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The year is reborn and a new cycle begins, which will reach its peak at the time of the Midsummer Solstice, before returning again to the place of death-and-birth.Although the Bible indicates that Jesus was born in the Spring, it is no accident that the early Church chose to move his official birthday to the time of the Midwinter Solstice - for it is indeed a time when the Light enters the darkness of the World, and we see again the building of Christianity on the foundations of earlier belief.Farmers' gates were unhinged and left in ditches, peoples' horses were moved to different fields, and children would knock on neighbours' doors for food and treats in a way that we still find today, in a watered-down way, in the custom of trick-or-treating on Hallowe'en.But behind this apparent lunacy, lay a deeper meaning.They demonstrate our thorough interconnectedness with both the animal and plant realms.As we contemplate the festivals we see how interwoven is the life of our psyche and of our body, of the planet and of the sun and moon - for each festival time marks a potent conjunction of Time and Place in a way that is quite remarkable. The dates given are for the Northern hemisphere, where they originated, but if you are in the Southern hemisphere, you need to reverse the dates: so you would celebrate the Winter Solstice in June, the Summer Solstice in December, and so on.Looking at the complete cycle, we shall begin at Samhuinn - a time which marked traditionally the ending and the beginning of the Celtic Year.
The two sets of festivals represent far more than just times which our ancestors chose to honour the plant and animal life-cycles though.
The dead are honoured and feasted, not as the dead, but as the living spirits of loved ones and of guardians who hold the root-wisdom of the tribe.
With the coming of Christianity, this festival was turned into All Hallows [commonly referred to as Hallowe'en on October 31st], All Saints [November 1st] and All Souls [November 2nd].
By the time the circles were built, our ancestors had become a pastoral people, and times of sowing and reaping were vital to them.
But as well as these four astronomical, solar festivals, there exist four times in the year which were and are also considered sacred.