When trying to craft a modern Celtic ritual calendar based on what we know of the ancient Celts and their celebrations, we realize that the modern pagan calendar of 8 “sabbats” feels like a bit of unnecessary add on. We have just passed the modern pagan celebration of “Mabon” here in North Carolina and it has gotten us thinking about things related to Celtic calendars and how things fit together for us here at the Fellowship.
Mabon is a modern construct for paganism. The Celts didn’t celebrate anything called “Mabon”. And while neo-lithic cultures predating the Celts did seem to honor the solstices and equinoxes, the evidence we have of various Celtic cultures points to them not celebrating those times of the year. Not that having a fall ritual/festival at this time of year is a bad thing or invalid…
The Need for Gatherings
When modern Paganism was creating itself it drew on the available scholarship of the day. It looked at the celebrations of not only the Celts but Germanic peoples. With the “Quarter” and “Cross-quarter” days a cohesive cyclical year of celebrations came into being. This was before the days of Celtic Reconstructionism and people specializing in particular areas of paganism. The balanced and cyclical year became a staple of most modern pagan traditions and most organizations tend to use some form of it even down to today. And it makes sense. Communities need regular gatherings; we enjoy spending time with people of like mind. Having regularly spaced times of ritual or spiritual gathering during the year helps us stay connected and helps us build our own modern mythos. So how do we remain true to a Celtic path and still maintain close contact outside of the four Celtic high days?
One way we do things in Sylvan Celtic Fellowship is we have created a tribal system for people. It is a way for people to come together in fellowship and spiritual celebration. We don’t use the “grove model” adopted by many modern Druid organizations. More can be gleaned by reading our previous blog post here. The point though is that our modern hearths, clanns, and tribes are able to come together for their spiritual needs outside of our Druid led Celtic holy days. Although the Solstices and equinoxes are not inherently Celtic celebrations there is no need to stop using these aspects of the neo-pagan “Wheel of the Year”. In our tribal system we have begun using these days to grow our own tribal traditions.
Customs and Traditions
Each Hearth, Clann, or Tribe in Sylvan Celtic Fellowship should set up their own ways to celebrate the solstices and equinoxes. By doing this each group becomes its own unique entity. The Hearths, Clanns, and Tribes will forge their own customs and traditions for these days. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be religious ritual that groups do. For example, our sister organization for the Mabon season holds a Thanksgiving style feast. Your group could hold a feast, go for a weekend camping getaway, hold a toasting circle; the options are entirely in your hands. As time goes by the traditions that each tribal unit comes up with will give them their own identity. Along with the Druid led Celtic holy days, the solstices and equinoxes will come to fill out a yearlong cyclical calendar that will be unique to each tribal unit. Our hope is that as more tribal units come into being, each with its own identity, that the tribes will have the diversity that our ancient counterparts had.