The Wheel of the Year

Witches celebrate the eight Pagan and Celtic festivals referred to as the Wheel of the Year. This is a calendar of observances beginning with Samhain, a Wiccan New Year festival, better known today as Halloween, Hallowe’en, and All Hallow’s Eve.

wheel-of-the-year

QUARTERS & CROSS QUARTERS

QUARTERS—GREEN {LESSER} SABBATS
Yule—Winter Solstice {12/21}
Ostara—Spring Equinox {3/21}
Litha—Summer Solstice {6/21}
Mabon—Autumn Equinox {9/21}

CROSS-QUARTERS—WHITE {GREATER} SABBATS
Samhain—Death & Rebirth {10/31}
Imbolc—Purification & Fire {2/1}
Beltane—Fertility & Fire {5/1}
Lughnassadh—Bread Harvest {8/1}

YULE

WINTER SOLSTICE
DEC. 21 – JAN. 1
PRONOUNCED YU-LA

The time of the winter solstice when the ancient sun child is reborn. With the love of the gods, new life is reborn, indicating a fresh start for all. Place a few sprigs of holly on the altar to represent fruitfulness and fertility. Make Witch Balls to hang on the Yule tree.
BURN bay, bayberry, chamomile, frankincense, rosemary, and sage.
DECORATE WITH: holly, juniper, mistletoe, moss, oak, pine cones, cedar, evergreen, blessed thistle.

IMBOLC

SPRING BEGINS
JAN. 31 – FEB. 1

This time marks the beginning of spring. The festival is connected to the goddess Brigid, who is said to bless the houses of people who leave her food offerings at this time. Place snowdrops on the altar to welcome Spring.
BURN: basil, bay, benzoin, celandine.
DECORATE WITH: angelica; myrrh; yellow, white, or light blue flowers. (Blue ribboned triple goddess wall hanging would be excellent for Imbolc.)

OSTARA

SPRING EQUINOX
MARCH 21
PRONOUNCED OST-ARA

Celebrate this seasonal change as Ēostra or Ostara, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of dawn, also known as the Spring Maiden, brings new life to the soil by fertilizing the earth and nature. Place decorated eggs on the altar and in wreaths and on the feast table to symbolize abundance and fertility. Hide decorated eggs for the children to hunt.
BURN: celandine, cinquefoil, jasmine, rose, tansy, violets.
DECORATE WITH: acorns, crocus, daffodils, dogwood, honeysuckle, iris, lily, strawberry.

BELTANE

MAY DAY
BEGINS APR. 30 – ENDS MAY 1

This fire festival marks the beginning of summer and originates from the Celtic god Bel. Large fires were lit to give tribute to the sun and the ashes from the fire were believed to hold magical influence. Maypole dancing was performed to encourage Bel to bring in the light and protect the crops. Burn rose incense and sage in a cauldron on your altar to mark this occasion. Make “bonfire throws” of herbs and flowers to toss into the bonfire.
BURN: almond, ash, cinquefoil, frankincense, marigold, meadowsweet, woodruff.
DECORATE WITH: angelica, bluebells, daisy, hawthorn, ivy, lilac, rose, primrose, wildflowers.

LITHA

SUMMER SOLSTICE
BETWEEN JUN. 19 – 25

Traditionally, many Witches choose to rejoice in midsummer June 21, when we can celebrate a bountiful, first harvest with the sun (sol, Helios), the Lord of Light. He shines his light on the crops and brings warmth to the many workers who gather the yields. Pick herbs and collect magical items from the earth at this time to increase the potency of spells.
BURN: chamomile, cinquefoil, elderflower, fennel, lavender, mugwort, thyme, vervain.
DECORATE WITH: hemp, larkspur, pine, rose, St. John’s Wort, wisteria.

LUGHNASSADH

FIRST HARVEST
AUG. 1
PRONOUNCED LOO-NASSA

This historic Gaelic festival is recognized by the first harvest of fruits and is a time for handfastings, weddings, fetes, and contests. The grain harvest took place on this date, giving new meaning to the original term Lammas (Anglo-Saxon for “loaf-mass”), and great thanks was given to the goddess, the Queen of the Land. Place wheat and grain on your altar to ensure an abundance of food for impending winter.
BURN: cornstalks, heather, frankincense, wheat.
DECORATE WITH: acacia flowers, corn ears, hollyhocks, myrtle, oak leaves, wheat.

MABON

AUTUMN EQUINOX
BEGINS SEP. 21 ~ ENDS SEP. 24

As the warm sun begins to set, the time between day and night is equal and so the ancients sent gratitude to the gods before venturing out to harvest crops. Place foodstuffs on your altar to give thanks.
BURN: benzoin, marigold, myrrh, sage, thistles.
DECORATE WITH: acorns, asters, ferns, honeysuckle, milkweed, mums, oak leaves, pine, rose.

SAMHAIN

NEW YEAR / ALL HALLOW’S EVE / HALLOWEEN
OCT. 31
PRONOUNCED SOW-EN OR SOW-IN

This holiday of Celtic pagan origins marks the end of summer and the onset of winter. It is an important time in the calendar to honor and give respect to the dead. A veil that separates the spirit world from the earth plane is lifted, making communications easier. Place candles and incense on the altar to connect with your loved ones in spirit.
BURN: heather, mullein, patchouli, sage.
DECORATE WITH: acorns, apples, pumpkins, oak leaves, straw, broom, dittany, ferns, flax.

 

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