Rough Notes and Rough Outline for a Druid Wheel of the Year Talk
that Norma and Ed gave at Rutgers Pagan Students Assoc. on Oct 10 2002 (and on several subsequent occasions at various places):

(Discussion of wheel of the year, not calendars. See end of notes for brief bit on Coligny and "Tree" calendars.)

Familiar with Wiccan wheel of the year?

Druid is similar, but not the same thing.

Difference in names, what we do, and overall purpose. Praise vs. Magick.

As in Wicca, what Druids do on the holidays is a reflection of what’s happening in Nature as the seasons turn in the temperate zones. The weather and seasons in Northern Europe and the British Isles are quite a bit different from that in Arizona or Florida, so as Druids we’d recommend that you pay attention to what’s happening where you live. We live in NJ, and that’s very close to the latitudes in Northern Europe, and the seasons are similar, if not exact. We're roughly latitude of Spain. Spring things happen bit earlier and fall things a bit later than in Britain.

The Celts were mostly a herding people. While they acknowledged the solstices and equinoxes, those weren’t the most important occasions on the calendar. The most important holidays were the midpoints in between:

when the ewes were lactating and about to give birth on Imbolc;
when it was time to take the herds to pasture and finish the agricultural planting on Beltane;
when the tribes got together, and the start of the harvest on Lughnasadh;
and when the veil between the worlds opened on Samhain.

All of this depends on stuff happening in Nature, not on a date on a calendar. The old Druids didn’t check their file-o-faxes and they didn’t use a calendar created by a Roman emperor and a Catholic pope. When people tell you Samhain is Oct. 31st, well, the old Druids wouldn’t have know what Oct. 31st was. (See end of notes for brief bit on Coligny and "Tree" calendars.)

All Hallow’s Eve, Hallowmass

- Livestock not expected to have enough food over the winter killed
- According to the 1st century BCE Coligny Calendar, the Samhain festival was 3 days long.
- It literally means “summer’s end.” It’s the end of the harvest, the land is now fallow and bare, the herds are penned for the winter, and those that might not have survived have been killed and the meat preserved.
-- Start of the old Celtic year.
- Also- the in-between time when it’s no longer this year or that. To the Celts, liminal spaces were very important, they were spaces when the laws of time and space could be suspended, as well as the laws of the tribe.

- Time to honor ancestors.
veil between the worlds at its thinnest.
Ancient Celts had no fear of their dead (unless it was someone they were
afraid of when they were alive) so Samhain held no terrors of ghosts
for them. All worlds interconnected all the time - not just at Samhain
(explain how this happens in each GOG ritual also)
- The strength of darkness grows greater than the strength of light.
- Entrances to burial mounds left open and the interiors lighted until sunrise.- Time of the Herne’s Hunt - the horned god gathers the dead.
- Time to honor and thank “hunt Gods” in general.
- Time for sacrifices, divination and decisions.
- As customs and laws were suspended, people would dress up as the opposite sex and go around the village asking for treats. If treats were not given, they could stop up your chimney with peat or scatter your piles of hay.
- Overlap with Roman Festival of Pomona, Goddess of Apples
Bobbing for apples
Carmel apples

- Soul cakes made for the dead and also for the living
also called Dirge Loaves, Dole cakes (sing Soul Cake song)
- Hollowed out mangel-wurzels (a type of turnip) were made into tallow lamps
and put outside homes to light the revelers ways
- Large Bonfires were built and the community gathered around to socialize
- Story of the meeting of the Morrighan and the Dagda
explain names
talk about sovereignty of the land
occasional king killing at Samhain

- This year, the midpoint between the Equinox and Solstice occurs on Nov. 6th. This is not as important as what’s happening in Nature in your area. Around here, this year Samhain started early because of all the grieving associated with the anniversary of the Sept. 11th deaths. This opened the gates to the ancestors early. Normally, we’d look for signs and intuitions, and look at the trees and the natural world to tell us when Samhain is occuring

We hold our standard ADF Druid ritual, with an emphasis on Ancestors and the needs of the community at that particular time, as we see it. This year, we’re honoring Jack of the Lantern and Will O’ the Wisp and other “outsidery” kinds of spirits....
We create an Ancestor’s Altar upon which people place items that remind them of ancesors that they wish to honor. not only ancestors of the blood, but ancestors of the spirit, like inspiring authors, musicians, mentors and such....
We honor the Goddess Kali with a midnight pooja. A number of folks in the grove follow Kali.
We hold a vigil until dawn for all who wish to do so.
We have an informal Divinijam, where people get together and use their skills to tell each other’s fortunes.

- Carve a pumpkin and put a candle in it!
- Dress up for Hallowe’en
- Bake (or buy) cakes or bread and leave some out for the ancestors
- Hold a dumb supper with a departed loved one
- Stay awake all night on Samhain to keep vigil for the ancestors and Gods

- Navratri (Hindu) - festival of Durga’s homecoming, 9 nights, going on right now!
- Guy Fawlkes night - Nov 5
- Feast of Manannan - Nov 10
- Festival of Pomona (Roman) - late October, early November
- Ganesh Festival (Hindu) - October/November


YULE (Jule, wheel in Norse)- around December 21st
Winter Solstice, Mean Geimredh (mid-winter) Alban Arthuan (point of roughness or light of Arthur), Modranicht (mother night), first day of winter

- Re-birth of the sun
- Old Celts and Druids didn’t do much for the Solstices and Equinoxes, at least as far as we know. However, all sorts of folk traditions survive from other British cultures:
- Birth of divine child in many cultures:
Mabon to the Welsh
Maponos to the British
Mithras to Persians and Romans
Jesus to the Christians.
Lugh to the Celts

Again, metaphors or personifications of the rebirth of the sun, as well as divinities in their own rights. It’s a good time for that type of God to be born.
- Symbol of a wheel used to mark the Solstice.
- Overlap with Roman Holiday of Saturnalia
Greens brought into home - holly, ivy, mistletoe, bay, rosemary, box tree
(greens brought in must be burned by or at Imbolc!)
Shiny things hung on boughs to charm back the sun
Saturn’s club was made of holly
Another holiday of role reversal/chaos
Masters would wait on servants for one day

King of Misrule would be crowned from among the commoners
- Time of family and community get-togethers, mirth and as much feasting as food
supply would allow.
Special dishes, baked apples, elaborate puddings
- People ring bells and bang pots (as they do now on New Year) to bring back the sun.
- Yule candle - a large candle lit around Yule and left burning all Solstice night
* remnants of this candle were lit again for protection against illness and
against lightning strikes.
* tallow candle was used to grease plough for first planting for luck
* welcome candles in windows are leftover from this tradition
- Yule log - large log trimmed with greens
by tradition should not be bought, must be cut or given for luck
Burns whole night of Solstice

Some traditions use maypole
Remnants saved to start the Yule fire the following year
- Mummers plays involving death of the old year and rebirth of hero/sun
Frequently the sun is personified in mummers plays and ritually beheaded and then a fool resurrects him. Mention Revels in NY, and Sword Dance.
* St. George and the dragon, Jesus, Mithras, Mabon, Lugh
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
* Mummers plays frequently feature exotic costumes and cross dressing
This has degenerated in modern England and Ireland to masked
guys dressed in their wives dresses, wandering around asking for beer
at Christmas
- St. Stephens day (older the St. Stephen) Dec 26th
The wren as possible fire deity
(sing the wren song and pass bird)
- Wassail 12th night January 6th
sing to apple and other fruit trees to promote growth
(sing the Wassail song)

We try to have a light and happy and humorous Yule, because Samhain can be so intense. Also, humor and celebration is in spirit then. Rejoice- the days will be getting longer!
We’ve done hilarious mummers plays, we’ve done our rituals using tongue-twisters
We have an “awful gift exchange”
We wassail fruit trees- our fig tree, people’s apple trees
the wren song- wren as “spirit of the oak” or a deity in bird form.

- go to family holiday gatherings just like Pagan have been putting up with for thousands of years
- bring a tree or branches inside (real or fake) and decorate them
- sing Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly
- light your own Yule candle

Saturnalia (Roman) - December 17th
Festival of Sarasvati (Hindu) - January
Feast of the Kitchen God (Chinese) - January 20th

IMBOLC (in the belly)
Imbolg, Oimelc (sheep’s milk) , Brigantia, Candlemass, St. Brigid’s Day

- Sheep begin to give milk - heavy with calves
milk and cheese to eat when food supplies are getting low in winter
promise of early calves as food

- “Brigantia”. Brigid is the Goddess that this holiday belongs to. Brigantia is what she was called by Her fierce warrior tribe in Britian, the Brigands. Her name means Bright One, Exalted One, High One. We get the word “Bride” from Brigid’s name. She’s a Goddess of Healing, especially as a midwife, and a Goddess of Smithcraft, of the Hearth and Home, and a Goddess of Poets, Artists and Musician.
festival in honor of Her blessings of milk and of fire
- Her sacred sites are associated with eternal fires and healing springs and wells.
- Her priests kept an eternal fire at Kildare. On Imbolc it was always “Brigid’s turn” to watch the fire.
- ”Candlemass” which comes from the Catholic mass that took the place of this Pagan holiday.
- Imbolc’s cross-quarter occured on Feb. 4th this year. On that week, Norma and I went out to Johnson Park across the river, and the goats were indeed waddling around pregnant and the reeds were green under their cloaks of brown. You could do this too. Again, look for signs in Nature.
- At this point the days are noticably longer.
- Beginnings of spring underground and in the treetops
The land still looks bare and frozen, but underground and in the sheep pens things are happening.
- Put out hearth fire and relight with Brigids fire
- Women’s ritual’s and house and baby blessings
tell stories of GOG’s past rituals
- Leave Brigid’s brats outside (pass extra brats?)
Brigid’s banner
- Cutting of winter reeds to see green inside
- Make Brigid dolly of reeds and escort to the ritual
- Tell story of Brigid carrying fire in Her skirt

We go to the park and look at the goats,
We cut reeds, notice the green inside, and later we use the reeds to make a Brigid’s dolly, or brideóg, which is ritually escorted into the house for our ritual, and later burned and sent to Brigid.
We hang out a cloth overnight to be blessed by Brigid when she comes through looking for Her followers. These are called Brigid’s Brats.
We burn our Yule greens. It’s bad luck to have them in the house after Imbolc.
General housecleaning.
We also re-light our pilot lights in our house from a candle dedicated to Brigid.
And, we burn candles to Brigid, but I do that all the time anyway.

- Bake something in honor of Brigid - especially if it contains milk, cheese or egg
- Light a candle to Brigid - keep it and light it for healing and inspiration
- Go out and cut a reed to see if it’s green inside
carry the reed inside your house or apartment and beat the walls with it
asking Brigid to enter
- Go to Johnson’s park and see if the goats are heavy with kid - if they are, it’s

- Festival of Ishtar (Babylonian) - March 8th
- Holi (Hindu) - March


SPRING EQUINOX - around March 21st

Mean Earrach, Alban Eiler (light of spring) Alban Eilir (point of spring), Ostara, Eostre, First day of Spring

- egg balancing
tell story of egg balancing at the Trade Center
- Again, Druids didn’t do much for the solar holidays, that we know of.
watch what’s happening right here- what nature is doing in Jersey.

We go down to the Jersey Shore on Eq Day to honor Manannan Mac Lir, Son of the Sea and our Grove’s Gatekeeper. We collect the water of 9 waves.
We balance eggs. It’s good luck. norma’s story- trade center & momma donna
The ritual is about Spring coming up.
Blessing of the plough. Blessing of tools in general.
Dedication of our Grove Well for the year.

- balance an egg - it really works
- go the Johnson park and see the baby animals
- eat sweet bread with eggs in it

Hilaria’s Feast (Roman) - March 25th
Feast of Fools - April 1st
Feast of Kwan Yin (Chinese) - April 5th
Feast of St. George - April 23rd

May Day, SetSamhain

- Beltane’s cross-quarter last year was on May 6th.
- livestock is rounded up and driven between 2 bonfires for ritual purification
and fertility rite, also to remove ticks and mites
livestock is then moved to summer pastures
this probably took whole villages to accomplish and so was a social time
- Bel’s fire Bel-tinne God Beli, Bel, Bilé, Belenos. Bright One, God of Fire. Balefires echo the name.
Cormac, in the 9th C called it Belo-tiniá, the bonfire of Belos the Bright.
jump fire for fertility, lay in the fields, talk about maybegots, morris-sons.
- no marriages in the month of May, fertility and marriage of the land and crops
merrybegots, June brides
- Maypoles as fertility symbols
- Hobby horses, ithyphallic fertility and luck symbols paraded through town
from dawn to dusk on Mayday
tell story of our “church & school” hobby horse
- Morris dancers at dawn on Beltane morning
Beltane vigil, making faery cakes, bringing in the May
First dew of May morning as a cosmetic
- Time of year when gates between ancestors and living are the most closed
Between living and faery/magick are the most open
Faery visits traditional
- May birching - leaving boughs the meant specific things at peoples doors
pear - beauty, gorse - sluttishness
singing personalized May songs
leaving May baskets
- Obviously, vegetation is lush. Mating and fertility on everyone’s minds.
- Story of Gwion and Cerridwen / Talisein

-We tend to think Beltane comes earlier in NJ than it does in Britain. We usually hold our ritual on the last weekend in April at a park outside Morristown.
We really love all the folklore of May Day - and there’s a lot.
We hold a Mayfaire- costumes, masks, a parade, a labyrinth, maypole, a hobby-horse death-and-rebirth-and-fertilize-the-earth dance...
-On Apr. 30, vigil, fairy cakes, fairy offerings.
-At dawn Princeton- Morris Dancers---our hobby-horse

- Get up at dawn on Beltane and watch the Morris dancers
- Get up at dawn and put dew on your face
- make love in the woods
- bring flowers and grass into the house

-Feast of Pan - May 18th
-Oak Apple Day / Corn Mother Festival - May 29th


SUMMER SOLSTICE - around June 21st

Midsummer, Mean Samradh, Alban Hefin (point of summer), Alban Heruin (shore), beginning of summer

- first haymaking
- Sun at its height, longest day, shortest night.
Birth of the dark at the height of the light
- Wheels stuffed with straw set ablaze and rolled down a hill - the sun’s decline
- There are bonfires associated with this holiday, also.
- Used to be dedicated to Bran, who lost his head in battle, the head brought back to britain to propheisize. Supposedly in the Tower of London, but a friend said in Carmarthen in Wales.
- Speaking of heads, it’s now the Catholic feast for John the Baptist
- To the Norse, it’s sacred to Balder.
- Spirit night to the Welsh
night fairies are about- Shakepeare’s- midsummer night’s dream
- Folk custom of the Brat Aitmeithe- Armid’s mantle- Starts with a recitation of how Dian Cecht, the “doctor” of the Sidhe, killed his son, Miach. After his death 365 herbs grew from the grave. His sister Armid gathered them and laid them out to show how they could be used. Dian Cecht scattered the healing herbs, so the knowledge of how to cure all ailments was lost to us. the Brat Aitmeithe is a cloth with the outline of the human body stitched on it, and pictures of herbs showing which herb is beneficial for which part of the body.
- Cornish proverb “in summer, remember winter”
medicinal herbs picked and dried

We take our ritual for a walk around new brunswick and honor our local spirit of place, the Goddess of New Brunswick, and our local nature spirits. The students are gone, and She’s sleepy and lonely.

- go to the beach
- stock up on herbs and herbal lore

- Feast of Epona (Celtic) - June 13th
- Birthday of the Muses (Roman) - June 14th
- Fates Feast Day (Roman) - June 24th

Lammas (Loaf-mass), Harvest Home

- first harvests comes in - food for man and for cattle
point between hay harvest and wheat / corn harvest
this can be as long as a monthlong festival
- Lammas- Loaf-mass. the first of the harvest was blessed at this time, blessing of bread.
- Cross-quarter this year fell on August 7th- but this was a month-long festival in many places, lasting from the middle of July until the middle of August.
- festival of Lugh - nassadh means commemoration
mourning of the harvest God’s passing
Grain boy gets it
symbolic funeral processions in Wales and England
baking of symbolic bread man
- Lugh’s festival to honor his stepmother Tailtu
Meeting of tribes, arrangement of marriages, trading and “networking”, contests of strength and wit, games.
- legal and political matters settled, violence and levying of debts forbidden

- Tailtuen or Teltown (Tailtu) marriages performed at festival
last for a year and a day
are made permanent at next festival or
one walks to north, one to south and marriage is dissolved

- Story of Lugh, Arianrhod’s curse, and Blodeuwedd
- John Barleycorn sung and stories told of the death of grain Gods
- Craft festivals and pageants - echoed in modern Renaissance Faires that happen at this time.
- Days are growing visibly shorter - as they were visibly longer at Imbolc.

Go to Festivals!
NJ Pagan Picnic
Celebrate the baking of bread, the harvest
Bake dough dollys- and bread men
On our last Harvest ritual, in the drought, we praised water

- bake a man-shaped loaf of bread, throw some to the nature spirits and eat some
- go to a big party
- play competitive games or sports
-Build giant wicker figures and fill them with animals and your enemies and burn them.

- Festival of Diana and Hecate - August 13
- Dharma Day (Buddhist) - August 15
- Abbot’s Bromley Horn Dance - first Monday after the first Sunday after September 4th


FALL EQUINOX, around September 21st
Mean Foghamar, Alban Elued (water), Alban Elfed (point of reaping), Mabon, Harvest Home

- completion of the harvest
- time of pause and balance before we go into the dark half of the year.
- The harvesting turned into a contest at this time- the last sheaves of wheat in a farmer’s field would be made into a dolly- and it was tossed into the field of a farmer who hadn’t finished yet. In turn, he’d make a dolly, and take the one tossed into his field, and throw it into the field of anyone else who hadn’t finished yet. The last farmer to harvest wound up with all the dollies, and this was considered bad luck.
- In other communities, the reaper of the last sheaf kept the dolly, and it gave him special favors from the Otherworlds, or the fairies.

In New Brunswick, the students are back. This is a serious change of season thing for folks who live here.
We go for leaf walks.
As on the Spring Equinox, watch what’s happening right here.
- Take the time to get in tune with what is happening in your own back yard.

- Take a walk to look at the turning of the leaves
- Bring leaves and gourds into your house or apartment

- Banquet of Venus - September 13th
- Rites of Elusis (Roman) - September 21st
- Feast of Demeter - October 11-13
- Dwali (Hindu) - October


If there's time: BRIEF mention and confusing explanation of "Celtic Tree Calendar" as per Graves & Murrays- poetic interpretation of ogham alphabet as a calendar. Probably doesn't reflect any ancient calendar, but a use of ogham consistent with what the Druids would have used it for.... And it's a good lunar calendar for neoPagans.

Mention of fragmentary Coligny calendar. Roman era in Gaul- 100 years after Caesar's invasion; lunar- all full moons mentioned as 3-days, not just the one in Samonios. Are festivals really mentioned at all, or just full moons? Is it really Druid, or a Celtic attempt to mimic Roman calendar, or adapt on older Celtic calendar to the Julian one?

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