Yule - December 21-23
Imbolc - January 31
Oestara - March 21-23
Beltane - April 30
Litha - June 21-23
Lammas/Lugnassad - August 1
Mabon - September 21-23
Samhain - October 31
Yule - June 21-23
Imbolc - August 1
Oestara - September 21-23
Beltane - October 31
Litha - December 21-23
Lammas/Lughnassad - February 1
Mabon - March 21-23
Samhain - April 30
The eight festivals of the Wheel of the Year mark the liturgical calendar of the Wiccan religion. As with so many practices within Wicca, these celebrations contain within them several different layers of meaning.
On the surface the Wheel of the Year represents the turning of the seasons. Beginning at mid-winter we watch the days grow longer, the first garden calendars arrive in the main. By Imbolc the sun is warming and the days are markedly longer. Sometimes we can hear the calling flights of wild geese high above, and the first buds are seen on the trees. Oestara marks the middle of spring. We begin planting our gardens every mindful that the last frost has not passed us by as yet. Beltane brings warmth, flowers, the full blooming of the earth. We pass Litha or Mid-Summer when the sun reaches its zenith and the days begin to shorten. Then come the busy harvest festivals of Lammas when the grain is golden in the fields and Mabon when the days grow shorter and the air turns crisp and cold. And finally we reach Samhain when the last of the crops are in from the fiends and the chill of winter is almost upon us.
At a deeper level the Wheel of the Year also marks the seasons of our lives and deaths. We are born and we grow and learn. We work hard to make a life for ourselves and eventually we grow old and we die, only to be born again with the turning of the Wheel. In this we are one with all of the natural world, and realizing that connection is an important part of what it means to be Wiccan.
Deeper still the Wheel talks to us of initiation. We come to the path full of life and light, growing an maturing as we continue with our studies. We learn the easy steps of tasks, of mythology, or external trappings. But we also begin to plumb the inner reaches as we learn the Mysteries that only the Gods can teach. Until, at last, we come to that greatest Mystery of all, the Mystery of Death and Rebirth. For the initiatory process is a form of death, and the initiation itself is a rebirth. Linking this initiatory path to the Wheel of the Year was one of the reasons why it was traditional for a student to study for one full turn of the Wheel before being considered for initiation.
But something else lies hidden here. For the Wheel is not truly a circle. It is in truth a spiral, where each turning does not bring us back to the same point from which we started but moves us just a bit further up our climb to reunite with the Divine.
And at the deepest level yet the Wheel is the great dance of the God and the Goddess, that dance which ever creates, nurtures, destroys, and creates again.
That great dance begins at Yule when the Lady gives birth to the miraculous Sun Child, the promise that life will continue and that the world will not go down into the darkness and cold. At Imbolc the Goddess appears as the Maiden with the child God by her side. They grow and change with the awakening earth until at Oestara she is now the Maiden and he is the Youth who pursues her. They wed at Beltane and from that union comes the fertility of the earth itself. Under the hot sun of Mid-Summer she is the radiant Queen and Mother and he reaches the peak of his power. Lammas celebrates the willing sacrifice as the God understands that it is through his death that life continues. By Mabon the light and darkness balance. The Lord and Lady face the idea of death, just as we mortals must face it. And by Samhain the Lord is dead and the Goddess, now the Crone, wanders a darkened world by herself until the winter Solstice comes again.
By celebrating the Wheel of the Year we help to continue that dance of the Lord and the Lady that make possible life here on this earth. We connect ourselves firmly both with the Divine and with the earth itself, knowing that we are a part of both and that both are an integral part of who we are as well.