What is the Wheel of the Year?
So, what is the wheel of the year?
The Wheel of the Year is the annual cycle of seasonal festivals observed by most pagans, including Wiccans.
The wheel of the year includes all of the 8 major sabbats:
(Midwinter or Winter Solstice) Dec. 20-23
Yule celebrates Winter Solstice depending on if you’re pagan, Wicca, etc. It’s the longest night of the year and honors the death of the Sun King or Oak King as well as his rebirth as the cold days get longer and longer leading into spring.
Plants that play a part in this sabbat include holly, ivy, mistletoe, pine, oak, sage, and yew.
Every sect of pagan will be slightly different in their form of celebration. Some are formal, some informal, and some do completely unique rits (rituals/rites) if they are solitary [not in a grove (pagan) or coven (Wicca)].
Most celebrations include bonfires, lighting up a “Yule log” made of Ash wood, sprigs of holly and mistletoe for good fortune by the door, enjoying spiced cider, evergreen wreaths, golden candles, and poinsettia.
Foods include cookies, caraway cakes soaked in cider, ginger tea, fruit and nuts, pork and turkey dishes, wassail, and spiced cider.
(Candlemas Brigid or Oimelc) Feb. 1
Imbolc is typically celebrated at sundown on February 1st and continuing through the following day. Imbolc means “in the belly of the Mother” and celebrates the first signs of spring. From Imbolc until March 21st, it is considered the Festival of the Maiden and a time for renewal.
A besom (old fashioned broom) is placed by the door as symbolism of sweeping out the old to make room for the new while candles are lit in each room of the house to honor the Sun King’s rebirth.
Acorns, yellow and white flowers, basil, angelica, bay leaf, blackberry, heather, iris, tansy, violets, and myrrh are popular plants employed during this celebration.
Foods include sunflower and pumpkin seeds, poppyseed baked goods, muffins, scones, and all kind of breads and wheat goods, raisins, spiced wine, and herbal teas.
(Vernal or Spring Equinox) Mar. 20-23
Ostara celebrates spring equinox and the balance of light and dark. A season of fertility, Ostara is when the newly reborn and youthful Sun God celebrates a sacred marriage with the young Maiden Goddess. This is a time for growth. Popular activities include planting seeds, spending time in nature on walks or hikes, and reflecting on the magick of the natural world.
Plants utilized during this celebration include daffodils, violet, olive, peony, and all spring flowers.
Foods include nuts, dairy foods, leafy green vegetables, sprouts, and dishes featuring flowers.
(May Eve, May Day, or Walpurgis Night) Apr. 30
Beltane (Gaelic word for “May”) is celebrated on either April 30th or May 1st (in accordance with May Day). It celebrates with feasts and rituals for the Sun God. Also known as Walpurgisnacht (known popularly as Witches Night) in Germany, Beltane is a time for dancing around the May Pole, bathing in natural waters for health and beauty (or using the water in spells), decorate with flowers and branches, braid flowers into hair, and enjoy feasts or walking in nature.
Popular plants include any kind of flowers, plants or branches.
Foods include cakes and cookies that include floral elements, honey, and oatmeal. A wedding feast for a meal is also appropriate for the celebration.
(Midsummer or Summer Solstice) Jun. 20-23
Litha, the Summer Solstice, celebrates the peak of the Sun God’s strength and the longest day of the year. It’s celebrated with lots of light and life, feasting, and emphasis on the fruits of nature. It is also a time to reaffirm your commitment to your goals.
Plants included in this sabbat are chamomile, rose, mugwort, honeysuckle, oak, vervain, ivy, yarrow, elder, thyme, and carnations.
Foods include garden veggies and fruits made into a variety of dishes.
Lughnasadh [pronounced LOON-AH-SAW]
(Lammas or August Eve) Aug. 1
Lughnasadh celebrates the first harvest of the year and recognizes the coming end of summer. Grains are harvested; fruits are picked. Craft fairs are often celebrated and we give thanks for the food on our tables. The Sun God enters old age and loses some of his strength as we go into autumn and nights grow longer. Walk in nature and enjoy a feast with friends or among your coven/grove.
Popular plants include grains, heather, grapes, apples, blackberries and pears.
Traditional foods includes grains such as breads, berries, and apples.
(Autumn Equinox) Sept. 20-23
Mabon celebrates the autumn equinox when night and day are equal again. Respects are paid to the coming darkness and thanks are given to the sun for the bountiful harvest. Druids honor the Green Man and leave offerings of wine, cider, herbs and fertilizer to trees. As the second harvest, wearing all of your nicest garments and feasting at this time is an appropriate way to celebrate.
The appropriate plants include marigolds, passionflower, honeysuckle, tobacco, vegetables, acorn and grains.
Foods you can enjoy during Mabon include apples, nuts, breads, pomegranates, and root vegetables.
Samhain [pronounced SOW-EN, SAV-EN, or SOW-EEN]
(Halloween, All Hallow’s Eve, or November Eve) Oct. 31
Samhain (means “End of Summer”) is the third and final harvest when the dark part of the year begins. Celebrated on October 31st or November 1st, Samhain is a time when the veil between worlds is believed to be temporarily lifted. The aged Crone goddess and her aged God are in their Dark Mother and Dark Father forms so it’s a great time to honor them.
Communicating with departed ancestors and loved ones is common and many Wiccans and pagans, alike, set empty chairs and plates of food at their tables, inviting their dearly departed to dine with them for a night. Food offerings are left on doorsteps for wandering spirits (see where Halloween came from?) and a single candle is lit in the window of homes to help guide spirits home.
Unharvested crops are left on the fields in offering, animals are slaughtered for the winter, bonfires are lit, and feasts are enjoyed. Samhain is very much considered the pagan New Year. People write their names on stones, throw them in the fire, and retrieve them from the ash in the morning. The condition of the stone is said to tell their fortune for the coming year. Ashes were spread over the harvested lands to ensure a bountiful harvest in the coming year.
Popular plants include gourds (pumpkins), apples, allspice, catnip, deadly nightshade, sage, straw, oak, and mandrake.
Foods include gourds (squash and pumpkin), apples, nuts, wines, ciders, turnips, beef, pork, and poultry.