The word ‘pagan’’ – or Pagan with a capital ‘P’ – is a much-misunderstood term. Going deeply into what exactly a pagan is or is not is beyond the scope of this blog, particularly as there seems to be no one real definition that everyone can agree on. But in order for us to discuss what the UK pagan festivals are, we need to know broadly what a pagan actually is. In short, a pagan is someone whose religious or spiritual beliefs fall outside any of the major religions and is more often than not connected deeply to nature and the seasons.
You’ll find that most pagans hold Mother Nature up as almost – and sometimes literally – a goddess. And that as humans, we are not set apart from nature as some higher, more important entity but rather are very much a part of it. No more or less than the birds, the bees, the rocks and the oceans.
Such is our belief that we are all interconnected and intricately woven, that we want to celebrate it! And so the UK pagan festivals were born. We want to become in tune with the changes of the seasons and how those affect our own ways of living. How the dark afternoons of the winter make us want to curl up by the fire with a good book, for example. Or how the warming days of spring make us want to hang out in gardens with our nearest and dearest. There are many wonderful things about each of the seasons – particularly in the Nothern Hemisphere where they are so distinctive – and so the turning of one season into the next is an occasion to be marked.
If you’ve ever met a pagan you’ll know they love a party. So we don’t just stick to the four seasons. Oh no, we’ll take eight please!
Photo by Andrea Mosti on Pexels
The Wheel of The Year
A year of seasonal change is called the Wheel of The Year and this wheel is marked out into eight parts. These make up the UK pagan festivals and are called the sabbats. The solar festivals mark the four main points – the spring equinox (Ostara), summer solstice (Litha), autumn equinox (Mabon) and winter solstice (Yule). Then you also have the cross-quarter or fire festivals which mark the mid-way points between each of those four – Imbolc in February, Beltane in May, Lammas in August and Samhain in October.
What I love about celebrating the UK pagan festivals is that, no matter what your life looks like on a day to day basis – if you’re stuck in an office all day and only have a small park near you for greenery for example – you can go out with intention and notice the turning of the wheel. A tiny shoot poking up between the cracks of the pavement. The arrival of frost on the car windshield. The dropping of conkers from the trees around the local school. All these tiny moments – and our awareness of them – help us to connect to the present and its ever-changing nature. The planet goes on doing it’s awesome thing whether we notice it or not. Day turns to night, leaves change colour in the autumn, summer brings hot nights and fields bursting with food. But if we can stop and look around us, and notice day to day the little changes, time can actually slow down for us a bit and we feel like we can breathe a little deeper.
These are the benefits of living in tune with the cycles of Mother Earth and not only can they benefit our wellbeing but the wellbeing of our planet too. Because if you notice something with care, you tend to look after it well. Cyclical living then is simply a form of mindfulness practice and leads to a happier, healthier, less stressful life. And who wouldn’t more of that?
So next time you see a mad hippy hugging a tree, know that they are probably just celebrating one of the UK pagan festivals, and it might do you some good to join in!
To have an insight into how I personally celebrate, check out my Instagram feed.