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The Wheel of the Year
Generations ago, the
peoples of our land celebrated the flow of the Earth's energy by
dividing the year into eight divisions. These were eight festivals
giving the opportunity to come together as a community and sing,
dance, reflect and honour the Earth Mother. The Earth's flow of energy
is a never-ending cycle of seasons, birth, life, death and rebirth
giving a wheel which is always turning.
The wheel of the year is more than just the changing of the seasons
though - beneath this seasonal change is a deeper shift in the subtle
energies of the Earth itself. Whether we are aware of it or not, we
are all affected by these energies so by understanding and working
with them we can learn to become in tune with the Earth and work in
harmony with it on all levels of our being.
The eightfold division of the year is marked by four Quarter points
and four cross-quarters. The Quarter points consist of the Solstices,
the two exact points in the year when the days are longest and
shortest, and the Equinoxes, when the day and night is of equal
length. The cross-quarters are the four great fire festivals of
Imbolc, Beltaine, Lammas and Samhain. These fall at the peaks of the
seasons and are used to celebrate the power of Nature. The eight
festivals are also known as "sabbats". The word "sabbat" may have
derived from the French "s'ebattre" which means "to frolic".
The Pagan "year" is thought of as beginning at Samhain (31st October)
which was the Celtic new year. The Celt's beginnings took place in
darkness and by the same token, day began at nightfall.
"Solstice" means "the
standing of the sun" (Latin). The Solstices (also known as Yule and
Litha) are a time to pause and take a look back at what we have done,
where we have been. They are also a time to take stock of who we are
and what we wish to achieve. It is a chance to celebrate being alive
and express our hopes and our dreams. From this point, the Earth will
move in a different cycle and the days will either be lengthening or
shortening. This will affect our lives, thoughts and actions.
The Equinoxes (also
known as Eostre or Ostara and Mabon) are times of change and
transformation. It is a time to move into new energy patterns and move
forwards. Release the past. The Equinoxes fall at the beginning of new
seasons and everything is beginning to move fast at this time. They
provide a chance to be clear about which direction you are going and
prepare for the new season.
The Fire Festivals
Lammas and Samhain are the four great fire festivals. In the past
community fires were lit on hilltops and the people gathered together.
These sabbats fall at the peaks of the four seasons and are used to
celebrate the power of nature. It is time to use the developing energy
to bring forth our deepest hopes, dreams and desires. We can use this
energy throughout the year to bring about positive change for
ourselves and those close to us.
There are no fixed dates for the fire festivals, although they peak
around a certain point depending on the position of the Moon. When you
wish to celebrate them will depend on your own personal choice - some
people prefer to stick to a widely accepted date, others choose to
wait for when the time intuitively feels right.