From Caer Australis:
"The Southern year"
[19 February 2002: Although the author of this page
was unknown until late 2001,
now I can finally give full credit to him]:
By John Bonsing Ph.D.
Note from Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
(22 December 1999):
This is a page from a now-vanished website. The text was rescued and sent to me from Australia by Margaret RainbowWeb, who included a few of her own comments in the text. Since Margaret had no space left on her own website, I'm giving this essay a temporary home on mine for as long as necessary. If anyone knows the author of this, please let me know!
Note, 19 February 2002: the author is now known! -- I received this e-mail from him and his colleague on 17 December 2001:
The authors of the Caer Australis site are us!!! John Bonsing PhD and Rhys Jones. The author of the Southern Year is John.
We are located in Sydney Australia, and will be launching a new Caer Australis site in 2002.
It came as a tremendous relief to find a portion of the old site accessible as our previous hosting company vanished in the middle of the night! You know what these guys are like...
Please feel free to keep in contact as we will be seeking submissions for CA2, and will also be running an email discussion group. Look forward to seeing you there.
John and Rhys
The progression of the year in the Southern Hemisphere has the shortest day in June and the longest in December. As a consequence, the associations of seasons with the months of the year are inverted in relation to the North, where they became, and remain, established.
Given that the presence of Celts, and others, in these southern lands is so very recent in our history, culturally it is still difficult to mutate, say, May with its association with spring to a time fully six months distant. Advertisers in the various media and department stores or shopping centres still promote "May madness" sales, for instance. Likewise, despite temperatures in the high 30C’s, snowflakes and frosting adorn our shops come Christmastime.
Generally speaking, perhaps the most successful reaction in modern Australia and NZ to the inversion of the seasons is the occurrence of the increasingly popular festival called "Christmas-in-July", during the coldest month of the year, in order to restore Yule (as distinct from the Nativity) to its proper season. With the rise of "alternative" lifestyles, another, though much less attended, reaction has been for various "pagan" groups to gather together at solstices and so on to mark the particular event.
From a Celtic perspective, the cross-quarter days in the South are the converse to those of our Northern kin, because the seasons are reversed, so to speak.
The cross-quarter days lie exactly at the mid-points between the solstice and equinoxes, and are the festivals that welcome in the following season. Each cross-quarter therefore has implicit seasonal characteristics and so in the Southern Hemisphere, from a seasonal point of view, they are the converse of those in the North.
The Celts recognised both days and years as beginning with the dark part; so that the eve of a day marked its beginning, and the winter season marked the year’s beginning.
Samhain, the cross-quarter for winter, is year’s end/new year’s eve. It stands at the start of the dark half of the year. Imbolc celebrates the onset of spring, and specifically the lambing season. Beltaine celebrates the beginning of summer and the light half of the year. Lughnasa celebrates the harvest season at the approach of autumn. The cross-quarter days are best known from the Gaelic lands, but were ubiquitous throughout ancient Celtica. For example, a record of the Celtic lunar-and-solar calendar from second century Gaul records winter’s cross-quarter as ‘Saman’. Each cross-quarter is devoted to/attended by a Celtic deity, and the gods of Beltaine and Lugbnasa, Bile and Lugh in Ireland, are known from the Continent as Belinus and Lug and in Cynuy as Bele and Lleu. (Addendum - The City of London, once Caer Llundain, was named for Lugh - Margaret.) The city of Lyon in modern France was anciently Lugudumum, ‘Lug’s stronghold’. Lugh’s aspect-name ‘Light' is recorded in Gaelic Finn, Cymraec Gwyn and Gailic Uinn. Vienna in modern Austria is named for Uinn. (I find it fascinating that Adelaide, South Australia, was surveyed & laid out by one Colonel Light! It was planned as, & remains, one of the greenest cities in the world - Margaret)
Upon the introduction of the cult of Christ and the subsequent establishment of the religion of Christianity first in Gaul and later Britain and Ireland, the Celtic cross-quarter festivals and the deities attendant on them were duly adapted. Samhain became Hallowe’en, and the practice of remembrance of the ancestral gods was altered to the devotion of this day to All Saints; Imbolc, attended by the goddess Brigbid was devoted to Saint Brigit; Beltaine became a merry spring festival, May Day, and Lughnasa became Lammas: The manifestation of Christianity in Celtica very strongly maintains the Celtic religious philosophy, Jesus as Christ and Mary being easily recognised by the Celts as a new Lugh ‘Light' and a manifestation of the mother Goddess.
Because of the devotion of the cross-quarters to Saints in Christian Celtica, the strength of the seasonal ties of these days has been eroded to a certain extent. Indeed, because of the central dogma of Light and the notion that dark equates to evil, some of the Celtic deities became adapted as Demons, and to celebrate the onset of dark half of the year somewhat taboo.
Thus, even when spring and harvest festivals are celebrated, especially in rural areas, to many Celts in the South, the concept of complementary cross-quarter days is difficult to address. Nevertheless, the Celtic cultural foundation for these days lies in their seasonality. And the Dagda sang...
"Come, oak of the two cries!
Comae, hand of the fourfold music!
Come summer! Come, winter!
Voice of harps, bellows and flutes!"
In the South, the "dawn" of the year at Imbolc, the day of Brigid, is at the August cross-quarter. At lmbolc, the forests are bright with the colour yellow, the Acacia trees coming into full flower, and indeed until quite recently, the first of August was "Wattle day" in Australia (it has now been moved to the first of September). Nature celebrates the new year with a mantle of yellow!
Beltaine, the beginning of the Summer months is at the November cross-quarter. This is the time when the brilliant red free-covering bell-flowers of the Flame Trees highlight our forests and gardens. Our famous horse race, the Melbourne Cup, is happily coincident with southern Beltaine, being run on the first Tuesday in November and taken as an unofficial holiday across Australia, a day when even Parliament does not sit! In the South, you might be told: "One thing you must remember: 'Tis the merry month ofNovember!"
The February cross-quarter, Lughnasa, marks the southern midsummer. This is the hottest month and the time of bushfires, as celebrated in Colin Thiel’s book "February Dragon". Much festivity is coincident with southern Lughnasa in Australia, with Australia Day being marked on January 26. On this day in 1788, Europeans, including many an unhappy Celtic convict, first came ashore to establish the colony of New South Wales, and is seen as antecedent to the formation of Australia as a nation in the modern Western world. Today, Australia Day sees a wide range of festivities including cultural celebrations of indigenous Australians and the many immigrant cultures, including the Celts, in what is now multi-cultural Australia.
Year’s end, Samhain, at the coming of winter, is at the May cross-quarter. This is the time of cool blue Autumn skies, the end of the heat and the appearance of the silver winter sun. It is a poignant co-incidence that Australia and New Zealand’s day of Remembrance for their fallen in war, ANZAC Day on April 25, should be so close to the southern Hallowtide.
From a site called 'Caer Australis, unfortunately now inaccesible,
but previously at:
The authors notified me 17 December 2002 that a new version of this website will be launched this year.
When I have the new URL, I will let you know.
Back to Eastern & Western Europe: Earth-Based Ways (Wicca)
Back to the Wheel of the Year
© 1999 Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
Published 22 December 1999.
Updated 19 February 2002 with authors' names.