I do love circles and spirals. In art, the garden, every day life, and even my coffee. So the concept of a year being part of a wheel speaks to me. As in, “the wheel of the year”, used to divide up the seasons of the year.
Consider these circles or wheels –
- A clock is a circle
- A sundial is circle
- The moon and sun are circles and we mark our days by them
- Time and travel both use circles to mark their passage
- We turn things clockwise or counter clockwise
- A static circle becomes a cycle when movement is implied
- The earth is a globe, a circle and moves in an orbit which is circular
- Many of the earths’ occupants go through cycles
- The circle of life is a, well, a circle. Birth, life, death
- Moving through the seasons can feel like moving through a circle
What is the Wheel of the Year?
The Celtic calendar focused on the cyclical change of seasons. The original Celts celebrated four fire festivals, evenly spaced throughout the year, celebrating the transition of the sun through the seasons.
- Samhain (Oct 31)
- Imbolc (Feb 1)
- Bealtaine (May 1)
- Lughnasadh (Aug 1)
These festivals are often combined with the solstices and equinoxes which are thought to be non-Celtic in origin, such as from Germanic Paganism or Neolithic sources.
These ‘quarter festivals’ include:
- Yule/Midwinter (c. Dec 21)
- Ostara (c. March 21)
- Litha/Midsummer (c. June 21)
- Mabon (c. Sept 21)
Seasonal changes were very important to the agricultural Celts, who depended on the Wheel of the Year to dictate when to plow, sow, harvest, and rest.
The turning of the Wheel represents the continuing birth, death and rebirth of nature.
The dates on which festivals are celebrated are often flexible. Dates may be on the days of the quarter and cross-quarter days, the nearest full moon, the nearest new moon, or the nearest weekend for convenience sake.
Note – Any dates referred to here are for the Northern Hemisphere. Southern Hemisphere folks advance their wheel six months to coincide with the seasons there.
No Festivals. Now What?
You don’t have to celebrate any kind of a festival to feel the rhythm of the wheel of the year. You can see it out your window, feel it under your feet and smell it on the wind.
- The wheel of the year can be celebrated when we eat food in season.
- When we plant, grow and harvest according to the seasons we are living with the wheel.
- I can be comforted during the mean season knowing that the wheel will turn and bring sunlight and warmth.
- The beginning of a difficult cycle reminds me that I’ve been in a similar spot and I can overcome.
- Spring cleaning or a Fall cleaning are ways to remember the wheel
- Of course, celebrating modern holidays that originated with the wheel. Think Christmas, Halloween and Easter.
How to you mark or celebrate the seasons of the year? Are you a “full on” Pagan or just a bit witchy?