The Celts had a devote sense of time and based their calendar on the principals of dark and light seasons. This draws back to the first century BC Celtic Druids and Gauls who drew a linear timeline following the waxing and waning of the moon. The seasons were broken into the four cycles of two light and two dark beginning around October 31st with the Samhain or New Year which celebrates the dark time of spiritual realms. This was not a scary time but a welcome to family lost wherein it was believed the dead could return for a time to warm themselves on family hearths along side the living. Our modern Halloween stems from the rituals practiced during the Celtic New Year with legend that the traditional pumpkin lanterns we decorate our doorways with today were descended from the Celtic practice of placing the skulls of ancestors outside their doors at this time to welcome them back home for a visit. This was the first of the Celtic celebrations celebrating the seasons.
The second cycle of darkness was known as the Imbolc and was celebrated around January 31st. It celebrated the beginning of the end of winter with the promise of darkness soon to end. Thoughts of courtship and rituals to new beginnings entered into play.
The third quarter celebrated around May 1st was Beltain and signaled the emergence into the “Light”. It was a time of cleansing away the darkness and a time renew. A time to travel after a long winter, a time for feasts and Festivals and the heralding of the “fighting season” wherein energizing competitions of board games and festivals of merriment abounded. These festivals included fresh flowers and maypole dancing which by the way has been attributed as the origins of our modern Maypole Dance Celebrations which are still held to this day in some rural areas.
The final season was Lughnasadh which fell around July 31st and often spanned the two weeks prior and after of this date. It was a time of energizing with the playing of competitive games. Speed, sports of skill and endurance such as horseracing were favored. This last quarter or the Celtic calendar also was a time for the business and partnerships. Harvest was prepared and Stock trading was finalized, alliances made and the courtships of the prior seasons were consummated in the partnership of marriage. A good time to prepare for the annual dark season approaching.
The Celtic people, Druids and Gauls alike knew and were aware of the constant truth that what goes around comes around and with every season there is a new reason to celebrate. Celebrate they did… for each quarter of the year brought special meaning to and showed in their beautiful Celtic knot work jewelry and artistry in sword and weaponry design we admire and cherish to this day!