A Further Preview of the DP: Pagan Piety, Keeping the Old Ways

posted on July 9, 2021
Related: Dedicant Path, piety

[This article is an excerpt of materials included in the ADF Dedicant Path, which is included with ADF Membership. Members can access the information on the members site.]

The spiritual work of Pagan Druidry is closely bound up with ritual and formal worship. While we teach meditation, trance and quiet contemplation we also encourage all our folk to participate in formal ritual.

Spiritual ritual is a process by which traditional symbols are linked with spiritual powers and with archetypes in the mind. By combining these symbols in traditional and innovative ways we can open our souls to contact with the transpersonal and the divine. While ritual can devolve into rote repetition or empty observance, we are working to make our Druidic rites lively, engaging and empowering.

The High Days

The most universal Druidic observance is the keeping of the eight holy days. This calendar was devised early in the Neopagan movement, as a synthesis of Celtic and other Indo-European symbols. As most widely known among Pagans, the Eight High Days are:

  • Samhain – the New Year, the Feast of the Dead
  • Yule – the Longest Night
  • Imbolc – Feast of the Goddess Brigid, first springtime.
  • Spring Equinox – Feast of Planting
  • Beltaine – The Hinge of Summer, Feast of the Sidhe
  • Summer Solstice – The Feast of Labor
  • Lughnasadh – Feast of the God Lugh, first harvest
  • Fall Equinox – Feast of Reaping

These descriptions represent the commonly held view among modern Pagans, but it is actually a composite calendar, pieced together out of Celtic, Germanic and bits of Greco-Roman lore. In Our Druidry we attempt to bring our practice closer to that of specific ancient cultural traditions. In that spirit we provide a listing of the year’s feasts as practiced by several ancient cultures. Students may find it easiest to begin with this common calendar of eight days, but your individual cultural studies may lead you in other directions in your personal practice.

The bibliography in the next section lists several sources that explain the Neopagan context of these holy feasts. Our Druidry has adopted the fairly modern Neopagan calendar in order to stay in the mainstream of Pagan work. It is predominantly Celtic, and many members prefer to keep the observances of the culture in which they work, Hellenic, Norse, etc. Our Groves are required to keep public ritual sometime close to these eight calendar dates, and they are a good place for a student to begin work.

We encourage every Druidic Pagan to view keeping the feasts and their customs as a primary religious duty. Keeping the Wheel leads to one of the basic wisdoms of the Pagan way. It brings your life into better harmony with the rhythms and tides of the land. In our urban lives it is common to see the seasons as mere weather, a pleasure or an annoyance. Keeping the Wheel is a simple and accessible way to begin re-enchanting your world.

Find a way to keep these feasts as fully and properly as possible. Of course if you live near a working Grove of Our Druidry you will have a real advantage. There will be regular public worship that requires only your attendance. A local Grove should also make it possible for you to learn the form and meaning of our ritual work from more experienced folks.

Many new students will not live near enough to a Grove to attend their rites. In that case there are two choices which can be done together. First, it’s good to seek out local public Pagan worship of any sort. Many of the skills you can learn in Wiccan or Asatru or general Pagan rites will transfer directly to Druidic work. While the theology and ritual forms of other groups may differ from ours, the exposure to formal ritual and the involvement with your local Pagan community can be very rewarding.

Second, you should pursue the rest of the work outlined in these nine ways, so that you can keep the holy days in the Druidic way. When you have a home shrine and a simple set of personal Hallows, when you have begun to practice the skills of meditation and vision, you will be on the road to effective personal ritual.

Please be encouraged to begin personal ritual as soon as you are able. A candle and a bowl of water can be the first step in a magical journey that brings you to the Gate Between the Worlds. You need not wait until you feel skilled or have a complete set of tools. As each Holy Day comes around, try to get out under the sky and on the earth, to drink in the spirit of the season.

While the eight feasts are the most important, most nearly obligatory of our rites there can be many other opportunities for worship. Full moons as well as new, first-crescent moons are times of power, as are thunderstorms and times when mist covers the earth. All boundaries and between times partake of this sacredness. Sunrise and set, noon and midnight are all proper hours for Pagan observance.

This simple instruction cannot provide a complete guide to the symbolism of the High Days. These ancient holy days are deep and complex symbols, that can only be understood in context of the cultures in which they grew. So you are encouraged to use the resources in the next section to research the High Days as they are practiced in the culture to which you are drawn. We offer the chart on the following page as only the most skeletal introduction.

As you begin your travel on the path of Pagan Druidry, please take the time to be involved in ritual worship. It helps to ground your Pagan theology in the physical world and charge the symbols of our work with spiritual power. Ritual, especially in combination with trance, is the key of the mysteries, the door to blessing.

A Simple Listing of High Days in Several CulturesCelticNorseHellenic
November FeastEve before Nov 1: Samhain – Feast of the New Year and the DeadRelated Winternights, no real Norse contextMid-October: Thesmophoria – The Feast of Mourning
Winter SolsticeCelebrated in later times, probably imported from the NorseYule – Feast of the New Year and AncestorsMid-December: The Country Dionysia – Feast of the Phallos
February FeastEve before Feb 2: Imbolc – Feast of the Goddess Brigid and the HearthNew Moon in Feb: Charming the Plow – fertility feast for the coming plantingEarly to mid-Feb: Anthesteria – Feast of the Wine and Holy Marriage of Spring
Spring EquinoxSeed planting customs, no real Celtic contextFull Moon after equinox: Eostre – Feast of the Goddess of SpringMid-March: The City Dionysia – Council of the Folk, Feast of Drama
May FeastEve before May 1: Bealtainne – Feast of Summer and the SidheMay 1: May Day – Feast of the Coming of SummerEarly May: Thargelia – Purification of the Polis and the Folk
Summer SolsticeCelebrated in later times, but probably from the NorseEve of June 21: Midsummer – Feast of Great BlessingsMid June: Skira – Festival of the Furrows
August FeastEve before Aug 2: Lughnasadh – Feast of the God Lugh and the SpearAugust 1: Loaf-fest – Feast of the Grain Harvest and Thor and SifLate July: Panathenaia – in Honor of the Goddess of the City, Feast of Bounty
Fall EquinoxHarvest customs, no real Celtic contextFull Moon after equinox: Winternights – Feast of the Ancestors and coming of winterMid-September: Eleusinian Mysteries – Initiation into the Mysteries of Death and Rebirth

Page Information:
“A Further Preview of the DP: Pagan Piety, Keeping the Old Ways.” on 15 May, 2019.

posted on July 9, 2021 | Related: Dedicant Path, piety
Citation: "A Further Preview of the DP: Pagan Piety, Keeping the Old Ways", Ár nDraíocht Féin, July 9, 2021, https://ng.adf.org/article/pagan-piety-keeping-the-old-ways/