Druid Symbols and Beliefs – Circle of the Moon and Circle of the Year
The druids are well-known for being in tune with nature, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that they had quite sophisticated calendars. Indeed, they worked to try to reconcile the cycles of the sun and the moon. The modern Gregorian calendar is based on the Gaulish lunisolar calendar, for example. Read on to find out more about the Druid circle of the moon.
Over the centuries we have had many different calendars. The NeoPagan era had calendars based on the seasons of the earth, and with the solar solstices and equinoxes being major landmarks. The idea of the wheel, or circle, was important to the druids and guided the timing of the festivals. The year was often divided into eight segments.
The Circle of Time and Life
To druids, time, and life is not linear. While some cultures may think of life as being a straight line from birth to death with the lines of other lives either running parallel to ours or sometimes crossing it. When we die in those cultures, we think that the line ends. Druids do not take that approach. Rather, they think of life as being a circle. We are born, we live our life. We die. We are reborn and live again, and so on.
The circle is something that is vital to the culture of druids. The calendar is a circle, there are circles for the behaviour of the sun and the moon. The day is a circle, with the birth at dawn, the peak at noon, and then passing into the night, before rebirth the following dawn.
The circle of the moon follows the waxing and waning of the moon, with the full moon at the peak. Each circle takes a different length of time to complete. A year with each of its seasons is longer than the lunar month, which is longer than the cycle of the rising and setting of the sun.
Each of these wheels is important for dividing up our days and years. In the minds of the druids, the sun is at the centre of the ‘wheel’ and causes the wheel to turn.
The Connection Between Parts of The Cycle
Druids put a lot of emphasis on connections. To a druid, there are connections between the sun and the moon, and between those elements of the wheel and our own cycles. The sun ‘dies’ in the winter solstice, and is reborn. The summer solstice is the longest day and the peak of the sun’s own strength. Our own wheels follow a similar pattern, from birth to the prime of our lives and then to our twilight years.
The druids believe that our souls originate in the sun and that when we die we go to rest on the moon. We each have a finite number of incarnations, and when we reach our last three incarnations on the earth we will be allowed to spend the time between those lives in the heart of the sun, with solar beings that guide us and shape our destiny.
Druid Circle Of The Moon – The Eight Festivals
The wheel, or circle, is divided into eight segments, representing Inspiration, Children, Learning, Lovers, Expression, Family, Recollection, and Ancestors. There are festivals for each period throughout the year, beginning in December. Four of the segments are for solar observances, and four are lunar.
Most people are familiar with solar observances. The Summar Solstice, for example, is well known for being associated with Stonehenge. The circle of the moon gets less attention. The solar observances were based on times of the year when the sun reached a specific point in the sky and when the days were a given length. These observances were vital to the culture of the druids because the druids were pastoral people, and they needed to know when to sow or reap crops.
There were four other observances, however, which were a part of the livestock cycle instead of the farming of crops. Today, those cycles are largely forgotten.
Samhuinn took place between the 31 October and 2 November and was when excess livestock would be slaughtered, and their meat then salted and stored.
The 2 February was Imbole, around the time when lambs were born. Then, on the 1 May, there was Beltane; a time of mating for livestock.
Lughnasadh took place on the 1 August, with the harvest of both human and animal food taking place.
These festivals were key times for the druids and important to their survival. Since the druids were very much in tune with nature these events were celebrated to pay respects to the animals and the crops and to celebrate the sun and the moon.
Celebrating the Wisdom of the Sprits
The druids had rites that were used to make contact with the spirits of those who had departed, and to seek guidance and inspiration. The departed were considered to be wise guides, not things to fear or dread. Where today many people fear darkness and death, the druids saw the dark moon as a time when we needed to obscure our mortal sight so that we could see the other worlds more clearly.
The druids see the dead as being only physically dead. The spirits are still there, alive, and they hold the wisdom of the tribe. The dead serve as guardians, too.
Honouring the Passing of Time
In modern culture, we have just one set of markers for the passing of time, around the Christmas and New Year period. Other markers, such as Easter, are not so significant to those who are perhaps religious but not devout. Druids have far more festivals and celebrations and observe them all equally. They value those markers as a chance to stop and think about life and its importance. Druids celebrate each stage of life for what it has to offer instead of rushing to grow up and then fearing getting old. They see the value in each stage of life because life to them is a circle, just like the circles of the sun and the moon. When one line ends, another begins.