Solar and Lunar Cycles

Most of us are aware of the Winter/Summer Solstices, the Autumn/Vernal Equinoxes, Full/New/Quarter Moon phases, etc. The ancient Celts also had 4 agrarian festivals of Imbolc, Bealtain, Lughnasad and Samhain. Rather than the seasons starting on the Solstices/Equinoxes, they used these days. Imbolc was when the very earliest stirrings of Spring began with lambs being born and some plants breaking through the ground or buds forming on branches in early February. Bealtain when the frost ended and seeds could be planted, young shoots could be foraged in early May. Lughnasad when the majority of harvests were in full swing as plants stopped growing and put on fruits or seeds in early August. Samhain when all the harvests have ended and the first frosts start to appear in early November. There isn’t a lot of written history as to when these days actually fell and tends to be a lot of controversy in regards to these dates.

Modern pagans tend to celebrate these dates on Feb 1, May 1, Aug 1, and Nov 1 for simplicity. Other’s put these dates in the exact mid-point of the solstices to equinoxes and vice versa. If we look at these as agrarian festivals it makes the most sense that the ancient Celts probably followed the phases of the moons to start their seasons. There’s a couple ways this can be done. Since the ancient Celts believed the day ended at sunset and the night belonged to the next day we can see that potentially the dark new moon would be the start of their “month”. It can then be surmised that Imbolc would be the new moon in February, Bealtain the new moon in May, Lughnasad the new moon in August and Samhain the new moon in November.

Yet another way has also made it to my attention as a possibility as well. If we look at the Winter Solstice and compare it to the New Moon, Spring Equinox the First Quarter Moon, Summer Solstice the Full Moon, and Fall Equinox the Last Quarter Moon; then we would place Imbolc on the first quarter moon in February (as it is the time the sun is waxing toward it’s “first quarter”), Bealtain would be the full moon in May, Lughnasad the last quarter moon in August, and Samhain the new moon in November. I realize this seems a little confusing and could very well not be how it was done, but we just don’t know for sure. Let me know what you think!

Interestingly, if you follow the latter moon phase associations, the holidays in 2023 tend to fall near the midpoint between the solstices/equinoxes and vice versa. January 28th is the First Quarter Moon for Imbolc, May 5th is the Full Moon for Bealtain, August 8th is the Last Quarter Moon for Lughnasad, and November 13th is the New Moon for Samhain. I made a graphic for these moon phases with the Cross Quarter names: