Long ago the Old Religion followed the Wheel of the Year. The people celebrated the flow of the earths energy by dividing the year into eight divisions. The eight festivals gave opportunity for every one to come together as a community as they sing and dance they reflect and honour the Earth Mother. The Earth flow is a never ending cycle of season’s, birth, life death and rebirth. This in fact is the motion of the Wheel, which is always turning.
The Wheel of the Year is more than just the changing of the seasons. Beneath this subtle seasonal change lies a deeper shift with the energies of Earth itself. Even if we are aware of this or not, we are all effected by these energies and by understanding and working with them we learn to become in tune with the Earth on so many levels of our being.
The eightfold division of the Year is marked by four quarter points and cross quarters. The Quarter points consists of the Solstices, the two exact points of the year when the days are longest and shortest. The Equinoxes are when the day and nigh are of equal length. The cross quarters are the four Great Fire Festivals, Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain. These Festivals fall upon the peak of the season and are used to celebrate the power of nature. These eight festival are also known as Sabbats. The word Sabbat is derived from the French s’ebattre which means to frolic.
The Pagan Year begins on October 31 Samhain. This is our new year.
Solstice means standing of the sun. The Solstices are known as Yule and Litha, this is a time to take pause and take a look at what we have done. This is also a time to take stock of who we are and what we would like to achieve. This is a time to celebrate being alive and to express our hopes and dreams. From this point the Earth will move in a different cycle and the days will either be lengthening or shortening. This indeed effects our lives and thoughts.
Equinoxes more known as Ostara and Mabon are a time of change and transformation. This is a time to move into a new season, a season where everything is beginning to move fast at this time. This is a time to be clear about which direction you are heading and how to prepare for the new season.
The Fire Festivals
The Fire Festivals known as Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain are the Four Great Sabbats. The Old Religion in day gone by, would light fires on top of hilltops and the people would gather together. These Sabbats fall at the peaks of the four seasons and we celebrate in the power o f nature. This is a time to use the developing energy to bring forth our deepest hopes, dreams and desires. We use this energy throughout the Year to bring positive change to ourselves and the people closest to us.
THE DARK HALF OF THE YEAR
Samhain: October 31
Samhain is celebrated on October 31 it is the end of one year and the beginning of the next. At this time of reflection we are bidding farewell to the Sun and we say farewell to the God. The God wo was sacrificed at Lughnasadh is now dead in this world. The God has arrived in the Otherworld, to rule there during the darkest part of the year. W can no longer feel his warmth. The Goddess at this time gas also left us for the Otherworld, but unlike the God she can move between the worlds. On the night of Samhain the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest, allowing us to pass between without the sacrifice of death. We as Witches take this time to honour those who have passed before us. We either visit our Ancestors in the Otherworld or we invite them to join us in this world. We must also take care not to become trapped on the wrong side of the veil when the sun begins to rise.
Yule: December 21
Yule is celebrated December 21. It is the longest night of the year. Darkness holds this night as we celebrate the return of the Sun God. At this time we also renew our covenant with the Goddess. We rejoice in her commitment to conceive and the bringing forth of new life in the coming Spring.
Imbolc: February 2
Imbolc is celebrated on February 2, it is the time that the first signs of Spring are beginning to show. The Goddess fulfills her promise to conceive. The Goddess in her maiden form, she seduces the God of the Otherworld. From this union, the new God will be born at Beltane. We as Witches recognize this time of new beginnings and start to make plans for the coming summer months.
Ostara: March 21
Ostara is celebrated March 20-21 is a time of balance between light and dark. The day equaling night. Ostara is the promised birth of the Gods conception at Imbolc. The God continues to grow and mature inside the Goddess aspect of Mother. We as Witches begin to see the ife of Spring burst from Mother Earth. Tress are green, plants begin to bloom and the air seems to get warmer.
THE LIGHT HALF OF THE YEAR
Beltane: May 1
Beltane celebrated on May 1 is a time of life and fertility. The birth of the God into our world. The God is born a young hero and is to become the love of the Goddess. At this time the Earth is fertile and the Goddess is ready for her God. We rejoice as the first flowers are gathered in honour of the God and Goddess. This is a time to celebrate both birth and lovemaking.
Litha: June 21
Litha is celebrated on June 21 this is the season between planting and harvest. It is a time for celebrating our commitments between ourselves and the Goddess and to celebrate the union of the Goddess and the God as lovers. Litha is traditionally a time for Handfastings (marriage). This is a time for the Goddess to share her wealth of many ripened herbs which are ready to be gathered. The Sun God celebrates his victory the longest day of the year. With this victory comes the inevitable decline as the sacrifice of the God takes place at Lughnasadh.
Lughnasadh: August 1
Lughnasadh is celebrated on August 1, this is about the first harvest and about Gods sacrifice. At this time Nature continues its cycle as plants prepare their seeds for the following year. The Goddess blesses us with her bounty and the God assumes his responsibility, his blood is spilled on the fields to ensure the cycle of rebirth and to secure our survival. The God is wounded and dies his physical death is his first stage to the Otherworld. With this our hopes and dreams that were planted in Spring begin to manifest.
Mabon: September 21
Mabon celebrated September 21-23 is the second harvest. At this time day and night are again equal in length. Although the God died a physical death he still remains with us. We have to banish him sending his roaming spirit on its way to ensure his arrival to the Otherworld at Samhain. At this time the Earth is heavy with bounty this is a time for Witches to begin preparations for the long winter months ahead.