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What Is Pagan Wheel of the Year and How to Celebrate It? Beginner Pagan's Guide

Updated: Feb 1, 2022




Pagan Wheel of the Year is an annual cycle of holidays in Neopagan and Wiccan movements established in the middle of twentieth century in Europe.


It is composed of eight holiday days that were celebrated by ancient Celts, Germanic people and other nations.


In this Blog post I will break down for you what Wheel of the Year is and answer some of the most asked questions about it.


I myself am not associated with Wiccan tradition but enjoy celebrating these Pagan holidays and I believe that anyone can. You don’t have to belong to a specific tradition or following to enjoy these wonderful holidays and I will explain why.



Is Wheel of the Year Only for Wiccans?


All these holidays are connected to change of seasons – beginning of spring, end of autumn, etc.


Change of season symbolizes different periods and shifts in nature that in one way or another affects us all.





What Does Wheel of the Year Mean? How Did Wheel of the Year Originate?


It has long been though that days between change of seasons are the most powerful.

During those days there is a massive release of energy taking place.


All these holidays were celebrated for thousands of years.


The oldest ones are Beltane and Samhain, days that split the year in half, creating light and dark parts of the Wheel.


During these nights, it was customary for people to burn bonfires on elevations to “lighten” the surrounding areas.


It was thought that this tradition brings luck and prosperity for the upcoming season, and most important, (for people of the past) will bring a good harvest and successful hunting.

Later on, two more holidays were added and the Wheel of the Year was now split into four parts.


Germanic people, for whom honoring the Sun was of great importance, brought into the Wheel Solstice and Equinox.


All this combined is what created the modern concept of the neopagan Wheel of the Year.










What Holidays Are Included in the Modern Wiccan Wheel of the Year?


As I’ve mentioned before there are eight holidays included in the Wheel of the Year and are the following:


· Yule

· Imbolc

· Ostara

· Beltane

· Litha

· Lammas

· Mabon


Pagan Sabbats tell us a story about God and Goddess, their divine marriage that results in Earth fertility, growth and abundance.


The tradition of Celtic people presents the Wheel of the Year as stages of life:


· Youth

· Becoming

· Elderliness

· Death

· Rebirth



Yule


Yule is the shortest day in the year. It is the period of darkness due to the absence of the Sun.


For this reason, it is widely celebrated with fires – to brighten the area and by so doing, to “invite” the Sun back.


The ceremony took place from dusk till dawn, celebrating the birth of the God that gives people warmth and well-being.


The fires were thought to be necessary to help the God come out from the womb and often, in addition to the fires, people would also lighten a candle at their home.


The essential attributes of Yule are Yule tree, wreaths and logs.




wiccan ritual
Image Credit: Halanna Halila

Imbolc


Imbolc is the celebration of the Goddess that is finally waking up from her sleep.


People would light up a torch that symbolizes inspiration, fertility and rebirth of the strength that will speed up the coming of spring.


The holiday is dedicated to home, family and light.





Ostara


Ostara symbolizes the energy of Spring, the awaking of fertility of the land and a final victory of light over darkness. The reborn God and Goddess invite all living on Earth to reproduce and prosper.


On this day, people made lists of all misfortunes, unintentional harm they may have caused others and at night burned that list to promote cleansing and step into the Spring as a new version of You.


On this day it is a good time to accumulate the Earth Energy. A good way to do so is through grounding, doing Yoga and meditation.


By the way, paining eggs is a yet another ritual that is now attributed to Christianity but have a much deeper roots. So, feel free to continue this tradition as a Pagan.


beltane dance
Image Credit: Tony Wang

Beltane


Beltane is commonly known as the Gaelic May Day festival.


Beltane is a holiday of fire, upcoming summer and celebrations.


It is opposite to Samhain, although just as with Samhain, the veil between the worlds is just as thin on this day, as on the day of Samhain.


On Beltane, there are bonfires and dances performed to ask the Gods to bless people and their mundane life on this planet.


People dance with torches around the bonfires and play loud fun music.


It is also customary to attach long ribbons to long polls that would symbolize stability and abundance in the upcoming summer season.


Beltane is, of course, also known as the holiday of romance and feelings, as represented by the love between the God and the Goddess.


The laces with high energy peaks are fields, meadows and grasslands.


The attributes of Imbolc are greens, flowers, ribbons and clothes of green shades.



Litha


Litha is the celebration of Summer Solstice, when people honour the strength and glory of the God.


This day is usually filled with the energy of lightness, happiness and a small deal of carelessness. It is celebrated with fun games, markets and competitions.


The goal is to focus on the activities that fill you with the energy of the Sun.



baked goods and apples
Image Credit: Priscilla Du Preez

Lammas or Lughnasadh


Lammas is celebrated in August and is considered to be the day of growth and harvest.


Lughnasadh is the second most popular choice for weddings after the Beltane.


It is also the time when the God starts losing his powers.


On Lammas, people organize a celebration dinner and create an altar that consists of the products of harvest and, in some tradition, the sea.


On Lammas, pagans used to make the first bread from the harvest season, so one of the easy activities of you can be baking!


Don’t forget to have your little ones involved and share some goods with the Earth and its habitat.





Mabon


Mabon is the Fall Equinox holiday that is celebrated at the end of the harvest season.


On this day, the God is ready to leave his body and go on his journey in the Underworld for future rebirth.


On Mabon people make Runes, wands and stuffs from the wood and make an altar from dried leaves and ripe fruits.


It also a good time to go for some mushroom picking, collecting seeds from plants and decorate your home with dried leaves, seasonal flowers and berries.



witch painting and decor pumpkins for halloween night
Image Credit: Bee Feltan Leidel

Samhain


Samhain completes the Wheel and the cycle it represents. It is the end of the Celtic calendar.


It is also known as the Witch’s New Year.


On this day, people say farewell to the God.


It is the time to get ready for winter season which for people of the past mostly consisted of preparing food storage.


This day is a reminder and an opportunity for pagans to remember and honour their ancestors.


And while modern celebration of Samhain (Halloween) involves vampire and zombie costumes, in pagan families this powerful night is celebrated with family gatherings, lots of filling food and a chance to connect with those who have passed.





Wheel of the Year Tarot Cards Spread

Feel free to use this Wheel if the Year tarot cards spread and modify it to your liking.


You can do it at any holiday if your choice but best would be Samhain.

You can also add a Significator card in the middle to represent you or a general theme for your year.



Do the Norse Pagans Have a Wheel Of the Year?


I think an answer to this question depends on which Norse people we are talking about.


If you are thinking about old Viking’s nation, then no, they did not specifically celebrate “The Wheel of the Year”.


But then again, the structured Wheel we see and celebrate now is a rather new concept.


In Northern traditions, we see some holidays that overlap with Wiccan Wheel and these are Winter Nights, Yule, and Sigrblót but as for the rest of the holidays celebrated in Asatru now, they were also added to the list in the last 50 years of the development of modern heathenry.



What is important to understand is that it does not matter so much which tradition you follow in your Pagan path and HOW exactly you celebrate the Wheel of the Year holidays.

What is more fundamental is that there are so to speak “special days” in the sense that they are powerful energetically and this is what really should be recognized.


On these days you can cleanse, accumulate or spend your energy (depending on a day). You can do a massive release or a manifestation ritual.


It is a time to set goals and kick start new projects with the help of the energy and the Universe.


The energy of those days is at peak which allows a knowledgeable person to recognize it and manipulate it the right way.


It is also an opportunity to be aligned correctly with the energy of Mother Earth, to recognize its power, to bloom with it and to slow down when she does.


All “religions” in the pre-Christian Era were focused on harmony and balance, as it was important to honour the Earth and its cycles and to live and plan your life accordingly.

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