|Celebrations of the Wheel
The followers of nature-based spiritual paths, such as Witchcraft and Druidry and
Wicca and other Pagan traditions embrace the dynamics of the changing seasons
and the interplay between darkness and light. This is the human origin of
celebrations. They are portals to magickal junctures, first of holy days and what we
now call holidays.
Followers of nature-based traditions divide the year into 8 seasons in which they call
The Wheel of the Year. They call it "Wheel" because, just as a wheel, the year
turns over and over again and it is marked with the 8 spokes we call the great
From the time of antiquity, the human race has celebrated a type of ever-turning
wheel of time. Pagans celebrate the eight festivals that mark the important points in
the cycles of nature: The two solstices and the two equinoxes, and four cross-
quarter days divide the time between them. These festivals are common across
many Pagan traditions, including the Druid, Wiccan, Celtic and Norse (Asatru) and
other Pagan spiritualist paths.
The cross-quarter days (as they are called) mark the farmers directives for the times
of sowing to the times of harvest.
Samhain or Witches' New Year or All Hollow's Eve
Samhain is the great sabbat now commonly known as Halloween. It is also called
Witches New Year because it is considered the beginning of the year and the time
of new beginnings. This is also the final time of harvest for farmers. During this time
that Wiccans say farewell to the Pagan Lord. Lore states that the Pagan god dies
and he travels through the veils into the otherworld to be reborn at Yule. Samhain
was traditionally a time of sacrifice, as livestock were slaughtered to ensure food
throughout the winter. This is also the time of the hunt since vegetation is not so
readily available. The nights are longer during this time .This is a time of reflection
and coming to terms with the darker cycle of life which we have no control - death.
Most of all this is a time of remembrance of our Ancestors and all those who have
gone before. This holiday marks the end of the old year and the beginning of the
Yule (December 21)
This is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year. The sun
begins to return to the earth's hemisphere. In ancient lore the Goddess gives birth to
the Pagan Lord as the son reborn. Many traditions celebrates this holy day just
before dawn to welcome his arrival. Candles and bonfires are lit, and the fireplace
burns with the Yule Log, a log that partially burned the previous yule, to welcome
his arrival. The returning light completes the cycle of life, death and rebirth. In Pagan
traditions, Yule symbolizes the end of the reign of the waning year's Holly-King,
who is now replaced by the Oak-King of the year (who rules until Summer Solstice).
Imbolc (February 1)
This is another one of the four greater Sabbats. The Goddess has just given birth to
a son (the newly waxing son) at Yule, and is recovering from her labor. The God is
pictured as a young child. It is a celebration of the first stirrings of Spring, and as
such is associated with new beginnings, purifications, and inspiration. It is a
traditional time for initiations, either of new covens, new members entering covens,
or self-initiations/dedications. This time is sacred to many traditions like the
European goddess Brigid, and Orisha goddess Oshun. Names for the celebration
includes: celebration of Brigid, the Catholic time of Candlemas, Candlelaria of
Mexican, and the Feast of Oya (Orisha of Death-Rebirth)— Yoruba/Santeria
religion.. Other goddesses who are also celebrated at Imbolc are Hestia and
Ostara (March 21)
This is the Spring Equinox. Day and Night are equal in length. The earth is
becoming awake and alive, and the young God is approaching maturity. It is a time
of planting and welcoming back the fertility of the earth. Easter gets its name from
the Teutonic goddess of Spring who had a pet rabbit who kept colored eggs and
gave them out to the young children. This goddess was the dawn and her name is
spelled Oestre, Ostare or Eastre. This is the origin of the word "east" and it comes
from various Germanic, Austro-Hungarian words for dawn and it shares the root for
the word "aurora" which means " to shine". As Spring reaches its midpoint, night and
day stand in perfect balance, with light on the increase. The young Sun god now
celebrates a hierogamy (sacred marriage) with the young Maiden goddess.
Beltane (May 1)
During this time the God has reached his manhood, and the Goddess is ready to
receive him as her lover. This holiday celebrates the union of the goddess and the
god is a major fertility festival. The maypole is wrapped with ribbons to symbolize
their union. Fields and livestock are blessed, and people jump over bonfires to
ensure their luck for the rest of the year.
Litha, the Summer Solstice ( June 21)
This marks the longest day of the year, when the powers of nature reach their zenith.
The Earth is ample with the fertility of the goddess, and the god is at the height of his
power. Fire is lit to mark the longest day. It is a great time for hand-fastings,
workings of empowerment, consummation and magick. Also referred to as
Midsummer consequently it is the shortest night. We enjoy the warmth of the longest
day of the year. Burning herbs in sacred fires at Midsummer is a tradition that is still
carried on today. Midsummer symbolizes the end of the reign of the waxing year's
Oak-King, who is now replaced by the Holly-King of the waning year (who rules
until Winter Solstice).
Lammas (August 1)
Often called the Feast of Bread this holiday marks the time of the first harvest. The
sun loses its strength and the nights grow longer. The Pagan Lord is dying, and yet
lives on inside the goddess as her growing seed. The god is now seen as seed, in the
grain, and is remembered and honored with the first loaves of bread. Some Pagans
celebrate this day as merely the day to bake their bread and cakes for the coming
winter and do no actual rituals. The greater view to Pagans is when the God loses
his strength and the Sun rises farther south each day, and the nights grow longer.
The goddess watches in sorrow as the Pagan god is dying. Yet he lives on inside
her as her child. As summer passes, Pagans remember its warmth and bounty in the
food they eat. This Sabbat is also called Lughnasad, August Eve and the Feast of
Mabon (September 21)
This is the Fall Equinox. It is the continuation of the harvest that begun at Lammas.
Day and night are equal, and it is a time of balance. It is a time of contemplating
what things in our own personal lives we have grown and harvested during the year.
For some Pagans, like the Dianic sect, this is the weavers festival, and a braiding of
cords done in the process of casting a spell to add to ones life. Each person weaves
unto themselves what they wish, and the coven is as a whole weaving all the cords
together to unite the power and efforts symbolically. The autumn equinox is the
second harvest. Once again the day and night are equal as the God prepares to
leave the body and to begin the great adventure into the unseen and into the veils.
This is his trek toward renewal and rebirth to the Goddess.
Now the Wheel starts again, turning and spinning around and around. This is the
spiral dance of life. Pagans continue to celebrate by venturing within and without the
otherworld grasping the spokes and dancing to its helm.
|Wheel of the Year
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