History of Witchcraft (part 6)

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.

Easter
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 procede 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  tho  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  guidlines 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 occuring in the  month
of  Fearn (meaning, “I am the shining tear of the Sun”). Part  of
thier  practices  are to clean and  rededicate  outdoor  shrines,
beliving 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
ripend  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 1/2 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 commenmorating 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 choosen 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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