Medieval Irish Irish Psalter Commentary, Hibernica Minora, lists feast foods for the quarter holidays Beltane, Lammas, Samain, and Imbolc:
Atberim frib, lith saine,ada buada belltaine:coirm, mecoin, suabais serig,ocus urgruth do tenid.
(I tell to you, a special festival,The glorious dues of May- day :Ale, worts, sweet whey,And fresh curds to the fire.)
Lugnassad, luaid a hadacecha bliadna ceinmara,fromad cech toraid co m- blaid,biad lusraid la Lugnasaid.
Lammas- day, make known its dues,In each distant year :Tasting every famous fruit,Food of herbs on Lammas- day.)
Carna, cuirm, cnoimes, cadla,it e ada na samna,tendal ar cnuc con - grinde,blathach, brechtan urimme.
(Meat, ale, nut-mast, tripe,These are the dues of summer's end ;A bonfire on a hill pleasantly,Buttermilk, a roll of fresh butter.)
Fromad cach bid iar n- urd,issed dlegair in- Imbulc,díunnach laime is coissi is cinn,is amlaid sin atberim.
(Tasting every food in order,This is what behoves at Candlemas,Washing of hand and foot and head,It is thus I say.)
Overview - Wheel of the Year
(July 3, 2022) Nature based Festivals honor the Divine through nature's annual cycle which today is called the "Wheel of the Year." These holidays probably existed throughout Eurasia in ancient times although surviving written evidence for their pre-Christian existence only exists in one French witch trial transcript dating to 1598 and in a medieval Irish commentary called Hibernica Minora on the Psalter (Hebrew Scripture book of Psalms). The names used today derive from Irish and Scottish Gaelic where these holidays persisted the longest in Pagan form.The chief festivals were: in the spring, May Eve (April 30), called Roodmas or Rood Day in Britain and Walpurgis-Nacht in Germany; in the autumn, November Eve (October 31), called in Britain Allhallow Eve. Between these two came: in the winter, Candlemas (February 2); and in the summer, the Gule of August (August 1), called Lammas in Britain. To these were added the festivals of the solstitial invaders, Beltane at midsummer and Yule at midwinter; the movable festival of Easter was also added, but the equinoxes were never observed in Britain. (Murry 1921, Chapter 4, The Assemblies)
Murry believed male warrior dominated Indo-European invaders introduced the astronomical holidays surrounding the solstices and that the equinoxes were never observed (contrary to Bede's statement on Ostara). The French word “Esbat” meaning “frolic” was used by Murray for any other sort of meeting and again she adapted it from only one French source (Cambrue, 1567).
The starting season of the Wheel of the Year varied depending on climate. In Europe with its mild winters it began with the winter solstice. In Persia and probably further north in the steppe lands it began with the Spring Equinox. In the Levant and Mesopotamia it began with the Autumn Equinox.Festivals of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids https://druidry.org/druid-way/teaching-and-practice/druid-festivals
HIBERNICA MINORA - BEING A FRAGMENT OF AN OLD- IRISH TREATISE ON THE PSALTER WITH TRANSLATION, NOTES AND GLOSSARY, AND AN APPENDIX CONTAINING EXTRACTS HITHERTO UNPUBLISHED FROM MS. RAWLINSON , B. 512 IN THE BODLEIAN LIBRARY. EDITED BY KUNO MEYER. Oxford AT THE CLARENDON PRESS 1894. Online at: https://books.googleusercontent.com/books/content?req=AKW5Qadnyws8UisLNt4errZMWuGAWOzJx0UcsQ4rouqtyPvrzEX13l_P5y0xezcnxN8BwCj55YC0JwpxSDi-_rNljkGH3yDAqkeJPM6yXdpE1iLI02_PbC40xR6p6B8a2sUAbuVyO21TXZZVk2fcARpX4lijKGmVbTPeVvSA_esSZBXsDfq0qrx8cdGhjgcv4uHuYVxcoKm0JQh3CLVguYnZgoYljeJ7N3EMEOkqQ0Ticckq85BtUlPctQck9PVhWScKH7WlKQ7z
Margaret Murray (1921) The Witch-Cult In Western Europe. A Study in Anthropology. Online at: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/20411/20411-h/20411-h.htm
Yule, Christmas, or New Year (Gaelic Alban Arthan) December 22 Winter Solstice
(July 3, 2022) Yule eve is the longest night of the year and thus it is a time for reflection on the past. Traditionally this connection to the past is represented by the Yule log which is piece of wood taken from last year’s fire and placed into this year's fire.
Yule was also a time of feasting, mostly on pig because the forest floor nuts which they ate were almost be gone now. Consequently, any pigs not destined for breeding had to be killed before they starved. After a Yule ceremony at Stonehenge such feasting commenced the next day at nearby Woodhenge where archaeologists found lots of yearling pig bones.
This festival is called Yalda in ancient Persian and Syriac suggesting it originated as an Indo-European word where it means "birth."
"Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate. "(from History Society of Berks County, Reading, Pennsylvania)
Imbolc or Candlemas or Groundhog Day (Gaelic Imbolc) February 2
(July 3, 2022) Imbolc is a time of perseverance to get through the last stages of winter. It is the light at the end of a tunnel which is why candles, home fires, and oil lamps are associated with this holiday. In Christianity the holiday came to be called Candlemas. In Ireland it is also called Saint Brigid's Day
The word "Imbolc" is Gaelic from Ireland and Scotland and is pronounced "imbolg." There this holiday is associated with the goddess Brigid who later became a Christian saint. She seems to have originally been the goddess of the home fire. Later traditions associated her with both home activities and fire activities. The home activities involved making a straw doll to represent her while the fire activities involved baking, metal forging, and the poetry sung around the community fire.
In more moderate climates such as the Levant this holiday signals the start of Spring with the birth of lambs and the greening of the grass. In the Jewish customs recorded in the Mishna (200-300 CE) this time is called Tu B'Shevat and it is the time when the age of trees is calculated.
A Pagan festival day in February was also important to Swedish Pagans around 1200 CE before it was re-dated to Christian Candlemas:
In Svithjod it was the old custom, as long as heathenism prevailed, that the chief sacrifice took place in the month Gói (sometime around February 15th until March 15th) at Upsala. Then sacrifice was offered for peace, and victory to the king; and thither came people from all parts of Svithjod. All the Things of the Swedes, also, were held there, and markets, and meetings for buying, which continued for a week: and after Christianity was introduced into Svithjod, the Things and fairs were held there as before. After Christianity had taken root in Svithjod, and the kings would no longer dwell in Upsala, the market-time was moved to Candlemas, and it has since continued so, and it lasts only three days. There is then the Swedish Thing also, and people from all quarters come there. (Ólafs Saga Helga, ch. 77. Dated around 1200 CE): Online at http://germanicmythology.com/works/uppsalatemple.html
The name of Eostre seems to derive from the Alphabetic Akkadian phrase "E ŠeTtu" meaning "end of the year." (the re/er was added later to personify it) The Indo-European invaders seem to have started their new year during the spring equinox which is still seen in the Persian New Year festival called Nowruz.
Ostara (Gaelic Alban Eilir) March 22 Spring Equinox
(July 3, 2022) This is the time in which the conditions for new life are set. It is a time of preparation and planning for the buzz of summer. It is the time of new green grass and Spring cleaning. Eggs are the ultimate representation of something ready to support new life.
The word Ostara is the modern Pagan spelling of the goddess Eostre (Easter) who is mentioned by the Anglo-Saxon historian Bede (672-735 CE) as giving her name to the month which the English Christians were then trying to change to Paschal month. Here is the quote:
Eosturmonath (Ostara month) has a name which is now translated "Paschal month", and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance." (De temporum ratione by Bede translated in Wallace 1999 page 55)
Beltane or May Day (Gaelic Beltane) May 1
(July 3, 2022) Beltane is a celebration of Spring. This is the time when flowers appear and the buzz of summer begins releasing the feelings of new energy.
Beltane's main symbol today is the maypole which originally was a public pole on which were placed flower garlands. In the Nordic countries in which summer comes late, Maypoles are associated with the Midsummer festival and not with Beltane.
Colorful ribbons replaced garlands in some areas. The earliest picture of a maypole with ribbons dates to a private garden party held in 1759 at Ranelagh Garden in London. This was a for-profit public garden which charged an entrance fee. See it at: https://www.londonpicturearchive.org.uk/view-item?i=6819&WINID=1649681830068"There is no historical basis for his claim, and no sign that the people who used maypoles thought that they were phallic" and that "they were not carved to appear so." (Hutton 1996)
Hutton, Ronald (1996). Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198205708. pages 233-235
It is customary also to solemnize in Uppsala, at nine-year intervals, a general feast of all the provinces of Sweden. From attendance at this festival no one is exempted Kings and people all and singly send their gifts to Uppsala .... Feasts and sacrifices of this kind are solemnized for nine days. On each day they offer a man along with other living beings in such a number that in the course of the nine days they will have made offerings of seventy-two creatures. This sacrifice takes place about the time of the vernal equinox. (Online at: http://germanicmythology.com/works/uppsalatemple.html
Mid-Summer or Litha (Gaelic Alban Hefin) June 22 Summer Solstice
(July 5, 2023) This holiday celebrates the power of light and passion which is at its maximum during the summer solstice. This energy is celebrated with community bonfires.
Midsummer is a time of openness and imagination. It is a time to dream as evidenced by Shakespeare's play “A Midsummer’s Night Dream.” This is a time to let the mind run free about life’s future possibilities before time runs out for now the light of day begins to shorten. Don't forget to live for today for the time of life on earth is limited so it should not be wasted.
Lammas (Gaelic Lughnasadh) August 1
(July 3, 2022) This is the first of three harvest holidays of the year. Because grains were the fastest growing this holiday typically focuses on the virtue of growth.
The word Lammas comes from the Old English word meaning “loaf mass.” This holiday is celebrated by baking a loaf out of the first grains of the season. Lammas is also celebrated as Lughnassadh after the Celtic god called Lugh.
Mabon (Gaelic Alban Elfed) September 21 Fall Equinox
(July 3, 2022) This is the second of the three harvest holidays and it is the Fall equinox in which night is balanced with day. Mabon focuses on tree fruits and bush berries.
Fruits represent a life balance because trees and bushes must balance their need for survival versus their need to reproduce by committing energy to fruits. The cornucopia is a balance symbol representing both male (phallic) and female (receptive) components. This holiday is a good time to focus on various spiritual balance practices.
Samhain or Halloween (Gaelic Samhain) October 31
(July 3, 2022) Samhain is the last of the three harvest holidays. Samhain focuses on the virtue of connection in general and specifically on the connection between life and death. Life cannot exist without death to make room for new living things.
This is the time of year when plants begin to go dormant in preparation for the winter. This was also the time when farm animals (except for free ranging pigs) not saved for breeding or farm work were killed and their meat preserved. This is why spiritually attuned people say that the veil between the living and the dead is thinnest at this time of year.
Samhain was also a time of giving thanks for the sacrifices of food animals as well as for the sacrifices made by one's own ancestors. Due to historical circumstances in the United States, Thanksgiving was shifted to the fourth Thursday of November in an attempt to ignore its religious origins. This artificial split left Halloween as the celebration part of the holiday.