Wheel of the Year
The Wheel it turns and so do the seasons, and with every new season there is a festival to mark the passing of time.
Yule - The Winter Solstice
It is the shortest day and the longest night. It's a time of new beginnings, as it is associated with fertility and the continuation of life. From now on the sun will get stronger and the days will start getting longer.
The night of the Winter Solstice is also known as Mothers Night, the night the Goddess gives birth to the Sun King, who will re-fertilize her and the earth, bringing back light and warmth to the world. A new spark of hope springs forth – the sacred fire.
Image: Yule by Le-Regard-des-Elfes (http://babsartcreations.deviantart.com/art/Yule-337561850)
We can help the Great Mother give birth by lighting as many lights as we can.
Throughout ancient times, the re-birth of the sun has been celebrated with fire festivals, the festivals of light – from ancient Egypt to ancient Rome, India, China, Japan, Germanic and Norse cultures. It is a celebration of victory over the darkness and the return of the light.
The Winter Solstice is also the first of the 12 Sacred Nights. As our ancestors used the lunar calender, these 12 nights were left out and were considered not part of the old year and not part of the new year, they were outside of the year, the time between years, and with that they were very holy and truly timeless.
The veil between the worlds is very thin at this time and it is one of the best times for doing our divination for the coming year and cleansing our homes spiritually. During this time we are as sensitive and vulnerable as the newborn light and need protection. That's why our ancestors would hang Holly at the doors and windows to ward against malicious spirits.
During this time we look back at the old and prepare for the new, and get together with neighbours and friends.
The sun seems to be standing still, the old is not yet gone, the new is not yet strong enough. The powers that propel the Wheel of the Year are getting manifested at this time.
The cycle of new life returns to the earth. Nature is pregnant, and it is only just visible, it is a time of hope and preparation. Everything re-awakens, the days are getting noticeably longer, the first bulbs show, the first lambs are born, you can practically smell that spring is coming. We welcome the growing light and witness how life has an appetite for rebirth.
This is a fire festival, so fire plays a big part in the celebrations. This festival is dedicated to Brigid, the goddess of fire, poetry, healing, smithcraft and midwifery. By lighting fires the increasing power of the sun in the coming
months is celebrated.
A great way to celebrate this festival is by lighting all the lights in the house, or by putting candles in every room.
It is a time to let go of the past and look to the future. To have a really good clear-out, so that there is room for the new, both spring cleaning the home and clearing the mind and heart. It is a great time for manifestation, to visualize what you truly want to achieve.
Ostara - The Spring Equinox
The time has come to step over the threshold - from winter into spring. A time to leave behind the darkness for good and really step into the light. A time of great change - a time to celebrate planting and the new crop season. A time of hope, great fertility, new growth and newborn animals.
On this day everything is in balance - night and day are of equal length - serenity - equilibrium.
The light is now growing, as the days are getting longer and the Sun gains strength and becomes warmer. Everything is coming alive, sprouting, growing, as we celebrate the breath of spring.
The symbols of Ostara are the egg and the hare. The egg is full of promise of new life, as it holds all potential within. The hare is sacred to the Goddess and a major symbol of fertility and abundance, as the hare can conceive while pregnant.
A lovely story from the west country that explains our Easter egg phenomenon:
Once upon a time the animal kingdom gathered together in a meeting of a flurry of great excitement. There was to be a very special party and a very special guest was coming to visit them. The very special guest was non other than the Goddess herself, and every creature wanted to give her a very special gift.
Now some of the animals were very rich and some were very poor, but off they went to prepare their gifts, for only the very very best would do for the Goddess. Hare was very excited, he dearly loved the Goddess and although he was very poor he had a big generous heart – he was going to giver her the very finest gift he could find.
Hare rushed home to see what he could find to give to the Goddess – he looked everywhere, in the cupboards and under the bed but there was nothing, even the larder was empty, he had absolutely nothing to give Her. Except for one thing. On the shelf in the larder was a single egg. And that was it. It was the only thing he had left. Hare gently took the egg out of the larder and lovingly decorated it and took it to the party.
Hare was very worried, all the other animals gave their gifts of gold and silver and precious jewels and all Hare had was the egg. Eventually all the gifts had been given and Hare was the very very last. Hare very shyly presented the Goddess with the egg. She took it and looked at him and saw the true spirit of Hare. And there and then the Goddess appointed Hare as her very special animal – because Hare had given away everything he had ...
The holy union of Goddess and God, Mother Earth and Father Sky, brings about new life, strong crops and healthy animals.
It marks the beginning of summer, the fertile season. Bonfires are light to honour the Sun and ask for his protection of the community and for him to nurture the growing crop. It's a celebration of sexuality and sensuality, as this union between man and woman fosters new life.
Beltane night is all about having fun and letting go of things that bind you. You can be as free as you want to be. Dance the night away without a care and do what you feel like. Jump through the fire to cleanse yourself of the old. Dress a tree with ribbons and fill your home with flowers. Dance round
the maypole, the great phallic symbol, representing the potency of the God with the ring of flowers round the top representing the fertile Goddess.
It's also a good time to bring your dreams, visions, desires and hopes to life. As the veil to the other side is very thin, call upon the Fae to help you manifest them. It's a good night for communicating with the Spirits, as everyone is in a party mood.
Litha - The Summer Solstice
Litha, also known as Alban Heruin, is the longest day of the year. It is the start of summer, a time to celebrate growth and life, honouring the incredible strength of the sun. A time of intensity, renewal, joy, and great potential.
Everything around you is in bloom, it's a night and day of pure magic – it's everywhere you look. The Fae Folk are celebrating, their magic is strong. The Mother Goddess gives us more than we need, and together with the God they bring abundance to all of nature.
This day also marks a shifting of the seasons, as the sun begins its decline. The Sun God, the ancient power of life, has reached his greatest strength and with this transforms, as the power of night must begin to grow again.
This is yin and yang, day and night, light and dark, fire and water. Once the pinnacle of power is reached, the decline begins, because everything is interconnected and interdependent in the natural world. These complementary forces interact to form a dynamic system and this way life is a never-ending flow.
Lughnasadh / Lammas
Lughnasadh is a celebration of the Sun and the Earth, and what they have achieved together. The fields are golden, and the fruit is ripe. It's the time of the first harvest.
We give thanks to Mother Earth and all of her Helpers and to Father Sky for providing us with an abundant bounty that will last through the coming winter months.
We celebrate the joy of life and the warmth of the season. Even though the days are warm, they are getting shorter and colder and darker times are moving in.
We walk across the fields of nature and enjoy the smells and feeling of summer in all of its glory. Touching the grass, the wild flowers, and the corn; a feast for the eyes, the nose and the mind.
We walk across the field of our life. What is ripe for harvest? What still needs to grow?
What would we like to finish? What would we like to start over?
It's a time of contemplation, of taking stock of what has happened thus far. To go within and really think about what was, what is, what will be, and what we want
As the wheel of the year keeps moving forward, it's a time to take a short break to give thanks to those who look after us and keep us safe and protected.
Mabon - The Autumnal Equinox
The Druids call it Alban Elfed and since the 1970's it has been named after the God of Welsh Mythology, Mabon.
Day and Night are of equal length, it is a time of true balance. Nature takes a deep breath before the season truly changes and the long, dark and cold nights draw in.
It's the mid harvest festival, the fruit harvest. A real time of plenty, a celebration of the gifts of mother earth. A time to truly give thanks for all of our blessings and of sharing what we have with those less fortunate.
Take this day to deeply honour yourself and all of your accomplishments, just like you honour Gaia, Mother Earth, for sharing everything she has with you. Go within to clear out and release that which is no longer wanted or needed.
As Summer has now truly ended and Autumn is beginning, this time is perfect to complete any projects and finish what you have been working on since Spring.
Plant new ideas and let them lie dormant until next Spring, just like the seeds planted in the soil at this time. Then, as it gets warmer, these ideas will start to develop.
It is the last harvest festival, brings summer to an end and with that inaugurates winter. The sun god is dying and goes underground, to be re-born on the winter solstice, so it is a celebration of reincarnation. The harvest has been gathered, the animals have been brought in from the fields, the earth is slowly dying around us.
It is a night of wonder and magic, a night of witches and fairies. The
Cailleach (the blue faced hag of winter) comes to strip the leaves from the trees, so that they fall to the ground to be transformed and feed the new life yet to come. We can ask her to take with her any aspects of our year, that we do not want or need any more, so that they may be transformed.
This is a great time for going inward and wrapping up the old, taking stock of the past and coming to terms with it. Try to bring everything to a close that is still outstanding and unresolved.
Once you have cleared away the old, you can look at the new! This is a powerful time for divination – for looking into and getting a glimpse of the future. This is a great way to gain new insights and perspectives.
Samhain is a festival of the dead, a night to remember our loved ones and honor our ancestors, all those that came before us. Saying goodbye to our dear departed friends and relations, for them and us to move on.
The veil to the otherworld is very thin, spirits and the souls of our loved ones have more power and can come visit and give blessings, offer advice, protection and guidance. It is a time of great feasts and traditionally the table would be set to include a place for traveling souls.