Welcome to
Ros Briagha's website

Ros Briagha is a community leader
who ran OakDragon,
an outdoor educational organization that brings people back to Nature. She is a Wiccan teacher and ceremonialist who is also adept at divination.

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The Eight Festivals

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Who is Ros Briagha?

E-mail:ros@rosbriagha.org


The 8 Festivals


Samhain


The beginning of the pagan calendar is at Samhain, one of the Cross Quarter days, which are known as the Fire Festivals. The exact date cannot be fixed by Sun and Moon, but rather flows as a tide, as the year turns and, in Britain at least, the trees lose their leaves.
This is the real start of the Dark Times, when all beings rest, and make plans, and gather strength for the year ahead. It is a time to really look hard at what we have, whether it be beasts or burdens, and to accept that it is time for those aspects of our lives that are no longer healthy to die. It is a opportunity for cleansing, as the winter rains wash away the old and outworn, and make a clear space for the new to grow into. The darkness is a gift, a time of inner reflection and peace, when the urgent demands of Spring are far away, and it is time to curl up somewhere warm and sleep.It is one of the most potent times of year, a shift point from Light to Dark, and holds such power that our secular nation still celebrates it, with fire and the honouring of the witches and spirits. It is a time when the veils are thin, and the ancestors, and those who are yet to be, can reach through the astral mist and contact us, to share their love and wisdom. We must acknowledge the power of the unseen worlds, as the sunlight fades away and the creatures of the dark have their time of strength. Our dreams and visions can become clearer, and we have space to let them gestate during the winter, so they may emerge fully formed and ready in the spring.


Winter solstice

 

The first of the days of power for the Sun, as its southward journey finally slows to a halt and stops - Solstitium = Sun+ make standstill. The shortest day, and yet it thus holds the promise that after this, the days get longer again! The pagans know that the celebration is for this reason, and so not an end point to joy, but rather a beginning that leads us into the bleak but lighter days of the turning year. This turning point, which can be clearly seen by all who care to use the ancient calendars of the stone circles, is our guide that shows us it is time to rouse ourselves from our winter sleep and start to prepare for the new times ahead. The earth is cleansed of last years’ dead vegetation, and ready for us to go out and make our mark on it, clearing paths forward, adding fertilizer to our plans, using the rising energy to help us dream a new dream and start to make it real. This is the easiest time to work on the land, when there is no surface growth to get in the way, and this is true too for our inner gardens, free now of last years worries and wrongs, and ready to start anew. This is such a great time to fall into step with Nature, and enjoy each day as they slowly lengthen. We can see clearly and much farther than in the summer, when the bare bones of the Earth are no longer exposed. So we can take time to see our road ahead, see the bigger picture of our lives, and see how it can fit in to the larger world around us.


Imbolc


The second Fire Festival, and once again the energy of Nature is made manifest, as the tide of returning growth starts to show itself. The snowdrops appear, often amid the snow, and the sheep start their cycle of life again, as the baby lambs are born. It is said that Imbolc means Ewe Milk , and to our ancestors this would have been a true gift, of fresh new energy after the long months of eating stored food. The lambs themselves would not be eaten now, but allowed to grow big and strong as the new grass fed them and their mothers. This time of change can be felt by us too, and this is a great time to really have a good spring clean, both of your home and of yourself. The pagan way is to wash in Brides’ cleansing water, and re-light our inner fire, to return ones’ body to “virgin “ state, ready to start a new cycle of our own. This helps us to slough off the sleepy energy of winter, to feel bright and charged up with inner fire, reborn into a new year. We can also recharge ourselves by going for walks and seeing for ourselves the new buds on the trees, the fresh grass sprouting up, and of course, the most wonderful part of all, the vibrant songs of the birds, as they too spruce up and begin the urgent business of procreation. The human celebration of St. Valentines day is actually a reminder that it is now that the birds start their courting, finding a mate to share the nest building and family that can bring them fulfilment. We too can enjoy meeting up with friends, after the quiet of the dark times, and making the connections that will bring us fulfilment too.


Ostara, Spring Equinox


This is a truly Solar festival, as the Sun once more rules, and the Dark retreats. Day and night are of equal length for a few days, and then the Light takes over, the days growing longer much more quickly now. This rate of change is fastest at the Equinox, and it is good to allow this to happen within too, welcoming the rush of spring energy and the recharging of our batteries by the Sun. Now is the time to get outside and start planting seeds for the future. We can look at those winter plans and projects, and in the bright light really see which we are ready to begin. We can make sure the ground is fully prepared, and that inside we are also prepared, recharged and able to put our strength into making things happen. This is a time of Balance, when the importance of both light and dark can be seen, and valued, and this balance needs to be present in our activities and thoughts too. Too much of humanities path has been a process of disturbance, of upsetting critical balances within Nature, and the world is going through quite a major period of upheaval now because of it. We have worshipped the Light, and forgotten about the importance of the Dark, and did not realise how foolish some of our actions have been . It is time to weigh things up in the Cosmic Scales, and discard those ways that lead us away from harmony with all other beings that share our planet.


Beltane


This is another of the Fire Festivals, when the whole of Nature seems to be afire with desire and energy! The return of Life is obvious now, as the new leaves grow on the trees, and the spring flowers bring beauty back into our lives. Again, this is not a exact date, but the tide that brings in the feelings of warmth and growth, as the young of many creatures are born, and blossoms cover the trees. For us this tide can bring a chance to throw off the restrictions of the cold times, put on our summer clothes, and get out and enjoy the sunshine. It is a time of pleasure too, when the May Pole dance encourages those who are young in body and spirit to make merry, and to make love! All of Nature is ready to join this dance, as the young birds sing, and the insects hum with joy! At this time of growth we must seize the opportunity to make our own desires flourish and grow. The surge of energy is almost overwhelming, so those winter plans need to be ready to roll now, making the most of this marvellous time. It is appropriate to look outwards now, to seek for that which is our hearts desire, to feed ourselves with this joyful exuberance and let our spirits feel the ecstacy of all of Nature that the dark times are over once more, and Life has returned.


Summer Solstice


This is the peak of the Solar year, when the Sun has travelled as far North as it goes in its rising, and the Light has its greatest power. Once more, it is possible to go to the stone circles and see this happen, to watch that Sun rising behind the marker stone, and see how we and our Earth Mother dance around the Sun through all eternity. The Light is with us for most of each day now, and this is a good time to explore the outer world, while we can see most clearly. It can be good to travel now, to search out new territory for our lives, to seek illumination within and without. In the old days of the tribal peoples, before the wonders of modern cars and planes and trains, this would be the time to go and meet up with different tribes and make alliances and marriages and trades, while travel was easy and the long days meant the people could move around without fear of being caught by the dark. So make this an expansive time for yourself in some way. Make the most of this illumination to go beyond your normal limits, to have new experiences and meet new people, to allow yourself to try to reach new goals. Everything seems possible when the Sun shines bright, - even in our British summers when the clouds can gather, the light is still there and the days are still long!


Lammas/Lughnasadh


The fourth Fire Festival, when the heat of summer should be at its strongest, and Natures’ harvest is beginning. The first crops are ripening now, the first vegetables are ready to eat, most of the work is done, and we can all relax and sit back for a while, in what is still a traditional holiday time for both schools and factories. In the old days, this was the time when the young men would hold their trials of strength and skill, hence the name Lughnasadh, the sacred festival of Lugh of the Shining Spear. It is not yet time for the serious harvest work, and so there can be space to hone our abilities, and compete with others in a joyful way. The waning of the light is not that obvious yet, the rate of change is slow, and so we can enjoy the heat and the beauty around us for some while yet. Lammas as a name comes from Loaf Mass, the celebration of the first cutting of the wheat that gives the grain for our bread, which in past times was never a certainty and so was a cause of great relief when the harvest was good. Even now, this gift of Nature should not be taken for granted! We should be able by now to start to see our own hard work coming to fruition, to see how those winter plans and spring sowing have born fruit for us in our lives. This is also then an opportunity to see whether we like our harvest, or whether we may choose to sow a different crop next year. The new contacts we have made out in the world will start to show their value, and all around us the ripening process and rewards for our efforts should be clear.


Autumn Equinox


The year is turning, and once more the Balance is swinging back towards the Dark. For a few days, night and day are equal, and then, slowly, the darkness starts to grow. The Sun rises exactly in the East only at the Equinoxes, and sets exactly in the West, a splendid sight to see if you can find a suitable viewing point. During the rest of the year, it is exactly due East at 6am and exactly due West at 6pm, a useful thing to know if you are out and about and want to know where you are! And every day it is exactly due South at noon, GMT. { Ipm BST} This is the real time of Harvest Thanksgiving, when all of Natures bounty is there to be gathered in, and most of the corn and grain is safely in the barns, ready to make our winter food. Many will join in harvest festivals at this point, showing off their produce and giving thanks for this gift of renewed life. So it is a good time to sit and evaluate your own harvest, to see if you have gathered it all in now, and make sure that you know how to keep it well. On a practical level, many make jam and chutney and wine to preserve these fruits and vegetables, and of course we can now freeze many items too. On a more esoteric level, we can pick over our accomplishments and see what we have managed to achieve this year. Now is the time to start to return to our own place, to look inwards once more, and digest the excitement and stimulation of our summer activities.

 

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