The Wheel of the Year is the calendar used by pagans and contains all the days they consider to be holy and special. It is based on eight festivals each corresponding to a particular time of the year. Four of these are solar, or sun, based festivals and four are lunar, or moon, based festivals. These provide a crucial balance between the masculine and the feminine that is important in pagan rituals. These festivals, also known as sabbats, happen at equal points throughout the year.
Wheel of the Year Festivals
Samhain is the first of these festivals. It is celebrated on the 31st of October as the earth dies and becomes dormant, waiting for the breath of spring to bring new life. It is considered by pagans to be a time to connect with those who have gone before, to celebrate the ancestors and all the blessings their lives have provided for us. The veil between worlds is considered very thin during this time of year and so it is a time when those with psychic abilities may find it easier to connect with those who have gone on.
The Wheel of the Year Soltices
The Winter Solstice, also celebrated as Yule, comes in the winter. It is the turning point of the earth, the moment when we shift from the long, tired days of winter and darkness into longer, brighter days of sunshine. This is a time of celebration, meant to be spent at hearth and home with loved ones. It is a time of new beginnings. Spring is beginning to make its way back.
Imbolc comes in February as a reminder that though the winter is long, spring is nearly here. Days are becoming longer, the weather is beginning to warm. You may feel a sense of anticipation as you move through your day, as though something is coming. This is a time when those who prefer to grow their own plants will begin their seeds.
The Spring Equinox comes with Ostara or Easter. It is the true birth of spring. The sap of the trees is beginning to run and you can feel the earth beginning to fully waken around you. This is the time to celebrate the re-awakening of the earth and all that means for the life around you.
Beltane comes at the end of April. “April showers bring May flowers” is particularly apt here and this is a celebration focused almost entirely on fertility both of the earth, of the animals and of mankind. This is the season where the earth bursts forth with all her fruits.
The Summer Solstice, also known as Litha, is the moment where things begin to wind back down again. Everything on the earth is a part of this great cycle that moves between the two solstices. As the Yule brought back the longer days, Litha begins to shorten them once again. We can continue to enjoy our warm weather, our healthy crops, and to prepare for the fall and harvest.
Lammas is the end of summer, the beginning of the harvest. It is our chance to look at what great bounties mother earth has brought us and to thank her for them as we begin to harvest and prepare for the winter months we know are coming.
The Autumn Equinox
Lastly is the Autumn Equinox or Mabon. It is the time to celebrate the end of the season, the coming of winter and to give thanks for all we have received. Days and nights are about equal through this season, but the chill that comes in the evening reminds us that Samhain is on its way.