I celebrated Lughnasad last night with more attention than I’ve paid to a holy day in months. The neglect of holy days wasn’t for theological reasons, but personal ones. I made an effort last night to clear off and wipe clean my table, prepare some food, and make offerings with prayers. I mainly wanted to honor the Gaulish deities Lugus and Rosmerta, but also to make some offerings to all the powers I honor because they’d gotten scant worship from me for a while. I bought some oatmeal stout to stand for the grain harvest, which I split with the deities, and cooked a meal that was seasonally appropriate if not exactly haute cuisine: Oscar Meyer franks with cheese, canned beans, and two ears of fresh corn. At least the corn had to be cooked, and it *is* the chief grain of the Americas.
Every so often I hear that someone has been bashing the Neopagan Wheel of the Year, and I feel my Moon in Libra devil’s advocate impulses rise up to defend it. I think the Wheel works as a basic festival calendar for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with what’s happening in English farming communities or what myths you attach to the festivals.
First of all, the eight holy days correspond to astronomical/astrological events. Half of them are occupied by the solstices and equinoxes, of course, and the other half can be located at the halfway points between those solar events, which is located at fifteen degrees of the fixed signs in classic Western astrology.
Second, they correspond to climatic changes. Imbolc may not look like the beginning of spring in your area, but something happens then. Here in the Mid-Atlantic region, we sometimes have flowers at Imbolc, snowdrop and crocus, but even if we’re knee-deep in snow, the change in light signals the local birds to think about pairing off for the breeding season. (In other words, Chaucer was right: Birds do choose their mates on Valentine’s Day.)
Third, each one is at the center of a cluster of festivals from all across Europe and around the world. In the Ekklesia Antinoou, we observe the spring equinox as the apotheosis of Diva Sabina, the wife of Hadrian. At the summer solstice, we celebrate the syncretism of Antinous with Apollon. The Mysteries at Eleusis, in which both Hadrian and Antinous were initiated, falls near the autumnal equinox, and the Saturnalia at the winter solstice.
Every six weeks or so, the Wheel of the Year gives us a chance to tune in to the world around us and to take a break to celebrate and reflect. Whether or not you have a particular mythic cycle to commemorate, you might find something in your life, your world, that’s worth your attention at those eight times. And you’re not obliged to limit yourself to those occasions, either. As a worshipper of Antinous and (mostly) of the gods of Rome, I have a large number of other festivals I can observe throughout the year, some based on history, some dedicated to particular deities, some celebrations of agricultural life in ancient Italy. I don’t give equal attention to everything, but it makes a nice change from watching tv.
Why would anyone complain about a reason to celebrate?