Elements of Ceremony

+ There is No Right Way to Celebrate a Holiday +


Starting from the astronomical background, and including ideas from Celtic Myth, Goddess religion, astrology, songs, poems and ideas for rituals that I’ve collected over the years, I have a lot of material to share with people who are wanting to design their own rituals and celebrations in a circle dance format.

There is no “right” way to celebrate a holiday. There are a number of background elements that one can keep in mind to get ideas for a basic theme, colors, decorations; there is no dogma or doctrine that has to be followed.

As a Buddhist astronomer (which means that Buddhist cosmology is the only one big enough to fit the universe I learned about through science) Celtic (which means that my direct heritage is from Scotland and Ireland) Pagan (I celebrate the Spirits of the Countryside) Christian (I accept Jesus as one incarnation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, and the version of his teachings which did not suppress the Old Nature Religion) I tend to be very eclectic in my selection of what to include in a ritual celebration.

I also believe in Jung’s principle of “synchronicity”, that is: if something (quote, object, activity, etc.) shows up on or near a holiday, it is likely to be relevant. For example, a friend found some armadillo candles at the dollar store in January, and brought them to me to use for Imbolc. I thought they suited the eclectic, unusual character of the sign Aquarius, in which this holiday occurs. Only later, thinking about the meaning of Imbolc in the creative cycle, I saw that the “Little Armored One” was a perfect symbol of something that failed to break its shell at Samhain.

The components of a particular celebration may be any or all of the following:


  • Astronomical — season of the year, phase of the moon
  • Astrological — sign of the zodiac, current planetary aspects
  • Traditional activities, from our culture or others, sacred or secular
  • Personal traditions, and anniversaries
  • Current events in the world or the community


Because the year is a circle, the beginning point could be chosen anywhere, any festival is an occasion for letting go of old behaviors that don’t serve you, and creating visions for the future. In addition, each holiday is a hologram of the whole cycle, seen from a particular aspect.

The symbolic meaning of a holiday comes from the common practice of associating the elements of different cycles. For example, the four seasons of the year can be matched to the four quarters of the day, the four directions, the four elements, each of which will suggest themes, colors, objects, etc.


  • Feb 1-10 – Imbolc – Aquarius – Quickening of the year – Inspiration
  • March 21 – Equinox – Pisces/Aries – Spring – Germination – Dawn – East
  • May 1- 10 – Beltane – Taurus – Embodiment – Incarnation
  • June 22 – Solstice – Gemini/Cancer – Summer – Growth – Noon – South
  • August 1-10 – Lammas – Leo – Ripening – Crystallization
  • September 22 – Equinox – Virgo/Libra – Harvest – Sunset – West
  • November 1-10 – Samhain – Scorpio – Death – Separation
  • December 21 – Solstice – Sagittarius/Capricorn – Winter – Midnight – North


I know two ways of assigning elements. Both are used by Native Americans, the first is also Celtic.

  • East Air (beginnings, breath) Fire (dawn, energy)
  • South Fire (energy, warmth) Earth (fertility)
  • West Water (endings, flow) Water (ditto)
  • North Earth (pattern) Air (detachment)

These are just general ideas for what the elements mean. Each direction is also associated with a time of day, and a season: East – dawn, spring, South – noon, summer, etc. Both the elements and the times give us meanings for describing the energy of the spirits of the direction.

When I light the candles and call the directions at Neskaya, I use a basic form that I got from the Spiral Dance, by Starhawk. You can check there for more items to add, or any other resource.

OUTLINE use any of the items in the third column to fill in, and make up your own according to what is appropriate to the gathering.


Spirits of the East! Powers of Air!
You who rule… …wind, breath, communication…
or contain… … beginnings, new ideas or hold… Etc.
Or bless us with… …new understandings…
Come and join our circle, OR come dance with us, etc.


Spirits of the West! Powers of Water!
You who rule… …endings, flow, depth, emotional energy…
or contain… … the place where all things come together
or hold… Etc.
Bring… Or bless us with… … feeling our connectedness with all beings…
Come and join our circle, OR come dance with us, etc.


Spirits of the South! Powers of Fire!
You who rule… …energy, warmth, compassion…
or contain…Etc.
or hold…
Or bless us with… … compassionate hearts…
Come and join our circle, OR come dance with us, etc.


Spirits of the North! Powers of Earth! You who rule… …Material, pattern, crystal structure…
or contain… … deep structure within the material world
or hold… Etc. Bring…
Or bless us with… … alignment with the patterns of our planet
Come and join our circle, OR come dance with us, etc.