To learn more about historical pagan practices, as well as information
about how many Witches, Pagans, and Wiccans celebrate the holidays, I
encourage you to look at Mike Nichols' comprehensive site The Witches'
Sabbats. If you're not very familiar with these holidays, you may want
to look at that before reading my suggestions. I am not sure how
accurate the historical information is, and I encourage you to do your
Following are some concepts and ritual practices which I have found to be
meaningful for me when celebrating the seasons. Some of them are seasonal
activities which can easily be shared with non-Pagan friends. One way to
incorporate seasonal celebrations into your life is simply to invite
friends and family for a special meal, bless it, and share it together.
Eating seasonal foods is a great way to connect more deeply with the earth.
Also, any ritual can be tied into the current season by invoking the
elements in terms of what is going on at the moment (e.g. "We call on the
spirit of Water, who at this time is covering the earth in a blanket of
white" or "Fire, we feel you today in the hot sun").
Yule/ Winter Solstice
This is a time to focus on the light within, the inner fire of the spirit,
Winter is a time of year that can be depressing for some; take the time
now to set an intention for yourself this winter. Going within can be
introspection rather than depression: what are your goals for this time of
For group ritual: begin the ritual in darkness, or turn all the lights out
at some point; then candles can be lit in the darkness to symbolize the
return of the light.
Decorate an evergreen tree. Evergreens symbolize the continuity of life
throughout the cold winter. (Think about the environmental impact of your
actions: do you need to cut down a tree, or can you find another way to
celebrate? You may want to decorate a living tree in your yard instead,
or bring home large fallen evergreen branches to decorate.)
Stay up all night with candles burning.
Get up to greet the dawn. If you like, you can ring bells or sing a song
to welcome the Divine Child of Light who is born on this day.
Eat eggs sunny-side up!
This is a time of new beginnings, a good time for initiation,
self-dedication, or starting on a new path.
Consecrate any new tools you have gotten in the past year. Cleanse or
purify any tools whose energy needs to be refreshed.
Do a ritual of self-forgiveness for any mistakes you have made or
people you have harmed. Charge a glass of milk with love and
comfort, and drink it in.
Celebrate Brigid, goddess of poetry and inspiration, with a poetry reading
or other creative event.
Go on a "spring walk" and search for signs of spring (green buds, melted
Plant seeds, and state your intentions for things in your life that you
Do a ritual for balance. Invoke the element you feel you are lacking.
If you feel different parts of your life are out of balance, create a
balanced mobile with symbols representing different parts of your life
(work, family, activism...) and hang it where you can see it every
Clean house. Take care of unfinished business.
Celebrate by decorating, eating, hiding eggs.
Cook green foods (for the growing earth).
Beltane/ May Day
Commonly this is seen as a celebration of sexuality and fertility.
Dance the Maypole.
Do a self-blessing. Take a ritual bath with scents or oils first.
Walk the boundaries of your land/ home/ territory, possibly reinforcing
shields or protective magick.
Stay up all night with candles lit (naturally, be mindful of fire
Have a great party! This is the shortest night of the year.
Or a variation: Have a costume party. This night is about transformation
and shapeshifting. Invite people to come as something completely
different from their everyday self.
This is a great night for magick of change and transformation, especially
using the power of fire. Burn a bag of herbs or other small object (a
twig, a leaf, etc.) charged with the energy of something you would like to
The summer solstice is the time when the power of the sun has grown to its
fullest. Meditate on the ways in which you have grown over the past year.
Create a ritual celebrating an accomplishment you are proud of.
Cook golden (sun-colored) foods.
Meditate on the five elements (Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Spirit). How are
these elements manifested in your life right now? Is one stronger, is
another less strong? Which elements do you need to strengthen? Which
elements are presenting challenges for you?
Pray for "peace and plenty" for the earth and all its creatures.
Bake bread, or cornbread. Fill it with your hopes as you make the dough
and bake it. Focus on your hopes as you eat it.
Work to end hunger: Donate to a food bank or food pantry, or volunteer at
a soup kitchen.
Commemorate the death of the Celtic god Lugh by celebrating heroes and
those who have made sacrifices for causes you believe in.
This is a time of thanksgiving. Hold a dinner party with your friends and
give thanks for the blessings in your life. Pass around a glass of juice,
cider, water, or wine - each person gives thanks for something and takes a
Balance-related activities (listed under Spring Equinox) are good at this
In a group, the balance of light and dark can be played out through a
grapevine type dance where people weave in and out, carrying white and
This is the time of Persephone's descent into the underworld. Honor
Persephone and her mother Demeter. Ask Persephone for blessing guidance
if you are beginning any kind of journey.
Make an altar for your beloved dead or for your ancestors.
Cook foods that belong to your culture. Invite your friends and ask each
person to bring a dish that belongs to their culture or family tradition.
Make time for each person to tell the story of their dish.
Leave offerings by your ancestors' gravesites, if they are nearby. If
not, leave offerings for your ancestors in a place that represents them to
you (for example, if your ancestors are Polish, leave the offerings in the
park named after Polish immigrants).
Leave cakes, cookies, or other small treats at a crossroads for the
Honor your spiritual ancestors - those who are not your blood relations,
but who have given you inspiration and serve as your role models.
Cut open an apple (sideways) to find the five-pointed star of rebirth
inside. Drink apple cider.
For Pagans and Witches, the cycles of the earth are a focal point of our
spiritual practice. The seasons of our Earth are created by the
elliptical movement of the earth around the sun. This cycle is manifested
differently in different areas of the planet, and is also affected by
differences in climate and geography; a resident of a coastal area will
have a different experience of "winter" than an inland dweller at the same
latitude. So my description of seasonal celebrations is obviously shaped
by a lifetime spent in the northeastern United States. Even in one
geographical location, though, the seasons don't happen the same way every
year. Some springs are milder while others are more chilly.
Our experience of the seasons is also affected by personal factors. Past
events that took place in a particular season may surface, or we may be
preoccupied by current events in our lives. The meaning of autumn will be
different for a person who is grieving the loss of someone s/he loved than
for someone who is excited about starting a new school program. The person
grieving a loss may walk slowly, shivering in the chilly air, seeing the
touch of death in each leaf that falls from the tree; the person starting
a new program may feel invigorated by the brightly colored leaves and the
In a sense, these people have changed their beliefs about the meaning of
the season to match their current experience. Psychologists call this
"accomodation": revising our mental maps ("schemata") to incorporate
new experiences. Individual, personalized rituals give room for these
changes in our cognitive maps; the first person in the above example
may be designing an Autumn Equinox ritual around grief and letting go,
while the second person may be invoking the Goddess of New Endeavors and
celebrating autumn as a time of change and beginnings.
Alternately, we may change our understanding of our experiences to match
our beliefs about what the season "means." In the Pagan community there
are some fairly standardized concepts about the meanings of our holidays; we
"know" Yule is about rebirth, so we consider our current experiences and
think of the ways in which we are being "reborn" through them.
Psychologists call this "assimilation": revising our interpretation of our
experience in order to fit it into our cognitive maps. (Here is a further
explanation of assimilation and accomodation.)
When assimilation happens unconsciously, it can be a defense mechanism
preventing us from absorbing new ideas; but we also use assimilation in a
conscious manner as part of our magickal practice. Large group rituals
typically encourage this type of cognitive "assimilation" in order to
bring group members together in a shared experience (e.g. asking everyone
to visualize the ways in which they are "planting seeds" in their lives at
a Spring Equinox ritual).
I think these theories are helpful in understanding how Pagans can share
certain seasonal concepts or practices, while we can also be flexible
enough to create rituals around our individual ways of seeing of the
seasons. Both of these are valid ways to make meaning out of our