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The Wheel of the Year

The Wheel of the Year

The Wheel of the Year

The Four Seasons are known as Solar Festivals, in that they mark a seasonal change caused by the Sun. The cross quarter days are marked by Fire Festivals and are usually celebrated as significant agricultural festivals. Together the Solar Festivals and the Fire Festivals make up the Wheel Of The Year. The Wheel Of The Year, is often broken into eight festivals, whether they are the eight Asatru Blots, Seasonal Festivals or Celtic Sabbats, and the observance of Solar energies at the solstices and equinoxes and the Fire energies on the cross quarter days, is a common theme throughout the world.

The Festivals of the Wheel Of The Year also represent the active and dormant states of nature, man and agriculture. Each of the festival days was ruled by a governing deity, whether a God or Goddess, with each region having its own associated deity. From planting to reaping to winter to summer... the seasons were of great importance to our ancestors, for their very existence depended upon good harvests, mild winters, enough rainfall.

winter_solstice

December 21 - Yule

Winter Solstice -- Yule

The longest night of the year. From this night on, light returns with the lengthening of the daylight hours. Many cultures hold a Festival of Light to honor the Goddess as Mother giving birth to the Sun God. "Yule" comes from the Norse word for "wheel", and many of our customs derive from Norse and Celtic Pagan practices (the Yule log, the tree, the custom of Wassailing, et al). Great yule logs were burned to help the sun to shine more brightly, and people drank mead around the bonfires listening to minstrel-poets singing ancient legends until dawn. This image shows the wise Father Solstice bringing his precious gifts, and Lucina, a Scandinavian Goddess who wears a crown of candles and brings a tray of sweets to herald the coming light. The evergreen tree covered with decorations and fruits reminds us of the ever renewing cycle of life. A Pentacle, symbol of perfected humans, crowns the tree. This is a great time for self-growth, abundance, fertility, and above all, hope for the future.

flag_imbolc

February 2 - Imbolc

Spring begins -- Brigid or Imbolc (Oimelc)

As the days' lengthening becomes perceptible, many candles are lit to hasten the warming of the earth and emphasize the reviving of life. "Imbolc" is from Old Irish, and may mean "in the belly", and Oimelc, "ewe's milk", as this is the lambing time. It is the holiday of the Celtic Fire Goddess Brigid, whose threefold nature rules smithcraft, poetry/inspiration, and healing. Here she carries a burning torch symbolic of her eternal flame that was kept burning always at her temples. Her healing aspect is making a brew of herbs, in a cauldron adorned by the totem animal of a wolf. Her crone aspect composes poems with a raven feather, as the snow begins melting on the hills and a few violets begin to bloom. The heart reminds us of Valentines Day, an ancient holiday of love and sensuality from Roman times. A good time to seek healing, visions, and tempering.

flag_vernal_equinox

March 21 - Ostara

Vernal Equinox (Spring) -- Eostar (Eostre Ostara )

Day and night are equal as Spring begins to enliven the environment with new growth and more newborn animals. Many people feel "reborn" after the long nights and coldness of winter. The Germanic Goddess Ostara (Goddess of the Dawn), or for some the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre after whom Easter is named, is the deity of this holiday,. The egg and the bunny are pagan imagery of fertility, as are flowers. The goddess awakened from her deep winter slumbers and returned from the underworld, now wears the aspect of the Maiden of Spring. this is the energy of wind, dawn and new beginnings.

flag_beltane

May 1st - Beltane

Summer begins -- Beltane (May Eve)

Folk dance around the Maypole, emblem of fertility (the name "May" comes from a Norse word meaning "to shoot out new growth"). May 1st was the midpoint of a five-day Roman festival to Flora, Goddess of Flowers. The name "Beltaine" means "Bel's Fires"; in Celtic lands, cattle were driven between bonfires to bless them, and people leaped the fires for luck. This was a celebration of the pleasures of life and sexuality. The goddess and god, now the May Queen and her beloved Sun Prince are wed. This was a day of sexual freedom, blessing the fields fertility, and joy in living. A time to enrich any aspect of your life requiring fertilization and to celebrate abundance.

flag_summer_solstice

June 21 - Litha

Summer Solstice -- Litha (Midsummer's Eve)

On this day, the noon of the year and the longest day, light and life are abundant. In some traditions the sacred marriage of the Goddess and God is celebrated and June is a traditional time for weddings. Some believe that on midsummer night "all wishes are granted" by the fairy world . On this day the god in his aspect as the Sun King is at his most powerful, here shown as the solar lion, with wands of roses and oak leaves. Litha is a great opportunity for taking stock of ones' own life, bringing desires to fruition, and also getting rid of those aspects that deter you from your goals.

flag_lammas

August 2nd - Lughnasadh

Fall begins -- Lammas (Lughnasadh)

This is one of the Celtic fire festivals, honoring the Celtic culture-bringer and Solar God Lugh . Often known as the "Feast of Bread" or "Loaf Mass", this celebration brings the god in his aspect of the Harvest King along with the Mother goddess, now full with child (just as the fields and trees are full with ripening bounty). As the first blows are struck with the sickle to reap the grain, so the Harvest King begin to weaken, and to sacrifice himself willingly so that others will survive the dark infertile winter season. There are many old tales of the sacrificed king, stemming from this archetype. This image shows the stag, the sickle used for reaping, and harvest bounty. This is a time for aiding the survival of your community through charitable contributions, and other efforts intended for the betterment of your self and your neighbors.

flag_autumnal_equinox

September 21 - Mabon

Autumnal Equinox (Fall) -- Mabon

This day sees light and dark in balance again, before the descent to the dark times, at time of Thanksgiving. This is the element of water, and sunset, and final feasting. At this time the god and goddess prepare for the sacrifice which ensures continued renewal, birth and growth of the next season. The Autumn Sage sacrifices himself through the final harvest of the land he represents as he offers to carry the community's regrets and sorrows to the underworld with him, flowers wither, leaves fall, and darkness descends. This is a time to balance light and dark in your own life, releasing sorrows and regrets which no longer serve you.

flag_samhain

October 31 - Samhain

Winter begins -- Samhain Pronounced "Sow-in", or "Sah-vin" if you speak Scots Gaelic.

Ancient Celts considered a day to begin with sundown, so the year begins with the first day of Winter. This eve of the Celtic year was a very holy time when barriers between the worlds of life and death are thinnest, allowing the ancestors to walk among the living, welcomed and feasted by their kin, giving blessings. Celts put out food and drink for dead ancestors with great ceremony. They left their windows, doors, and gates unlocked to allow spirits free passage into their homes. Not all of these spirits were friendly, so Celts carved the images of spirit-guardians onto turnips, and set these jack o'lanterns by their doors for protection. Later this custom changed to using pumpkins. Black cats are thought to be particularly magical. This is a time to use divination to gain guidance for the future, and to honor the dead.

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