Getting to know your Wiccan holidays

This summer a friend of mine came out of the broom closet. That is to say, she announced to the world that she was Wiccan. Wicca, for those who are unfamiliar with the term, is an Earth-based religion, considered pagan because of the variety of gods and goddesses that can be worshipped within it.

Many Wiccans pick and choose deities from various mythologies around the globe to worship. Whichever gods “speak” to them become their pantheon. In this way a person could worship Anubis (Egyptian), Pan (Celtic), Aphrodite (Greek) and Odin (Norse) if these were the deities with which the worshipper felt a connection.

I try to know a little bit about various religions so as not to be completely ignorant if I find myself in a conversation about them, but I have to admit I was stumped as to which holidays Wiccans observe and how they are celebrated. So I did some research and thought I’d share what information I’ve found about the upcoming feast days.

For Wiccans, three of their eight major holidays roughly coincide with Thanksgiving, Halloween and Christmas.

Mabon is the celebration of the Autumn Equinox. It is known as the “Second Harvest” and herein Wiccans give thanks for food and the remaining sunlight. Similar to Thanksgiving, this holiday is about giving thanks for the bounty life has offered — family, friends, successes and surprises. Some of the holiday symbols include pinecones, apples, pomegranates and acorns. Some of the gods and goddesses associated with Mabon include Persephone, the Green Man and Thor.

Samhain (pronounced sow-en), more commonly known as Halloween or All Hallows’ Eve, is the night when ghouls and ghastlies travel through the barrier between worlds to haunt houses and cause mischief. The lore for this holiday is extensive so I won’t delve into it too deeply. While not many people truly believe in demons of the night, Samhain is considered to be a sacred time when the veil lifts between the spirit world and this one. The symbols for this holiday are well known: black cats, gourds, jack o’ lanterns and apples. No particular deities are associated with this date.

Finally there is Yule. Yule takes place on the Winter Solstice, celebrating the rebirth of the sun after the long winter. Traditions include lighting fire to a Yule log and staying up all night to watch it burn. Supposedly if the Yule log burns throughout the darkest night all of the rest of your year will be bright and happy. Similar to Christmas, Yule is a time to celebrate family. Symbols include holly, mistletoe and evergreen boughs. Deities of the holiday include Brighid, Isis, Apollo and Ra.

After reading into the various holidays and some of the ways Wiccans celebrate them I’m more curious about how my friend is planning to spend her holidays now that she’s, like I said, out of the broom closet.

I’m still learning about her chosen path, but I think no matter what sort of faith you follow, when you’re celebrating additional family traditions it can only enrich the holidays. I look forward to celebrating some of them with her.

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