Our ancient ancestors were intimately tied to the land and the cycles of the seasons. This was especially true of the folk in the colder climates of Northern Europe. They understood the cycles of the Sun and the Moon as intimately tied to their very survival. We as modern humans have for the most part moved away from this need for understanding these cycles as it relates to our physical survival (unless you are a farmer). However, these cycles still impact us biologically and psychologically. They are intimately tied to the electro-spiritual matrix that composes us.
Honoring these cycles brings us closer in tune with the Laws of Nature and Creation. The following is a list of traditional celebrations taken from both Celtic and Germanic pagan culture. It should be noted that most of these were eventually turned into Christian holy days.
YULE/Winter Solstice: 20th of December thru the first week in January.
IMBOLC: 2nd of February.
OSTARA/Spring Equinox: 19th thru the 26th of March
BELTANE: 30th of April thru the 1st of May, and even extending a couple weeks into May.
MIDSUMMER/Summer Solstice: 19th thru the 26 of June.
LUGHNASADH/LAMMAS: 1st of August.
MABON/Autumn Equinox: 21st thru the 24th of September.
SAMHAIN: 31st of October thru the 1st of November.
These festivals typically correlated with the cycles of the moon, and most of them were conducted around the time of the full moon in particular. The full moon gives great power to transformative energies and gives a special energy to the human psyche, which plays and vital part in the effectiveness of ritual.
Likewise they were conducted around and honoring first and foremost the Sun as he moved through the signs of the Zodiac. I typically use these times as well as the cycles of the moon in general to conduct rituals and shamanic work. It provides a particularly dynamic and charged environment for working with one’s self or others on a psycho-spiritual level.