Primarily, the themes of birth, death and rebirth are played out across a year that is divided into light and dark, male and female, sun and moon, growth and rest, and heat and cold.The continuous cycle lends itself to the image of a wheel. The ancient Celts and their predecessors saw time as a wheel or spiral divided by eight festivals.
The important thing to note about these times are that they connect you with the land and with the seasons. The land is our mother; she feeds us, shelters us, and gives us comfort and enjoyment. The festivals give us a chance to give something back to her and honour all that she does.
The continuous cycle lends itself to the image of a wheel.
Northern 31 October – Southern 30 April
- Celebration of death as a continuation of life
- Borders between the dead and living are not fixed and impassable
- Borders were at their thinnest so one can ask the ancestors and spirits for guidance and communication on the future
- Celebrating where you came from
- Traditional time for scrying
Yule (Winter Solstice)
Northern 21-23 December – Southern 21-23 June
- Shortest night of the Year
- Mid winter festival linked to the Christian Xmas
- Archetypally linked with the birth of a child of promise and light: Dionysus, Arthur, Jesus, Baldur.
- Celebrates the return of the sun and thus hope
- Abundance spells and charms
- Giving thanks and gifts of goodwill
Northern 1st February – Southern 1 August
- Celebration of Light returning
- Goddess as Brigid (St Brigid)
- Fire Festival
- Light to shine, self knowledge/creation
Eostre (Spring Equinox)
Northern 21-22 March – Southern 21-22 September
- Night and day are equal, but moving towards Summer
- Balance and growth
- Leave what you don’t want and create the new
- Fertility and love
- New projects
Beltaine (May Day)
Northern 3o April/1st May – Southern 31 October
- Marriage of the Goddess and the God
- May poles- phallic and yonic symbolism
- Love magic (weddings/handfastings)
- Animus and anima/masculine and feminine balances
Litha (Summer Solstice)
Northern 21-23 June – Southern 21-23 December
- Longest day, shortest night
- Sun is at its fullest power yet year begins to wane from here
- What brings light and joy into your life, and develop this
- Self development
Northern 1st August Southern 1st February
- First harvest –first loaf baked
- King begins his journey into the Underworld
- Sorrow and celebration
- Fruition, taking stock and harvesting what you have achieved
Mabon: (Autumn Equinox)
Northern 21-22 September – Southern 21-22 March
- Harvesting the main crop
- Take stock of what has served you well/what not
- What needs repairing before the dark comes.
- Preparation for harder times
North or South?
Traditionally, most of the celebrations were linked to the cycles of the northern hemisphere, and so for Witches in the southern hemisphere this has raised a dilemma. Do we follow the traditional Wheel of the Year timings even though they are opposite to our seasons? Or do we adapt and reverse the wheel so it is in rhythm with our own environment. I personally adapt the wheel, spinning the celebrations so they are relevant to our seasons.For example Samhain, a festival of death traditionally held during the northern hemisphere winter would, if we just went by date, happen in the warmth of late October in the Northern Hemisphere. Instead, it seems a rational option to make Samhain a cold season festival as intended and so spinning the wheel, its celebrated on April 30. As a pagan- someone who honours the earth, aligning the festivals with our seasons feels much more connective to me, however, the choice is up to you.