The Wheel of the Year

Solar Festival Calendar

     
Most Light
     
     

Litha

     
   
   
 
Summer Solstice June 21st
 
 
     
 
 
Closest Full Moon to May 1st
 
 
Closest Full Moon to Aug 1st
 
         
         
 
 

 

Spring Equinox March 21st
         
Autumn Equinox Sept 21st
         
         
 
     
 
 
Closest Full Moon to Feb 1st
   
Closest Full Moon to Nov 1st
 
   
   
     
Winter Solstice December 21st
     
     
Most Dark
     

 

To download this calendar as a .pdf file (acrobat reader) which you can print out, click here 84k.

The 4 Solar festivals are static and male. They are the longest day, the shortest day and the the two equinoxes, days of equal day and night. These festivals fall on the same day each year.

The 4 quaterday festivals are changeable and female. They fall on the full moon closest to the midpoint of the solar festivals. These festivals fall on different days each year.

The festivals are roughly six weeks apart.




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Samhain

The celtic new year begins at Samhain.

We start with death. Samhain (pronounced sa-wain) is the time at which 'the veil between the worlds' is at its thinnest. It is a time for remembering and honouring the dead. There were many shamanistic 'death' rituals that took place at Samhain involving the psychedelic mushrooms psilocybe semilanceata which grow all over europe at this time of the year. The christians called it 'all souls day' and then halloween. Its connections with death and spirits is what gave Samhain its dark 'halloween' image.

The day of the dead rituals would mark the start of a fast in communion with the dead and in sympathy with the Sun. We would all symbolically die at this time of the year and await the return of the sun from its journey through the underworld. This practice made perfect sense, as we would be fat from the bounty of summer and due to the finite supply of food for the winter, it was best to face the darkness and lean times head on.

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Yule

Yule, The Longest Night.

The Winter Solstice 21st December, marks the Darkest moment of the Year. This was a most sacred moment for our pagan ancestors who built huge monuments like 'New Grange' in Ireland, aligned specifically to the sunrise of the shortest day. It marked the point at which the Sun starts to return, from now on the days get longer. A most joyful time and a few days after yule, when it was clear to the ancient astronomers that the sun was indeed returning, a huge feast would take place. Our fasting would be over .... the sun is reborn.

The christians morphed the day into Christmas, which interestingly also marks the day the Son (of God) is reborn.

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Imbolc

Imbolc is said to derive from 'ewes milk' 'Oi melg'.

At this time of the year nature is building up a head of steam to be released as soon as the weather warms. The ewes start producing milk long before they have their lambs. For us this was a sip of summer, a promise that spring was on its way. The Celtic festival of Imbolc is Brigids day. Brigid, Bridey or Brid was the goddess of fire. Fires were lit in her honor.

For the christian calendar, this day was renamed 'candlemas' and candles are lit for the virgin Mary.

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Ostara

The Vernal Equinox.

The awakening, the beginning of the bounty. Of course all the symbols of Ostara are well known to us as the symbols of Easter. Eggs, rabbits and lambs mark the return into the 'light' half of the year. In the pagan tradition great sacredness was associated with the sacrifice of the first lamb. In the Christian tradition the 'Lamb' is sacrificed to be resurrected.

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Beltaine

Beltaine, May day, the day of the May Queen.

Nature is an overwhelming froth of blossom at this time of the Year. The flowers burst forth in a virulent display of fertility. Our most famous fertility ritual , the dancing around the maypole is still widely practiced today. Traditionally, a young woman bearing the title 'The Queen of the May' would lead a procession, culminating in the dance around the phallus.

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Litha

The Summer Solstice, June 21st.

Midsummer's day. The longest day. The Sun God is at the peak of his power. This is probably the most notorious of Pagan/Celtic festivals of recent times, mainly due to the resurgence of the desire to celebrate the day at the most spectacular Solar temple ever built...Stonehenge. Traditionally a time for dancing and partying, it shows no sign of having lost its appeal !

People stay up all night to watch the sun rise on this day.

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Lughnasadh

The beginning of the harvest, also know as Lammas.

Lughnasadh, (pronounced Loo nasa ) is for Lugh, the corn gods day. Lughnasadh is the first of the harvests within the sabbats of Western European paganism. It is also known as the bread harvest. Kids still make corn dollies on the housing estate where i grew up. The little corn men are representations of Lugh. When the corn is cut, Lugh is cut down and symbolically falls into the waiting arms of the crone, sacrificed that we might live. The famous wicker man ritual is a Lughnasadh ritual.

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Mabon

Autumn Equinox, September 21st.

The harvest festival, thanksgiving. Although it is a time of plenty it is also a time of reflection. This is the time that the sun God prepares to leave the world once more, standing at the door of the Underworld and yet basking in the abundance of the harvest, it is a time of feasting and fattening at the threshold of death.

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