We all tend to get wrapped up in a negative space at times, worrying about our to-do lists and busy schedules, giving us little time to appreciate what we have and where we are in life.
Utilizing the Wheel of the Year to help understand how everything is naturally designed to come full-circle is a great way to bring peace and harmony into your life. You can learn to truly be thankful for life, love, and all mother nature has to offer by embracing the meaning behind the Wheel of the Year and celebrating every stage of life.
What is the Wheel of the Year?
The wheel of the year is a sort of calendar of festivities divided by the year’s main solar events, solstices, and equinoxes, as well as the mid-way points in between them.
This wheel contains symbols representing the eight religious festivals held most commonly by pagans and Wiccans. It is used to help us reflect on what we have gained throughout the year and remember what we have lost, but not dwell on the sadness but benefit from the fond memories.
These events help you reflect and connect with your true self and are also a way to honor nature and stay deeply connected and rooted to it and the cycles of life.
The Four Main Solar festivities include Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice, and Fall Equinox. Then there are four festivals tucked in between as midway points.
While the modern-day calendar year is seen as a straight line from start to finish, January to December, the Wheel of the Year is a circular time frame where the cycle is endless and one season leads to the next, referring to the cylinder cycle of life.
What is the Origin of The Wheel of The Year?
To get a good understanding of what the Wheel of the Year is and its importance, we have to go back in time to where it all began.
There is evidence to prove these festivals were celebrated as far back as the 10th century, with writing from the King of Munsters regarding “four great fires…lighted upon the four great festivals of the Druids…in February, May, August, and November.” But we won’t take you that far back.
Let us start in the 1950s when the traditional wheel of the year began. This year, the Order of Bards and Ovates of Druids (who celebrated the four Celtic fire festivals) and Bricket Wood coven (who celebrated the solstice and equinox events) adapted all eight festivals, agreeing to combine them to celebrate more often.
Why Celebrate These Specific Times?
While it is widely known that the festivities on the Wheel of the Year are performed to honor the different seasons and nature, it is not as well-known for its purification properties.
You see, the Celts believed that the lack of gratitude was an actual gateway sin. One must be grateful for all they are provided by nature and in life. A lack of gratitude can lead to darkness, bitterness, and sadness.
When you choose to celebrate, you allow yourself to let go of negativity and embrace all of the positive things in your life. Let nature be your source of inner peace.
Who Uses the Wheel of the Year?
While you do not have to belong to a specific religion or group, those most commonly known to follow this belief include Wiccans, Pagans, Neo-Pagans, and practicing witches.
Anyone is welcome, and many like to dabble in the practice and enjoy the wheel of the year rituals.
Eight Main Celebrations (or Festivals)
Here is a list of the eight celebrations on the Wheel of the Year, what they mean, and how you can benefit from them.
Winter Solstice (Yule)
- Celebration Date: December 20th-23rd
- Overview: A time to reflect, share the spirit of giving, welcome the sun and the longer days it brings with it.
While most of the Western Civilization is preparing their celebrations for the upcoming Christmas seasons, Wiccans and everyone else who follow the Wheel of the Year will spend this time preparing for their winter solstice.
Pagans choose to celebrate the end of December month by spending time with family and friends, reflecting on the good times and the present, and partaking in the spirit of giving.
During Yule, we celebrate the return of the sun after its long journey on the longest and darkest night of the year. Welcoming light, new life, and the return of a prosperous fertile season.
Ways to Celebrate Winter Solstice (Yule):
- Yule log ceremony with family and friends
- Holiday tree blessing rituals
- Donation blessing rituals.
Celebration Dates: February 2nd
Overview: A celebration of new life, a time for feasting and family togetherness, the finality of the winter months.
Imbolc is a reminder that the cold, snow, and darkness are soon coming to an end, that the sun will begin to burn brighter, and the earth will start to warm up, shining new light into a dreary world.
Imbolc is a mid-season festivity that marks the upcoming spring season and the re-birth of purification. This is when animals give birth to new life, and the earth begins its preparations for producing crops.
This time is associated with pregnancy, fertility, hope, and a promise for the future. It is often symbolized by the Goddess Bridged, by the Celtic pagans. She was the goddess of fertility, medicine, poetry, the forge, and sacred springs.
Ways to Celebrate Imbolc (Candlemas) :
- Imbolc House Cleansing Ceremony
- Fire Scrying Ritual
- Love Spells????
Spring Equinox (Ostara)
Celebration Dates: March 19-23
Overview: A time for balance and renewal, the start of new beginnings, tons of hope, and new possibilities.
Modern-day Pagans see the Ostara as a holy day, celebrating the return of life. This is when crops begin to grow as the sun brings new light onto the planet. Now, the sun has crossed over the quarter bringing equal amounts of light and darkness to the land.
This time is an opportunity to re-balance, re-focus, and restore harmony to your life to move forward from the rough winters and start again.
Ways to Celebrate Spring Equinox (Ostara):
- Go outside and thank the sun for all its services
- Participate in an Ostara Rebirth Ritual
- Ostara Labyrinth Meditation
Celebration Dates: May 1st
Overview: Time to bring your dreams into action, have fun and enjoy life, waken nature and invite new beginnings.
Bel-Tan, meaning “good fire” is related to welcoming back the sun, allowing sleeping nature to awake, and enabling the earth to become green again.
Bonfires were a massive part of this celebration, commonly used while bringing livestock to their summer pasture, protecting them from evils.
Beltane is a time for marriage, celebrating your sensuality and sexuality. A time for masculinity and femininity to join together and utilize fertility while it is at its peak. During this celebration, you should be open to reflecting on commitments, connections, and relationships.
Ways to celebrate Beltane (May Eve):
- Decorate your altar with the colors of the rainbow
- Celebrate at a May Pole Dance
- Make a Flower Crown or Wreath
Summer Solstice (Litha)
Celebration Date: June 20th-23rd
Overview: Celebrating the longest day and shortest night, reflect on what you have accomplished, embrace the presents and be present.
Litha, or mid-summer, is the time to celebrate the longest day and shortest night of the year when the sun shines bright for the most extended amount of time, and you can rejoice on all you have accomplished thus far.
This celebration is time for embracing the light, while all of the crops are in full bloom and harvesting season is right around the corner, where you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Litha is when you should embrace all that you have and be present and at peace.
During this time, the sun is at its most powerful (Masculin) phase, but it will start to move back little by little each day, reminding us that it is time to start preparing for what is yet to come.
Ways to Celebrate Summer Solstice (Litha):
- Building bonfires
- Connect with mother earth
- Attend handfasting ceremonies
Celebration Date: August 1st
Overview: Symbolizes the importance of harvest, time for being thankful, and a time for giving; celebrate what you have accomplished
Lammas is a time for celebrating what you have accomplished thus far, enjoying the crops you have harvested, and preparing for the upcoming winter.
This time is an opportunity to show your gratitude for what you have and how far you have come. During these festivities, show how thankful you are and reciprocate that with giving by sharing your crops once you have completed harvesting them.
Ways to celebrate Lughnasadh (Lammas):
- Prepare a meal from garden to table
- SIt out under the stars and appreciate the present
- Bake a homemade loaf of bread
Celebration Date: September 20th-23rd
Overview: Honoring the darkness about to come, show mother nature gratefulness for what she has provided, harmonious balance between light and dark.
The Autumn Equinox is the 2nd time of the year where there is an equal balance between light and dark, offering a sense of harmony while the daylight begins to subside and the cooler air starts to seep in.
This time is perfect for showing gratitude for what we have and sharing that with our families, friends, and neighbors.
It is at this moment we are grateful to the earth for what it has provided and accept that the soil is now dying, a process required for the future birth of new crops.
Ways to Celebrate Autumn Equinox (Mabon):
- Go apple picking
- Count your blessings
- Honor the darkness
- Celebration Date: October 31st
- Overview: Darkness, beginning of shorter days, letting go of the past, pruning back on what you no longer need, and harvesting what you worked so hard to grow.
Samhain marks the end of the season, the end of summer, and the beginning of a new cycle. Many people see this festival as a way to dress up, get treats, and cause trouble, but it should not be seen as an evil day or one of darkness in the way of sadness. It is to celebrate the dead, to honor those who have passed over the year.
Some believe this is the day where the curtain between this world and the other side is easiest to pass through, giving our loved ones a chance to visit.
That is why treats and gifts are spread out amongst tables, offering family and friends a gift on their return.
People work masks on these days to hide their faces from wronged spirits who may be coming back for vengeance, and tricks that were played are seen as darkness wreaking havoc on the living. The next day, once the celebration is over, things are cleared away and cleaned up, and balance is restored between light and dark once again.
Ways to celebrate Samhain (Hallowe’en)
- Write a Samhain Journal Entry
- Do a Meditation to Honour, Your Ancestors
- Go for a walk in nature
How to Work with the Wheel of the Year
These eight sabbats are times throughout the year where we can allow ourselves to slow down from our daily schedules and take some time to breathe and connect with the earth and the nature around us.
The way each person celebrates will look different depending on what they believe, what they hold dearest, and how they were taught.
During each celebration, you want to reflect on the things you have, what you have accomplished, and look forward to what is to come.
How to Celebrate with The Wheel of the Year
There are many ways to celebrate each of these eight festivals, some we have already briefly mentioned above. Celebrate by doing things you love and enjoy and bringing you closer to nature.
- Go hiking or bird watch
- Host a sabbat celebration for friends, family, and the community
- Conduct a ritual for each Sabbat
- Decorate your altar for each season
- Add scents and items to your home based on the wheel
- Journal during every sabbat
- Light a candle
- Cook special foods during each festival
- Involve children in sabbat specific crafts
- Create your own spell
- Check-in on your goals or bucket lists
The purpose of these celebrations is to help you slow down, relax a bit, take some deep breaths and enjoy the fresh air. Open your eyes to see things you may have been missing out on during all of that hustle and bustle in your everyday life.
View nature in all of its beauty, the fantastic life you live, faults and all, the people you cherish, the pets you love. Allow the Wheel to help you love yourself.
What is an Altar, and How Can You Use it In Correlation WIth the Wheel of The Year?
We mentioned multiple ways to celebrate the Wheel of the Year festivities with your altar. However, this may be confusing if you do not have an altar and may not even know what it is.
As in any religion, an altar is a safe, private, personal space for you to go for worship or practice your rituals.
Statues are placed here along with offerings or ritualistic tools. These altars can help you center yourself as it is a representation of the earth.
Decorating your altar during The Wheel of the Year festivals and celebrations are a great way to show your appreciation to the sun and mother nature. It will also give you a quiet space to go when you feel like connecting with the earth.
There are altars available carved from wood, with the Wheel of the Year sketched directly into them. These are a great option for anyone looking to purchase one for themselves as well as celebrate the eight sabbats.
Summing Things Up
The Wheel of the Year is a great way to symbolize the circle of life and how one life ending brings a new beginning for another. The eight festivals represented on the wheel are the perfect ways to learn who you are, what you have accomplished, and where you are going, all by reflecting with nature.