Hana-Matsuri refers to the memorial service performed at temples throughout Japan to celebrate the birth of Buddha on April 8th. It is formally called Kanbutsue. On this day, small buildings decorated with flowers are made at temples and a tanjobustu (baby Buddha figurine) is placed inside. This figurine is sprinkled by worshipers using a ladle with ama-cha, which is a beverage made by soaking tea leaves in hot water Some people take this ama-cha home and drink it as holy water.
Shakyamuni Buddha was born approximately 2,500 years ago under the Bodhi tree in the garden of Lumbini (Nepal) to the Sakya King Suddhodhana and his queen, Maya. When the child was born, flowers bloomed, birds sang and sweet rain fell from the heavens above.
The infant Buddha took seven steps in the four directions and with one hand raised to the sky and the other pointing downwards proclaimed,
“Whether above the sky or below the sky, I am most noble and high. I am here to bring peace to all the sentient beings in the world who are suffering.”
The event is commemorated in Buddhist temples across Japan as the birth anniversary of the Shakyamuni Buddha. The day is celebrated with parades featuring images of the baby Buddha, the white elephant seen by his mother in her dream just before his birth and cherry blossoms carried by children dressed in traditional Japanese clothes.
Coincidentally, the sakura (cherry) trees bloom at this very time, and so are given as offerings to adorn the nativity celebrations and ‘amacha’, sweet tea symbolic of the heavenly rain is poured over the baby Buddha by children.
Source: Journey Mart
Earth Day is a name used for two similar global observances. While some people celebrate Earth Day around the time of the Vernal Equinox, others observe the occasion on April 22 each year.
Earth Day aims to inspire awareness of and appreciation for earth’s environment. Typical ways of observing Earth Day include planting trees, picking up roadside trash, conducting various programs for recycling and conservation, using recyclable containers for snacks and lunches. Some people are encouraged to sign petitions to governments, calling for stronger or immediate action to stop global warming and to reverse environmental destruction. Television stations frequently air programs dealing with environmental issues.
Symbols used by people to describe Earth Day include: an image or drawing of planet earth; a tree, a flower or leaves depicting growth; or the recycling symbol. Colors used for Earth Day include natural colors such as green, brown or blue.
This observance arose from an interest in gathering national support for environmental issues. In 1970, San Francisco activist John McConnell and Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson separately asked Americans to join in a grassroots demonstration. McConnell chose the spring equinox (March 21, 1970) and Nelson chose April 22. Millions of people participated, and today Earth Day continues to be widely celebrated with events on both dates.
From May 19-28 is the time of the Greek festival of Kallyntaria and Plynteria, a time that is also known as a time for “spring cleaning”. Most of us have already started our spring cleaning in various forms, but this particular time of the Sacred Year is dedicated to spiritual cleaning – the cleaning and nurturance of the sacred places.
The Greeks were good at that, and they called this festival Kallyntaria and Plynteria, by which they meant making a special effort to clean the sacred statues of the goddess and god. With all that incense burning and dust gathering, the sacred images get pretty dirty, and you had to take them to be washed in the nearest rivers or lakes, submerging them and letting them reunite with the life-giving waters. Afterward, the women dressed the goddess in her jewels, with much ceremony, and paraded her proudly back to her home in the temple. No singing or fun was allowed during this procedures. These festivals were solomnized because it was work, not play.
The same principle applies to us today. Let’s get those brooms out, and wash the house from top to bottom, really giving it an old fashioned purification. What could be more natural than to transform the old custom of spring cleaning into a religious devotion!
For modern Pagans/Wiccans, now is the time to strip down all the old decorations and adornments of your alter or personal magic space and to do some spring cleaning. If your alter has statues or images of the particular God or Goddess (or both) take them to a local river or stream (if you live near one) and bath the statues in the rushing water. If you are no where near a river, you can use either spring water from bottles, or rushing water from your sink.
If your statues and tools are not made of material safe enough for getting wet, then pass them over pine, frankincense, myrrh, or sandalwood incense. You can also use both water and incense to cleanse your magical wares if you feel it necessary. Clean the dust and and clutter your alter may have accumulated in past celebrations. If you still have Beltane items on your alter, now is the time to remove them and gently store them away for next year.
Celebrate this time of cleaning by partaking of refreshing drinks such as fruit juices like lemonade or limeade. Foods can be on the spicy side, incorporating garlic, onion, and spicy peppers for both purifying and cleansing. Don’t forget to offer some to the Gods :).
Here’s how they celebrate Beltane in Edinburgh!
First organized in the 1980’s, the Beltane Fire Festival has become a popular festival in Edinburgh. Here we have photos of the Beltane Fire Society celebrating Spring and the coming of summer. This lively procession celebrates the ending of winter and is a revival of the ancient Celtic festival of Beltane which is the Gaelic name for the month of May. More about Beltane can be found here: Beltane
The first of May is Beltane or May Day, a time to celebrate the leaping fires of passion. Traditionally celebrated on April 30, (May eve), it marks the height of spring and the flowering of all life. Beltane is a festival of sensuality, sexuality, flowers and delight. It is a traditional time to make love, preferably outdoors.
Beltane is the time when fairies return from their winter rest, carefree and full of mischief and delight. On the night before Beltane, in times past, folks would place rowan branches at their windows and doors for protection. If you do not wish the fairies to visit, do the same! This is also a perfect time for night or predawn rituals to draw down power to promote fertility in body and mind.
At Beltane, the Pleiades star cluster rises just before sunrise on the morning horizon. The Pleiades is known as the seven sisters, and resembles a tiny dipper-shaped pattern of six moderately bright stars in the constellation of Taurus, near the shoulder. Watch for it low in the east-northeast sky, just a few minutes before sunrise.
There are many lovely old customs associated with this time. Here are some simple ideas for celebrating this wild red time of year:
- Make a garland or wreath of freshly picked flowers and wear it in your hair.
- Dress in bright colors, especially hot pink or crimson, the traditional colors of Beltane, or wear green all day (and nothing all night!)
- Hang fruits and baked goodies from trees and bushes for later feasting.
- Build a Beltane fire: leap over it to cleanse yourself, or state your desires and let the fire carry them upward.
- Leap over your garden rows (or house plants), sharing joyous energy.
- Make a ‘May gad’: peel a willow-wand and twine cowslips or other flowers around it.
- Throw a May Day party and feast on May wine and food till the dawn. Turn a broomstick into a maypole and see how many people you can get to dance round it.
- Make love in the woods, in your garden, outside – at night.
- Watch the sunrise. Pack a picnic breakfast, a blanket, and some sweaters; and head out before dawn. Unpack your picnic on a hill with an unobstructed view and enjoy the early morning rays as the sun peaks over the horizon.
- Make a flower feast! Freeze edible flowers in your ice cubes. Add edible flowers to your salad. Candy flowers to decorate your dessert.
- Make a May basket. Fill it with flowers, food, ribbons, and fun. Leave it on a doorstep of a lover or friend, or someone who cannot get outside, such as an invalid or elderly person.
- Make a daisy chain and cast it into one of the lakes to please the water spirits.
- Rise at dawn on May Day and wash in the morning dew: The woman who washes her face in it will be beautiful, the man who washes his hands will be skilled at knots and nets (always a useful skill for students).
- Twist a Rowan sprig into a ring and look through it- tonight is one of the three in the year when the uninitiated can see the faeries.
- Create a May Day altar with a mirror, a small maypole, a phallic shaped candle, a daisy chain and springtime flowers.
- Light a fire or candle on the top of a hill and make a wish as you jump over it (for authenticity, you can try this sky clad, it would also be amusing for any passing late-night dog walkers!)
- Perfume your house with delicate scent of woodruff, a tiny, star-like flower that blooms around this time in the Northern Hemisphere.
- Embrace the ones you love. Hugs and kisses all around.
Holidays are days made holy by the attention we pay them. Simple practices such as the ones listed above remind us that we too dance to the natural rhythms of the earth.
Also called The Parilia, this festival is dedicated to the Another festival to Pales, goddess of herds. In ancient Roman religion, Pales was a deity of shepherds, flocks and livestock. Regarded as male by some sources and female by others, Pales can be either singular or plural in Latin, and refers at least once to a pair of deities.
During these festivals, ritualistic cleansing of sheep/cattle pens and animals would take place. There are two dates for this festival, one is April 21, and the other on July 7. The festival in April was for smaller livestock, while the one in July was for larger animals.
The festival, basically a purification rite for herdsmen, beasts, and stalls, was at first celebrated by the early kings of Rome, later by the pontifex maximus, or chief priest.
The Vestal Virgins opened the festival by distributing straw and the ashes and blood of sacrificial animals. Ritual cleaning, anointment, and adornment of herds and stalls followed, together with offerings of simple foods.
Shepherds swept out the pens and smudged the animals and pens with burning sulfur. In the evening, the animals were sprinkled with water, and their pens were decorated with garlands. Fires were started, and in were thrown olives, horse blood, beanstalks without pods, and the ashes from the Fordicalia fires. Men and beasts jumped over the fire three times to purify themselves further, and to bring them protection from anything that might harm them (wolves, sickness, starvation, etc.). After the animals were put back into their pens the shepherds would offer non-blood sacrifices of grain, cake millet, and warm milk to Pales.
Another description of this Festival from Nova Roma is as follows:
The Parilia is both an ancient agricultural festival sacred to Pales and the birthday of Eternal Roma Herself. The sheep-fold is decorated with greenery and a wreath placed on its entrance. At first light the fold is scrubbed and swept, and the sheep themselves are cleansed with sulfur smoke. A fire is made of olive and pine wood, into which laurel branches are thrown; their crackling is a good omen. Offerings are made of cakes of millet, other food, and pails of milk.
A prayer is then said four times to Pales (while facing east), seeking protection and prosperity for the shepherd and his flocks, forgiveness for unintentional transgressions against Pales, and the warding off of wolves and disease. The shepherd then washes his hands with dew. Milk and wine is heated and drunk, and then he leaps through a bonfire (and possibly his flocks as well).
Day of Pales Ritual
From the Pagan Book of Hours, we have a modern day ritual for the Day of Pales.
- Color: Sand-colored
- Element: Earth
- Altar: Upon a sand-colored cloth set a man’s right shoe and a woman’s left shoe, side by side, with a shepherd’s crook between them, and small figures of goats and sheep.
- Offerings: Work in the barn with livestock. Do some chore or work-task that you were taught was inappropriate for your gender.
- Daily Meal: Goat. Lamb or mutton. Coarse bread. Soup or stew. Greens.
Invocation to Pales
Hail, Keeper of Flocks and Herds,
Ass-headed god/dess, you who are
Both male and female,
Both god and peasant,
Patron of those who must dirty their hands,
Beloved of the working man and woman,
You who do not play favorites,
Trickster who loves a good joke,
Lord of the dry land between the rivers
Where your flocks graze on scrub
And the people’s blood flows like water
In their everlasting feud,
Come to us and show us life
Through your crooked ass eyes!
Hail, Keeper of Flocks and Herds,
Lady/Lord of the crook and sandals,
You show us that roles
Are meant to be transgressed,
That work can be radical,
That being bound to the labor of the Earth
Does not have to make one heavy.
We need your humor, divine ass!
We need your braying laughter to echo
Over the desert and through our hearts,
And to watch you tip the balance of power
Like a child tips an apple cart.
Hail, Keeper of Flocks and Herds!
(After the invocation, go to the barn, or to a local farm. Hoofed livestock should be given treats on this day, in honor of Pales.)
The Easter Fire is a custom of pagan origin spread all over Europe. It is a symbol of victory, the victory of beautiful and sunny spring over the cold days of winter.
On Holy Saturday or Easter Sunday, in rare occasions also on Easter Monday, large fires are lit at dusk in numerous sections of Northwestern Europe. These regions include Denmark, parts of Sweden as well as in Finland, Northern Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.
The fire is lit usually on the top of the mountains – Easter mountain, Osterberg – and it is obtained from wood by friction. In Germany, the Easter fire is created by gathering all the Christmas trees and burning them into a huge fire, a sign for everyone to leave behind winter and prepare for spring.
Though not documented before the 16th century, the custom presumably is based on Saxon, pre-Christian traditions, that are still performed each year. There are several explanations of the meaning of these fires. The Saxons believed that around the time of Easter, Spring becomes victorious over Winter. The fires were to help chase the darkness and winter away. It was also a symbol of fertility, which works in a literal sense in that the ashes were scattered over the meadows and thereby fertilized the soil.
The pre-Christian meaning of Easter fires is hardly experienced anymore. Nowadays they are meant to bring the community together, which guarantees a pleasant night combined with the consumption of beer, mulled wine or liquor, and snacks.
April gets its name from the goddess Aprilis, who is the Romans’ version of Aphrodite. Her name means “to open,” which is exactly what Aprilis does… she opens the path to playfulness and the way to personal enrichment.
We all know the rhyme “April showers bring May flowers.” So consider what energies you want Aprilis to sprinkle on you this month for personal flowering. Overall, any magical efforts aimed toward growth, love, pleasure, improvements, and developing one’s inner child will benefit from working this month.
Because the Christian holiday of Easter sometimes falls in this month, the Anglo-Saxons and Franks called it Easter Month; of course, the word Easter comes originally from the name of the Pagan goddess Eostre, deity of Spring, fertiilty, and new life. The Romans called this month Aprilis, a time of unfolding leaves and flowers.
April was the second month of the Roman calendar, before January and February were added by King Numa Pompilius about 700 BC. It became the fourth month of the calendar year (the year when twelve months are displayed in order) during the time of the decemvirs about 450 BC, when it also was given 29 days April is commonly associated with the season of spring in the Northern hemisphere and autumn in the Southern hemisphere.
Correspondences for April:
- Nature Spirits: Plant faeries
- Herbs: Basil, chives, dragons blood, geranium, thistle
- Colors: Crimson red, gold
- Flowers: Daisy, sweetpea
- Scents: Pine, bay, bergamot, patchouli
- Stones: Ruby, garnet, sard
- Trees: Pine, bay, hazel
- Animals: Bear, wolf
- Birds: Hawk, magpie
- Deities: Kali, Hathor, Anahita, Ceres, Ishtar, Venus, Bast
- Birth stone: Diamond
- Birth flower: Daisy or sweet pea
- Zodiac Signs: Aries (until April 19) and Taurus (April 20 onwards).
Energy into creating and producing; return balance to the nerves; change; self confidence; self reliance; take advantage of opportunities; work on temper and emotional flare-ups and selfishness.
The Megalesia of Cybele, who was also known as Magna Mater (Great Mother) in both Phyrgia and Rome, celebrated the arrival of this goddess in Rome. In 204 BCE, Rome was in the midst of a great war with Hannibal. Things were going very badly for the Roman legions. Finally, the Romans sent a delegation to the Oracle at Delphi for an interpretation of their sacred Sibylline Books. This passage said that foreing invaders could only be driven away when the Mother of Mount Ida was transferred from Pessinus to Rome.
The oracle sent the delegation to the king of Pergamum in Asia Minor, where they were told that a black meteroite embodying the spirit of Cybele was. Pine trees from Mt. Ida, sacred to the goddess, were made into a ship, and the stone was transported from one sanctuary to another until it reached Rome. In about a year, Hannibal left Italy forever.
The Japanese Flower Festival has now become a celebration of Buddha’s birth. In the older celebration, however, the people gathered wildflowers for the family shrine. Those in the Shinto faith placed wooden markers on the graves and said prayers.
The Roman festival of Cerealia celebrated the return of Proserpina to the Earth goddess Ceres. Our word “cereal” comes from the name Ceres. It was the time of planting grain. Ceres was the Roman equivalent to the Greek goddess Demeter.The festival of Cerealia was held for seven days from mid-to-late April, but exact dates are uncertain.
Feriae Latinae was also held in April, with the date varying. Other ancient Roman observances include Veneralia, Fordicidia, Parilia, Vinalia Urbana, Robigalia, and Serapia.
The Egyptians called their land Khemennu, or Land of the Moon. Plutarch wrote that they believed the Moon to be the Mother of the Universe. Although the goddess Bast was primarily considered to be a deity of the gentle Sun, she was also connected with the Moon.
Floralia was held April 27 during the Republican era, or April 28 on the Julian calendar, and lasted until May 3. However, these dates do not correspond to the modern Gregorian calendar. The Floralia is still celebrated in many Central and Eastern European countries. It is a time to honor the goddess of flowers. People dress in gaily decorated costumes and wear flowers in their hair. Secretly delivering baskets of flowers on May Day is a remnant of this old festival.
During this month was also the Incan Ayrihua or Camay Inca Raymi, the Festival of the Inca.
April Weather Lore
It is said that if early April is foggy,
rain in June will make lanes boggy.
rain and sunshine, both together.
April showers bring May flowers.
A dry April
Not the farmer’s will.
Is what he would get.
“If it rains on Easter Sunday,
it will rain on the next seven Sundays.”
More April Lore:
St George’s day is the twenty-third of the month; and St Mark’s Eve, with its superstition that the ghosts of those who are doomed to die within the year will be seen to pass into the church, falls on the twenty-fourth.
In China the symbolic ploughing of the earth by the emperor and princes of the blood took place in their third month, which frequently corresponds to April. In Finnish April is huhtikuu, meaning slash-and-burn moon, when gymnosperms for beat and burn clearing of farmland were felled.
In Slovene, the most established traditional name is mali traven, meaning the month when plants start growing.
The month Aprilis had 30 days; Numa Pompilius made it 29 days long; finally Julius Caesar’s calendar reform made it again 30 days long, which was not changed in the calendar revision of Augustus Caesar in 8 BC.
The Lyrids meteor shower appears on April 16-April 26 each year, with the peak generally occurring on April 22. Eta Aquariids meteor shower also appears in April. It is visible from about April 21 to about May 20 each year with peak activity on or around May 6. The Pi Puppids appear on April 23, but only in years around the parent comet’s perihelion date. The Virginids also shower at various dates in April.
From: Moon Magick and various other sources
The Megalisia was a Phrygian festival in honor of Cybele, the Magna Mater. This was a festival with games celebrated at Rome in the month of April and in honor of the great mother of the gods. Following the advice of the Sibylline oracle on how to end the Punic wars, the meteorite which represented Cybele was brought from Phrygia to Rome in 204 BCE where it was installed in the Temple of victory on April 4th. The day of its arrival was solemnized with a magnificent procession, lectisternia, and games, and great numbers of people carried presents to the goddess at the Capitol.
The following harvest was great and the war ended the next year.
The regular celebration of the Megalesia, however, did not begin until about a dozen years later, when the temple which had been vowed and ordered to be built in 203 B.C., was completed and dedicated by M. Iunius Brutus.
The Romans began the celebrations with a parade, in which an image of the Goddess, Cybele, was carried through the streets in a chariot drawn by lions, her animals. The castrated priests who served her danced alongside, playing timbrels and cymbals and gashing themselves. Lucretius says “with bronze and silver they strew all the paths of her journey … and snow rose-blossoms over her.”Rome, commemorating the arrival of the goddess to her Roman Temple.”
The festival lasted for six days, beginning on the 4th of April. The season of this festival, like that of the whole month in which it took place, was full of general rejoicings and feasting. It was customary for the wealthy Romans on this occasion to invite one another mutually to their repasts, and the extravagant habits and the good living during these festive days were probably carried to a very high degree. For that reason, a senatusconsultum was issued in 161 B. C., prescribing that no one should go beyond a certain extent of expenditure.
The games which were held at the Megalesia were purely scenic, and not circenses. They were at first held on the Palatine in front of the temple of the goddess, but afterwards also in the theaters.
The first ludi scenici at Rome were, according to Valerius Antias, introduced at the Megalesia, either in 193 or 191 b.c. The day which was especially set apart for the performance of scenic plays was the third of the festival.
Slaves were not permitted to be present at the games, and the magistrates appeared dressed in a purple toga and praetexta, whence the proverb, purpura Megalensis. The games were under the superintendence of the Curule Aediles, and we know that four of the extant plays of Terence were performed at the Megalesia. Cicero, probably contrasting the games of the Megalesia with the more rude and barbarous games and exhibitions of the circus, calls them maxime casti, solemnes, religiosi.
The book, 365 Goddess, describes this festival as a Roman Festival celebrating the accuracy of the Sibylline oracles, who predicted the way for the Roman victory in the Punic Wars. Her suggestions for celebrating this ancient festival is as follows:
- Themes: Divination, Protection, Victory, Children, Birth, Communication.
- Symbols: The written word, Divination tools, Fertility symbols.
- Rulers: The Carmenae.
The Carmenae is a group of goddesses who correspond to the Muses of Greek tradition; they know our past, see what’s in store in the future, foretell children’s fates, and teach us the effective use of “letters” (the alphabet), the arts, and how to tell fortunes. They also oversee midwives.
Romans traditionally honored the goddesses today with music and song, so put on some magical tunes! The Carmenae will saturate the music and uplift your spirit.
Ask the Carmenae to help you write personalized invocations or spells today. Put pen to pad and let these goddesses inspire sacred words suited to your path and needs. Keep these in a magick journal for future use.
The Roman oracles often drew lots to determine a querent’s answer. If you have a question weighing heavily on your heart today, follow this custom and take out some variegated beans. Hold them. Concentrate on the question, then pick out one bean. A black one means “no”; white means “yes.” Red means that anger is driving action, brown means things are muddled, and green indicates growth potential. If you don’t have the beans, colored buttons or beads are a suitable alternative.
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.