The Wheel of the Year marks the Sun’s journey across the sky, the solstices, equinoxes and the Earth’s changing seasons. Each spoke of the wheel marks an important moment of progression and change in the Earth and in accord with that progression a celebratory festival is aligned. These celebrations are called Sabbats.
Origins of the Festivals
The four Greater Sabbats are Imbolc, Beltaine, Lughnasadh and Samhain. These cross-quarter festivals were more relevant to herding people and were all marked by Fire festivals; usually very large and held of sacred importance to encourage and renew the continuance of the Sun, and, therefore, their survival. The equinoxes and solstices or the Lesser Sabbats are more closely attuned to the growing of crops and the cycle of planting and harvesting.
The dying and rebirthing aspect of the crops became associated with the persona of the God (and thus, Solar energies) as the sun was very much needed to perpetuate this cycle. The Goddess became the representation of that which was necessary to contain, grow within, harvest and replant the very essence of survival and life… namely food. Just as food nourishes, heals, sustains and aids in giving life, so did the Goddess move through the wheel in the form of Maiden (the promise of new life), Mother (the sustainer and nurturer of life) and Crone (keeper of the wisdom and death, with the promise of rebirth).
A Turn of the Wheel
The symbology of a wheel is one that is used to represent the belief that all of life moves in accord with a natural cycle of change. Additionally, if we think of the function of a wheel, its purpose is that of movement; of stirring up momentum to propel or carry whatever it is attached to from a place of being stationary and stagnant. If all of life were simply to pause and cease to move, there would be no growth. If there was not the revolution of the sun’s light in the course of a day, there would be perpetual darkness where it’s rays did not reach and blinding light and unbearable heat where its energy was focused. At a deeper level of understanding, the Wheel of the Year and the celebrations and cycles that each “turn”, or movement towards the next Sabbat brings, offers the potential for greater understanding of our place within this planet we call home and the tides and changes that occur within its natural domain.
The Act of Celebration
Each of the Sabbats has multiple correspondences, Deities, cultural preferences and intent that are associated with its celebration. Additionally, because there is the astronomical component to this cycle there will be differing celebrations dependent on whether you live in the Northern or the Southern Hemisphere. The dates that we will work with correspond to the Northern Hemisphere (since this is where I live), but I will give reminder of the celebration honored in the Southern Hemisphere.
The ecstatic nature of the Wiccan Path is held in its celebrations. We weave our magick of spell working and sit in practice of devotion to our Gods and Goddesses. But, the raising of energy specific towards celebration, the invocation of the carefully selected Deity (ies), cakes, ale and community are what enliven us as we chant, dance and revel in being alive and surrounded by the Divine. Even in the quiet space of solitary celebration, the unseen join as witness to the act of designating time and energy to mark the passing of the seasons. This is the ultimate goal of the Witch- attunement with all of life and knowledge of Nature, the Earth and the Cosmos in all of its glory.
Foundations of Practice:
Journaling: The Passage of Time
Next Week’s Post
The Cycles of the Wheel