The Rhythm of The Year

If you have ever wondered about the different special days in the Celtic calendar throughout the year this might be helpful:

Scottish Quarter Days

  • Martinmas Hallowmas Samhuinn 1st November
  • Lammas Luggnassad 1st August
  • Candlemas-Imbolc St Brides day 1 February
  • Whitsun May day Beltane 1st May

According to Catherine Brown in her great book “A Year in a Scots Kitchen” these days were related to the moving of animals from the lowland grazing to highland pasture and the rhythm of the tasks of the year.

English Quarter days

The special days for those descended from Norse peoples were based on the cycles of the Sun with it’s solstices and equinoxes:

  • Lady Day 25 March
  • Midsummer Day 24 June
  • St Michaelmas 29 September
  • Christmas Day 25 `December

When the moon rose on the evening before a holy day occult influences were regarded as more potent and magical rites more effective, than at other times.

Fairies were said to flit between hills, visible only to those with second sight.

The kindling of the need fire took place and it was seen as being protective against disease, disaster and the powers of evil, the saining of cattle and crops took place, and the baking and dedication of the sacrificial cakes. These were all regarded as important practices.

Saining is circling something in a sunwise direction, with torches for protection against evil.

The baking of the quarter cakes, which served originally as a sort of communion bread between men and the earth powers has survived as a household custom to our own time.

P52 Silver Bough Vol 1 McNeill

Each has its distinctive name:

  • Bonnach Bride,
  • Bonnach Bealltain
  • Bonnach Lunastain,
  • Bonnach Samtha

A large cake was made for the family and smaller cakes for individual members.

Folk would go off and eat them outside throwing a bit over alternate shoulders to ward off evil.