Wheel of the Year and why we follow it:
The wheel of the year is an annual cycle of seasonal festivals, observed by many modern pagans. It consists of either four or eight festivals: either the solstice and equinoxes, known as the “quarter days”, or the four midpoints between, known as the “cross-quarter days”; syncretic traditions like Wicca often celebrate all eight festivals.
Let’s begin with Yule or in Christianity, Christmas. This date marks the winter solstice. This festival occurs between the 20th and 23rd of December. It’s time to celebrate the rebirth of the sun. As today marks the shortest day of the year. From this day forward the days will continually grow longer until we reach the summer solstice.
Imbolc is our next festival. This festival occurs on the 2nd of February. This is the seasonal change where the first signs of spring and the return of the sun are noted, i.e. the first sprouting of leaves, the sprouting of the Crocus flowers etc. In other words, it is the festival commemorating the successful passing of winter and the beginning of the agricultural year.
Next, we have Ostara or Easter. This occurs March 21/22. We celebrate this time of the spring equinox. It’s a time where there is a balance, it’s neither frigid winter or brutal summer. This is a time to get rid of things that no longer serve you or hinder your growth and progress.
Beltane is our next festival or mayday, occurs April 30- May 1st. This is a time to celebrate fertility. The holiday of union between god and goddess and man and woman. The time for vows, handfastings, and commitment.
Litha or midsummer is our next festival. This is our festival to celebrate the summer solstice. It occurs on the 21st or 22nd of June. This is the most powerful day for the sun god. This is the longest day and the shortest night of the year. Crops are in full growth almost ready for harvest.
Next is Lughnasadh or Lammas. Lammas is a festival celebrating the first fruits of the harvest, the fruits of our labors, and seeing the desires that we had at the start of the year unfold so rituals will be centered around this. This time is celebrated on the 1st of August.
Mabon or the autumn equinox is our next festival, falling on the 21st – 23rd of September.
This day also marks balance as the day and night are of equal time on this day. It is also the middle of the harvest. It is a time to reap what you have sown. For finishing up old projects and planting the seeds for new.
Which brings us to our final festival in the wheel of the year Samhain (pronounced sow-en) or Halloween. Samhain is the Wiccan New Year. This is the time of year when the veil between the world of the dead and the world of the living is said to be it’s thinnest. Spirits and souls of loved ones are said to have more power and ability to visit us. This is the time of year for remembering and honoring our dead, and many people will leave a plate of food and a glass of wine out for wandering spirits. (This is often called the Feast of Hecate) Samhain is also a time for personal reflection, and for recognizing our faults and flaws and creating a method for rectifying them.