The History of Witchcraft: Part 6

As we can see, even though the pagan community has been trod upon, it was never destroyed. The date of Christmas was purposely fixed on December 25 to push into the background the great festival of the sun god, and the Epiphany on January 5 to supplant an Egyptian festival of the same day and the Easter ceremonies were set to rival the pagan spring festival.

Let's take a look at a few of the holidays and compare.


On Easter Sunday, everywhere, the children hunt the many colored Easter eggs, brought by the Easter rabbit. This is the vestige of a fertility rite, the eggs and the rabbit both symbolizing fertility. The rabbit was the escort of the Germanic goddess Ostara who gave her name to the festival by way of the German Ostern.

The first day of Spring holds much in the way of folklore. It is also known as the Spring Equinox, Ostara, Eostre's Day, Alban Eilir, the Vernal Equinox, or Festival of the Trees. It takes place between March 19 and 22. It marks the first day of true spring (verses the balmy weather that may proceed it.)

The day and night is equal on this day, thus the name of Equinox. There is a story in one culture that says that the sun has begun to win it's race with the night and that the days get longer as the sun pulls ahead. (Followed by the fact that the sun begins to lose the race at Mid-Summer, and loses the race at Mid-Winter just to start the race again the next day.)

It is a time of beginnings, of action, of planting seeds for future grains, and of tending gardens. On the first Sunday after the first full moon following Eostre's Day (the name from which the Easter was derived), the Christian religion celebrates it's Easter Day.

Spring is a time of the Earth's renewal, a rousing of nature after the cold sleep of winter. As such, it is an ideal time to clean your home to welcome the new season.

Spring cleaning is more than physical work. Some cultures see it as a concentrated effort on their part to rid themselves of problems and negativity of the past months and though prepare themselves for the coming spring and summer.

To do this, they approach the task of cleaning their homes with positive thoughts. They believe that this frees the homes of the hard feelings brought about by a harsh winter. Even then, they have guidelines that they follow such as any scrubbing of stains or hand rubbing the floors should be done in a "clockwise" motion. It is their belief that this aids in filling the home with good energy for growth.

To the Druidic faith, this is a sacred day occurring in the month of Fearn (meaning, "I am the shining tear of the Sun"). Part of their practices are to clean and rededicate outdoor shrines, believing that in doing so they honor the spring maiden. This is a time of fertility of both crops and families. In promoting crops, they believe that the use of fire and water (the sun and rain) will reanimate all life on Earth. They decorate hard- boiled eggs, the symbol of rebirth, to eat during their rites, and such foods as honey cakes and milk punch can also be found. The mothers and daughters give dinners for each other and give cards and gifts as a way of merging with the natural flow of life and with each other. (The Druids consider this also as Mother's Day.)

In Greek mythology, spring was the time when Persephone returned from the underworld (where the seed was planted in the barren winter months) and thus represents the seedlings of the spring. Demeter, Persephone's mother represents the fertile earth and the ripened grain of harvest since it is alleged that she is the one that created the need to harvest crops when her daughter was kidnapped and taken to the underworld. It was through an arrangement that her daughter could return for ½ the year that Demeter allowed the crops to spring forth for that time until she again went into mourning for her daughter in the fall.

In some cultures, even today, the ones that continue to celebrate the rites of spring rise on Easter morning to watch the sun "Dance" as it rises.

The Christian festival commemorating the resurrection of Christ, synchronized with the Jewish Pesach, and blended since the earliest days of Christianity with pagan European rites for the renewed season. In all countries Easter falls on the Sunday after the first full moon on or following March 21. It is preceded by a period of riotous vegetation rites and by a period of abstinence, Lent (in Spain Cuaresma, Germany Lenz, central Italy, Quaresima) and by special rites of Holy Week.

Everywhere Easter Sunday is welcomed with rejoicing, singing, candle processionals, flowers in abundance, and ringing of church bells. Many pagan customs survive, such as the lighting of new fires at dawn, among the Maya as well as in Europe, for cure, renewed life, and protection of the crops.

May Day

The first day of May: observed as a spring festival everywhere in Europe, the United States, and Canada, and as a labor festival in certain European countries.

Rites such as the ever famous May Pole occur in the town squares or in the family's front yard. The gathering of green branches and flowers on May Eve is the symbolic act of bringing home the May, i.e. bringing new life, the spring, into the village.

The May Queen (and often King) is chosen from among the young people, and they go singing from door to door throughout the town carrying flowers or the May tree, soliciting donations for a merrymaking in return for the "blessing of May". This is symbolic of bestowing and sharing of the new creative power that is stirring in the world. As the kids go from door to door, the May Bride often sings to the effect that those who give will get of nature's bounty through the year.

In parts of France, some jilted youth will lie in a field on May Day and pretend to sleep. If any village girl is willing to marry him, she goes and wakes him with a kiss; the pair then go to the village inn together and lead the dance which announces their engagement. The boy is called "the betrothed of May."

This festival is also known as Beltane, the Celtic May Day. It officially begins at moonrise on May Day Eve, and marks the beginning of the third quarter or second half of the ancient Celtic year. It is celebrated as an early pastoral festival accompanying the first turning of the herds out to wild pasture. The rituals were held to promote fertility. The cattle were driven between the Belfires to protect them from ills. Contact with the fire was interpreted as symbolic contact with the sun.

The rowan branch is hung over the house fire on May Day to preserve the fire itself from bewitchment (the house fire being symbolic of the luck of the house.)

In early Celtic times, the druids kindled the Beltane fires with specific incantations. Later the Christian church took over the Beltane observances, a service was held in the church, followed by a procession to the fields or hills, where the priest kindled the fire.

In some rituals, a King and Queen May symbolize the male and female principles of productivity.

We have looked briefly at the similarities of the philosophies and vocabularies, but is that all that they had in common? Let's look at symbologies.

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