The wheel of the year is a representation of the Earths yearly cycle. It is called “wheel of the year" because if you drew a circle and made eight lines all intersecting in the center, it would look similar to a wagon wheel. Each point on this circle represents a progression or an event as the seasons pass. Thus the wheel “turns" so to speak. Each turn of the wheel is celebrated in Wicca and other religions as well. Wiccans celebrate each turn of the wheel with something called a Sabbath. Sabbaths are solar celebrations just as Esbats are lunar celebrations. We are celebrating each season change and each midpoint in-between because we feel that these turns are important and each represent something different.
If you take a look at the wheel, four “spokes" of the wheel are marked as either a solstice or an equinox or to be lazy “season changes". The other four are in-between the season changes which are usually marked with either planting or harvesting. To break it down further, there are four major and four minor Sabbaths. The four major are the Sabbaths in-between the equinoxes/solstice. And the four minor Sabbaths are the two equinoxes and the two solstices.
Why is all this so important to Wiccans? Well, simply because these times can tell us when is good to plant, when is good to harvest. Should we pack our winter gear and get out spring attire? Do we set our clocks forwards or set them backwards? We feel it’s important to celebrate each turn because it also represents our own lives as well. The earth goes through its changes every season just as we go through our changes every season. The wheel of the year also tells us a story of the God and the Goddess and their cycle of life. Now is when we will tell that story and get into more depth with the eight Sabbaths.
Yule: December 20th -22nd (dates change yearly)
Yule is technically the first Sabbath of the Wiccan year. It’s also known as the Winter Solstice which is the longest night of the year. From now until the Summer Solstice the hours of day light grow longer each day. The big reason we celebrate this Sabbath though is the Gods rebirth from the Goddess. The sun is a symbol of the God and as the God grows up, the sunlight stays in the sky longer. Yule also represents the midpoint in the cold season. It’s a time for rest from the long harvest season just as the Goddess is now at rest and has retreated to the underground from giving birth to the God.
Imbolc: February 2nd
Imbolc is roughly between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Imbolc is most commonly known to the rest of the world as Groundhogs day. The first signs of life are starting to stir around after the harsh coldness. It’s also a time where we start preparing for the first plantings of the harvest come spring. The Goddess has now rested and makes her appearance again as the young maiden. The God is now rapidly growing but is still a child.
Ostara: March 20th-22nd (dates change yearly)
Ostara is the spring equinox. The hours of day and night are equal and the world is ready for the warmer weather. We start getting the ground and seeds ready for the first plantings as this is the first of the Fertility Sabbaths. As the earth becomes fertile, so do the God and the Goddess. Both are now young adults and the courtship has begun. Just as the seedlings sprout to life, so does the womb of the Goddess.
Beltane: May 1st
Commonly known as “May Day", Beltane is the day where the Goddess and God Unite. The crops have been planted and the life inside the Goddess is starting to show. The maypole is often commonly seen at Beltane celebrations. We gather and dance around the maypole to celebrate the marriage of the Lord and Lady. The actual staff of the maypole represents the god and the opening flowers represent the goddess in their peak of sexuality which resulted in pregnancy.
Litha June 20th-22nd (dates change yearly)
Litha is also known as the summer solstice. It is the longest day of the year and from here on, the nights get longer and the days get shorter. The God is at full strength during this times and the Goddess’s pregnancy grows larger as the crops continue to grow along with the goddess.
Lammas: August 1st
Lammas or Lughnasadh is the first harvest celebration. Early grain and corn crops have now ripened are ready to harvest. The God starts to grow weaker as the child within the Goddess grows bigger and stronger. The Goddess starts to mourn the coming loss of her husband but is comforted in the fact he will be re-born from her soon.
Mabon: September 20th-22nd (dates change yearly)
Mabon is also the fall equinox. It is the second harvest festival and is commonly known as the Wiccan Thanksgiving. The hours of day and night are again equal and the second round of crops is ready for harvest. This is a time where we look back on our own personal seeds we planted during Ostara and check if they have come to “harvest" or not. And to celebrate our bounty, we have a feast with our friends and community to celebrate our harvests. This is the time where the God prepares for death and his time to rest.
Samhain (pronounced “Sow-When") is the Wiccan “new years eve" it is the night when the old year dies and the new one starts. The God has now died and the Goddess mourns him turning the world cold. Samhain is commonly known as Halloween to the non pagan world. The veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is at it’s thinnest at this time. We as Wiccans use these times to communicate with loved ones that have passed on before us. Lore is that the western gate opens to allow spirits to cross and join us in celebrations for the night or to allow those to cross over and be with the God as he rests and awaits his re-birth at Yule. Samhain is also the final harvest celebration and is time when we collect the final crops and slaughter the last of the animals to prepare for the upcoming darkness of winter.
This ends our brief intro to the wheel of the year. As each Sabbath comes along, we will go into more depth with it.
Hopefully now you can see that with every turn of the wheel, you also have your own personal turns of the year and you can make connections with each season.
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