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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.

Wheel of the year

The Solstices

"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

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

Imbolc, Beltaine, 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.



Page last updated: 22 September, 2011

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