The Reader speaks:
These are the Festivals of the Year read over every year at the Time of the Promise. And this promise I declare to you, which has always been given at this time upon the Dead of the Year.
Each part of the reading is preceded by a simple statement of the Divine Nature that those festivals iare held to honour.
These things are the promise of the Goddess to you all.
Hear these words on the nature of the Goddess and be encouraged because of them.
The Goddess personifies the Universe, its creation,
its being and its ending.
As such She is its totality, seen and unseen.
As such She embodies the Greater Mysteries.
As such She is the mind behind all minds and all making.
From Her all things come.
To Her all things return.
For us beneath Her visiting Moon
She can be worshipped as Triad;
Maiden, Mother, and Crone.
For She gives life, fosters it, takes it away.
And so that Moon is Her symbol:
At the new, the full, the old.
She governs the five phases of our lives:
She is Birth, Initiation, Consummation, Rest, Repose.
She is our beginning, our youth, our maturity;
She is our old age
And that inevitable end – our death.
Her Festivals are our calendar of life.
Coupled with our celebration of the Gods
They picture out the scenery of the year,
And stand as parable to our lives.
Because She is all things She is
The embodiment of our desires,
Whether of body or mind.
She is the everlasting song of our souls,
For everything is holy
And not apart from Her Divinity.
Also the Goddess has many names,
For all names are Her name.
(The candle is raised and lowered)
She is also the source of wisdom,
The protectress and guardian of the spirit,
The fount of beauty,
The inspiration of poets and artists,
The spirit of prophecy,
And mistress of all true knowledge.
She is the beginning and the end,
All births and deaths are Hers.
But above all
(The candle is raised and lowered)
Firstly, at the season of Yule, which begins on the 24th December, She is venerated as Mother of the Star Child (the young God). At the end of the Yule season He assumes His office as God of the Waxing Year and becomes in Himself the fulfilment of the Promise given at this time.
Secondly, She is celebrated at Her four major festivals, which mark the seasons of the Pagan Year.
At Candlemas (2nd February) She is worshipped as Mother and venerated as the Goddess of all life. Her altar is initially draped in red. This time is the quickening of the year, for it is the time of the birthstart amongst animals, the forming of the buds on trees and the blossoming of first flowers, of which the snowdrop is Her particular emblem. At this ceremony the Goddess changes from Mother to Maiden, and this is the pivot of the ritual. It is a mystery of women and no man may see it. It involves ritual purifications and lustrations. Men must meditate apart until they are summoned to light a candle and lay snowdrops on Her altar, where everything including the Lady is draped in white.
This ceremony marks the beginning of our Spring.
At May Eve the Goddess, as maid, is wedded to the God. He is led to the marriage. She is the May Queen, Goddess of Flowers and Summer. In past times May Day was an opportunity for young men to display their prowess and sexual attractiveness, and to court the ladies and maids of their fancy. There are still a number of traditions in survival of these ceremonies.
The ceremonies of May Day and its preceding Eve mark the beginning of Summer.
At Lammas (2nd August) She is celebrated as the Great Mother already pregnant with the birth of the harvest. Her colour is red. With Her consent the God of the Waning Year takes Her to His kingdom, where She will rule as Mother of the Harvest and give the new seeds into the keeping of the dark God. She becomes the Protectress of the Legions of the Dead. This is also, because in all deaths there are births, the time of the rutting of animals.
Lammas marks the beginning of Autumn.
At the Hallows (31st October/1st November) She is venerated as Crone. This festival marks the year’s dying, and on its Eve we remember the dead, ask them to join our ceremony, and frankly face our deepest terrors and our own endings; learning joy and peace in our acceptance of them. It is the beginning of Winter. Trees strip themselves of leaves and growth ceases. Now the Goddess is worshipped as Queen of the Shades, Terminator of Fates, Mistress of all true magic and all strange arts. All the as yet unknown is celebrated in Her. Her colour is dark blue or black.
Secondly there are Her other festivals. These are interspersed with Her major rites to complete the story of Her year.
At the Spring Equinox She appears as Maid and Flower Goddess to celebrate Her betrothal to the young God. The place of ritual is decked with Spring flowers in Her honour.
At Midsummer (24th June) the God of the Waxing Year gives way to His twin, the God of the Waning Year. The sun, of which He is ruler, now diminishes the day. The Goddess conducts the God of the Waxing Year to a ritual death at the hands of His followers, where, after a suitable interval He is resurrected as His counterpart. The Lady’s colour changes from white to red. (In many ancient mysteries the twins uneasily rule together for a time, the High Summer, the ritual death of the God of the Waxing Year not taking place till Lammas.)
At the Autumn Equinox She is worshipped as the Red Mother of the Harvest. All fruits and seeds are Hers. At the termination of the festival She takes the sickle as Her emblem and Her colour changes to dark blue or black. She is celebrated as Queen of Darkness as well as Harvest Mother, and the harvest moons of this time are Her symbols, for their ripeness is picture to the ripening of our lives and that last beauty that comes before decay. So, and this may not seem obvious to the superficial, She also symbolises Justice and a certain mercy, for the balance of day and night is here held under the sign of Libra the scales.
At the Dead of the Year She is worshipped as the Great Goddess of all things, being Herself all things in their generation, and She is honoured at this recitation of the Festivals as the Mother of the Promise. So we see that the changing aspects of the Goddess are but parts of Her many faceted image and multiple nature. … Yet, whatever happens She remains the same.
(The candle is raised and lowered)
Hear these words on the nature of the Gods and be encouraged because of them.
The God rules in the Waxing Year and is Lord of Life. The God rules in the Waning Year and is the Lord of Death. So the God subsumes two Gods, and this is a mystery, for They are parts of one another though apart, and both together with Their other emanations make up the personality of man.
The Gods have many names in many places, and can be thought of as two, four, eight or even more; and this is important if we consider that each twin aspect shows wider and deeper qualities of the Godhead in all its significant complexity.
The God of the Waxing Year is the Star Child here promised at this season, at the Dead of the Year.
The God of the Waning Year rules the latter half of the year, and in His time brings wisdom, maturity and understanding of secret things.
The Gods represent in Their story the active universe; and in that story They also symbolise the events of the year and the tale of humanity to which They are focus and parable. They teach us of our relation to the Goddess and are exemplars of our own life’s story from our births to our deaths.
It is They who stimulate and encourage the minds of men.
It is They who lead us to explore our senses, and then to go beyond those earthly senses to explore in unknown worlds.
It is They who stimulate and encourage the adventures of our Art and Culture.
It is They who with the Goddess as focus can fix our lives in the pattern of Their drama, explaining to the brave their places in the unfolding saga of life.
So it is They who are our patrons in understanding, intelligence and Science.
It is They who can explain our world to ourselves, and relate it to that
greater world which is the Goddess Herself.
And we must give each His due, perceiving that only in the comprehension of all Their aspects lies our own Godhead; our own understanding and realization of our inmost selves. For we must remember that when one God is exalted above the other, when one side is worshipped to the detriment of the other, that the slighted God can visit us with deadly afflictions not only of the body but of mind and spirit.
Yet our worship, whilst recognising Their death-dealing powers, nevertheless exalts Their life-giving glory. Also we are all parts of one another and the instincts we share with the beasts are also those of the Gods, for They are part of the texture of all creation. Yet the Gods can take the most sensual and immediate of our desires and teach us to delight in them. They can also take these things out of time and time’s desires into that identification of soul and spirit with the Goddess which is the goal of wisdom. They can take the most rational of concepts and still turn them, with proper understanding, into a delight for the senses. They can also take away the fear of the unknown and sweeten our terrors in life and death by showing in Their saga that They, the Gods, are like men and that men can be like Gods.
Tonight at this Reading of the Festivals the promise is made.
This is the Day of Promise given at the Dead of the Year.
At the season of Yule that promise will be fulfilled.
Now this is the story of the Gods.
On the 22nd December the Lord of the Dead departs to His Land of Shades. The Gods have left the land. It is Midwinter. This day and the 23rd. are kept as a fast. It is the Deep of the Year.
On the night of the 23rd./24th. the Star Child is born; and on the 24th. a feast and merrymaking is held in His honour. Rooms and houses should be decorated then. His tree is the holly and His bird the robin. On the 25th. He is so named, Lord of Life, and families meet to celebrate him. It is the season of Yule.
On the 26th. the Lord of the Dead is ritually hunted away, His tree being the Ivy and His bird the wren. He appears again as the Yuletide Fool, or as in olden times, as the Lord of Misrule and President of the Festivities.
On Twelfth Night the Star Child finally assumes His office as the Lord of the Waxing Year. His symbols of authority are His wand and arrows of sovereignty. So we see that the promise made this day is taken up and in this birth fulfilled.
At the Spring Equinox, the young God drives winter from the land, and, in His youthful vigour, becomes betrothed to the Goddess as Maid.
On May Eve and May Day He celebrates His marriage to the Goddess as Maid and then leads the nuptial festivities.
At Midsummer He gives way to His counterpart the Lord of the Waning Year. Ritually He turns from one aspect to another so presenting His other face, though yet being the same and overriding God.
At Lammas He conducts the Goddess to His Kingdom of the Shades. By Her going She makes possible the dying of the year and the ripening of its fruits for the harvest of which She is the Mother and later the Crone. Autumn is come.
At Autumn Equinox He is the Lord of the harvest and calls us also to the harvest of ourselves and our own considerings to sit in judgement of ourselves. We are to bring not only the ripeness of the land to His feet, but the evaluation of ourselves. He also initiates and leads the harvest feast.
At the Hallows as Lord of the Dead, He opens the Roads and spirits can return to the world and their friends. He encourages us to seek into
the secrets of our souls, to examine our darker thoughts and to face our fears of the unknown. He asks us to be unafraid, for life in His Land of the Shades is little more than the life of Winter in our land, and even there there are green fields, like springtime, where we can rest awhile.
At the conclusion of the festival the ashes of the fire are sprinkled on our land and in the corners of our rooms.
On the Day of the Promise the Festivals are read over and their meanings explained.
So the cycle starts again.
As we feel love in our adoration of the Goddess so should we love in our dealings with others. As we feel reverence for the Gods so should we revere the life They symbolise. As we recognise the pattern of our lives in these festivals so should we learn to accept that pattern, living, loving, and working within it; recognising that from its acceptance comes serenity of soul and that greater understanding we call the higher wisdom. And where there is real wisdom there can be no lying nor small or large deceit, and no dishonour given either to the Gods or man.
(The candle is raised and lowered)
The Reader announces:
The book of the Festivals is closed.
(The candle is extinguished)
© The Estate of Ronald M. White
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