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THE CELTIC CALENDAR - THE WHEEL OF THE YEAR

What is the Celtic Wheel of the Year ?

While many of us are connected to the Gregorian calendar, there were many calendars connected to the earth. The one my ancestors followed was The Celtic Wheel of the Year, which connects to the solar cycles and events. The Wheel of the year is a seasonal calendar based on specific points along the year where the sun's position changes. The sun’s position, and thus the seasons, guide us as to when to sow the fields, rest or reap the crops.

Today the wheel of the year views the change of each season being celebrated during the High Holy cross-quarter days: Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lughnasadh. The midpoints, are the lesser sabbats and are the peaks and mid-points of each season: Winter and Summer Solstice as well as Spring and Autumn Equinox.

The cross-quarter days were picked because they come at the dawn of a new season, and the Ancients felt the change in season that would come after. They believed that Samhain and Beltane were the most powerful days because they represented each half of the year. The first half would start on Samhain and the second half would start on Beltane. It was also believed that during the portals of these important days, the veil between our world and the spirit would grow thinner. It was therefore a time of great magic!

The Wheel of the Year is composed of eight High Holy days. The four cross-quarter days; Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lughnasadh, and the four peak days; are Winter and Summer Solstice as well as Spring and Fall Equinox.

Each High Holy Day is connected to the cycle of life from birth to death and rebirth. Today, many modern views on the Wheel of the Year further connects each sabbat to an element, planetary aspect, particular theme, and archetype.

The below summary of the sabbats can be used as a quick guide for the dates and themes of each of these important days. Today, we start with Yule - Winter Solstice - the peak of Winter, and the time of hibernation.

Yule - Winter Solstice

December 20th - 23rd (Southern Hemisphere - June 20th - 23rd)

Direction: North

Element: Earth

Associated Moon Phase: New Moon

Yule/Winter Solstice is the longest night of the year and the darkest day of the year. We have reached the peak of winter and from now on we welcome back the light, little by little every day, until the Summer Solstice. where the next peak resides.

Yule is a celebration of light and warmth. After Samhain, we moved through the darkest period of the year which was a time of deep introspection before the light starts to come back.

Yule is a time to celebrate, around a warm fire, with those you love and share in the abundance of joy, food, and laughter. It is also the time when many global religions celebrate their main holi-days.

Imbolc / Imbolg

February 1st (Southern Hemisphere - August 1st) - True Imbolc, however, is when the sun is 15 degrees Aquarius

Direction: North East

Element: Earth and Air

Associated Moon Phase: Waxing Crescent

Imbolc marks the first days of early Spring. On this high holy day, we celebrate fertility and preparation. After the long and cold winter, we come to a time when the snow starts to melt and the earth is preparing for new growth.

During Imbolc the triple Goddess Brigid is celebrated with fertility rituals, as well as her sacred flame, to call in abundant lands during the upcoming year.

Ostara - Spring Equinox

March 19th - 22nd (Southern Hemisphere - September 19th - 22nd)

Direction: East

Element: Air

Associated Moon Phase: First Quarter Moon

Ostara welcomes spring’s peak with beautiful colours, flowers, and plants blooming all around us. Imbolc’s fertility continues to strengthen at Ostara, where the beginning of the year’s fertile energy rises. We see this everywhere, including the baby birds and bunnies that start to come out of their homes from winter.

In some places, we still might be feeling the freshness of the winter upon rising, yet the earth is showing its buds and flowers, showing us life emerging from the darkness of winter. It’s a reminder that only through darkness can light truly exist.

Beltane / Bealtaine

May 1st (Southern Hemisphere - November 1st) True Beltane, however, is when the sun is 15 degrees Taurus

Direction: South East

Element: Air and Fire

Associated Moon Phase: Waxing Gibbous

Slowly welcoming summer and the second half of the year, Beltane is a dance between the Air and Fire spirits. While we tend to the growing seeds that we’ve planted, it’s a time to celebrate the blooming and growth. It is at this time that we are in the energy of fertilization and gestation, before giving birth. It is when the fire and desires of life come alive and rebirth through spring's fertile soil. Beltane is the season of unification and fertilization- it comes from the word “bright fire” where Belenus (or Bel), is a Celtic God of light and sun, known as “The Bright One”, and “tene” means “fire” in Irish.

Litha / Midsummer - Summer Solstice

June 19th - 22nd (Southern Hemisphere - December 19th - 22nd)

Direction: South

Element: Fire

Associated Moon Phase: Full Moon

It’s the peak of Summer, the sun is at its highest and today marks the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice. Litha is the celebration of life at its fullest, with a feast of juicy fresh fruit and vegetables, outdoor games, and afternoon lounging in the summer heat. It’s the celebration of the light received these last few months and we acknowledge that the wheel continues to turn to begin the cycle of death.

Summer Solstice is celebrated all around the world in different ways and each of them brings in dance, music, and play to this day of light in the northern hemisphere. Solstice meaning “the sun standing still” is a time when the sun won’t move from its spot in the sky for the next three days, and invites light into all of who we are if we allow it.

Lughnasadh

August 1st (Southern Hemisphere - February 1st) - True Lughnasadh, however, is when the sun is 15 degrees Leo

Direction: South West

Element: Fire and Water

Associated Moon Phase: Waning Gibbous

Lughnasadh celebrates the first Harvest Festival with grain. This is the celebration of the first harvest, enjoying and feasting in the abundance that the earth brings us every year. Even though the summer is ending and we still feel the heat and enjoy the last beautiful flowers we feel the change in the wheel and welcome the first inklings of Autumn.

Lughnasadh is also known as Lughnasa (or Lúnasa, in modern Irish), Lughnasagh, Lughnasad, Lammas, Harvest Home, or the Feast of Bread. This day marks the cross-quarter day between Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox and is ruled by Leo and the Sun. It is also the first descent towards cooler days.

Mabon - Fall equinox

September 21st - 24th (Southern Hemisphere - March 21st - 24th)

Direction: West

Element: Water

Associated Moon Phase: Third Quarter Moon

Fully moving through the water season, Mabon celebrates the second harvest festival of fruit. Like with the Spring Equinox at the beginning of the year, Mabon transitions us fully into Autumn. This second harvest festival is the largest one of the year, bringing in all kinds of vegetables and fruits to the cellars. A time when we start to prep the foods in different ways for them to last all through winter. In modern days, Mabon is also known as the Witches Thanksgiving, where there is an energy of gathering to celebrate the abundance that has been gifted and to thank the Earth, for her bounty.

Samhain

October 31st & November 1st (Southern Hemisphere May 1st) - True Samhain, however, is when the sun is 15 degrees Scorpio

Direction: North West

Element: Water and Earth

Associated Moon Phase: Waning Crescent

Samhain marks the end and the beginning. We’ve completed the wheel and still, the wheel never ends, we get time to once again slow down with the last and darkest time of the year. Samhain is the second spirit portal of the year, a time when we celebrate our ancestors and those who have come before us. Samhain is also the last harvest festival of the year where we bring home the last of the foods inside (nuts and seeds) and finish preparing for the winter months ahead.

Modernly, Samhain is known as the Witches New Year is a time to come together and celebrate and thank the earth and nature for everything. Together we end a cycle and begin a new one.

I hope you find this summary helpful. Connect with the Wheel of the Year as it is so relevant to our lives and the cyclical nature that we experience as humans. With its focus on nature’s abundance and gratitude, it is also a guide that can bring more joy and celebration into your life.

Wish to dive deeper into these energies? Join us for the Yule & New Moon Ceremony on December 21st.

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