of Fomhair. In Gaelic, the months of September and October are the only two to share a name: Mi Mean Fomhair and Mi Deireadh Fomhair: mid-harvest month and end-harvest month.


July 31-August 1

Book of Hours, August

Today is Lughnasadh! Not to be confused with Lasagna Day. That was July 29.

Also known by its more Christian name, Lammas, aka “Loaf-mas”, Lughnasadh marked the time of year villagers would celebrate the first Harvest, on or around August 1, by baking and sharing bread from the first grain of the season.

Lughnasadh is a cross-quarter day—days that fall directly between equinoxes and solstices—the others being Imbolc (Candlemas), Beltane (May Day), and Samhain (Halloween).

The holiday would have been celebrated by the Celts starting at sundown (on the 31st) until the following day.

July 31 is also Harry Potter’s Birthday! Coincidence?

Today the ancient pagan tradition is carried on by wiccans and is becoming increasingly popular in neopaganism.


Lughnasadh recipes