A Note on Minor Festivals
There are many local and regional festivals. We, as good pagans, may wish to honour them as part of our year’s pilgrimage. I cannot list them all or try to explain their significance to our theme. But we can look at them carefully and ask one valid question. Is this rite alive, or merely a picturesque survival? If the latter why not indulge it? But be wary of nostalgia for a past that after all was a long way from paradise. Look into your hearts for the inner meanings of such rites and survivals. Even in customs still carried out only the Gods know why, some profit may be found by pondering on them. We may come up with some interesting answers, but any answers must carry meaning for us now, not merely for folk historians. We should not use them as escape hatches into a world of antique fantasy.
So in considering Minor Festivals I have chosen one for study which has a present and growing importance, and in future, may have more.
In these days when the Goddess and the Gods are at last returning to their ancient power, even the minor festivals begin to grow in stature and popularity.
Valentine’s to most is a jolly frolic of a day; and “How bad” as a friend of mine used to say. But what does it really mean to a pagan, and wherein does its significance lie?
Country people still date the first mating behaviour of the birds from this time. The first flowers are well established, primroses now beginning to show their faces in sheltered corners. It is a time of hope for that necessary fertility of all life. The old Romans called it Lupercalia and young men dressed in wolf skins ran the streets in circuit of the city. They were held to be harbingers of fertility in otherwise barren women, and their dance and running was to encourage the growth of crops, almost as if they were waking the seeds still lying in the ground.
It is also the day of meeting when the young God of the Waxing Year first meets the Goddess as Maid and declares His love.
For us it expresses the tender hopes that we have between the sexes. It is the first kiss: the sudden ecstasy of youth, love and its desperate ardour. It enshrines love’s hopes and love’s despairs, and love’s promises. It is potent in poetry and has been the progenitor of many masterpieces of literature and music. Its rituals are simple and heart-warming: the exchange of a token, a kiss, a flower, a holding of hands ….. love’s innocence. It yet leaves room, as most pagan rites do, for clowning, mock messages, tricky couplets and witty verses. The fool, we must remember, is a follower at all festivities, and no more likely place to be found than in the lists of love.
From ‘The Quickening’ of Candlemas, life is led through the beginning of love to the dedication of love and life that we shall meet at the Spring Equinox.
© The Estate of Ronald M. White
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