I love the wheel of the year. I think it is the most profound connection I have to our planet. I have been researching it for years from not only a spiritual level but also a historical one. The Wheel of the Year follows closely with the older farming traditions of our ancestors. The way we would plan our year would fall dependant on the seasonal changes. Even in this age of climate change, it’s important to keep these seasonal changes in mind when making any plans for our crops. These crops might be physical ones or fiscal ones, either way, it’s important to keep track of what needs to be done.
As for the spiritual side of the Wheel of the Year, it’s important to feel the connection to the difference seasonal changes and how they relate to the season of your life. The year falls similar to your own life span, from the youth of spring, to the maturity of summer, to the golden years of autumn, and the final years in the winter of your life. We can celebrate the birth, life, and death of the year by following the Wheel of the Year.
The Wheel of the year is broken up into two sections of four, making eight in total. The solstices & equinoxes are Yule, Ostara, Litha, and Mabon. The cross quarters are Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain.
Yule – December 21-22
For me, I start the year off at Yule, or the Winter Solstice. Mostly because that’s the start of when the sun begins its return and longer days ahead. I think of it as a time of rebirth and renewal.
The six weeks that follow are a time to begin preparing for the following year’s growing cycle. So this growth can either be spiritual or developmental. In ancient times, this would be the time of the year when farmers would start getting their plans for the crops in order. They would decide what foods they would want to cultivate and which fields would be tended to.
Since we are not a completely agrarian society anymore, we don’t really have need of this kind of planning. So, instead, we need to prepare for a self cultivation cycle. This is the best time of the year to take on a new project and start planning on what you will do to make it grow. This can be anything from writing a novel to making plans to become more healthy. This is why many people take on a new year’s resolution.
I celebrate Yule with a mix of Christmas traditions and also welcoming the Sun’s return to the Earth. I cannot fully escape Christmas in my country so I would rather work with it, then against it. After all, they celebrate the birth of a “sun” king too! However, I also bring Sol and Skadi into my practice. Sol for the sun and Skadi for the blessings of winter. I actually love winter and snow. I like to decorate my home with images of stars, trees, deer, and the colors of red, gold, silver, and green. I burn candles all winter to help with bringing coziness to my home.
Imbolc – February 1
Imbolc has always been a challenging time of the year for me. It’s that time of the year where winter is still very much here but you can feel spring hanging at the edges. This year, our Imbolc was very much on the winter side of the year. It took a long time for the signs of spring to start showing up. Normally by February first, the snow is gone. This year, the snow didn’t leave until just before the Equinox.
Typically, I would celebrate with lighting candles and inviting warmth to return to my life. Imbolc marks the time of the year when the lambs are dropping and beginning to nurse. In a sense, this would be the time of the year when you would finish up your planning and start the work for the year. Farmers would begin setting aside the seeds they want to ready for spring and caring for the newborns in the barn.
For my rituals, I tend to bring honor to the Gods as they prepare the way for spring to come. I like to do magic that involve rekindling inspiration and creativity. It’s also a good time to burn away anything that no longer serves you.
Ostara – March 21-22
That brings us to Ostara and the Spring equinox. This is the one of the two points in the year where the light and darkness are in perfect balance. This time of the year marks the point when daylight starts becoming longer than night time. This would be the point in the year when farmers would start clearing the fields and start some seeds that will eventually be transplanted into their fields or gardens. This is when the livestock would be let out of the barns to start feeding on the new grass growing.
For my practice, this is the time of year when I seek balance with myself. Having come out of the darkness of winter, I am ready to start being outside again. This is when I start cleaning up my yard from winter. It’s also the time of the year when I access my work and plans for the year. It’s a time in which I clear away the debris from the previous year and start anew.
To celebrate, I normally like to praise the Gods for their new life and work divination magic. THis is a good time to find out what advise the Gods have for you are your projects start picking up speed.
Beltane – May 1
Beltane marks a time for fertility. This is when farmers would begin planting their seeds in the Earth. This also marks the start of summer and the warmest time of the year. It’s also a time of year when lovers start marking their feelings more apparent. In my case, it’s the make or break time of year. It’s when I decided if my partner will be the father of my children. So far, I have not found someone who would fit that case for me. All of my major break ups in my life have taken place between May and June. I don’t think it’s any surprise that my latest break up also took place during this time.
Speaking of fertility, I have been researching the male fertility cycle. This cycle is yearly rather than monthly like the female’s cycle is. In the times between April and June, men’s testosterone cycle is at it’s lowest point. This is the time of the year when their hormones are more devoted to wooing a partner and securing them. This is why love seems to be in the air during late spring and early summer. The fall is the peak of the male cycle, which is why you start to see male driven ads for trucks and sports cars during the fall. It’s also the start of major male sports like Football and Hockey start at the beginning of the fall and end in May.
There’s a ton of creative energy that comes with Beltane. If you were working on a project that you started at Yule, this would be a time of year to start making a real dent in those projects. Or this is a good time to make your dedications of love and romance to your partner. If you were going to propose, this is an excellent time to do it.
The ritual work I like to do at this time depends on if I have a partner or not. If I do, then I like to bring together the sexual union of the Goddess and God as they bring fertility back to the Earth. If I do not have a partner or one who is not pagan, then I will do a symbolic fertility union involving the actual earth and planting seeds.
A fun spell to do during this time is to burn away any old dead leaves, grass, twigs and use their ashes to bring life back to the earth. You can also take objects that are safe to burn such as paper and write down your wishes that you would like to see brought to life.
Litha – June 21-22
The Summer Solstice, or Litha, is the point in time when the sun is at its peak. This is the longest day of the year and it marks the return of darkness to the world. The days from this point start being shorter and the nights longer. It’s also marks the start to the hottest time of the year for the Northern hemisphere. This is the halfway point of our year of cultivation. This is when we would be working hard in the fields to keep them free of pests and weeds. We also need to make sure that our gardens and fields get the water that they need. In our life, this is the time of the year when the real work is getting done.
I tend to celebrate the solstice by having a fire and barbeque. This is a great time of the year to feast and celebrate all of your accomplishments so far. It’s also a great time to put forth your energy to the second half of the year.
I like to use Litha as a time to rededicate myself to my practice. I spend time with the Gods in meditation and celebration round the fire. I will do concentration of my tools during this time. I like to use the energy of the sun to fuel my passions so that I can continue to work on them until Yule.
Lughnasadh – August 1
Lughnasadh is also known as Lammas, the bread harvest. This is the very first of the three major harvest festivals in the Wheel of the year. This is when you should start to see the fruits of your labour being brought forth. In ancient times, this is when the wheat and other grains would be harvested from the fields and stored away for winter.
I like to celebrate this time of the year with eating vegetables from the garden and celebrating the hard work that has been done so far. Typically, I will serve bread that I have baked along with the bounty from the garden. If I did not have a good harvest, I will source out the produce from my local farmer’s market instead.
This isn’t a time to rest though, there’s still more harvest to come and winter to prepare for. The days are shorter now and there’s a sense that there’s not enough time to prepare. If you have been working on a project, think of this time as a point on reflecting on your sacrifices so far and what you will still need to do to complete your work.
Mabon – September 21-22
This is the second of the three harvest festivals. This is when the apples and other tree fruits and nuts are ready for harvest. It’s also when the grapes come off the vines and the crush begins for the following year’s wine.
If you have been working on a project, you should be able to see the ending of it coming into sight now. There is still more work to be done but you will start to get the feeling that you are almost done.
This is also the second of the two equinoxes. This time, the days become shorter and shorter. The darkness has returned and the leaves will start to fall from the trees. This signals the beginning of the death of world before winter settles in.
I celebrate this time of the year with a feast of the bounty of the season. There’s lots of apples, nuts, and squashes. I will have a feast of either my own food or food from the local markets. To me, Mabon is my favorite of the Sabbats. The Okanagan valley is perfect for apples and grapes and we have orchards and wineries abound. So I will also serve wine and apples with my Sabbat feasts to celebrate my local spirits.
The magic I work at this time of the year is all about storing away energy for winter. For bringing protection to family, friends, and pets so that their winter is sustainable.
Samhain – Oct 31- Nov 1
This end of the year and the third and final harvest festival. Samhain is also known as the blood harvest because this is the time of the year when the livestock that won’t survive the winter is killed and saved for winter. This is also when all the other crops of the year should be saved and stowed away. All of your summer canning should be put away for use in the winter and your wine racked off and bottled.
This is also the time of the year when you reconnect with your lost loved ones by cleaning their graves or taking some time to remember them. They have lessons to teach you about their lives and they need to be celebrated and remembered.
If you have been working on a project, this is the time of the year when you would be finishing up. You can start enjoying the fruits of your labours now. I like to celebrate this time of the year with a feast of all the bounty from the fall harvest. I also like to make soups and grill up root vegetables. I tend to relax this time of the year and enjoy walks in the crisp fall air and hearing the crunch of leaves as I sip on my pumpkin spice latte.
This is also the time of the year when many other cultures celebrate their ancestors and their dead. In Mexico, the Day of the Dead is likely the biggest celebration of the year. It’s common to have a giant feast for the dead and take time to visit the graves to let them know that you honor and remember them. I have often gone to my local grave yard on Samhain to help clean up grave sites and give gifts of incense.
This bring us back to Yule and the start of a new year!
I would love to hear what you do to celebrate your Wheel of the Year or if you have other traditions that you celebrate.