A Guide to Europe’s Pagan Festivals

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Whether you’re a pagan or simply interested in the associated beliefs and rituals, planning a holiday around festivals in Europe can make for a fascinating trip. Few holiday companies offer tours based on these events, but it’s easy to find information on the internet and make your own arrangements. Along the way, you’’ see some beautiful landscapes and intriguing landmarks, and get a closer encounter than many tourists manage with the culture and people of the countries you visit. Once you’ve settled on your itinerary, holiday companies can help you with bookings and travel.

 

Image by vintagedept.

The prehistoric stone circle of Stonehenge is probably the most famous pagan site in the United Kingdom, and can be very crowded, especially around midsummer. Less well known, but larger and more ancient, is the Neolithic ring at nearby Avebury. Here, unlike at Stonehenge, you can approach and touch the stones themselves. The site is popular with pagans, naturally, and there are frequent ceremonies.

Image by Magic Madzik

Many cultures and religions have long standing traditions to celebrate the end of winter. In Poland, as well as the Czech Republic and Slovakia, an effigy of the goddess Marzanna or Morana is symbolically drowned, often after burning. Children particularly enjoy making a puppet or dummy, transporting it to the river, and dunking it in.

Image by Downatthezoo

Beltane falls between the spring equinox and the summer solstice, Samhain between the fall equinox and the winter solstice. Both are Gaelic festivals, so celebrate them in a Celtic region, such as Wales or Cornwall. Edinburgh, the Scottish capital, holds a yearly Beltane Fire Festival, a celebration of arts and culture. On Samhain, in some parts of Scotland and Ireland, you can still find costumed children guising, rather than trick or treating, and perhaps a traditional turnip lantern rather than a pumpkin.

Image by Bengt Nyman

There can be nowhere better to celebrate midsummer than in the land of the midnight sun. In northern Scandinavia, you can experience 24 hours of daylight on the longest days of the year. Regardless of the actual date on which it falls, the Swedes celebrate Midsummer Eve on the nearest Friday. It’s a time for leaving the towns and travelling into the countryside, to gather with friends and family. The maypole is an important part of the Swedish midsummer tradition, along with a feast of pickled herring and new potatoes, followed by the first strawberries of the season.

Those are just pagan festivals in Europe, though. What about the world? Have you been to pagan festivals in other parts?

 

Images by vintagedept, Magic Madzik, Downatthezoo and Bengt Nyman used under Creative Commons license.

Contributed by Jane Grant is a traveler and especially enjoys experience rare and unusual sights of the world. This was a hosted post made possible by our partner HolidayHyperMarket.