The lunar year…..
Ancient civilizations calculated their festivals according to
the lunar cycles of the year. Our present Gregorian calendar is calculated according to the position of the earth in relation to the sun – measuring the length of a solar day – rather than by the far less predictable monthly cycle of the moon. Although it is more complicated, man), cultures, such as the Hebrews and Muslims, still have the means to calculate time by the moon.
A lunar year is calculated by months rather than days, each incorporating the new, full, waning and dark aspects of the moon. For Buddhists, who use a lunar calendar, full and new moons are very important times, because they believe that Buddha was born, achieved enlightenment and died during the period of the full moon. Several of our solar festivals were originally lunar festivals, hence their appearance in the lunar wheel of the year. Easter still coincides with a particular full moon. The Celtic celebrations of Imbolc (celebrated on I February) and Beltane (I May) were also dedicated to the moon.
Some days are dedicated to moon goddesses. One of Diana’s festivals is called the Ides at the time of the May full moon. At this time, women would clean and tidy grotto, streams and water holes, and then wash the water over themselves as an act of cleansing and to encourage personal fertility. Diana is also venerated at the Harvest moon. Hecate, a moon goddess of the dark aspect, has her annual festival day on 13 August. This is the time when ancient peoples would call for her blessing on fair weather for a safe harvest.
The moon is honoured in many cultures. Zhong Qiu Jie is an autumnal lunar festival held by the Chinese, when offerings are made and celebrations abound to honour a bountiful harvest.
The lunar cycle is celebrated by pagans in the form of “full moon esbats”. These ceremonies involve celebrating the full moon and sharing a feast, after any requests or dedications have been made, to signify the great abundance of the mother aspect of the moon and her ripeness at full phase, being the most powerfully fertile.
Lunar Festivals of the Year
30 November eve – Festival of Hecate: weather
20/21 December eve – Winter Solstice — Celtic festival of the stars: light and life
31 January eve – Imbolc: rejuvenation, fertility
7 February – Festival of Selene
12 February – Festival of Diana
15 March – Festival of Cybele
20 March – Festival of Isis
20 March eve – Festival of Eostre (Easter): fertility
31 March – Festival of all Lunar Goddesses ancestors
1 May – Beltane/May Day: fertility, light and life
9 May – Festival of Artemis
26-31 May – Diana’s Ides of May: fertility, abundance
21 June eve – Festival of Ceridwen
13 August eve – Festival of Hecate: torch lit procession; weather and thanksgiving
September full moon eve – Festival of Candles/Harvest moon: crop yield
31 October eve – Festival of Hecate: remembrance of ancestors