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The Wheel of the Year

 

I live on the East Coast, and I don't think I would like to live anywhere else. The changes of the seasons are so marked, so dramatic here. Not only are the seasons themselves remarkable, but the actual changing, the turning of the leaves, the cold winter wind, the budding of the trees in spring, and the rampant greenery of the summer...suddenly everything is big and green and wild.

I think for these reasons it has always been easy for me to identify with the Wheel and the eight "turnings", or Sabbats, of the year. Each is a specific, unique time, and each means something to me. I will begin with Samhain (also known as Halloween) not only because it falls in my favorite time of year, but because it represents the end of one year and the beginning of the next. It is also a day that I have celebrated (with great joy, I might add) since I was a small child, before I even knew what Witchcraft was. There are many different names for this day, depending on which tradition you follow. I have a leaning towards all things Celtic, that being my heritage, so this is what I choose to call it. It is a festival of the Dead, when we honor our ancestors and those we have lost. It is also a time to contemplate a New Year, a new beginning. This date for a new year makes much more sense to me than January 1st. Perhaps it was all those years of school and college, when each new year began not in January, but in the fall. This is the time of year when everything dies, or goes into hibernation, awaiting rebirth in the spring. "Within Me, all beginnings have ends, and all endings...beginnings."

The next Sabbat is Yule, the Winter Solstice. This is the longest night of the year, when the power of the sun is at its lowest point. From this day the sun grows stronger, to peak again at the Summer Solstice. It is the celebration of the Sun's rebirth from darkness, and the rebirth of the Horned God as the Oak King, who rules until the following Midsummer. We celebrate the Sun and the God with fire, and with warmth and togetherness. It is a powerful time for ritual and magic.

After Yule is Imbolc, celebrated on February 1 or 2, depending on who you talk to...This is a festival to celebrate the coming spring, the beginning of the new agricultural year, and all beginnings. The hibernation/death period of the winter is ending. Soon the world will be reborn. We celbrate with fire, especially candles (from which comes another name for this day, Candlemas). It is also known as Lady Day, because on this day we honor the Goddess in her maiden aspect. It is a time of meditation, of preparing ourselves for the coming year.

The year is reborn, or reawakened, at the Vernal Equinox. The day and night are of equal length, but the sun after today will remain with us longer and longer. The Goddess and God are celebrated in all of their "green", or fertile, aspects, for this is when we honor the fertility of the Earth and her ability to come alive each spring. We celebrate at sunrise, with bells and fires, and decorated eggs, which have always been associated with fertility, for obvious reasons. This is the beginning of the agricultural year. Though it is still cold (where I live, anyway!), all manner of life is coming back to the Earth.

Beltane is the point between Ostara and the Summer Solstice, which falls on the first of May. It is also known as May Day. This is another Fire Festival, which celebrates the union of the God and Goddess, who through their union will bring about the harvest of the fruits of the earth. It is the day of Their Sacred Marriage. We honor Them with bonfires and greenery and the Maypole, the symbol of life.

At the Summer Solstice, or Midsummer, we celebrate the power of the Sun. It is the longest day of the year. The Sun reaches its high point and begins to wane. The Oak King is reborn as the Holly King, who rules until Yule. This day we honor the Sun with bonfires. It is also sacred to Pan and Herne, and to the Fairies, who are said to come out in great numbers at this time of year.

On August 1 is Lammas, or Loaf-Mass. It is the first of the three Harvest Festivals (the other two are Mabon and Samhain). The Fertility of the Goddess in her Mother aspect and the Horned God are once again honored. We make corn dolls to represent her at our celebration. A new doll is made each Lammas and the old one is burned (to make way for the new). This day is also known as Lugnasadh, a celebration to honor the Irish Sun-God, Lugh, and is also sacred to dryads, or forest spirits.

Mabon, or the Autumnal Equinox, falls in September. The days from here grow shorter, and the nights longer. It is the second Harvest Festival. It is a time for giving thanks, and for meditation on the year that is passing, and the year that is coming. It is also a time for initiation and rededication for witches. We celebrate the Harvest, and look ahead to Samhain, and the beginning of a new year...

 

Some of this information was gleaned from The Witches Web

The graphic at the top courtesy ofWitch Way

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