The Avalonian Tradition observes the Ancient Celtic Fire Festivals as our Holy Days. We work communally on the Full Moons, and at our personal altars at the Dark Moons. Avalon is the Celtic Holy Island of Healing, and as such, our tradition’s focus is on soul growth, personal empowerment, and acknowledgment of the Inner Divine. Therefore our ritual intention is to come to greater connection with and understanding of the Goddess and the realms of Avalon though the path within; this necessitates a commitment to issue resolution, shadow work and personal transformation.
The ancient festivals that took place at the tribal centers were religious in nature and were based upon agricultural and seasonal cycles. These sacred festivities were supplemented by the more mundane activities of trading, matchmaking, and marketing, thereby creating a medium where the socio-economic needs resulting from isolation could be met. The times of assembly of the populace at these central places was dictated by the Celtic calendrical system. This system is based upon the turning of the seasons, the agricultural activities associated with the different times of the year, and is inextricably tied in with Celtic religious belief; indeed, for the ancient Britons, the three were one.
The Great Festivals & the Avalonian Cycle of Healing
Solar Observance – November 1st
Lunar Observance – First Full Moon when the Sun is in Scorpio
The Celtic year began on the Festival known as Calan Gaeaf (Welsh) or Samhain (Gaelic). This day marked the beginning of winter as the last of the harvest was collected and the livestock were gathered into winter barracks and stockades after the excess had been slaughtered and smoked for the winter’s stores. All food, fodder and fuel had to be stored away by this day. The buying and selling of livestock took place at the clan central places at Calan Gaeaf. Accounts were settled on this feast day; rents and debts were paid, and servants and workmen received their wages.
The actual day of Calan Gaeaf was considered to be out of time, that is it was neither a part of the old year nor a part of the new, making it a day of important religious significance. It was believed that on this day that was not a day, and at this time that was not a time, the Otherworld and its inhabitants could be easily accessed. Therefore, the Celts performed rites and ceremonies, contacted the dead, made divinations for the coming year and recounted the tales of their Gods and great heroes. The main theme that runs through the socio-cultural and religious activities of this great Celtic fire festival is that of taking accounts, reflecting upon the deeds of the past and preparing for the year to come.
The Station of Descent in the Avalonian Cycle of Healing
The work of the Avalonian Cycle of Healing begins with the Station of Descent at Calan Gaeaf – in a place between the Worlds that straddles the Light and the Dark, the Conscious and the Unconscious, Above and Below, the Self and the Shadow. Here we enter the Cauldron of Ceridwen, seeking wisdom and rebirth in the darkness of the womb/tomb. We set into motion the work of the Dark Half of the Cycle… turning our attention within to see the root of our wounding, the cause of our pain, and all that prevents us from being whole.
At Descent, we prepare ourselves for the journey within, casting away that which will prevent us from having unobstructed sight. We gather our strength and pull our energies within, so that we may reclaim the energies tied up in Shadow. We announce our intentions for wholeness and peel the first layer of energy away, getting deeper and deeper into the heart of the onion. We must look behind at what was–honoring the ghosts of our past–and then move forward to begin the work of what can be. This is both a beginning and an ending… the death of the old self and the re–creation of the new.
Solar Observance – February 2nd
Lunar Observance – First Full Moon when the Sun is in Aquarius
The next great religious festival was the point midway between Samhain and Beltane called known to the Irish as Imbolc (“In the Belly”) and as Gwyl Mair – the Feast of Mary to the Welsh. The long dark winter was a time of inactivity for the Celtic Britons. Social and political activities came to a standstill during the winter months of merciless wind and driving rains – weather that further reinforced the isolation of their disparate homesteads. It is because of the imposition of the elements that Gwyl Mair celebrations often only occurred on a local basis – travel was almost impossible in the middle of winter.
Regardless of the immediate weather, Gwyl Mair was still considered a herald of the springtime season; the first welcome signs of spring begin to stir after this period gripped by the depths of winter. The ewes began to lactate following the birth of their lambs, supplying protein from milk, cheese, and whey, which was most welcome at this time of the winter. The spring work of plowing and tilling the soil began, and fishermen on the coastal areas began to repair their boats, anticipating the beginning of the fishing season and their sojourns out to sea. Divinations concerning the weather and the prosperity of the household were made at this time, while the farmers and householders checked their stores of food and hay, which would have been half gone by this time. Surviving the trials of winter depended on how well prepared the homestead was. Any improvements were taken into account in planning for the next season, as they looked ahead to the work of the spring.
The Station of Confrontation in the Avalonian Cycle of Healing
Gwyl Mair is a time of expectant stillness, knowing that we have done all that we can this Cycle to see what lies unconscious within us. The Station of Confrontation is of extreme importance in the Soul Work of women. Having undertaken the journey into the Self at the Station of Descent, Confrontation marks the stillness before re-emergence. It takes great courage to immerse oneself in the darkness of the Shadow, seeking out all that lies hidden, and working to reveal the mechanisms of the lower self. These revelations can heal the wounds that have motivated our actions and colored our perspectives. Armed with the knowledge that comes from exposing the root of our pain, we can begin the ascent, bringing our once-hidden issues with us back up into the light of consciousness.
This Station embodies the deepest depths of the Dark Half – the nadir of the Cycle and the very bottom of the Cauldron. The work of Confrontation is to come face to face with the core of the aspect of Shadow being sought. We must delve into the darkness so that we may see and name that which holds us back – there is great power in that naming! Facing the root wounding allows the freeing of psychic energy otherwise tied-up in perpetuating lower-self impulses. We can cease engaging in compensatory behaviors, allowing our actions and perspectives to better reflect our true selves.
Solar Observance – May 1st
Lunar Observance – First Full Moon when the Sun is in Taurus
In direct opposition to Calan Gaeaf in the yearly cycle, Calan Mai or Beltane marked the beginning of the Light Half when the summer began and the world was green and growing. Good weather and the good health of animals and humans alike were anticipated and the flocks and herds were put out to pasture. Communal ceremonies included driving cattle between two ritual fires to bless, protect and purify them from any disease-causing vermin left over from their long winter confinement.
At the clan central places, weather and marriage divination was performed, furious trading occurred, grazing land contracts were made and rents were paid. Between the long winter and the preparation and planting of the crops, this was the first real opportunity for the tribe to leave their isolated farmsteads and travel for any sort of communal gathering. Trial marriages made from the previous summer were given the long isolation of the winter to test whether they would work out; if this were not the case, the couple would come before the judges at Calan Mai to have their union dissolved. Calan Mai was a celebration of the fertility of land, animals and humans alike, and was one the greatest feast days – not surprising for an agricultural people for whom the abundance of the land dictated their ability to survive.
The Station of Emergence in the Avalonian Cycle of Healing
At Calan Mai, we do the work of the Station of Emergence. by bringing the revelation of the deepest depths — the transforming wisdom of the cauldron — into the consciousness of the Light Half of the Cycle. It is not enough to be able to see, however. We must also act by making outward changes that reflect our newfound inward knowing. At Emergence, we plant the seeds of our intention into the ground made fertile by the energy freed up from the Shadow. Through the marriage of what is within to what is without as we straddle the worlds of Dark and Light, we work to make the Unconscious, conscious and seek an external manifestation of the true self revealed in the darkness.
Solar Observance – August 1st
Lunar Observance – First Full Moon when the Sun is in Leo
The festival of Gwyl Awst or Lughnasadh was celebrated as the beginning of the harvest. It was a time of thanksgiving for the bounty of the Earth and for the performance of sacrifices to ensure continued bounty for the rest of the year. The crops were welcomed and large communal meals were of great ritual importance. Weather divination was practiced and harvest workers were hired for the season. Gwyl Awst was a festival known for its large, communal sporting events, especially horse racing, which served to reinforce the bonds between tribe members. Young men and women took this opportunity to prove themselves to the opposite sex, taking advantage of this rare occasion when a large quantity of prospective mates was available. Gwyl Awst was when marriages were arranged, either for love or for economic/political purposes; the couple pledged to be married for a year and a day, and could part after that time should they find that they were not compatible. Along with marriage, the Celts entered into alliances of friendship and contracts at this time. This vibrant feast, said to commemorate the Funeral Games of the Mother of the Sun God Lugh or Llew — else to memorialize his own death at this, the high point of summer — was followed by several months of hard work until the last fruits were harvested, and Calan Gaeaf came around once more.
The Station of Resolution in the Avalonian Cycle of Healing
At Gwyl Awst, the Station of Resolution is the peak of the all the Stations that have preceded it. It brings into manifestation the revealed aspects of our authentic Self that were once held hostage in the depths of our Shadow. We now see the full harvest where once there was only the void of potential. We have come into full fruit. It is important for us to celebrate our accomplishments and to take the time to honor ourselves for how far we have come in our quest for self–understanding.
Yet, here in the culmination is found the seeds for the next round of Cycle. We must look to see where the harvest was thin and make an accounting of what did not grow at all. These are the considerations to take with us back down into the Station of Descent. Our shadow is the measure of our light… our harvest the measure of the sustenance which will carry us down into the depths once more. We need to remember the warmth of the sun–the glory of drawing closer to realizing the actualized Self–and bring this light with us back down into the Dark Half in order to begin the process anew.This is a Station where we celebrate the joy of our achievements while also honoring the sacrifice that balances the abundance we have reaped.
The Whole of the Cycle
The simple perfection of this cyclic system of risk sharing and communion is both admirable and successful. Although not everyone from a settlement was always able to attend any given festival, it was important for each homestead to be represented– for both sacral and secular reasons. While individual farmers performed religious rites on their own land to ensure the fertility of their fields and to win the favor of the local nature spirits and devas, attendance at the greater communal rituals guaranteed the protection and blessings of the Gods as well. However well these strategies may have worked, these agriculturalists used the amassed populace present at these gatherings as an opportunity to insure economic stability through trade, the buying and selling of goods and products not locally available, and fresh bloodlines to strengthen their herds and flocks.
The duality of communal participation and the cyclic work of each individual homestead underscore the ways in which we are called to participate in the Cosmic Dance. There is the call to work within, tending the fields of the soul – and there is the call to move without – bringing the bounty of out harvest with us to share and exchange with others. The whole is nourished and strengthened by our personal contributions, and we in turn benefit from the bounty of the product forged at the hearths of others.
Although the Avalonian Tradition is a path that leads within, it is equally important to manifest our reclaimed wisdoms without. The beauty of the Tradition is that each woman’s contribution is an important function of the whole -manifesting as a self-sufficient community aiming to open and empower the soul of each individual. We cycle within and we cycle without.
The Station of Integration in the Avalonian Cycle of Healing
The Station of Integration is found between all Stations and at the heart of the Cycle. Like the Fool card of the Tarot, it both begins and ends each round of the Cycle, while bridging the space between the works of each Station. Integration is the core around which the Cycle spirals; the work of the Cycle of Healing propels the energy ever upward. It is the path of individuation and transformation, the pulling together of all of the parts of the self into the wholeness of self-awareness. As the energy spirals up and the soul vibrates at a higher and higher level, the impact of this Station increases. It holds the sum of the reclaimed energy resulting from our process work and is the degree of realization of Divinity within and life’s purpose without.
~ Excerpted with permission from Avalon Within: Inner Sovereignty and Personal Transformation Through the Avalonian Mysteries (Ninth Wave Press, 2005) by Jhenah Telyndru. All rights reserved.