In the present day, Celtic cultures are those that are related by language group and include Ireland (Irish Gaelic), Scotland (Scottish Gaelic), Wales (Welsh), Brittany (Breton), Cornwall (Cornish) and the Isle of Man (Manx).
The “Keltoi” first appear in Greek writing during the Iron Age, roughly the period 800 BC to 1 AD. This time in Europe is the last phase of prehistory, before the Roman conquest of Europe and the beginnings of recorded European history. The Greeks considered many of the peoples of Europe at that time to be related to each other and called them Celts, Gauls or Galatians.
Because of the lack of written history and because we have to rely on Greek and Roman perceptions, there is controversy today among scholars about how closely related the people referred to as “Celts” in antiquity actually were, and how closely related those ancient peoples are to the people who call themselves “Celt” today.
Whatever term is used for the ancient peoples of Europe, modern linguistics has shown that the indigenous tongues of the British and the Irish were closely related to those of the continental Gauls, and were all members of the Celtic family of languages. These curricula look at what we can discover of the cultural history, myths, symbols and practices of these lands.
Celtic and Solar Festivals
What are the Celtic Holy Days?
Our Celtic Festivals are based upon the Celtic Holy Days as we understand them from ancient sources, as well as from traditions carried into contemporary Celtic practice. One well-known reputable source is the Coligny calendar. The Coligny calendar is a bronze tablet engraved with the lunisolar calendar of the Celts, dating somewhere between 1st century BCE and 1st century CE, discovered in France in 1897.
The four Festivals that we know for certain were celebrated are Samhain – beginning of winter ; Imbolc – beginning of spring; Beltaine – beginning of summer; and Lughnasad – beginning of fall/harvest. These holidays all have agricultural significance. Imbolc marks the blessing and preparing of seeds; Beltaine marks the time for sowing and planting; Lughnasad marks the first fruits of the harvest; and Samhain marks the completion of the harvest, the time for the earth and humans to rest.
It is less clear whether and in what instances and manner the Solar holidays – those that mark the sun’s journey across the sky – were celebrated by the Celts. They were clearly honored by previous peoples occupying the same land and may have been incorporated into early Celtic ritual practice. Certainly they have become an integral part of more recent Celtic practices; thus we honor them as well. The four Solar Festivals include Midwinter
– Winter Solstice; Midspring – Spring Equinox; Midsummer – Summer Solstice; and Midharvest – Fall Equinox. We refer to these eight Holy Days in totality as the Wheel of the Year.
What to expect at our rituals
At The Tree and the Well we come together as a community to create beautiful, joyful, authentic ritual-celebrations honoring these eight days. We honor the sun’s bright journey across the sky as well as the enveloping embrace of darkness that we in Minnesota know so well. We honor the impact that this seasonal illumination and shadowing has on our psyches and the opportunities we find there for self-knowledge. And we honor the agricultural mysteries, the process of germination, growth, ripening, and withering that are also mirrored by the soul’s own journey.
We have been gathering as a community for these seasonal celebrations since Beltaine 1998. Our rituals are open to people of all cultural identities, faiths, and ages. We have open planning meetings for each Festival. Each celebration is a blend of custom and innovation—drawing from the skills and inspirations of the planning ensemble, our rituals over the years, and timeless Celtic traditions as we understand them. Each is a coalescence of beauty, joy, playfulness, depth, reverence, connection, revelation, and healing. And each is an opportunity for personal growth and creativity.
Gathering together helps us create meaningful community as we consciously include elders, children, men, and women into our ceremonies. We encourage community members to take risks in sacred drama, such as leading a movement piece, sharing a poem, invoking an element or calling forth the goddess. As we practice being in community, we also remember our vital, sacred connection to the land and to the natural world, something that many of us sorely need to cultivate in these times of ecological crisis. Through sacred drama and embodied relationship we learn to care for our beloved earth—her waters, air, soil, and creatures—once again.
In this way we remember our place in creation.
Please contact us with any questions you have, or simply join us
for our next gathering. All are welcome.
Celtic & Solar Festivals
℘ Samhain / Honoring the Dead
℘ Winter Solstice
℘ Imbolc or Brighid’s Feast
℘ Spring Equinox
℘ Beltaine/ Mayday
℘ Summer Solstice
℘ Lughnasadh, First Fruits Harvest
℘ Autumn Equinox, Second of Harvest Festivals