As we’re now in the time of the year of the Bride, having just passed her day and Candlemas, it’s interesting to take a look at the days modern pagans and many witches consider holy days, especially the cross-quarters, Samhain, Bride’s Day, Beltaine, and Lugh’s Day. Much is made of Samhain and Beltaine, less of Bride’s Day and Lugh’s Day, as many modern pagans aren’t quite sure what to do with them.
I’d like to go back to a discussion I started in my Year in Review post, about the timing of these four days. These days fall roughly half way between the solstices and equinoxes, and while those are fairly easily observed, based on the length of the day and year, the cross quarters are not as easy, as they don’t fall at a time the solar cycle would lend easy measurements, and the lunar cycles don’t line up right to designate them every year. Yet they seem to have been more important among what care called Celtic people than the ones easily measured by the sun. This would imply something significant marking them, not a measuring from the solar points. So, if not solar, and not lunar, yet marked by a sign, where do we look?
The answer lies in part of my discussion in the fore-mentioned post. “Aldebaran is the brightest star in Taurus, the Bull, and becomes visible in the Northern Hemisphere around Samhain, sinking again around Beltaine, being highest around Bride’s Day.” “Regulus is the brightest star in Leo, the Lion, and becomes most visible in the Northern Hemisphere around Bride’s Day, and disappears around Lugh’s Day, being highest around Beltaine.”
So, Samhain comes when Aldebaran and Taurus rise. Bride’s Day comes when Regulus and Leo rise, and Aldebaran and Taurus are at their height. Beltaine comes when Regulus and Leo hits it’s height, and Aldebaran and Taurus sink. Lugh’s Day comes when Regulus and Leo sink.
We can look further. Just before Leo is at it’s height and Taurus is sinking, Scorpio is rising. Antares is the bright star, and can be considered as opposite Taurus’ Aldebaran. It doesn’t rise as high as the others, but is significant. It sets after Lugh’s Day. When Leo is sinking around Lugh’s Day, Aquarius and its neighbours are rising. Though not in Aquarius, the brightest star in the area of the sky is Fomalhaut, in Piscis Austrinus.
Not exact, but we see the rise of Aldebaran and Taurus at Samhain, the rise of Regulus and Leo at Bride’s Day, the rise of Antares and Scorpio at Beltaine, and the rise of Fomalhaut and Aquarius at Lugh’s Day. It’s important to note that these four stars were considered the Royal Stars in Persia, the Watchers, Regulus watching in the North, Aldebaran in the East, Fomalhaut in the South, and Antares in the West.
These four holy days are seen as sun festivals, but they seem to be more stellar than solar. Unless, of course, their celebration started far enough back to show a large enough shift to account for this. The Zodiac, and these four star with them, move completely around in relation to earth every 25,920 years or so, the Platonic Year, or the Great Year. Considering the current twelve signs, this means it shifts a complete constellation about every 2200 years give or take 100. It wobbles in relation to the stars over this, which accounts for the Antares and Fomalhaut anomalies from the four holy days. As the wobble occurs, some constellations are lower, so rising and sinking points change.
The cycle moves backwards from the annual seasons, so the Spring Equinox occurs a bit earlier in the zodiac each year, and every 2000 years or so, a full sign. It currently sits in Pisces, almost to Aquarius when compared to the stars (at the border between Ares and Pisces in traditional Western astrology, for most western Astrology cares about the position of the sun in the sky rather than the exact location against the stars). This is where the discussion of the Age of Pisces and the upcoming Age of Aquarius come from.
The Winter Solstice, which is more interesting for this discussion, occurs in Sagittarius currently, not on the border of Sagittarius and Capricorn. Over time, it will move further, into Scorpio. This means that Antares is moving toward the Winter Solstice, and was once at the Autumn Equinox. And before that at Lugh’s Day, and before that as the Summer Solstice. In the last 25,920 days, it’s moved full circle back through the year.
This begs the question, when these four days were first observed but the people who would become called as Celts, where were these four stars, and what part of the year did they celebrate? Samhain was a time of death and ending, Beltaine a time of birth and beginning. It seems likely Samhain started out as a Winter Solstice celebration and Beltaine as a Summer Solstice celebration, just as Midsummer and Yule were celebrated by the Germanic people. If this is so, the Germanic people marked it solarly, so it stayed at the Solstice, but the Celtic people marked it stellarly, causing a shift. This would imply a beginning of the celebration around 23,000 years ago, or 48,000, or so on.
It also points to a stellar basis for religious and ritual use, something many archaeological investigations of things like the stone circles in the British Isles, the recent find up in the Orkneys, and other sites are also pointing to.