Wheel of the Year
Witches describe the cycles of the seasons as the Wheel of the Year. There are eight major holidays, called “sabbats.” which are based on solar events and mark the “turning of the Wheel.” Some holidays are celebrated on the “eve,” the night before. The following calendar dates reflect the perspective of the Northern Hemisphere. These are the holidays as observed in the Reclaiming Tradition.
October 31, Samhain (rhymes with “plowin”)
October 31, Samhain — (pronounced sow, to rhyme with cow, and win = sow’-win) — also known as Halloween. Midway between fall equinox and winter solstice, this is a major holiday; we honor our ancestors, mourn those who have died in the past year, seek to contact the spirits of the dead, and celebrate the births of babies born in the past year. It is sometimes called the Witches’ New Year.
December 20-21, Winter Solstice
This is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year, and the birthday of the sun. We watch the sun set, and then stay up all night and keep the Yule log burning as we midwife the rebirth of the sun. We gather together at dawn to sing the sun up. Many of us have a Yule tree (with presents!) In our homes, representing the tree of life and regeneration.
February 2, Brigid (aka Imbolc, Candlemas)
The midpoint between Yule and Spring Equinox. This is a time we honor Brigid, or Bhride, the goddess of the forge, the flame and the well, and of work, healing, and poetry. We make pledges at the holy well, in front of the sacred flame. We celebrate the gentle signs of early spring, and of light returning after the darkness of winter.
March 22, Spring Equinox
Also known as Oestar or Ostara, named for a Goddess of Spring.
The days and nights are of equal length, and it is time to start the garden, to sow the seeds. We try to do this in our lives as well as in the earth. We celebrate the renewal of life, the endless cycle of rebirth, symbolized by the egg.
May 1, Beltane (aka Intl Workers Day)
This is also called May Day and is the midpoint between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice.
Traditionally it is a time for lovers to celebrate (and get together!). We all dance around a Maypole, weaving ribbons; and we leap over the Beltane fire, for fertility and creativity of all kinds, love of all kinds, and for healing.
June 21, Summer Solstice
The longest day and shortest night of the year. After this night, the days will begin to shorten, so we call this the death of the Sun-King, and we build a big figure out of sticks and straw, then burn it. We watch the sun set, and celebrate the beauty of midsummer.
August 2, Lammas (pronounced lom’-us, like Thomas)
This holiday is also known as Lughnasad (loo-noss’-sid), and is the midpoint between Summer Solstice and Fall Equinox. This is the early harvest, when we rejoice in the first fruits of the season. Also, we begin to prepare ourselves for the coming winter, and think about what we will need to have stored up to make it through the dark, cold season.
September 22, Fall Equinox
This is the major harvest or thanksgiving festival, also known as Mabon. It is again a time when day and night are in balance, that is, they are of equal length.
We have a feast, and also perhaps plant a winter garden. We remember to slow down, and to rest, to enjoy all our blessings, especially our families and friends.