The Celts believed in the continuing cycle of life, yet marked the passing of time by observing the seasons. In addition to the four standard seasons that occur with the equinoxes and solstices, Celts also had festivals that marked the mid-points or actual beginnings of these seasons. Rather than discuss all eight periods, I will focus only on the seasons as we observe them in Western culture. However, it is also important to understand the significance of the festivals.
The Celtic calendar begins with Samhain, which occurs November 1. Samhain is the midpoint between the Fall equinox and the Winter solstice and marks the beginning of the winter season, the time of darkness. Samhain coincides with All Saint’s Day in the Christian calendar. In the Celtic calendar An Geimhreadh or Winter, includes November, December, and January.
Imbolc is the festival that marks the beginning of Spring. It is linked with St. Brigid’s Day and occurs February 1. St. Brigid, one of the patron saints of Ireland, is frequently connected with the pre-Christian Brede, the goddess of fertility and motherhood. Interestingly, the American holiday Groundhog’s Day has its roots in Imbolc as well. Imbolc lies halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. An tEarrach or Spring is February, March, and April.
Beltainne or Beltane is May 1 and commonly known as May Day in Western culture. Beltainne is the second most important festival after Samhain, and marks the beginning of the season of light, Summer or in Irish, An Samhraidh. Samhraidh is comprised of the months of May, June, and July and is the time of growth and renewal.
Lunasa or Lughnassadh is the festival that marks the end of summer and the beginning of fall, and occurs August 1. The beginning of the harvest season is a festival of thanksgiving for the bounty of the earth. An Fómhar or Fall/Autumn is the months of August, September, and October.
The following pages will be limited to my exploration of the seasons of grief, and not the Celtic observance of Samhain, Imbolc, Beltainne or Lughnassadh.