Spring Festivals

Also known as: Oestre, Easter, the Spring Equinox, Vernal (Spring) Equinox, Alban Eiler (Caledonii), Méan Earraigh

  • March 20 – 23 Northern Hemisphere
  • September 20 – 23 Southern Hemisphere

This is the official return of the young Goddess after her Winter hibernation. As with the other Equinox and the Solstices, the date of this festival may move slightly from year to year, but many will choose to celebrate it on 21 March.

The Spring Equinox is the point of equilibrium – when light and darkness are in balance but the light is growing stronger. The balance is suspended just before spring bursts forth from winter. Night and day are of equal length at the equinox, the forces of male and female are also in balance. Ostara is a festival of balance and fertility.

In keeping with the balance of the Equinox, Oestara is a time when we seek balance within ourselves. It is a time for throwing out the old and taking on the new. We rid ourselves of those things which are no longer necessary – old habits, thoughts and feelings – and take on new ideas and thoughts. This does not mean that you use this festival as a time for berating yourself about your ‘bad’ points, but rather that you should seek to find a balance through which you can accept yourself for what you are.

It is also a celebration of birth and new life. A day when death has no power over the living.

Spring has arrived, and with it comes hope and warmth. Deep within the cold earth, seeds are beginning to sprout. In the damp fields, the livestock are preparing to give birth. In the forest, under a canopy of newly sprouted leaves, the animals of the wild ready their dens for the arrival of their young. Spring is here.

It is no coincidence that the name for this sabbat sounds similar to the word ‘Easter’. Eostre, or Ostara, is an Anglo-Saxon Dawn Goddess whose symbols are the egg and the hare. She, in turn, is the European version of the Goddess Ishtar or Astarte, whose worship dates back thousands of years and is certainly pre-Christian. Eostre also lives on in our medical language in the words ‘oestrous’ (the sexual impulse in female animals) and ‘oestrogen’ (a female hormone).

Today, Oestara is celebrated as a spring festival. Although the Goddess put on the robes of Maiden at Imbolg, here she is seen as truly embodying the spirit of spring. By this time we can see all around us the awakened land, the leaves on the trees, the flowers and the first shoots of corn.

There is some debate as to whether Oestara or Imbolg was the traditional time of spring cleaning, but certainly the casting out of the old would seem to be in sympathy with the spirit of this festival and the increased daylight at this time encourages a good clean out around the home.

The Easter Bunny also is of Pagan origin, as are baskets of flowers. Brightly colored eggs represent the child within.

Traditionally, Ostara is a time for collecting wildflowers, walking in nature’s beauty and cultivating herb gardens. Half fill a bowl with water and place a selection of flowers into it for display in a prominent position in your home.

This is the time to free yourself from anything in the past that is holding you back.

Sources: varied

And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underworld and cover
blossom by blossom the spring begins.
~Algernon Charles Swinburne

Méan Earraigh marks the spring equinox, when night and day are of equal length and spring officially begins. Birds begin their nesting and egg-laying, and eggs–symbolic of rebirth, fertility, and immortality–are tossed into fresh furrows or eaten by ploughmen. They are also carried by those engaged in spring planting.

A charming custom is painting eggs with symbols and pictures of what one wishes to manifest in the coming year. The eggs can then be buried in the Earth Mother, who hears the cries and dreams of her children. In some communities, eggs are hidden in the stores of seed grain and left there all season to bless the sowing and encourage the seeds to sprout. Dressed as mummers, “pace-eggers” go from house to house and demand eggs and coins in return for a short performance. Men and women exchange clothing for the show.

The eggs given to the pace-eggers have been wrapped in leaves, roots, flowers, and bark before boiling, to impart color. Later the eggs are used in games, such as attempting to strike an opponent’s legs. The eggs might be hidden or rolled down hillsides, after which they are eaten. Blood, ashes from sacred fires, fistfuls of salt, or handfuls of soil from a high mountaintop are scattered on the newly sown fields.

Offerings of food and milk are left for the faeries and other spirits who live in and around rocks and are responsible for the fertility of the land. A few fruits from the previous year’s harvest are left for the nature spirits. Sacred hilltops are visited, and picnics of figs, fig cakes, cider and ale are enjoyed. The figs are symbolic of fertility, the leaf being the male element and the fruit the female.

You can also celebrate the arrival of spring with flowers. Bring them into your own home and give them to others. You do not have to spend a lot of money – one or two blooms given for no other reason than ‘spring is here’ can often bring a smile to even the most gloomy face.

A traditional Vernal Equinox pastime is to go to a field and randomly collect wildflowers (thank the flowers for their sacrifice before picking them). Or, buy some from a florist, taking one or two of those that appeal to you. Then bring them home and divine their Magickal meanings by the use of books, your own intuition, a pendulum, this post on the Magickal Meanings of Flowers, or by other means. The flowers you’ve chosen reveal your inner thoughts and emotions.

In the druidic tradition, Aengus Og is the male deity of the occasion. Son of In Dagda and Boand, he was conceived and born while Elcmar, Boand’s husband, was under enchantment. When three days old, Aengus was removed to be fostered by Midir, god of the Otherworld mound at Bri Leith, with his three hostile cranes. These birds guarded the mound and prevented the approach of travelers, and were said to cause even warriors to turn and flee.

Make an Altar to Ostara.

Ostara, the ancient German Virgin Goddess of Spring, loves bright colors. The light pastels of spring are perfect offerings for Ostara. To represent earth on your altar, choose bright or pastel colored stones like Rose Quartz, Amethyst, or any of the Calcites (blue, red, yellow, or green). If you have some Citrine, be sure to include it. Citrine has long been an aid for mental clarity.

By including an offering of colored eggs on your altar, you will be taking part in an ancient tradition (still performed!) by the Germanic people. Ostara has been honored this time of year with painted eggs for centuries.

To symbolize fertility, in addition to the eggs, you can include seeds or rice on your altar. I like to use rice as a symbol for fertility on my altars.

Incense and feathers are perfect symbols for air on your altar. It is important for Ostara’s altar that you include a symbol for air because Ostara herself is the living symbol for Air. (This must be the way Ostara and Easter became associated with birds, i.e. chickens) Be sure to burn incense at your altar when you are dedicating it to bring in the energy and vibrational qualities of Ostara.

The perfect time to dedicate your altar is at dawn. Choose a day, then plan to dedicate your altar to Ostara at dawn’s first light by lighting incense and repeating an invocation to her as well as a prayer of thanksgiving for all that Ostara symbolizes in your life:

  • A clear mind.
  • New beginnings.
  • Personal renewal.
  • Fertility, either for the purpose of bearing a child or for creativity such as arts and crafts, writing, or decorating.

You can include anything you like on your altar to Ostara. You will know by how you feel if an item is appropriate or not. I believe it is important to include symbols for the four elements on my altars. The four elements are Fire, Earth, Air, and Water. The four Calcites on my altar (red/fire, green/earth, yellow/air, and blue/water) represent Mother Earth and the four elements. I have added feathers and other items that symbolize Ostara to my altar as offerings to her.

Last, but not least, it might be nice to include a figure of a rabbit. The rabbit is Ostara’s power animal. I am sure this is because of their propensity for fertility.

Sources:

st-patricks-day-global2

March 17 commemorates Saint Patrick,  the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland, and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland. In addition, this day also  celebrates the heritage and culture of the Irish in general.

Celebrations generally involve public parades and festivals, céilithe (Irish traditional music sessions), and the wearing of green attire or shamrocks. There are also formal gatherings such as banquets and dances, although these were more common in the past. St Patrick’s Day parades began in North America in the 18th century but did not spread to Ireland until the 20th century.

The participants generally include marching bands, the military, fire brigades, cultural organisations, charitable organisations, voluntary associations, youth groups, fraternities, and so on. However, over time, many of the parades have become more akin to a carnival. More effort is made to use the Irish language; especially in Ireland, where the week of St Patrick’s Day is “Irish language week”. Recently, famous landmarks have been lit up in green on St Patrick’s Day.

Christians also attend church services and the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol are lifted for the day. Perhaps because of this, drinking alcohol – particularly Irish whiskey, beer or cider – has become an integral part of the celebrations.

The St Patrick’s Day custom of ‘drowning the shamrock‘ or ‘wetting the shamrock‘ was historically popular, especially in Ireland. At the end of the celebrations, shamrock is put into the bottom of a cup, which is then filled with whiskey, beer or cider. It is then drank as a toast; to St Patrick, to Ireland, or to those present. The shamrock would either be swallowed with the drink, or be taken out and tossed over the shoulder for good luck.

In every household the herb is placed upon the breakfast table of the master and the mistress, who “drown the shamrock” in generous draughts of whiskey, and then send the bottle down into the kitchen for the servants.

 

St._Patrick's_Day_greetingsOn St Patrick’s Day it is customary to wear shamrocks and/or green clothing or accessories (the “wearing of the green”). St Patrick is said to have used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish. This story first appears in writing in 1726, though it may be older.

Long before the shamrock became associated with St. Patrick’s Day, the four-leaf clover was regarded by ancient Celts as a charm against evil spirits.

In pagan Ireland, three was a significant number and the Irish had many triple deities, a fact that may have aided St Patrick in his evangelisation efforts. Patricia Monaghan says there is no evidence that the shamrock was sacred to the pagan Irish. However, Jack Santino speculates that it may have represented the regenerative powers of nature, and was recast in a Christian context‍—‌icons of St Patrick often depict the saint “with a cross in one hand and a sprig of shamrocks in the other”. Roger Homan writes, “We can perhaps see St Patrick drawing upon the visual concept of the triskele when he uses the shamrock to explain the Trinity”.

In the early 1900’s, O. H. Benson, an Iowa school superintendent, came up with the idea of using a clover as the emblem for a newly founded agricultural club for children in his area. In 1911, the four-leaf clover was chosen as the emblem for the national club program, later named 4-H.

The color green has been associated with Ireland since at least the 1640’s, when the green harp flag was used by the Irish Catholic Confederation. Green ribbons and shamrocks have been worn on St Patrick’s Day since at least the 1680s. The Friendly Brothers of St Patrick, an Irish fraternity founded in about 1750, adopted green as its color.

However, when the Order of St. Patrick—an Anglo-Irish chivalric order—was founded in 1783 it adopted blue as its color, which led to blue being associated with St Patrick. During the 1790’s, green would become associated with Irish nationalism, due to its use by the United Irishmen. This was a republican organisation—led mostly by Protestants but with many Catholic members—who launched a rebellion in 1798 against British rule.

The phrase “wearing of the green” comes from a song of the same name, which laments United Irishmen supporters being persecuted for wearing green. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, the color green and its association with St Patrick’s Day grew.

The wearing of the ‘St Patrick’s Day Cross’ was also a popular custom in Ireland until the early 20th century. These were a Celtic Christian cross made of paper that was “covered with silk or ribbon of different colors, and a bunch or rosette of green silk in the center”.

The most popular of the many legends about St. Patrick is the one which credits him for having driven all the snakes and vermin out of Ireland.

Here’s an old old poem about it:

There’s not a mile in Ireland’s isle
where the dirty vermin musters;
Where’er he put his dear forefoot
he murdered them in clusters.
The toads went hop, the frogs went flop,
slap dash into the water,
And the beasts committed suicide to
save themselves from slaughter.

Nine hundred thousand vipers blue
he charmed with sweet discourses.
And dined on them at Killaloo
in soups and second courses.
When blindworms crawling on the grass
disgusted all the nation,
He gave them a rise and opened their eyes
to a sense of the situation.

The Wicklow Hills are very high, and
so’s the Hill of Howth, sir;
But there’s a hill much higher still—ay,
higher than them both, sir;
‘Twas on the top of this high hill St.
Patrick preached the sarmint
That drove the frogs into the bogs and
bothered all the varmint.

About St Patrick

patrickpic1Patrick was a 5th-century Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland. Much of what is known about Saint Patrick comes from the Declaration, which was allegedly written by Patrick himself. It is believed that he was born in Roman Britain in the fourth century, into a wealthy Romano-British family. His father was a deacon and his grandfather was a priest in the Christian church.

According to the Declaration, at the age of sixteen, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Gaelic Ireland. ] It says that he spent six years there working as a shepherd and that during this time he “found God”. The Declaration says that God told Patrick to flee to the coast, where a ship would be waiting to take him home. After making his way home, Patrick went on to become a priest.

According to tradition, Patrick returned to Ireland to convert the pagan Irish to Christianity. The Declaration says that he spent many years evangelising in the northern half of Ireland and converted “thousands”. Patrick’s efforts against the druids were eventually turned into an allegory in which he drove “snakes” out of Ireland (Ireland never had any snakes).

Tradition holds that he died on 17 March and was buried at Downpatrick. Over the following centuries, many legends grew up around Patrick and he became Ireland’s foremost saint.

NOTE:

What many people don’t realize is that the serpent was actually a metaphor for the early Pagan faiths of Ireland. St. Patrick brought Christianity to the Emerald Isle, and did such a good job of it that he practically eliminated Paganism from the country. Because of this, some modern Pagans refuse to observe a day which honors the elimination of the old religion in favor of a new one. It’s not uncommon to see Pagans and Wiccans wearing some sort of snake symbol on St. Patrick’s Day, instead of those green “Kiss Me I’m Irish” badges.

Sources: Almanac.comWikipedia, and Encyclopaedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences

rainbowserpent

  • Other names: Damballah Weddo, Da, Papa Damballa, Obatala
  • Holiday: March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day)

Associated Catholic Saint Patrick (who drove the snakes out of Ireland), and sometimes also Moses, whose staff transformed into a snake to prove the power of God over that wielded by Egyptian priests, Damballah is the primordial snake Iwa of life, wealth and wisdom. He is venerated in Dahomey as well as Haitian Vodou. He may also survive in the New Orleans folk saint Blanc Dani.

He is one of the most important of all the loa, Damballa is the Sky Father and the primordial creator of all life. He rules the mind, intellect, and cosmic equilibrium. Damballa, as the serpent spirit and “The Great Master”, created the cosmos by using his 7,000 coils to form the stars and the planets in the heavens and to shape the hills and valleys on earth. By shedding the serpent skin, Damballa created all the waters on the earth.

Read more about him here: Damballah

Offerings:

For a very traditional offering, make a bed or hill of white flour on a perfectly clean, pure white plate. Nestle one whole, raw white egg into the center of the flour and serve.

Other offerings could include white candles and white foods like rice, milk, whole raw eggs (leave them plain or rub gently with rose or other mildly scented, fine quality floral water), corn syrup, white chickens, or white flowers. More lavish offerings might include luxurious white fabrics, crystal or porcelain eggs and/or snakes.

He is a stickler for cleanliness. He doesn’t like strong, pervasive odors of any kind, but especially tobacco. If you smoke, then do so far from his altar space or anywhere associated with him. He may object to cleaning products with strong odors too, as well as air fresheners with strong aromas. Rooms should smell clean and fresh. Open a window to aerate them. He does not object to light floral odors, like rose or orange blossom water, and traditionally expresses a fondness for Pompeii Lotion, a cologne product found in botanicas and spiritual supply stores.

From: Encyclopedia of Spirits

Marduk-Tiamat

March 12th, is the Feast of Marduk, an ancient Babylonian God. Acknowledged as the creator of the universe and of humankind, the god of light and life, and the ruler of destinies, he rose to such eminence that he claimed 50 titles.

The epic poem Enûma Elish tells the story of Marduk’s birth, heroic deeds and becoming the ruler of the gods. Also included in this document are The Fifty Names of Marduk. You can read more about Marduk at The Powers That Be.

Aside from being a fertility god and god of thunderstorms, Marduk’s original character is obscure. Later he became connected with water, vegetation, judgment, and magic. He is normally referred to as Bel “Lord”, also bel rabim “great lord”, bêl bêlim “lord of lords”, ab-kal ilâni bêl terêti “leader of the gods”, aklu bêl terieti “the wise, lord of oracles”, muballit mîte “reviver of the dead”, etc.

A Ritual for Marduk’s Feast Day:

  • Colors: Light blue and grey
  • Element: Air
  • Altar: On a cloth of pale blue place a naked sword, three grey candles, and a loaf of bread shaped like a dragon.
  • Offerings: Cut something into pieces.
  • Daily meal: Fish or meat, chopped finely.

Destruction_of_Leviathan

Invocation to Marduk

The warrior’s sword is clean and bright
And has two edges. So Marduk found.
Taking up the sword, he slew
The Dragon Mother Tiamat
And from her body carved the earth
And the overarching sky.
Yet he found, as we all do,
That he could not live anywhere
On this the new earth without
Remembering her, and all that she was,
And he lived and died surrounded
By her at the last,
And her body took his
When at last he was betrayed.
Beware, ye who would be king
By force of arms! Your enemies define you,
So choose them well.

(One who has been chosen to do the work of the ritual takes up the sword and cleaves the bread dragon into pieces, which are then passed around and eaten. Exit to the beating of a drum.)

From: Pagan Book of Hours

Traditionally the feast lasted for twelve days:

Five thousand years ago, in the cradle of Western civilization that lay between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates that we now call Iraq, the ancient Babylonians and Sumerians held their New Year celebrations at about the time of the Spring Equinox. These Mesopotamians (a word that means ‘[dwellers of the land between the rivers’), the Babylonians to the north and the Sumerians further to the south called this festival, respectively, Akitaand Zagmuk (or Zakmuk).

On the first three days, the priests would come to the high Temple of Marduk in Babylon, the Ésagila, and offer prayers of lamentation and supplication. These prayers were repeated on the fourth day, when the Enûma Eliš, the great Babylonian Epic of Creation, was recited, telling the story of Marduk’s victory over Tiamat.

On the fifth day, the king of Babylon came to the Ésagila, was stripped of his crown, robes and regalia, and was humiliated by the High Priest, who struck him in the face, symbolizing submission before the greater power of the god, after which his crown was returned, symbolizing the god’s approval of his royal and civic roles.

Marduk is then captured by the evil gods and held prisoner by them, in the Etemenanki, a seven-storey ziggurat (identified in the Torah and the Bible as the Tower of Babel), where he awaits the arrival of his son, Nabu. He arrives on day six, symbolized by a great, formal procession of the King and the citizens of Babylon to the Ésagila, and on day seven, Nabu frees his embattled father.

The eighth day saw the gathering of the statues of the gods in the hall of Destinies, where they bestow their powers on Marduk, confirming his primacy over them all. A victory procession to the House of Akita, situated outside the city walls, took place on the ninth day, as the populace celebrated Marduk’s defeat of Tiamat, and on the tenth day, Marduk returns to earth during the night and marries the goddess Ishtar, their roles acted by the King of Babylon and the High Priestess of the Ésagila.

The eleventh day sees the return to the hall of Destinies, where the gods and Marduk renew their covenant with mankind before they return to Heaven, and on the final day, the statues of the gods were returned to their places in the Ésagila and the king would be slain, so that his spirit could assist Marduk – although, in reality, a criminal would be elected as a proxy king and killed in place of the true king.

Note:

We can see here clear parallels here with the Lord of Misrule, a substitute king who takes over the responsibilities of the real king at the festival time, as well as story of Jesus and Barabbas in the New Testament, (Barabbas means, literally, ‘Son of the Lord’), and the wide-spread legends of the dying god who returns to life.

The twelve days of Zagmuk are the origins of our twelve days of Christmas, although moved from the Babylonian New Year to our New Year, and they may well be the intercalary adjustment of 11.25 days needed to reconcile the 354 days of the lunar year with the 365.25 days of the solar year.

The names and the mythology of Marduk were also incorporated into the fictional mythology of the Necronomicon. Each of the fifty names was given a power and a seal. These can be found here: About The Fifty Names of Marduk

Source: Wikipedia and The Study

A wonderful spiced and fruited cake which heralds the advent of Spring, simnel cake has a fascinating cultural heritage with roots that stretch back to the Romans and Athenians. In Britain, known as the Shrewsbury Simnel, it is simply made using white flour, fragrant spices and is generously studded with dried fruits and pungent peel.

simnel cake

Like a Christmas cake, it is covered with pale sweet almond paste. The decoration is plain – twelve little balls of smooth paste. A specially baked simnel cake is a wonderful gift to take to your mother for Matronalia, Mother’s Day, or Mothering Sunday Tea Time. Decorate it with crystalised flowers and tie some yellow ribbon around the side.

Ingredients:

For the almond paste:

  • 400 g icing sugar, sifted
  • 250 g ground almonds
  • 1 large egg yolk, beaten lightly
  • 3-4 tablespoons orange juice
  • 5 drops almond essence

For the cake :

  • 250 g plain flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 280 g currants
  • 250 g sultanas
  • 110 g mixed peel
  • 160 g butter
  • 160 g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 200 ml milk, to mix

You will also need:

  • a sifter,
  • nest of bowls,
  • food processor or electric beater,
  • spatula,
  • wooden spoon,
  • 24 cm round cake tin,
  • baking paper,
  • brown paper and twine,
  • rolling pin,
  • thin metal skewer.

To make your own almond paste you will need:

  • a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
  • Don’t be tempted to use store-bought almond paste because it contains lots of sugar and few almonds, it will turn to liquid under the grill.
Directions:

Place icing sugar and almonds in food processor bowl. Process, slowly dripping in egg yolk, orange juice and almond essence. The mixture should form a pliable paste. Set aside a small portion for balls with which to decorate the cake. Roll out the remaining paste into 2 circles which are the approximate size of the tin. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 160°C/320°F.

Use a sturdy non-stick cake tub or line the buttered base with baking paper. As the baking period is long (1-1 1/2 hours), prevent the cake drying out by wrapping a double thickness of brown paper around the pan and securing it with twine.

Sift flour, salt and spices together, then stir in fruit and peel. Cream butter and sugar thoroughly until light and creamy then beat in eggs one at a time, until the mixture is fluffy. (Reserve a drop of egg yolk for brushing over top layer of almond paste.). Stir flour and fruit into creamed mixture (you may need to add a little milk to give the mixture a dropping consistency).

Place half the mixture into a greased and lined cake tin. Place one pre-rolled round of almond paste over the top. Cover with remaining cake mixture. Before baking the cake, give the pan of mixture a sharp tap on to a firm surface. This settles the mixture and prevents holes from forming in the cake.

Bake in the center of the oven for 1-1 1/4 hours or until a thin metal skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out without a trace of stickiness. Level the cake by placing a weighted plate on top of the cooked cake while it is still hot.

Turn out cake on to a wire rack after leaving it to settle in the cake tin for between 10 and 15 minutes. Peel off paper and leave to cool completely.

Cover the top of the cake with a second round of almond paste. Roll 12 small balls of paste and place evenly around the top of the cake. Brush the top with a little beaten egg and very lightly brown under the grill until the almond paste turns light golden brown. Remove and leave to cool.

Note from someone who tried this recipe:

I did give the pan it’s tap to get rid of air bubbles but almost had a disaster when I went to take everything off so that I could set this on a cake rack to cool.. the almond paste in the middle was still liquid and was leaking down the sides of the cake at a great rate, so I quickly shoved it as neatly as I could back into the springform and let it cool completely before loosening it again. At least my baking paper helped stem the flow before I lost it all. Some of my twelve little balls slipped off while I had this in the oven the second time… so I’d advise not to put them too near to the edge of the cake.

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Đurđevdan is a major holiday for Roma from former Yugoslavia, whether Orthodox or Muslim. The various Balkan spellings (Herdeljez, Erdelezi) are variants of the Turkish Hıdırellez.

Ederlezi is the Gypsy name for the Bulgarian and Serbian Feast of Saint George. It’s celebrated on the 6th May, a holiday signaling the beginning of spring, occurring approximately 40 days after the spring equinox. This Spring festival is especially celebrated by Roma people around the former Yugoslavia (and elsewhere around the world), regardless of religious affiliation.

This holiday celebrates the return of springtime and is considered most important. The traditions of the Roma Durđevdan are based on decorating the home with flowers and blooming twigs as a welcoming to spring. It also includes taking baths added with flowers and washing hands with water from church wells. Also the walls of the home could be washed with the water. On the day of the feast it is most common to grill a lamb for the feast dinner. The appearance of music is also very important during this holiday. Aside from dancing and singing, traditional Brass bands are popular.

Đurđevdan in Serbian, Gergyovden in Bulgarian or Jurjevo in Croatian and Bosnian, “George’s day”, is a South-Slavic religious holiday, celebrated on April 23 by the Julian calendar (May 6 by Gregorian calendar). The feast of Saint George is attached to the tradition of celebrating the beginning of spring, and is a very important Orthodox Christian custom of honoring a family patron saint.

Saint George is one of the most important Christian saints in Orthodox churches. Christian tradition holds that St. George was a martyr who died for his faith. On icons, he is usually depicted as a man riding a horse and killing a dragon. Jurjevo is mainly celebrated in the rural areas of Croatia, mostly Turopolje and Gornja Stubica whereas every Đurđevdan is celebrated in many Serbian communities, but mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia Herzegovina. In Croatian St. George is called Sv. Juraj while in Serbian he’s called Sveti Đorđe and in Bulgarian- Sveti Georgi.

In Croatia, the Catholic version of St.George’s day, Jurjevo is celebrated on April 23 by the Gregorian calendar. The tradition is mostly celebrated in northern Croatia, in Zagreb County. According to tradition this day marks the beginning of spring. The use of bonfires is similar to Walpurgis Night. In Turopolje, Jurjevo involves a slavic tradition where five most beautiful girls are picked to play as Dodola goddesses dressed in leaves and sing for the village every day till the end of the holiday.

Source: Wikipedia
See also: Ederlezi at Gypsy Magick and Lore

 

Hidrellez

Hidrellez (celebrated on May 6th) is a very significant day, not only for gypsies. It’s been very significant in Anatolia for centuries. The word itself is the combination of names of two prophets: Hizir and Ilyas. Hidrellez signifies a rebirth of nature and is also considered to be the beginning of summer. It is said that whatever you wish for that night comes true!

According to Anatolian people’s beliefs, Hizir and Ilyas are two prophets who drank from the fountain of youth; they are brothers and friends. They have given each other promise to meet on this night of May 5 every year to give rebirth to nature. Hizir is the protector of plants; he gives life to plants. He helps poor people. Wherever he goes, he brings abundance. Ilyas is the protector of waters and according to some, the protector of animals. Wherever he goes, animals become healthier.

People believe that wishes made on this night will come true. They also believe that sick people will become healthier and it will be the end of bad luck and misfortunes. There are also a lot of rituals that people perform.

Some people put a coin inside a red cloth and then hang it on a rose branch. In the morning this money is put into the wallet so that it will bring abundance. It is also believed that if you go out, have a picnic and be in nature on this day, your days in winter will have less hardship. Most city people know this day simply as a picnic day.

Although it is commonly celebrated everywhere in Turkey, its mood is more festive among the Roma community. Apart from Edirne, Istanbul also hosts a major celebration by the Romanis in the historic Ahırkapı district, which was marked with a parade of community members in extravagant and colorful costumes.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News

1

In Bulgaria and Turkey, the Kakava Festival is celebrated every year on the evening of May 5th and and continues in the dawn of the next day. the morning of May 6th.

The event represents the rebirth of green and the purification of one’s self. The Roma emphasize the dates strongly, as May 6th is celebrated as the Hidrellez Festival. During the Kakava Festival, fires are lit on the eve of May 5th and celebrations are made during the whole night. After lighting the fire and jumping over it, music playing and dancing is performed.

Edirne, Turkey, home to a large Roma community, experiences large celebrations with people from all over the country as well as foreign tourists descending into the city for Kakava, a gathering of the community, for Hıdrellez.

After setting a bonfire in Sarayiçi, a historical district of Edirne, the crowd spends the night dancing. The official part ends after the distribution of rice dish pilaf to the around 5,000 attendees. The celebration continues in the dawn of the next day at the bank of Tunca River. As the sun rises, streams of revelers flock to the river where they wash their faces in the river “for prosperity and health.” They then leave candles on the river after making wishes and tying ribbons to a wish tree. Hundreds also wash their possessions, from clothes to shoes, in the river in the hope that the water from the river will bring good fortune to them.

Collected from various sources

xin

Sham el-Nisim is an Egyptian national holiday marking the beginning of spring. It always falls on Easter Monday, the day after the Eastern Christian Easter (following the custom of the largest Christian denomination in the country, the Coptic Orthodox Church).

Despite the Christian-related date, the holiday is celebrated by Egyptians of all religions, so it is considered a national festival, rather than a religious one. The main features of the festival are:

  • People spend all day out picnicking in any space of green, public gardens, on the Nile, or at the zoo.

Traditional food eaten on this day consists mainly of fesikh (a fermented, salted and dried grey mullet), lettuce, scallions or green onions, tirmis, and colored boiled eggs.

The name of the holiday is derived from the Egyptian name of the Harvest Season, known as Shemu, which means a day of creation. According to annals written by Plutarch during the 1st century AD, the Ancient Egyptians used to offer salted fish, lettuce, and onions to their deities on this day.

After the Christianization of Egypt, the festival became associated with the other Christian spring festival, Easter. Over time, Shemu morphed into its current form and its current date, and by the time of the Islamic conquest of Egypt, the holiday was settled on Easter Monday. The Islamic calendar being lunar and thus unfixed relative to the solar year, the date of Sham el-Nessim remained on the Christian-linked date.

As Egypt became Arabized, the term Shemu found a rough phono-semantic match in Sham el-Nessim, or “Smelling/Taking In of the Zephyrs,” which fairly accurately represents the way in which Egyptians celebrate the holiday.

In his book, Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, Edward William Lane wrote in 1834:

A custom termed ‘Shemm en-Nessem’ (or the Smelling of the Zephyr) is observed on the first day of the Khamaseen. Early in the morning of this day, many persons, especially women, break an onion, and smell it; and in the course of the forenoon many of the citizens of Cairo ride or walk a little way into the country, or go in boats, generally northward, to take the air, or, as they term it, smell the air, which on that day they believe to have a wonderfully beneficial effect. The greater number dine in the country or on the river. This year they were treated with a violent hot wind, accompanied by clouds of dust, instead of the neseem; but considerable numbers, notwithstanding, went out to ‘smell’ it.

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