Our Spirituality Editor, Jen CK Jacobs, introduces us to the eight primary holidays that she'll be exploring with us here at The Fold, all inspired by the earth and its natural cycles. We're excited to share these celebrations together throughout the year.
My mother loves holidays — any excuse to gift a book, really. Raised Jewish, we naturally celebrated Passover, Hanukkah and all of the ubiquitous dates on the Jewish calendar, but I also possess clear memories of coming to our long dinner table, a book wrapped with a bow awaiting our impatient fingers, as she announced our surprise Spring Equinox feast.
When I was 14, one of those books tucked secretly under the table was Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon — a sweeping saga of the Arthurian legend told by the most powerful women of the time. That book not only introduced me for the first time to truly formidable female protagonists, but also sparked a love of old world magic that has been my spiritual anchor ever since.
I have explored a plethora of practices throughout my life, but the magic I hold closest to my soul is gem healing and honoring the earth through the moon cycles and the Wheel of the Year. There are eight primary holidays that make up the Wheel of the Year:
1. Samhain: In late October, the mist lifts between the worlds of the living and the dead. This is a wonderful time of year to honor those we love and have lost and to reflect on and honor the process of grief.
2. Yule (the Winter Solstice): December 21 is the darkest night of the year, and it beseeches you to look back at all you’ve learned and how you’ve evolved over the last 12 months. The Yule is about bringing light back into the world…and back into our everyday.
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"Set a humble table and eat beautiful simple food. Nothing has to be fancy. When you make yourself comfortable, your guests will feel comfortable."
3. Imbolc: In early February, we celebrate the return of light to our days — and the coming of spring. It is an especially sacred holiday for women and a wonderful time for empowerment and mental and emotional rebirth.
4. Ostara (the Spring Equinox): The world is awakening anew, and the theme of rebirth (mental, emotional and physical) is central to the Spring Equinox, celebrated in March.
5. Beltane: This ancient festival once marked the beginning of summer on the first of May – it is a celebration of fertility and sexuality, the latter of which can be physical or metaphorical.
6. Litha (the Summer Solstice or Midsummer): The longest day of the year is on June 21st. It marks the counterpoint to the Yule and is a wonderful time to harness the power of the sun.
7. Lammas: Celebrated on August 1st, it is a time to pause and give thanks. As we look at the work we’ve done to create the coming harvest, our bodies and spirits need a moment of reprise to truly live in the moment.
8. Mabon (the Autumn Equinox): This is a time to gather and give thanks in September. As the earth shifts from light to dark once again, it is a time to create sacred spaces indoors and to gather around the table to honor the gifts of the harvest and the connection to one another that keeps us tethered.
I will be writing in more detail about these celebrations over the year and sharing traditions to honor each of them in ways that can bring peace and balance to your life. Together we will create ancestor alters to honor those we love; you will learn how to create your own Book of Shadows (your personal journal of spiritual ritual), how to charge your crystals with intention at Midsummer’s and so much more. It does not matter your religion — these celebrations are not about worshipping pagan deities, but about honoring the cycle of life. As I ever so gracefully age into my 40s, I have found that observing such moments either through quiet reflection on my own or through family gatherings has created a deep sense of connection to the world around me. My hope is that you find such insight as well.