The Wheel Of The Year
The Wheel of the Year is the Pagan cycle of the year and it's seasons.
Within the Wheel of the Year are eight festivals, known as the Minor Esbats and Major Sabbats.
Four of these festivals are Celtic in origin, Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, Samhain.
The four remaining festivals mark the Sun's cycles, the Spring and Autumn Equinox, this is when the length of the day is exactly the same as the length of the night and the Winter and Summer Solstices, marking the longest and shortest days of the year.
Stonehenge and other neolithic sites are giant solar calenders where people have gathered to honour and celebrate the Solstices since ancient times
The Wheel of the Year symbolises the changes in seasons and this reflects back to the very essence of life, our own changing seasons in our physical, as well as, emotional and spiritual bodies.
The 8 festivals or Sabbats:
Yule- 21-23rd December -The Winter Solstice
Marks the shortest day of the year and the return of the Sun. We often see a yule log now in the form of a chocolate swiss roll at Christmas however the Yule log was traditionally a wooden log burnt at this time as Yule is a fire festival, it was believed to banish evil spirits and conquer the darkness, it also symbolised the return of the Sun, the light. A part of the Yule log is kept for the following year to kindle the fire for the new Yule log for the following year.
Imbolc - Feb 2ndA fire festival, which honours the Goddess Brigit. Bridgit is the Goddess of healing and fertility. this is a time when the strength of the Sun begins to increase, a returning of the light and warmth which aids the growth of new things, in nature as well as ourselves. A perfect time to honour the Earth and cycle of growth and fertility by planting seeds in the earth and the mind. The first show of snowdrops, the first sign that the darkness is ending and we are moving into the light of spring. it's a time for clearing the old out and making way for fresh new life and ideas, it is a time to spring clean, not only the home but your emotions and mind. As the Earth is ready to bring forth new shoots then so must you, fresh ideas, fresh shoots, it is a time to begin afresh and to welcome the Maiden. The goddess Brigit is honoured at this time. clear any unwanted clutter from the home, ask the children of the family to give away any unused or unwanted toys following the Christmas celebrations, the new will come when there is space. Imbolc is the the traditional time to craft a corn dolly to honour Bridgit.
Ostara -March 20-23rd Spring EquinoxThe Christian Easter. Many believe that the word Easter originates from Eostre, the Goddess of ancient times. Now the days are growing longer, the Spring flowers, Daffodils, Crocus, Primroses are flowering, it is a time to celebrate the coming of the spring. The Goddess Eostre is honoured at Ostara. This is a fertile time, a time when the lambs appear in the fields, new love blossoms in the young, everything is vibrant, forceful and energised, a time also of the Green Man and Green Woman, he is born of Mother Earth in the Winter and lives until Samhain. We still celebrate to this day with Easter Eggs, which are symbolic of the goddess, fertility, new life, a wonderful tradition is to paint real eggs with pretty spring colours to decorate the home. A great way to honour this joyful season is to plant something new, protecting the Earth, make compost, start an allotment, plant a tree, put out a bird table and wild bird food, provide a safe place for nesting, other forms of wildlife also need protecting, wild flowers and bumble bees for example.
Beltane (Beltaine)- May 1stA Major Sabbat, a fire festival. This is the most popular time of the year for handfastings, a celebration of the coming of Summer. Many people still celebrate this time with the lighting of fires, a particularly important Beltane festival is still held in Edinburgh every year. Dancing around the Maypole is part of the Beltane celebrations. This is the time when Pagans celebrate the God and Goddess becoming lovers.
Litha or Lithia - June 20-23rdMidsummer or Summer Solstice, the the sun stands still, it is the longest day of the year and the sun is at it's highest.
The Goddess is at her most powerful. After this time the Sun begins to decline. This is one of the most popular times for Pagans to visit ancient sites such as Avebury (world famous stone circle in Wiltshire England) and Stonehenge to watch the Sun rise on the morning of the Solstice. Many other sites are visited across the land to celebrate the Summer Solstice. "
Lammas -Lughnasadh -(loo-nasa) August 1st The first harvestThis time honours the God Lugh, a time of harvest, of gathering and storing the crops.
Lammas marks the middle of summer and beginning of the harvest season. Lammas is considered a time of thanksgiving and is the first of the three Pagan harvest festivals. The Sun's strength begins to wane and the plants of spring begin to wither and drop their fruits or seeds for our use as well as to ensure future crops. At this time, we become conscious of the sacrifice the Sun God is preparing to make. We experience a sense of abundance at the same time we begin to feel an urgency to prepare for the death of winter. First grains and fruits of the Earth are cut and stored for the dark winter months.
Lammas also represents the culmination of the marriage between the Goddess and the God that took place on Beltane. The God now becomes the product of that blessed union - the bountiful fruits and grains - and must be sacrificed. He is the personification of the crops that must be harvested for the survival of the people.
Underneath the symbolism of sacrifice is the theme of rebirth. The Corn God must die, and He has to do so in order to return. Without the sacrifice, the cycle stops. Although His strength is waning, His essence is still palpable as His energies begin to merge with the harvested crops. It is at this time that the Sun King has reached the autumn of His years, and His rival (or dark self) has just reached puberty. The Sun God has reigned supreme over the ripening grain during the hot summer months. His dedication, perseverance, and action in tending the seeds sown in spring brings a ripe and fruitful bounty.
Although Lammas is the first of the harvest festivals, fertility imagery may still be found, as there are still crops in the field continuing to grow and livestock and game that have yet to be killed. As the God is honoured for His harvest, so the Goddess is honoured for bringing forth the first fruits, much as a new mother is honoured.
Lammas is also known as Lughnasadh, Lammastide, and First Harvest Festival.
Mabon -Autumn Equinox Autumn Equinox, 2nd Harvest, September 21stNow day and night are of equal length, it is the time before the dark again begins, it is the dying of the Sun, a time of melancholic beauty, when the leaves on the trees turn a golden colour and fall to decorate the Earth, it's a good time for reflection and a taking stock of the past year. This is the time animals will gather and store their food and get ready for hibernation. The fruits of the trees drop and rest in the earth waiting for re-birth. A good time to give thanks for the harvest, to thank the Goddess for her bounty and a time for the harvest festivals to be held in Christian churches.
Samhain -(sowinn) the Feast of the Dead, 31st OctoberSome pagans celebrate Samhain as the Celtic new year, this is the time when the Celts believed the veil between the two worlds becomes thin and contact with the spirit world becomes possible.
For Pagans Samhain is not a morbid celebration, old age is celebrated for it's wisdom, honouring those loved ones who have passed on is a large part of the celebration, contacting ancestors and spirits particularly for Shamans is now at it's most potent. The death of the old year symbolises death in relationships, ideas, endings of all kinds, including actual physical death, a time to come to terms with all endings and move on. Honour loved ones who have passed at this time, by setting a place for them at table when eating a special meal, light a candle with a photograph of them and thank them for the special qualities they brought to your life. Ask them for help and guidance on your journey through this life