An Creideamh S in the Heart of Cascadia

Feisean Naomh ~  The Sacred Feast Days

 

The customs of our Feisean Naomh teach us the mysteries of participation. As we light the fires and make the offerings to synchronize ourselves with the cyclic rhythms of the Aos Sí and the Powers of Sun and Land, we stand witness as They fulfill their tasks of the seasons, which thereby ensures the turning of the Cosmic Wheel of Time.  By participating in sacred relationships of respect and reciprocity, wherein we make offerings in thanks for the necessaries provided for our survival, we help keep the energies in balance, and acknowledge the Source from which all blessings flow. 

The four Celtic Feisean Naomh, sacred feast days in the Creideamh Sí are Samhain, Imbolc, Bealtaine, and Lughnasadh. 

Samhain is the time of the first frosts around the beginning of November, at the thinning of the veil between Thisworld and the Otherworlds, when offerings are given to the Aos Sí in thanks for the harvest provided for the year.  Traditionally a pig was cooked and consumed by the household, slaughtered from their own stock, with the blood sprinkled at the four corners of the house as a blessing.  Bones might have been burned in a ritual bonfire as an additional offering.  Today we might cook or grill pork and offer a bit of the raw blood or cooked meat to the land near the threshold to bless the house.  The hearth fire is ritually extinguished and re-lit from a specially-kindled fire or candle, to bless the home through the winter half of the year.  Parts of a field or garden might be left unharvested as an offering, as well as wild berries left on branches where they grow.  As the veil is open between the worlds, ancestors and the dearly departed visit their families, for whom food and drink is left out on the table.  Beira the Cailleach, Scottish queen of winter, begins her reign and holds Bríde, the maiden of spring who rests through the cold, in her icy mountain.  The snow capping the mountain is said to be the great cloak of the giantess, set out to dry from a washing in a large whirlpool.  Although this begins the darkest part of the year and the winter season, it is also the seed of the new year, as mature plants drop their seeds into the fertile earth to gestate in darkness, close to the ancestors. 

Imbolc arrives with the lengthening days and growing power of Sun at the start of February, with the release of Bríde from the mountain of Beira by Aonghus, the son of Beira from the Green Isle.  He and Bríde are married and the land rejoices in Her return: life returns to the land with the first green shoots of the hardiest plants, and the earliest flowers now blossom.  The renewal of the year is finally felt. Fields and seeds are blessed in the name of Bríde and straw or rush crosses made to honor Her are fashioned and hung in the home to secure Her protection.  On the eve of the day, offerings of a bonnach and milk are left beside an icon of Bríde on the hearth, and other objects such as crosses and ribbons are left out for Her to bless as She travels across the land. 

Bealtaine is the arrival of summer's blossoms on the hawthorn or the elder trees, and is the season of growth.  On its eve,  bonfires are lit to signal summer's return and to encourage the strength of life-giving Sun.  As at Samhain, the hearth fire is ritually extinguished and re-lit from the sacred fire to bless the home during the summer half of the year.  Veal or lamb was traditionally blessed and cooked, with their blood and bones offered in the fire to the Aos Sí, and the meat shared out in a feast among the gathered people.  Offerings are ritually made to potentially destructive forces and land spirits which might kill livestock or blight fields.  The people's bond with the Bean Dia, the Land Goddess,  is renewed with offerings to Her left on Her river banks and in Her waters.  Sacred wells are dressed and blessed, circumambulated sunwise prior to being approached.  'May bushes' of greenery, yellow sunny-colored flowers, or branches of rowan, are hung out of windows or above outside doorways, to protect the homestead and invite the blessings of the season.

Lughnasadh arrives with the ripening of the grain around the start of August.  Lugh Lámhfáda, champion and king of the Aos Sí, wins us the harvest from the FomhoireTraditionally to inaugurate the harvest season, the first grain or produce harvest is ritually gathered by the people with prayers of thanks.  Pilgrimages are made to sacred sites and hilltops where the bonnach, flowers, and garden produce are offered, along with some of the first wild fruits picked, so that the Aos Sí might win the rest of the harvest for the people.  After the celebration, the harvest takes place in earnest, to bring all in before the return of the winter frosts, which signals the end of harvest, on Samhain eve. 

Solstice and Equinox observances are also noted in the Tradition, and are celebrated by many today. 

Winter Solstice is celebrated at Newgrange in Ireland, on the banks of the mythic Boyne River sacred to the goddess Boann whose name means White Cow, and is the home of the great god An Daghda, and then his son Aengus Og, who wins it from his father through cleverness.  Each midwinter the light of the rising sun shines into a portal over the entryway and illuminates the dark chamber and triple spiral inscribed upon a wall inside, enacting both the tryst of Boann and an Daghda as the marriage of Land and Sun, and Aengus Og as the new solar year winning the palace from his father, the old solar cycle now passed. 

Spring and Fall Equinoxes are witnessed at Loughcrew in Ireland, said to be the seat and palace of an Cailleach, the primal woman of the land.  The equinoctial sunrises illuminate a special chamber in which solar and other symbols were long ago carved into the walls. 

The Summer Solstice was traditionally celebrated upon a hill in Ireland dedicated to Aine, a local sovereignty land goddess, by a torchlight procession to the top of the hill where offerings were left and revelry was had, until Aine Herself arrived, thanking Her people, after which they would descend so that She and the faery folk might come out for their own celebration.  


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