C is for Calendar & Celebrations

Forgive me if this post seems a little scattered; the summer heat has officially become Totally Unbearable after ex-Cyclone Oswald swept through the place and left a string of annoyances both big and little in his wake. And wouldn’t you know it: my airconditioner has decided to die! That’s right, in record temperatures (think, oh, 110 degrees F!) the sodding thing decides to break down. Couldn’t happen in midwinter, could it? :P

But the topic of killer weather leads me into this week’s theme: my pagan calendar and the celebrations that take place within it.

A lot of pagans tend to work with fixed dates on the Gregorian calendar for their Wheel of the Year celebrations; I do not. Every single celebration day changes with every different year for me, because I work with an orbital calendar, and have done since I was a little witchling who could barely pronounce “Samhain” — it just always felt right to me that nothing pertaining to the Wheel of the Year should be static or chained to one date in the Gregorian calendar. I couldn’t possibly explain the orbital calendar without a) taking a million words to do so, and b) definitely making a mess of it (hooray dyscaculia!), so you can learn more about it and how it is calculated by visiting this page.

There are two main calendars in the nóre — one with twelve months and five days belonging to no month, and more seasonally-appropriate seven “month” calendar also with five days belonging to no month. The thing is, though? They are also fairly static as things go, especially the twelve-monther. They all fit the solar year of 365 days perfectly, but the solstices (the first calendar) or the equinoxes (the second calendar) are still on static days. This caused me some consternation when I first started working with them. Plus there was the problem of seasons, for me — both calendars were designed with the seasons of the Nothern Hemisphere in mind.

So after some thought, I decided to do two things: perform ritual and prayer on the orbital day of the celebration, and use the static dates as more of a festival day, something more lighthearted and fun, and can often involve my non-pagan friends and family members without scaring them off ;) This method also works fantastically with my illness, as well — if one day’s a washout, I can relax in knowing that I can still celebrate its forthcoming “party day”, or feel alright knowing I acknowledged the time with ritual.

There are seven festivals I celebrate on my path, based mostly on the seven-month seasonal calendar — because, in the nóre, it existed before the twelve-month calendar. (Seven is quite the Important Number on my path, it seems. But more on this later, p’raps.)

The first festival going by the Gregorian calendar is Yávië. Its orbital date is February 4th this year, and its festival date is February 1st. Yávië is also the name of the 3rd month in the seasonal calendar of the nóre. It’s very similiar to Lammas, as it’s a harvest festival. I’m not any kind of farmer, so I can’t celebrate my own harvest, so I celebrate my local farmers’ by buying their produce for my feast: many fruits, fresh bread, and many many apples! (Only last year I discovered how fond of apple pie I am; apple pie is going to be a Yávië staple from now on, bet you London to a brick ;P)

Next is Enderi, or more properly the Enderi, which are the ‘middle days’. Its orbital date is March 20th, and the festival days go from the 24th to the 26th. Enderi is the ending of the warm weather period (finally!) and on the seven-month calendar, are three of the five days that are not part of any month, right in the middle of the year. Being an autumn baby who adores winter, I love Enderi — it’s almost my favourite festival. I have a tendency to cover my altar in autumn leaves come this time of year.

Then comes Turuhalmë, the “Log Drawing” of Midwinter. Its festival day is July 2nd, and its orbital date this year is June 21st. Turuhalmë is basically Yule, but with a heavy emphasis on remembering your ancestors and those who have passed on, and on the telling of tales. Ideally, I like to celebrate it by having a bonfire with my family, but living on my own and in suburbia, no less, bonfires tend to be frowned upon by the local law enforcements. So I make do with staying up late into the night, reading my favourite stories or writing, with a single pillar candle burning from sundown until I go to sleep. (Leaving it burning all night would be nice, of course, but taking fire safety into consideration and not burning my flat to the ground is much nicer!) Both Mandos and Vairë are the Valar who are honoured the most at this time of year; Mandos who is the ruler of the slain, and Vairë who weaves all the stories in the world into her tapestries.

Next up is Sovalwaris, the “Purification”. Its orbital date is August 7th, this year, and its festival date is August 1st. Sovalwaris is the final festival before the seasonal New Year, and that’s where the “purification” part comes in — tidying things up for the year’s end, magically or otherwise. It’s a celebration of the year passing and joy in preparation for the upcoming new year. Usually on the festival night I luxuriate in a long, hot bath, physically and ritually cleansing myself. I also feast on strawberries on Sovalwaris night, as well — in my part of the world, the strawberries are always their tastiest and hugest in August. Nienna is the Valie honoured most at Sovalwaris.

As mentioned before, next is the New Year, Vinya Loa! Orbitally it falls on September 23rd this year, and its festival day is September 25. September is my favourite time of year hands down, so I usually take the week that the festival day falls in as a gigantic week-long celebration. :D Feasting, decorations, song, dancing — Vinya Loa includes all of it. It’s the New Year, after all! There is magic in the very air you breathe in, and new beginnings are unfurling. A symbol of Vinya Loa for me is the blossoming jacaranda tree, because they all burst into flower in my city around about the same time. As it is a celebration of joy and of youth, Nessa and Vana are the two Valie that are honored most during Vinya Loa.

Then comes Nost-na-Lothion, or “the Birth of Flowers”. Its orbital date is November 7th in 2013, and its festival date is November 21st. Nost-na-Lothion is a celebration of the very beginning of summer. All the loveliness of spring meets the least harsh parts of summer in a blooming of flowers. Nost-na-Lothion is also a celebration of fertility and new life — much like Beltane. I tend to place less of a sexual emphasis on Nost-na-Lothion than other people do on Beltane, however. Primarily is because I find the whole Goddess-opens-to-the-God, here we go ’round the Maypole thing to be (and I hate to use a buzzword here, but) very heterocentrist, which as a childless queer woman, I find rather jarring. I’m sure phalli are lovely and all, but they’re not really my area of expertise, you see. :P I am not saying that fertility in any form is a bad thing, nor is hetereosexual love (no form of love between consenting parties is a bad thing!), but it does irk me to focus on it, because it has very little to do with my life or my experience. To celebrate Nost-na-Lothion, I tend to tune out the sexual side and simply embrace the beauty of the season; the flowers, the trees, the baby animals first appearing. Yavanna is the Vala I honour at Nost-na-Lothion, she who created all the flora and fauna of the world.

And at the end of the Gregorian calendar comes Tarnin Austa, or “the Gates of Summer”. It falls on summer solstice, December 22 this year, and its festival is on the 21st. (It’s lots of fun when the two dates are the same!) I have to admit that even though I’m usually very sick in summer, and grumpy as a stocking full of badgers because of it, I do love Tarnin Austa. Part of my ritual includes not saying a word after midnight of the 22nd, and waiting until the sun rises. Whereupon I raise my palms to her, and hail the dawn with song. Arien is not a Vala, but she is praised deeply during Tarnin Austa.

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