The Wheel of the Year

THE WHEEL OF THE YEAR SUMMARY (SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE)

WheelOfYear

The Wheel of the Year, or the Wheel of Life represents the cycles and seasons of the Earth and life itself. In the Vangelo Delle Stegthe, it says that the Goddess spins the thread of life from the Wheel, while the God turns it.

The Wheel of the Year has both a dark and light half and is marked by 8 Sabbats/Festivals/Celebrations in accordance with the season changes, 4 “Grand Sabbats” (feminine, dedicated to Goddess/feminine energy, Lunar) and 4 “Lesser Sabbats” (masculine, celebrate the God/male energy, Solar & Equinoxes of the Sun). Each half of the Wheel has 2 Grand and 2 Lesser Sabbats.

DARK HALF OF THE WHEEL:

 SAMHAIN – 1 May – Beginning of Winter, Final Harvest

TYPE: Lunar

The Wheel of the Year begins with Samhain on 1 May, Old Hallows Eve, which is celebrated past midnight to welcome in the New Year. It is the final harvest for the year and time for feasting. Pumpkins are part of the final harvest and traditionally were used for decoration for the festival. At Samhain, the veil between the worlds is very thin, and we celebrate at this time of saying goodbye to the year past, the lives that have passed before us. We also take this time to honour the Spirit world, the spirits of our Ancestors and passed loved ones. It is therefore also known as the Festival of Death. The Horned God is recognised at this time as the final harvest also traditionally involved the culling of livestock for the coming winter. Modern Christianity transformed the ancient pagan celebration of Samhain into what is known today as Halloween (Northern Hemisphere 31 October). The word “Samhain” is Gaelic (pronounced SOW-en or SOH-en) and means “Summer’s end”.

YULE – 20-23 June – Midwinter Solstice

TYPE: Solar

Between June 20 and June 23, depending on the lunar phase for the particular year, we celebrate Yule, the Winter Solstice. Here we celebrate the rebirth of the Sun as pass through the shortest day and longest night of the year, and thus are now moving towards the end of Winter as the Sun stops (literal meaning of “Solstice”) in its apparent southward travel and begins to journey north again. The Mother gives birth to the Son (Sun). Traditionally evergreen wreaths were hung, and a pine tree was decorated.  The word “Yule” comes from the Germanic “Lul” meaning “Wheel”.

IMBOLC – 1 August – Start of Spring

TYPE: Lunar

On 1 August, we celebrate Imbolc, the Festival of Lights. Imbolc is a festival of renewal and of purification for the coming revival of life. It is the day on which the Goddess, in Her phase as the aged Crone, visits the sacred well and comes away the Maiden. Winter herbs and flowers poke their heads up and show green promise if we know where to look. The buds of trees begin to swell on warmer days, birds make mating sounds. Spring lambs are born. We light candles to encourage the rebirth of the Sun to bring on the approaching Spring. Thus the Festival is also referred to as Candlemas. Modern Christianity combined Yule and Candlemas to create what is known today as Christmas.

OSTARA – 20-23 September – Spring Equinox

TYPE: Solar

The Spring Equinox reaches us between 20 and 23 September, known as Ostara. We celebrate new life bursting out from Winter’s slumber.  The Earth is warming and many plants respond to the longer days. Seeds falled to earth in the autumn now awaken. Farmers sow their fields. All life “springs” forth in joyous renewal. In the mythological cycle, this is the moon during which the seed is planted in the Mother so that, nine months later, She may give birth again to the Father/Sun at the winter solstice. The light half of the year begins, the days are longer than the nights. Flowers, eggs and baby animals all represented the theme of new life and were used for traditional decoration. The Rabbit, the ancient symbol of the Moon, represents the Earth’s renewed fertility. This has become Easter. Ostara comes from the Germanic word “Ost” which means “East”, relating to dawn & the renewal of life. Both Ostara and Eostre are Germanic names of the Maiden Goddess as Lady of the Dawn

LIGHT HALF OF THE WHEEL:

 BELTANE – 31 October – Start of Summer

TYPE: Lunar

On 31 October we celebrate Beltane, the Great Festival of Life. The earth is at the height of fertility and it is a time for great merry-making (and baby-making), Spring has truly sprung and there is a great abundance and renewal of life. In the life of the Earth our Mother, plants send forth their pollen, animals mate or bring forth young, and, in the words of the poet, “young men’s fancies turn to thoughts of love”. As green plants and other fresh foods are reintroduced into winter diets of salt meat and stored grains, bodies respond to better nutrition and look beyond bare survival to the production of new lives. The Mother looks upon Her Son, now grown into manhood, and loves Him, and in Him, all Her creation. At the traditional feast of Beltane, the beginning of summer, the Goddess in Her Maiden phase unites in love with the God to bring forth the bounty of the new season. The Maiden metamorphoses into the Mother. The word “Beltane” comes from the Gaelic “La Bealteinne” which refers to the sacred balefires which were traditionally lit in honour of the God Bel, or Belenos.

LITHA – 20-23 December – Midsummer Solstice

TYPE: Solar

Between 20 and 23 December we reach the Summer Solstice, Litha, the time of the greatest abundance of life and food in the entire year. The Sun (God) is at the height of its power, and the Father pours His energy into the Earth. Gold, yellow and orange colours decorate the festivities, along with plenty of Summer flowers. Traditionally at this time a May Pole was erected with long flowing ribbons attached to the top of the pole which festival-goers would dance around.

LAMMAS – 2 Feb – Start of Autumn, First Harvest

TYPE: Lunar

On 2 February we reach Lammas and this is the celebration of the first harvest for the year – grain. The Sun still warms the Earth, but, since the solstice, He has turned again towards the south, and each day He shines less than he did the day before. Those who are wise see the coming autumn. The Father, whose energies have ripened the grain, now offers Himself for the good of his children. In His persona as John Barleycorn, He gladly sacrifices His life that His body, the grain, may be transformed into the bread that will sustain life until the next year, when the cycle begins again. This festival is specifically a celebration of the life-affirming transformation that follows willing sacrifice. It is the essence of the mystery that the Father, who dies with the grain, will return again in the spring from that dead grain. “All that falls shall rise again”. Another name for Lammas is Lughnassadh, which comes from the Gaelic “La Lughnassadh” meaning “marriage of Lugh”, Lugh being the Celtic God of the Sun, and also of the vegetation and fields. The marriage is the harvest, as crops are reaped. Once the last crop is cut, Lugh is symbolically married to the Crone Goddess of the Dead.

MABON – 20-23 March – Autumn Equinox, Second Harvest

TYPE: Solar

The Autumn Equinox, between 20 and 23 March is celebrated as Mabon. Chilly mornings herald the coming of winter. The Sun is seen to be waning now as the height of his power begins to fade. All strive to bring everything useful under shelter for winter. The feast of Mabon – both Autumnal equinox and the second harvest, of fruit and wine – normally falls in this moon. The Father, as the Wine God, again sacrifices His life for His children in the fruit that nourishes and is the seed of new plants. The equinox is the start of the dark half of the year, when nights are longer than days. The Mother offers Her second harvest, another flourish of gifts, in the late-ripening foods, especially fruit and nuts, which put all their goodness into the future before succumbing to winter dormancy. The harvested seeds are food for next spring’s sprouts and the fat roots are stored strength for the plants, which will reawaken from them when life renews itself again. Perennial herbs are harvested for the final time this year. Grapes and other fruits ripen. It is time to make wine and cider, which will warm winter bellies as humans wait out the cold beside their hearths. The name Mabon comes from the Celtic God Mabon or Maponos, who died every year to be reborn in the Spring.

Another way to view the Wheel of the Year is to look more closely at the lunar cycle. Below is the Celtic version of the Sacred Lunar Year which ties into the sabbats:

THE CALENDAR OF MOONS

(Earth Time Moon Time – Rediscovering the Sacred Lunar Year – Annette Hinshaw – 1999 – Llewellyn Publications)

Once we told time by the phases of the Moon and the cycles of the Sun and the Earth. We watched for signs in the land and in the animals that told us when to sow and when to harvest, when to prepare for winter and when to open the doors to spring. Of necessity, we lived in harmony with nature.

For most of human history, the seasons of nature have been the essence of the sacred. Our bodies still respond to the cycles of the Earth, and to the shorter cycles of the Moon. We are born with a natural wisdom that we have forgotten how to tap, a wisdom bred into us in blood and bone.

The calendar of moons expressed the mysteries of the Earth’s sacred cycles through mythology and through the tasks which belonged to each season of the year, and to each season of a person’s life. The stories are old, but somewhere, deep within, we remember.

THE DEATH MOON – Beginning and Ending

Key Words & Polarity Challenges: Endings/New Starts, Death/Rebirth, Transformation/Stability, Change/Stagnation, Recognition/Ignorance of the mysteries of transition

Life arises from death. We find this in the renewal of the Earth when life “springs” again from the devastation of winter. Our life continues because we eat dead plants and animals. We bury our dead so that they may rot and release the substance of their bodies to new living things. The year begins with the Death Moon, the beginning and the end, which are the same, two sides of the same coin. The deaths in nature that characterize the Death Moon are caused by the waning of the Sun, whom we name Father even as we call both Earth and Moon, Mother. Now, in the midst of winter, animals hibernate, plants die back into dormancy, the world seems headed for an icy end. Each day, the light grows weaker, departs sooner, and warms us less.

THE BIRTH MOON – YULE (WINTER SOLSTICE) – Rebirth

Key Words & Polarity Challenges: Beginnings/Completions, Birth/Statis, Hope/Despair, Creativity/Destruction

Into this frightening time comes the defining event of the Birth Moon, the winter solstice, the traditional festival called Yule or Midwinter. The sun stops (literal meaning of “solstice”) in its apparent southward travel and begins its journey north again, strengthening with every day. The Mother has given birth to the Son (Sun), the Divine Child whose coming is celebrated throughout the world at this time.

THE MILK OR NURSING MOON – IMBOLC – Renewal and Purification

Key Words & Polarity Challenges: Recognition of Self/Others, Nurturing/Not nurturing, Generosity/Selfishness, Independence/Dependence

After the trauma of birth, the Mother is exhausted, but, as milk comes into the breasts of new mothers soon after birth, so in the Milk Moon (also called the Nursing Moon) does the Earth reflect the first faint signs that the Mother’s ability to nurture us will return as the Sun strengthens. Winter herbs and flowers poke their heads up and show green promise if we know where to look. The buds of trees begin to swell on warmer days, birds make mating sounds. Spring lambs are born. The traditional festival of Imbolc, the beginning of spring in the old calendar, comes in the Milk Moon. Imbolc is a festival of renewal and of purification for the coming revival of life. It is the day on which the Goddess, in Her phase as the aged Crone, visits the sacred well and comes away the Maiden.

THE FASTING OR WEANING MOON – Fasting

Key Words & Polarity Challenges: Forbearance/Indulgence, Wise/Unwise Use of Resources, Spiritual Seeking/Contentment, Concern/Unconcern for Community Resources & Future, Recognition/Lack of Recognition of the Limits & Capacities of the Physical Self

The promise of new life heartens us, but we must still endure the bitter end of winter’s diminished resources. We come to the Fasting Moon (also called the Weaning Moon). Here the final stores from the fall harvest must be stretched until new green plants are available in sufficient quantity to collect and cook. The Mother is weaning Her children, preparing them to adapt to the changes and chances of the world. Humans fast so that today’s forbearance may assure that dwindling food stores and precious seed will last until planting time and the green renewal of spring.

THE SEED MOON – OSTARA (VERNAL EQUINOX) – Renewal

Key Words & Polarity Challenges: Beginning/Procrastination, Commitment to Action/Inaction, Faith/Fear, Renewal/Exhaustion

The vernal equinox, called Ostara, is the defining event of the Seed Moon. The Earth is warming and many plants respond to the longer days. Seeds falled to earth in the autumn now awaken. Farmers sow their fields. All life “springs” forth in joyous renewal. In the mythological cycle, this is the moon during which the seed is planted in the Mother so that, nine months later, She may give birth again to the Father/Sun at the winter solstice. The light half of the year begins, the days are longer than the nights.

THE COURTING MOON – INTERCALARY (EVERY 2 – 3 YRS) – Holiday, Dalliance and Fun

Key Words & Polarity Challenges: Moderation/Excess, The Ideal in Reality/Fantasy, Freedom in/Slavery to Time

Every two or three years, an intercalary moon must be inserted into the calendar to bring the named moons back on track with the solar season. This intercalary moon is called the Courting Moon. The name indicates that it is a “between” time, a time for dalliance and fun, a holiday between the sowing of the fields and the journeys of late spring and early summer.

THE MATING MOON – BELTANE – New Life

Key Words & Polarity Challenges: Joining/Separating, Relationship/Isolation, Fruitfulness/Sterility, Acceptance/Non-Acceptance of Self & Others

The Mating Moon celebrates the resurgence of life and hope for the future. In the life of the Earth our Mother, plants send forth their pollen, animals mate or bring forth young, and, in the words of the poet, “young men’s fancies turn to thoughts of love”. As green plants and other fresh foods are reintroduced into winter diets of salt meat and stored grains, bodies respond to better nutrition and look beyond bare survival to the production of new lives. The Mother looks upon Her Son, now grown into manhood, and loves Him, and in Him, all Her creation. At the traditional feast of Beltane, the beginning of summer, the Goddess in Her Maiden phase unites in love with the God to bring forth the bounty of the new season. The Maiden metamorphoses into the Mother.

THE JOURNEY MOON – Exploration

Key Words & Polarity Challenges: Love/Fear of the Unknown, Risk/Safety, Innovative/Traditional, Unorthodox/Conforming, Progress/Stagnation, Time/Eternity

Humans make plans to travel to fairs and other communities to find wives and husbands, to make alliances, to enhance their own ideas of the world by seeking the ideas of others. The Journey Moon occurs near the summer solstice, a soft time of the year. This moon has long days and an abundance of food for the year. Young men venture with the herds to summer pastures full of new grass, or explore the world to find salt licks or sources of rare plants and other materials. They prospect for new resources for their communities while they await the time for harvest.

THE MOTHER’S MOON – LITHA (SUMMER SOLSTICE) – Abundance

Key Words & Polarity Challenges: Motherlove/Fatherlove (Unconditional/Conditional), Abundance/Scarcity, Relationship of Material/Spiritual Value, Hope/Manifestation, Security/Insecurity, Independence/Dependence

The summer solstice, called Litha or Midsummer in the traditional calendar, normally falls in the Mother’s Moon, the time of the greatest abundance of life and food in the entire year. The life-giving power of the Sun is at its greatest strength, and the Father pours His energy into the Earth. This moon expresses the Earth’s bounty to Her children, a cornucopia of giving that fulfils her aspect of Mother. The Mother’s Moon is closest in moon to the idyllic feeling we associate with childhood, when all our needs were provided for by our mothers and when we experienced unconditional love (motherlove).

THE FATHER’S MOON – LAMMAS – Boundaries, Limits, Sacrifice, Transformation

Key Words & Polarity Challenges: Sacrifice & Transformation/Self-Indulgence & Stagnation, Fatherlove/Motherlove (Conditional/Unconditional Love), Knowledge of Limits/Unlimited Potential, Learning/Ignorance

The Father’s Moon takes a sombre turn, and we experience the message of fatherlove, that life has boundaries and limits, and that what we receive must be earned. The Sun still warms the Earth, but, since the solstice, He has turned again towards the south, and each day He shines less than he did the day before. Those who are wise see the coming autumn. The Father, whose energies have ripened the grain, now offers Himself for the good of his children. In His persona as John Barleycorn, He gladly sacrifices His life that His body, the grain, may be transformed into the bread that will sustain life until the next year, when the cycle begins again. The festival of Lammas, which celebrates both this sacrifice and the first harvest – grain – is normally in the Father’s Moon. This festival is specifically a celebration of the life-affirming transformation that follows willing sacrifice. It is the essence of the mystery that the Father, who dies with the grain, will return again in the spring from that dead grain. “All that falls shall rise again”. In the old calendar, Lammas is the beginning of Autumn.

THE NESTING MOON – Preparation

Key Words & Polarity Challenges: Preparation/Unreadiness for Trial, Wise/Unwise Use of Resources, Focus on Now/The Future, Protection/Vulnerability, Concern for Others (Guardianship)/Self-Centeredness

Those who are prudent now prepare for the coming winter while the weather holds. The Nesting Moon is a time for building the nest and preparing the homestead for harsh weather ahead. Now is a time of planning for the coming winter. Humans prepare means to store food, re-plaster walls with insulating mud, and re-thatch roofs. They also assemble materials for work that can be done indoors during winter, such as reeds for baskets, fibres for spinning and weaving, and plant materials for dying the fibres or finished cloth.

THE HARVEST MOON – MABON (AUTUMN EQUINOX) – Gathering and Harvesting

Key Words & Polarity Challenges: Gathering/Releasing, Endings/Beginnings, Responsibility/Irresponsibility for Actions, Fulfillment/Incompletion

Chilly mornings herald the coming of winter. It is time for the Harvest Moon. The full moon of this month is one of the most brilliant of the year because the moon rises above the horizon just after sunset. Traditionally, its name comes from the extra hours of light by which the harvests of the season may be gathered. All strive to bring everything useful under shelter for winter. The feast of Mabon – both Autumnal equinox and the second harvest, of fruit and wine – normally falls in this moon. The Father, as the Wine God, again sacrifices His life for His children in the fruit that nourishes and is the seed of new plants. The equinox is the start of the dark half of the year, when nights are longer than days. The Mother offers Her second harvest, another flourish of gifts, in the late-ripening foods, especially fruit and nuts, which put all their goodness into the future before succumbing to winter dormancy. The harvested seeds are food for next spring’s sprouts and the fat roots are stored strength for the plants, which will reawaken from them when life renews itself again. Perennial herbs are harvested for the final time this year. Grapes and other fruits ripen. It is time to make wine and cider, which will warm winter bellies as humans wait out the cold beside their hearths.

THE SORTING OR CULLING MOON – SAMHAIN – Deeper Thinking

Key Words & Polarity Challenges: Discrimination/Acceptance, Choice/Failure to Choose, Analysis/Synthesis, Specialisation/Generalisation, Free Will/ Fate, Order/Chaos

Finally, we come to the Sorting Moon (also called the Culling Moon). Humans set aside bruised fruit to eat now so that better fruit, which will store longer, can be saved for later. They cull the herds down to a number that can be sustained by the fodder and shelter that are available for overwintering. The slaughter of animals is the third and final harvest. The God, in his persona as the Horned One, Lord of the Beasts, sacrifices Himself for the last time in the third harvest. The feast of the dead, Samhain, normally occurs in the Sorting Moon and marks the beginning of winter in the old calendar. Its mood accords well with the Sorting Moon, as we look past the veil of life and consider the greater questions of why we are here and what we should do to fulfil the Mother’s desires.

SABBATS & DATES (SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE) 2011 – 2019

 

*2011

2012

2013

*2014

2015

2016

*2017

2018

2019

YULE 06/21 06/20 06/21 06/21 06/21 06/20 06/20 06/20 06/20
Moon Birth Death Birth Birth Birth Birth Birth Birth Birth
IMBOLC 08/13 08/02 07/22 08/10 07/31 08/18 08/07 07/27 08/15
Moon Fasting Milk Milk Fasting Milk Milk Fasting Milk Milk
OSTARA 09/23 09/22 09/22 09/23 09/23 09/22 09/22 09/23 09/23
Moon Seed Fasting Seed Seed Seed Seed Seed Seed Seed
BELTANE 11/10 10/29 11/17 11/06 10/27 11/14 11/04 10/24 11/12
Moon Mating Mating Mating Mating Mating Mating Mating Mating Mating
LITHA 12/21 12/22 12/21 12/21 12/21 12/22 12/21 12/21 12/21
Moon Journey Mother’s Mother’s Journey Mother’s Mother’s Journey Mother’s Mother’s
LAMMAS 02/18 02/07 01/27 02/14 02/03 01/24 02/11 01/31 01/21
Moon Father’s Father’s Father’s Father’s Father’s Nesting Father’s Father’s Nesting
MABON 03/20 03/20 03/20 03/20 03/20 03/20 03/20 03/20 03/20
Moon Nesting Harvest Harvest Harvest Harvest Harvest Harvest Harvest Harvest
SAMHAIN 05/17 05/06 04/25 05/14 05/04 04/22 05/10 04/30 04/19
Moon Sorting Sorting Death Sorting Sorting Death Sorting Sorting Death

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