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The Wheel Of The Year Festivals: A journey from birth to death to rebirth

On a couple of previous posts I discussed about the lunar influences on theThe Gaulish Lunisolar Calendar System Properties and Months and Historical Sources, which in fact is an attempt to reconcile both the cycles of the moon and sun, as is the modern Gregorian calendar.

It is time now to take an insight to The Wheel Of The Year, a NeoPagan calendar based upon the annual cycle of Earth's seasons. Seasonal Festivals or Celtic Sabbats, and the observance of Solar energies at the solstices and equinoxes and the Fire energies on the cross quarter days, is a common theme throughout the world.

The festivals themselves have historical origins in Celtic and Germanic pre-Christian feasts, and the Wheel of the Year, as has developed in modern Paganism and Wicca, is really a combination of the two cultures' solstice and equinox celebrations. When melded together, the two European Festival Cycles merge to form eight festivals in modern renderings.

These festivals have been utilized by European cultures in both the pre- and post-Christian eras as traditional times for the community to celebrate the planting and harvest seasons. The Wheel of the Year has been important to many people both ancient and modern, from various religious as well as cultural and secular viewpoints.

Natural processes are seen as following a continuous cycle. The passing of time is also seen as cyclical, and is represented by a circle or wheel. The progression of birth, life, decline and death, as experienced in human lives, is echoed in the progression of the seasons. This cycle is seen as an echo of life, death and rebirth of the God and the fertility of the Goddess.

The full system of eight yearly festivals held on these dates is unknown in older pagan calendars, and originated in the modern Wiccan religion.

These eight major festivals (or "sabbats") are distinct from the Wiccan "esbats" (being considered the Wicca as the largest Contemporary Pagan religion and Neo-Druidism forms the second largest) ,which are additional meetings, usually smaller celebrations or coven meetings, held on full or new moons. Janet and Stewart Farrar describe esbats as an opportunity for a "love feast, healing work, psychic training and all.

The First Four "Quarter Days" or "Solar Festivals" fall on solstices and equinoxes, and are loosely based on or named after the Germanic festivals.

The Other Four "Cross-quarter Days" are similarly inspired by the Gaelic "Fire Festivals".

The Four Fire Festivals
Oimelc, Brigit, Brigid's Day, Bride's Day, Brigantia, Gŵyl y Canhwyllau , Disablot
1–2 Feb (alt 2–7 Feb)
Beltane, Beltaine, May Day,
Gŵyl Galan Mai , May Eve,Valpurgis,Cetsamhain,Roodmas,Shenn do Boaldyn
1 May (alt 4–10 May)

(Beltane derived from the Irish Gaelic "Bealtaine" or the Scottish Gaelic "Bealtuinn", meaning "Bel-fire", the fire of the Celtic god of light (Bel, Beli or Belinus).)
1st Harvest, Bread Harvest, Festival of First Fruits, Gŵyl Galan Awst ,Frey Fest
1–2 Aug (alt 3–10 Aug)
All Hallow's Eve, Last/Blood Harvest, Ancestor Night, Feast of the Dead,
Nos Galan Gaeaf,Winter Nights,Feile Moingfinne, Halloween
31 Oct – 2 Nov (alt 5–10 Nov)

(*Note: Samhain is pronounced sowen, soween, saw-win, saw-vane or sahven, not sam-hayne)

The Four Solar Festivals
Winter Solstice - Yule -
Dec 21st/22nd
(Yule from the Anglo-Saxon 'Yula', meaning 'wheel' of the year.)
Spring Equinox - Ostara -
Mar 21st/22nd
Summer Solstice - Lithia - Midsummers Eve -
June 21st/22nd
(Midsummer, Gathering Day, Summer Solstice, Alban Heffyn, Feill-Sheathain)
Autumn Equinox - Harvest - Mabon -
Sept 21st/22nd
Gwyl canol Hydref or Mabon: (pronounced May-bon. Also known as Harvest Home, Harvest Tide, Fall Equinox, Autumn Equinox etc.)

While most of these names derive from historical Celtic and Germanic festivals, the non-traditional names Litha and Mabon, which have become popular in North American Wicca, were introduced by the American academic, poet and influential figure in the Neopagan religion of Wicca Aidan Kelly in the 1970s.

Honouring the Wheel of the Year
teaches us the dance of creation,
which is found again and again in Nature and in our lives ...

in the waxing and waning of the moon

in the rising and setting of the sun

in the inhalation and exhalation of each breath

in the beginning and ending of any endeavor

in the journey from birth to death to rebirth

When we celebrate these holidays, we join in partnership with the Earth, lending our energies to the turning of the Wheel to restore and perserve harmony and balance. (1)

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1 comment:

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