Wednesday, November 7, 2007

An Essay

The following essay was, indirectly, the cause for my starting this blog. The essay was intended to be part of an e-zine, but wasn't long enough. After thinking it over, I decided that I wasn't going to lengthen it; I've read far too many articles, essays and books that seemed to be written for maximum word count, rather than maximum effect. However, I guess I must have written my few words well. The editor of the ezine referred to my essay when announcing her decision to revamp the publication schedule. The problem? In her announcement, she mentioned someone else as the author. Now, I know the editor was far over-scheduled and under slept, and she did apologize for the error, and did so publicly, so I have no quarrel with her at all. But it was, and will be, her first email, with the incorrect author listed that people will remember and refer to, as that was the email that contained the new publication schedule. While it is heartening to know that I can have an effect on people, I would dearly love positive public acknowledgement from the universe, as well. And so, the blog goes public.


It is October 31st, Samhain on the Wheel of the Year and Halloween on the calendar and all good NeoPagans, Witches, Wizards and Mages have demanded the day off from work for religious reasons, right? Well, forgive me for not joining this bandwagon, but Samhain is not Halloween and it is certainly not the night of October 31, day of November 1, at least, not this year.

Samhain is a cross quarter day, as are Imbolc, Beltane and Lammas. Which begs the question-what is a cross quarter day?

Picture a circle, now quarter it, with a line running up and down through the center of the circle, and an intersecting line perpendicular to the first. The ends of the lines will be at the cardinal points. The top point is the Winter Solstice. This solstice occurs when the sun enters zero degrees Capricorn. Moving clockwise around the circle, the next quarter is marked by the Spring Equinox (the sun at zero degrees Aries), then the Summer Solstice (zero degrees Cancer) and finally the Autumnal Equinox, with the sun at zero degrees Libra. (all cardinal signs, imagine that!)*

To get the remaining holidays (holy days or days of power, if you aren’t particularly religious), we quarter the circle again, drawing our lines so that they precisely halve our previously drawn segments. This gives us lines at the points where the sun would be at (again, moving clockwise) 15 degrees Aquarius (Imbolc), 15 degrees Taurus (Beltane), 15 degrees Leo (Lammas) and Ta Daa! 15 degrees Scorpio for Samhain.

If we don’t expect the equinoxes and solstices to be on the same dates on our human designed calendars every year, how is it that Samhain has gotten “fixed” at October 31/November 1 and Beltane at May 1? In 2007, the sun was at 15 degrees Taurus on May 6th, not May 1st, and 15 degrees Scorpio is November 8th, not November 1. For this, we can thank the Catholic Church, with its propensity for absorbing indigenous holidays and its long role (in Europe, at least) as the keeper of records and calendars.

There wasn’t much the Church could do about the Solstices or the Equinoxes, sunlight waxes and wanes without regard to the number or name assigned to the day. And while much of what was once pre-Christian Yule has been absorbed into the observation and celebration of Christmas, no one is going to argue that the Winter Solstice will occur on December 25th of this year (in 2007, the Winter Solstice will be on December 22 in Europe and the eastern half of the US. West of the central time zone, the solstice will be late on December 21).

The holiday known by its Celtic name as Samhain, morphed into All Saints Day, with the Vigil of All Hallows Eve during the tenure of Gregory III as Pope (731-741 ce). Outside of the cathedrals and basilicas, however, local traditions survived, but with the dependence on the church for calendar keeping, the folkways attached themselves to the church recognized date. And gradually, All Hallows Eve became Halloween.

In a similar manner, Beltane and its Maypole became the Church holy day of the Roodmas and its Roman Cross.

So what will I be doing the night of October 31? With joy I my heart, and a huge amount of refined sugar in my cauldron, I will participate in that great American costume and candy spree known as Halloween. And the night of November 7th, come full dark? That, my friends, is the eve of the Cross Quarter Day, (whether one celebrates it as Samhain or not), and I have a date with my scrying tools.

For the purpose of this article, I have the Tropical Zodiac, rather
than the Sidereal or Vedic. The Tropical Zodiac, historically, has
been in more common use in the West and, as it tracks the stars
from the vantage point of the Earth, seemed more appropriate to
an article on holidays and earthly occurrences. However, there
would still a disconnect between dates on the common calendar
and the positioning of the sun in the signs of the Sidereal Zodiac,
so the point remains valid.

Sabbat Dates courtesy of the website
(these dates are the “eve’s” of the holidays)

Imbolc: February 3 central time zone and west. February 4 eastern time zone and east
Vernal Equinox: March 20-US March 21 Europe
Beltane: May 5
Summer Solstice: June 21
Lammas: August 7
Autumnal Equinox: September 23 (except Hawaii-September 22)
Samhain: November 7
Winter Soltice: December 21 western US. December 22 central time zone and east

Imbolc: February 4
Vernal Equinox: March 19, western US. March 20 Central Time zone and east
Beltane: May 4 US. May 5 for Europe and Canada on Atlantic Time
Summer Solstice: June 20 US. June 21 for Europe
Lammas: August 6 US. August 7 for Europe and Canada on Atlantic Time
Autumnal Equinox: September 22
Samhain: November 6 US. November 7 for Europe
Winter Soltice: December 21

References: The Catholic Encyclopedia at
Dates within the article are courtesy of Lunabar.

*We are drawing a Wheel of the Year, not the zodiac. The zodiac would be drawn counter-clockwise.


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