Saturnalia: a winter solstice & yule market
Saturnalia was an ancient Roman pagan festival that celebrated the god Saturn, at the Temple of Saturn in ancient Rome. This “holiday” began on 17th December and ran through to 23rd December in accordance to the Julian calendar. Much like Kronia, Saturnalia’s Greek equivalent, it was a time of feasts, drinking, merry-making, gift-giving, and parties, just like the tradition we call today, Christmas. Additionally, there were also activities such role reversal (masters would serve their slaves) and the electing of a “King of the Saturnalia” (Saturnalicius princeps). It was called “the best of days”, a time of opposing the regular, symbolical liberation, and overturning the social norms, reflecting the contradictory nature of the god Saturn himself.
As the Roman Empire converted to Christianity somewhere in the 4th Century, many of their pagan traditions were adopted by Christians or influenced Christian celebrations, it is no coincidence that the declared birthday of Sol Invictus (the Roman Sun god) was on the 25th of December.
Likewise, Yule, or Yuletide, originally a Germanic pagan festivity, met the same fate as most pagan traditions, being Christianized as the years went by. The Christmas log cakes, Christmas ham, and caroling are just a few examples of Yule traditions that were later brought into Christmas. Yule is still commonly celebrated by many people; Wiccans often regard this winter solstice celebration as the rebirth of the Horned God.
As the pattern emerges, we can certainly begin to recall many more Christmas activities coming to mind, that bear a strong resemblance to ancient pagan traditions, and not just limited to the ones mentioned here.
SATURNALIA: A Winter Solstice & Yule Market opens on 17th December and will run through 1st January.
SAMHAIN: A PAGAN FESTIVAL
Originally a Gaelic festival, remnants of Samhain’s traditions are now scattered in almost all corners of the Western world and beyond. Samhain (meaning “End of Summer”) is one of four Gaelic seasonal celebrations, thought to be rooted in Celtic paganism, and most importantly, is still observed by many groups of people today, including Wiccans and other Neopagan groups.
Traditionally, some believe that Samhain is a time when the veil between the spirit realm and our living world becomes thin, thin enough for both worlds to engage with each other. The Samhain we wish to bring to life is one that celebrates darkness and all things that come from it, embracing death and the idea that everything in this life moves from the physical plane to the spiritual one upon death, as well as honoring the dead, our ancestors, and our loved ones who have already journeyed to this world.
Are you ready, witches? It’s time to take back what’s ours.
SAMHAIN: A Pagan Festival opens on the 10th of October.