Wheel of the Year – Living the Magical Life


wiccan wheel of the year

What is the Wiccan 'Wheel of the Year and how is it celebrated? Read our comprehensive blog article to find all the

Hi, my loves and welcome to WiccaNow. Recently I’ve been talking quite a bit about what it means to be Wiccan including these posts on how to become Wiccan, who the Wiccan Gods are, a post about the Wiccan afterlife and one about Wiccan Weddings. Today I want to talk about something that is vitally important to the Wiccan way of life, namely the Wiccan Wheel of the Year.

The Wiccan Wheel of the Year – Living the Magical Life

One of the core values of Wiccan practise is the attempt to align with mother nature. The Wiccan calendar, called the ‘Wheel of the Year, helps practitioners of Wicca to celebrate earthly and celestial cycles. The celebration of these dates is intended to encourage a way of life which is in harmony, rather than against, mother nature. The calendar functions in a nonlinear system of time, thereby removing the focus on a predefined beginning and end. This allows practitioners to experience life as an ongoing continuum, wherein whenever one cycle ends, another begins.

What is the Wheel of the Year?

The Wiccan Wheel of the Year forms the basis of the Wiccan calendar year. The wheel emphasises the ever-changing cyclical nature of life and is divided into eight segments. Each segment is six weeks in length and is celebrated by a designated holy day or Sabbat. The eight segments correspond to the movements of the sun and the stars and mark the passage of time which pays homage to nature and her seasons. Because Wicca concerns itself with a desire to reconnect with the spiritual practices of our ancestors, the wheel of the year follows a mixture of ancient pan European traditions as well as incorporating elements of ancient Celtic, Norse and Egyptian lore.

wheel of the year seasons
The Wheel of the Year and its Sabbats are based around the 4 Seasons.

What are the Origins of the Wheel of the Year?

The Wiccan year of the wheel has its origins in the work of Margaret Murray, Gerald Gardner and Aidan Kelly. During the 1920s Murray developed a calendar based on ancient pagan festival rites. This calendar was further refined by Gerald Gardner during the 1950s. Gardner added solstices, equinoxes and incorporated elements of Celtic fire festivals into the calendar. It is Aidan Kelly who is credited with giving the calendar its name ‘wheel of the year’ during the 1970s.

What Role do the God and Goddess Play in the Wheel of the Year?

The cyclical nature of the year of the wheel is understood by some to symbolise a dynamic dance between god and goddess. This is described by Lisa Chamberlain in the following paragraph:

“Each year at the Winter Solstice, the Goddess gives birth to the God, and
each spring she is restored to her Maiden aspect as the two grow together. As summer begins, they unite as lovers and the God impregnates the Goddess, ensuring that he will be born again after his death in late autumn when the Mother Goddess once again becomes the Crone”

Wicca Wheel of the Year Magic: By Lisa Chamberlain

The non-linear quality of the year of the wheel as demonstrated by the ever-changing nature of the god and goddess is intended to honour our own shifting roles as we move through the seasons. This is what Wiccans refer to as the ‘turning of the wheel’.

death GIF
This is the constant cycle of the God during the turning of the Wheel of the Year.

What Sort of Rituals are Celebrated During The Wheel of the Year?

The wheel of the year celebrates eight primary rituals or Sabbats. A distinction is made between greater and lesser Sabbats. Sabbats are often thought of as ‘days of power’ due to their alignment with specific solar, celestial or seasonal constellations.

Because of this many Wiccan’s who practice spell work or magic will do so on a Sabbat. It is thought best to align your spell work with the Sabbat most suited to it. As such, magical work related to relationships, love and energy may be more suited to the summer. The winter is a time for inward-looking work such as healing and spiritual development.

Sabbat days are also considered a time to connect with the ancestors and for many Wiccans, this involves coming together for feasts and communal gatherings as a way to celebrate past and present.

Wheel of the Year – The Eight Sabbats Explained

Yule – Winter Solstice

yule branches
Yule is the darkest time of year and a good time to do some inner reflection and healing.

Northern Hemisphere December 20 -23

Southern Hemisphere June 20 – 22

Yule is the celebration of the longest and darkest day of the year, the winter solstice. Fittingly, many Wiccans see yule as a time for introspection and inward-turning reflection. As yule marks the darkest days of the year, the date also heralds a new beginning. This new beginning, wherein the days, start to become longer and the sun has reached its lowest point, marks the beginning of a new year for many Wiccans. The rebirth of the sun and the gradually lengthening days illustrate the cyclical nature of the Wiccan calendar wherein winter is reborn as spring and all cycles reach an end only to begin again.

Celebrating Yule:

Many Wiccan covens meet just before dawn on the day of the winter solstice to hold their rituals. Fires or candles may be lit to celebrate the return of the light. A yule log might be fashioned and the ritual space may be decorated with branches and bows of trees. A yule ceremony may be organised around the theme of regeneration and the setting of new intentions.

motion bonfire GIF
The joys of a bonfire are plentiful don’t you think? They make one feel so cozy.

Yule Associations

Colours: red, green, gold, silver, white, orange

Stones: bloodstone, emerald, garnet, diamond, ruby, clear quartz

Herbs: bayberries, blessed thistle, frankincense, chamomile, mistletoe, ivy, rosemary, all evergreens, oak and holly trees

Incense: frankincense, juniper, cedar, pine, cinnamon, myrrh, bayberry

Alter decorations and symbols: candles, evergreen wreaths, holly and mistletoe, pinecones, yule logs, snowflakes, pinwheels, yellow disks, other solar symbols and imagery

Foods: fruits, nuts, baked goods, cider, spiced cider, eggnog, ginger tea

Imbolc

imbolc image
Imbolc is a time to celebrate the end of winter and to welcome the coming of spring.

Northern Hemisphere February 1st or 2nd

Southern Hemisphere August 1st or 2nd

Imbolc marks the beginning of spring and the end of winter. As winter begins to loosen its icy grip, Imbolc celebrates a time of hope and new beginnings. The sun god’s power is gaining in strength and the days are starting to become longer. Imbolc is also associated with the goddess Brigid, guardian of the home and harvest.

studies minicourses GIF
Brigid is the Goddess of Imbolc.

Celebrating Imbolc

Fire plays a big part in any celebration of Imbolc, heralding the rising of the sun and the warming of the days. Bonfires or candles may be lit, and your home may be energetically ‘cleansed’ to symbolically herald the beginning of a new spring. A special feast may be celebrated and donations to the less fortunate might be offered.

Imbolc Associations

Colours: red, white, yellow, orange

Stones: garnet, ruby, onyx, bloodstone, amethyst

Herbs: angelica, basil, bay leaf, myrrh, coltsfoot, heather

Incense: myrrh, cinnamon, violet, wisteria, jasmine, vanilla

Altar decorations and symbols: white flowers, potted bulbs, Brighid’s cross, sheep, cows, plough, cauldron, poems, candles or a candle wheel

Foods: pumpkin and sunflower seeds, poppyseed pastries, early spring vegetables and dairy products

Ostara – Spring Equinox

ostara image eggs in basket
If you are trying to get pregnant, this is a good Sabbat to practise fertility rituals on.

Northern Hemisphere March 19 – 21st

Southern Hemisphere September 20th- 23rd

Ostara marks the spring equinox and one of two dates during which the night is equally as long as the night. Ostara marks a strengthening of the sun’s power with each passing day becoming longer. This is a time to begin working with the earth, gardens are planned and seeds are planted. Ostara also marks a time to reflect on the balance of male and female energies, with some Wiccans believing that Ostara marks the coupling of the God and Goddess.

Celebrating Ostara

Ostara may be celebrated outdoors with a focus on the theme of fertility and new life. Coven may meet just before dawn to watch the new sun rise. Eggs might be painted and ritual spaces could be decorated with flowers and petals.

sunrise dawn GIF
Watch the sunrise, it’s truely magical.

Ostara Associations

Colours: yellow, light green, light pink, light blue, all pastel colours

Stones: amethyst, aquamarine, jasper, moonstone, rose quartz

Herbs: irish moss, lemongrass, meadowsweet, catnip, spearmint, cleavers, dogwood, ash trees, woodruff

Flowers: daffodil, honeysuckle, iris, violets, easter honey, roses, dandelions, tulips, lilacs

Incense: jasmine, rose, violet, lotus, magnolia, ginger, sage, strawberry, lemon

Alter decorations and symbols: spring flowers, seeds, potted plants, coloured eggs, rabbits/hares, birds, pinwheels, yellow discs, other solar symbols, ladybugs, bumblebees Foods: eggs, honey, sprouts, dandelion greens, strawberries, all spring vegetables, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, pine nuts

Beltane

beltane image blossoms
This time of year is one of passion and exuberance, are you planning on getting married? This is a great time of year to do so!

Northern Hemisphere April 30th or May 1st

Southern Hemisphere October 31st or Nov 1st

Beltane marks the full exuberance of spring, with the winter months now officially over. Nature explodes in vibrant shades of green and the air is becoming increasingly warm. Birdsong fills the skies and the buds of spring flowers burst free. Wiccans celebrate Beltane as a time of passion and renewed energy. Beltane symbolically marks the love affair between the God and the Goddess, and the Goddess is pregnant with new life. To celebrate this divine union, Handfastings – or Wiccan weddings – are customarily held during this time.

handfasting wicca
This is the time of year when many handfastings take place.

Celebrating Beltane

Beltane is often celebrated with a bonfire. The maypole and its ribboned dance are also customary for Beltane celebrations. Some Covens may celebrate the ‘great rite’ or literal coupling during Beltane. Places of worship might be decorated with spring flowers and branches. The Beltane celebration participants might decorate their hair with wreaths of flowers.

Beltane Associations

Colours: light and deep green, yellow, light blue, red and white for the God and Goddess

Stones: malachite, amber, orange carnelian, sapphire, rose quartz

Herbs: birch trees, hawthorn, honeysuckle, rosemary

Flowers: yellow cowslip, lily of the valley, lilac, hyacinth, daisies, roses

Incense: lilac, frankincense, jasmine, African violet, sage, mugwort

Alter decorations and symbols: maypole, ribbons, garlands, spring flowers, young plants, God and Goddess statues

Foods: oatmeal cakes, bannock and other bread, dairy foods, cherries, strawberries, spring greens

Litha – Summer Solstice

litha image summer meadow
Enjoy the warm weather and the power of the sun during Litha.

Northern Hemisphere June 20 – 22nd

Southern Hemisphere December 20 – 23rd

Also known as midsummer’s eve, Litha celebrates the longest day and the shortest night of the solar year. Abundance is everywhere as the crops reach harvest, the days are warm and the power of the sun is at its zenith. Symbolically Litha celebrates the Goddess in her mothering aspect, providing food and warmth in abundance. Herbs and plants are thought to be at their maximum potency during Litha.

Celebrating Litha

Litha is generally celebrated outdoors to make the most of the warm summer weather. Some Covens may stay up all night to watch the rising of the sun. One common ritual acts out the battle between the Oak King and the Holly King to symbolise that there is no light without dark. Magically Litha is a great time to focus on love, healing, friendship and beauty.

Litha Associations

Colours: gold, green, red, orange, blue

Stones: emerald, amber, tigers eye, jade

Herbs: st john’s wort, mugwort, vervain, mint, thyme, chamomile, parsley, oak and holly trees, lavender

Flowers: all flowers but especially rose, honeysuckle, daisy and lily

Incense: pine, myrrh, rose, cedar, frankincense, lemon, sage, lavender

Alter decorations and symbols: roses, sunflowers, berries, holly and oak leaves, birds, butterflies, seashells, pinwheels, yellow discs, other solar symbols

monarch butterfly sky GIF
Monarch Butterflies in flight are magical aren’t they?

Foods: early summer fruits and vegetables, honey cakes, strawberries, fennel, lemon balm tea, red wine

Lammas – also known as Lughnasadh

lammas apple tree
This is a time of year to celebrate the abundance of the harvest by feasting.

Northern Hemisphere August 1st or 2nd

Southern Hemisphere February 1st or 2nd

Positioned opposite Imbolc which heralds the end of the winter season, Lammas signifies the ending of the summer cycle. Although the days are still warm, the telltale signs of autumn are all about. Nuts and seeds begin to drop to the ground, fruits ripen and the fields have reached their maximum height. Lammas is known as the ‘first fruits’ and is celebrated by Wiccans as the first of three harvest festivals. Lammas shows that even the power of the sun god is beginning to wane and reminds us that all things are temporary.

Celebrating Lammas

Although all Sabbath celebrations may incorporate a feast, the feast of Lammas is particularly important as it marks the beginning of the harvest. Bread is often used to symbolise the importance of grains, with offerings being made to the God and Goddess to ensure a successful harvest and to give thanks for the abundance. Coven rituals might celebrate the waning influence of the sun God and the waxing power of the pregnant Goddess.

sourdough bread
Bread is an important part of this Sabbat. Do you bake? Maybe now is a good time to try it out!

Lammas Associations

Colours: gold, yellow, orange, red, green, light brown

Stones: carnelian, citrine, peridot, aventurine, sardonyx

Herbs: sunflower, passionflower, acacia flowers, cyclamen

Flowers: all flowers but especially rose, honeysuckle, daisy and lily

Incense: sandalwood, frankincense, copal, rose, rose hips, rosemary, chamomile, passionflower

Alter decorations and symbols: first harvest fruits and vegetables, freshly baked bread, grapes and vines, corn dollies, sickles and scythes, Lugh’s spear

Foods: apples, bread, all grains, berries, hazelnuts, summer squash, corn, elderberry wine, ale

Mabon – Autumn Equinox

mabon autumn leaves
Enjoy the last of the warmer days and appreciate that winter is an important part of our life cycle.

Northern Hemisphere September 20 – 24th

Southern Hemisphere March 20 – 22nd

Mabon marks the undeniable end of Summer. The days have started to become shorter and a crisp chill fills the air. The trees begin to turn red and orange and lose their leaves. Plants die back and the animals squirrel away provisions for the coming winter. The time of Mabon reminds us that the exuberant life energy of spring and summer must always be followed by the bleak and barren times of winter.

cold winter GIF by Libby VanderPloeg
Mabon is the time of year where this starts to become necessary!

Mabon marks the second harvest festival of the year and represents the maximum abundance offered to us from the gardens and fields. Like Ostara, Mabon marks the time when day and night are of equal length. This reminds us of the shifting balance inherent within all life. The sun god further wanes in power as the days become shorter and the Goddess is no longer young herself yet she is still in her mothering aspect as the harvest continues. As the Goddess morns, the diminishing power of the sun god, the seasons move towards the darkness of winter.

Celebrating Mabon

The chief symbol of Mabon is the ‘horn of plenty’ or cornucopia. The cornucopia symbolises the abundance of the harvest. To celebrate Mabon, a cornucopia might be filled with fruits and vegetables and used in a ritual to symbolise gratitude for the abundance. Covens may focus their rituals around balance and giving thanks for life’s blessings. The feast of Mabon might be particularly lavish as it celebrates the height of the harvest.

Mabon Associations

Colours: deep reds, maroon, orange, yellow, gold, bronze, brown

Stones: amber, topaz, citrine, tiger’s eye, lapis lazuli, sapphire, yellow agate

Herbs: chamomile, milkweed, thistle, yarrow, saffron, hops, Solomon’s seal, sage, rue, hazel, ivy, oakmoss, mace

Flowers: marigold, sunflower, rose, aster, chrysanthemum

Incense: benzoin, cedar, pine, myrrh, frankincense, sandalwood, cinnamon, sage, clove

Alter decorations and symbols: cornucopia, gourds, acorns, pine cones, pinwheels, yellow discs, solar and celestial imagery and symbols

Foods: nuts, wheat and other grains, bread, grapes, apples, pumpkin, pomegranate, all autumn fruits and vegetables, wine

Samhain

samhain image snow
Death doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Samhain encourages us to accept that death is a natural part of life and is not to be feared.

Northern Hemisphere October 31st or November 1st

Southern Hemisphere April 30th or May 1st

Samhain is considered to be the most important and potent of all Sabbats. Samhain honours the death element of the wheel and is a time of intense inward introspection. The fields are empty, the crops have been harvested and the days are short and cold. The elemental God is at his most diminished and the Goddess is in her Crone aspect.

In her Crone aspect, the Goddess represents both death and life, as it is from her rebirth in the spring that all new life will blossom. This symbolises the Wiccan belief that death is a necessary component of life as it is from death that new life arises.

Celebrating Samhain

For Wiccans, Samhain is very much rooted in ancient traditions. It is often described as the night where the veil between the dead and the living is at its thinnest and because of this many Samhain celebrations focus on honouring the ancestors.

samhain GIF
Samhain is a time of year to celebrate with those who have already left us as the veils between worlds are thin.

Food and drink may be left out for the spirits and form of divination may be undertaken to make contact with the underworld. Coven rituals at Samhain are often held outdoors at night around a special bonfire. The rituals might focus on letting go of bad habits and other unwanted energies and symbolically giving them to the fire to be transformed.

Samhain is the perfect time to practice any spell work as many Wiccans consider it to be the most potent time of the year for magic.

Samhain Associations

Colours: black, orange, rust, bronze, brown, grey, silver, gold

Stones: jet, obsidian, onyx, smokey quartz, all other black stones, bloodstone, carnelian

Herbs: mugwort, wormwood, valerian, rosemary, sage, catnip, broom, oak leaves, witch hazel, angelica, deadly nightshade*, mandrake*

Flowers: marigold, chrysanthemums, sunflower, goldenrod, Russian sage, pansies

Incense: nutmeg, sage, copal, mint, myrrh, cloves, heather, heliotrope, benzoin, sweetgrass, sandalwood

Alter decorations and symbols: oak leaves, other fallen leaves, pomegranates, pumpkin, squashes, gourds, photos or other tokens of deceased loved ones, acorns, corn, besom, cauldron

Foods: pumpkins, pomegranates, apples, all root vegetables and autumn/winter squashes, nuts, bread, beans apple cider, mulled cider, ale, herbal teas

*These plants are highly toxic and should never be ingested!

I hope this gives you a good overview of our 8 powerful Sabbats. Go forth and celebrate!

Blessed Be,

Amythest xx

Shop Our Favourite Wheel of the Year Reading Material

Disclaimer: We recommend products we love and use ourselves, but please note that if you purchase any of these products, Amazon may pay us a small commission.

wheel of the year book cover
Lisa Chamberlin is a prolific and highly regarded author in the Wiccan world. Check out her “Wheel of the Year” book here  https://amzn.to/37EBhIv
wheel of the year tarot cards
These tarot cards are specially made to honour the wheel of the year. They’re pretty right? Click here to buy https://amzn.to/2SBVOZK
witch's wheel of the year
This is a really great book that takes you through all 8 Sabbats and gives you ritual and celebration ideas for each Sabbat. Click here to check it out https://amzn.to/2SEf3C2
modern witchcraft wheel of the year
Modern Witchcraft has a lot of really useful books about being a witch in today’s day and age. Here is their guide to the 8 Sabbats. Click here to buy https://amzn.to/2P30xSj

Amythest May

Amythest is a true white witch spreading love and light wherever she goes. When she's not in the kitchen blending oils or baking delicious treats for her friends, you can find her walking in nature, communicating with the great divine or perched atop her meditation pillow breathing in and breathing out.

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