- Samhain - Held on the weekend of the last Friday in October.
- Winter Solstice Meeting - Held two weekends before the Solstice to plan for Imbolc.
- Imbolc - Held the 1st Saturday in February.
- Spring Equinox Meeting - Held two weekends before the Equinox to plan for Beltaine.
- Beltaine - Held on the weekend of May 1st or on the following weekend should the 1st fall on a weekday.
- Summer Solstice Meeting - Held two weekends before the Solstice to plan for Pennsic or Lughnasad.
- Pennsic / Lughnasad - usually the last week of July and the first week of August.
- Fall Equinox Meeting - Held two weekends before the Equinox to plan Samhain.
- Norseland Fall Thyng - This is a Norseland event held near the Solstice.The date for Fall Thyng is set by the people of Norseland and published in their newsletter.
What is Samhain?
Samhain is a Celtic Festival which means literally "End of Summer". It also marks the end and the beginning of the Celtic year so in some ways you can think of this event as our New Year's Eve. The Hindu New Year Festival of Lights known as Diwali also occurs at this time of year and as Celtic and Hindi are both Indo-European tongues, it is likely that these festivals share a common root as well. At Samhain the division between this world and the otherworld is at its thinnest, allowing spirits to pass between the worlds and so we make masks to hide ourselves from angry and mischievious spirits. This aspect of the ancient Samhain festival is echoed in modern day Halloween.
Is this some kind of Wiccan / Pagan / Druid thing?
The Tuatha de Bhriain attempt to re-enact the spirit and material culture of ancient Ireland. We do not subscribe to or proseletize for any specific religious dogma. Instead, we attempt to create an atmosphere that we believe would be familiar to an ancient Celtic person at this time of year. That said, we have developed traditions over the years that may appear to have religious overtones to those who don't know that we are really just a bunch of history geeks.
What do we do at the event?
It is at this time that we Celts honor our ancestors and invite them into our homes and put out a plate of food at our feast table for them. At the same time we are careful to ward off harmful spirits. Our bonfire is a central feature of the event. We cook over the open flame and tell tales and sing songs around it - there are many musicians in our Clann! Traditionally the home fires were extinguished and relit from the central communal fire. We hold elections to designate the officers of the group in a usually hilarious political assembly, designate a Clan Champion and burn a Wicker-man who will carry with him messages and offerings from the living to those Clannfolk and friends who may have passed to the otherword during the past year. Samhain is our most popular event and it regularly draws attendants from a great distance.
Imbolc is our only indoor event, which is fitting because in the northern hemisphere, this is the coldest time of the year and the Clann would likely be huddled together indoors around the hearth.
What is Imbolc?
Imbolc is one of the four "cross-quarter" days referred to in Irish mythology. There is nearly no historical documentation for what the ancients celebrated on this day, but it has been associated with the Celtic goddess Brigit (the daughter of the Dagda, who was celebrated as the Goddess of poets, smiths and healers). Since Ireland was converted to Christianity shortly after our time period, stories of the life of the Catholic St. Brigit overlap and parallel the stories of the Irish goddess Brigit and it is now impossible to untangle them. The traditional date of Imbolc, February 1st is also associated with the Catholic St. Brigit as St. Brigit's Day which is followed immediately thereafter by Candlemas on the 2nd. Since Christianity tended to assimilate (and transform) the traditions of those pagan cultures it converted, we see today an echo of the ancient holiday through the lens of those Christian traditions. Clann folk wishing to re-enact the spirit of the ancient holiday cannot avoid a large amount of "reconstructionism" in doing so. The word Imbolc derives from the old Irish i mbolg "in the belly", probably referring to the pregnancy of ewes. The lactation of the ewes begins to occur at this time of year in Ireland (though the word may be interpreted simply as 'milking', and signifies the coming of Spring.
What do we do at the event?
A craft table is set up where all those who have made an item in the past year display their work. It is tradition that all members produce some kind of craft for the table or risk the satire of the Fili, but anyone attending the feast is encouraged to participate as well. In addition to the usual feasting, music, and indoor games, the Clann auction is also held at Imbolc. Extra items of garb, jewelry, as well as craft items (which may also be displayed on the craft table) are donated to the Clann for sale at auction. This generates some income for the Clann while providing a good way for newcomers to aquire items they may need in their pursuit of full membership.
More about St. Brigit
Saint Brigid of Kildare lived in the late 5th century AD and has become one of Ireland's patron saints. A feast celebrating her life occurs on Feb 1st as St Brigit's Day. The earliest writings referring to her can be dated to about 650 AD. Most stories about her agree that her mother was a slave to Dubhthach, a king of Leinster. St. Brigit is said to have founded a school of art, including metal work and illumination which sounds suspiciously like the concerns of the goddess of the same name.
More about Candlemas
For those of Christian persona, the date of Imbolc is coincident with Candlemas of the liturgical calendar which is fixed as 40 days after the nativity as a celebration of the Virgin Mary. Traditionally, beeswax candles to be used for the year would be blessed by a priest with an aspergillum. It is important to note that this observation is not period for our group for though Candlemas is one of the more ancient Christian holidays, it spread west from Rome slowly and did not make it even as far as France until well after the 8th century.
Bealtaine is a fire festival held to strengthen the warmth of the sun and bring the summer growing season. Two bonfires are kindled and dedicated to the health and prosperity of the clann.
In addition to our feast and ceremony, the clann sponsors a "he-man" competition of various feast of skill and strength. All are welcome to participate. The winner of the competition is given the honor of running the competition the following year.
Pennsic is sponsored by the The S.C.A. and begins on the first Saturday in August lasting for two weeks. It is held at Cooper's Lake Campground in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania.
Lughnasad is typically held at Pennsic. However, in years where the clan does not attend Pennsic in any great number, A Lughnasad campout is held on the first weekend in August.