The Wheel of the Year is an annual cycle of celebrations which mark the passing of the seasons.
Many have upheld the tradition of observing these seasonal markers throughout the passage of time. Their numbers are growing significantly now, as more and more people are recognizing their innate human desire to connect with Mother Earth.
The wheel consists of eight holidays - 4 major and 4 minor.
The major holidays are Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain.
The minor holidays mark the summer and winter solstice, and the spring and fall equinox. They are Litha, Yule, Ostara, and Mabon respectively.
Take just a minute and travel around the wheel with me - if you will!
We'll start with Imbolc, as that is the first celebration of the traditional calendar:
Imbolc - February 2
Celebrated during the traditional lambing season in the Old World, this holiday recognizes and pays homage to the evidence of life as it begins to appear in the dead of winter. Herd animals have either recently given birth, or their bellies are swollen with new life about to burst forth.
It is the holy day of the Goddess Brigid. She is the goddess of fire, healing, smithcraft, midwifery, and muse to the poets.
Imbolc is celebrated with fire, in honor of Brigid, and light to acknowledge the coming return of the Sun God. The days are steadily growing longer and soon he will reign in full force.
Some Imbolc traditions are as follows:
- Community gatherings are held which include candlelight, firelight, music, art, poetry, and storytelling.
- Seeds and agricultural tools are blessed.
- Wheat stalks are used to fashion crosses, which are then exchanged as symbols of prosperity and protection for the coming year.
- Candles are lit and placed in each room.
- A besom (broom) is placed by the front door, to symbolize the sweeping out of the old and the welcoming of the new.
Ostara - March 21
Ostara recognizes the Spring Equinox. It is a holiday which marks the balance of light (day) and dark (night).
This is the day that the Sun God reclaims his throne - He sits upon it in all of his fabulous glory, causing life to burst forth throughout the land.
This holiday celebrates the goddess Ostara, whose symbols are the egg, rabbits, and flowers.
Some Ostara traditions are as follows:
- Seedlings for the garden are sown.
- Walks in the woods are taken to find early signs of life returning to Mother Earth.
- Eggs are colored, decorated, or painted.
- Time is spent doing preliminary work in the yard/garden with care taken to reconnect with the nature spirits there.
Beltane - May 1
A celebration of the ecstasy of love - Beltane is the day on which the Sun God and the Goddess (Maiden) meet.
They fall in love and she conceives a child. She is full of blossoming life, as is the earth at this time. Her child will be next years Sun God.
Beltane is also the midpoint in the celebration of the Goddess Flora, whose symbol is flowers.
Some Beltane traditions are as follows:
- Women wear crowns of flowers.
- Young women bathe with the morning dew to bring forth their true love.
- Traditional dances are performed around the Maypole in honor of the earth's fertility.
- Flowers and branches are gathered to decorate homes.
- Water is collected from rivers and streams to be used for healing.
Litha - June 21
Litha marks the summer solstice - it is the longest day of the year.
Both light and life are abundant, and the Sun God has reached his moment of greatest strength. He rules from his greenwood throne. In some traditions he is referred to as The Green Man throughout this season.
Some Litha traditions are as follows:
- The abundance of life is celebrated and reflected upon.
- Garden fresh fruits and veggies are turned into a feast.
- Vows to the God and Goddess are reaffirmed.
Lughnasadh - August 1
Lughnasadh celebrates the first harvest of the year. The long days of summer will soon come to an end, and fruits and grains are ready for harvest.
This holiday is often referred to as The Festival of Bread.
Diana, the Goddess of animals, the forest, and the moon, is born on this day.
Some Lughnasadh traditions are as follows:
- Games, dances, and races are held.
- Ritual fires are lit.
- A feast is shared within the community. The seeds from the fruits and vegetables used to prepare this meal are saved for planting next years crops.
- Walks through fields and orchards are taken - using the time to reflect on the bounty of the God and Goddess.
Mabon - September 21
The autumn equinox, when light and darkness are again in perfect balance, is celebrated on Mabon. It is the second harvest.
From this point the fruits of the forests, fields, and gardens, will begin to 'go to seed'. In doing this, their life will be sustained throughout the long, dark months of winter which lie ahead.
As the harvest is prepared for storage, gratitude is given to the Goddess for her generosity.
Thanks are also given to the Sun God (Green Man), for the gift of energy he so generously bestowed upon the earth throughout the growing season.
Some Mabon traditions are as follows:
- Dining and celebration ensue in the form of a lavish festival.
- Old business is completed as the upcoming season of rest, relaxation, and reflection is anticipated.
- Offerings are scattered in the fields.
- Libations are offered to trees.
- Herbs are gathered and dried to be used throughout the winter.
Samhain - October 31
Samhain is the time when the veil between light and darkness is at its thinnest. It's believed to be a period of magical interval concerning the laws of time and space.
It is the third and final harvest celebration, as well as the pagan New Year.
This holiday is when those who have come before (ancestors) are honored.
Some Samhain traditions are as follows:
- Single candles are lit and left in windows to help guide ancestors home.
- Extra chairs are set at the table for unseen guests.
- Food offerings are left on doorsteps for ancestor spirits.
- Apples are placed along the roadside for ancestor spirits who have no one to provide for them.
- People dress in costume in order to fool the Nature Spirits, who try to pull pranks on them.
Yule - December 21
The winter solstice is celebrated on this day - it is the longest night of the year. From this point forward to spring, the days will gradually grow longer.
On this day, the Great Goddess gives birth to her son - the Sun God.
This birth is her gift of life to mankind, and is celebrated with anticipation of the 'fruits' he will bring forth when he reigns in the upcoming growing season.
Some Yule traditions are as follows:
- Bonfires are lit in the fields.
- The next seasons crops are toasted with spiced cider.
- Holly and ivy are used to decorate the home, both inside and out, as an invitation for Nature Spirits to come and join in the celebration.
- A Yule log is gathered, decorated, and lit with a piece of last years log. It is kept burning for 12 days, to bring good luck in the upcoming year.
- Yule trees are decorated with hanging candles, meant to symbolize the sun, moon, and stars.
And that concludes our little trip around the wheel of the year ...
I do hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have ;)
Please take a moment to leave a comment and let me know what you thought of this post ...
Travel with me on this journey we call life ...
May good fortune chase you throughout ALL of your days!
Blessings ~ Diane