The Wheel of the year is a term for the annual cycle of the Earth’s seasons consisting of eight festivals
Hinduism, Buddhism the Wheel of Life is a symbolic representation of Samsara, the continuous cycle of birth, life and death. The Indian Mahayana Buddhism scriptural language of Sanskrit, the Wheel of Life is called Bhavachakra.
Samhuin: November 1st N.H.and May 1st S.H.
Alban Arthan: Winter Solstice
Imbolc: February 1st/2nd N.H. and August 1st/2nd S.H.
Alban Eilir: Spring Equinox
Beltaine: May 1st N.H. and 1st November S.H.
Alban Heruin: Summer Solstice
Lughnasadh: 1st August N.H. 1st February S.H.
Alban Elfed: Autumn Equinox.
The celtic year was divided into two halves. Samhain was the beginning of the dark half, with its counterpart, Beltane beginning the light half. Between these two portals fell Imbolc and Lughnasadh or Lammas, quartering the celtic year. These quarters were again divided by the solstices and equinoxes, which were known as the four Albans.
At Samhuinn, livestock for whom there was insufficient fodder were slaughtered and stored and the community honored the dead. At Imbolc, the lambs were born. At Beltane it was the time of mating and of the passing of the livestock through the two Beltane fires for purification. Lughnasadh/Lammas was the time which marked the link between the agricultural and the livestock cycle. It is the Druid festival of the Harvest.
Between these festivals are the equinoxes, times of balance
Alban Arthuan ‘The Light of Arthur’ The Winter solstice. Also referred to as Yule, Mabon, Saturnalia or Christmas. King Arthur was believed to have been born on this day in Tintagel in Cornwall. Alban Arthan was a festival of peace which celebrated the waxing of the solar light.
Alban Eiler: ‘The Light of the Earth.’ The Spring Equinox – the first official day of Spring – a time of transition and for planting crops. The balance of night and day provides a powerful time for magic to the ancient Druids.
Alban Hefin – The Druid festival of the Summer Solstice, loosely translated as ‘The Light of the Shore’. The longest day of the year. It is also referred to as Litha or Midsummers Day. It was traditionally celebrated out of doors with picnics and games and large bonfires.
Alban Elfed: ‘Light of the Water.’ The Autumn, Equinox when the sun began to wane once more as the dark half of the year drew near.
Why do we celebrate these Eight fold sabbats of the turning wheel of life and what was the significance of these festivals to our ancestors? There is evidence that every ancient civilization acknowledged the seasons pivotal points as mother earth spun her way through space and time on her annual sojourn around the sun. There seems to be a current re-emergence of observing the old ways and worshipping nature – and long be it over due – but to simply follow blindly to be a part of a fashion or trend does not give this ancient craft the justice or respect that it so rightfully deserves. And, by the way, this old magic will not give back to those who treat it as such.
Times have changed dramatically since days of old. Yet, around the globe millions of people, young and old are flooding the streets and mobilizing online to reject the corruption and injustice that has developed since the magic was pushed underground. This movement is bringing tremendous possibilities for change and speaks of a more beautiful and balanced world. One that is in harmony with the Earth once more, and in contact with her natural rhythms as our ancestors were. -read more next page-
Mostly, we have nothing to do with the food that appears on the supermarket shelves, nor any knowledge of what is in season for that matter. Our meat is slaughtered and bred without reverence, pumped full of toxins and hormones. Our crops engineered to grow bigger and faster than that of the opposition, to keep up with our frantic pace of life. Our medicines are synthetic and have all but replaced the natural herbs and remedies that are readily available. We have been pumping pollutants into the air and waterways, filling our cupboards with chemicals and poisons for generations now and it’s time to take some accountability by changing how we live and how we treat the earth and each other by doing what we can to reverse the process.
The seasons spin by almost without our notice except for the inconvenience that it might impose on our chase of the mighty dollar. Yet, within this magical wheel is a profoundly deep knowledge of a different kind of a chase. More like a hunt. The eight sabbats were originally a time when community came together to celebrate and give thanks to the gods and goddesses they ascribed to the various seasons and harvests of the land. At these festivals they performed ritual and gave offerings to the various deities whom they considered were responsible for keeping things in balance – or not.
Let me take you back a few centuries to how it was always meant to be.
Nestled in the foothills of snow-capped mountains, covered with an ancient forest, beside a river flowing with crystal clear water is a community gathered around a central fire in a large adobe round-house with a thatched roof. The Druids have arrived from their retreats within the forests where they have been training in the ways of magic. The ancient science of the universe.
A harpist plays melodiously as he poetically recites a story that was passed down by their ancestors. This particular story is about a battle of two trees – the Holly and the Oak. It is the battle between summer and winter. Darkness and Light. A story of birth, death and regeneration. The Bard tells how the Holly King rules the waning year, from Alban Hefin to Alban Arthan, when the mighty Oak, stripped bare of it’s leaves lies dormant for the winter months and the brilliant reds and greens of the English Holly dominate the snow covered forests. The Holly King represents darkness, decay and destruction – a necessary part of growth – as well as inner knowledge and the mysteries. The Oak King rules the waxing year and represents light, growth and expansion.
The story tells of the god of the wild hunt – the god of fertility, growth, death, and rebirth. The main heroes of our story are the Horned god who is the Holly King and the Oak King. These twin gods are seen as a complete entity. Aspects of each other.
A young mother sits feeding her newborn child and the bard sings to her of the healing Goddess Brighid and of Imbolc and of the delight we all share at the miracle of birth.
A group of young men prance around the edge of the great hall, jostling for the attention of the maidens. The Bard sings to them of Beltane and of the tribes’ mores and mythos for this period of their lives. Of the vitality of Spring and dancing around maypoles and bonfires. The older couples understand that the natural union of polarities that occurs in nature at this time gives them the opportunity to integrate their inner male and female. He sings to them of Lughasadh. Of polishing their skills and re-evaluating what lies ahead for them in the coming year, so that they can invoke their aspirations for the future.
As he moves through the crowd he finally stops near the elders of the community and sings to them of Samhiunne, of the Summerland and of other planes of realities. Of connecting with their friends and guides on other planes so that as they grow old they gain an understanding that death is really a birth to another level – a natural stage of life which we must all embrace. Like the harvest, a thing that grows will die and what dies will grow again. As the sun is reborn at the Winter Solstice, we too are reborn. As the darkness is reborn on the Summer Solstice day, we too start to die on that day. It is cycle that we live from year to year.
After meeting with the Elders to discuss the happenings of the past six weeks and informing them of what is to be, they conduct a ritual in which the entire community participates. Then a feast is served and the merriments begin. This story has been told in its varying forms around the globe since time begun. It is filled with mythos and archetypal meaning to impress upon the minds of those who are gathered, that there is an order to life that must be followed or the balance will be lost.
To maintain this balance, the laws of this community were made and kept in accordance with the laws of nature, not the man-made laws of today which punish and disgrace. (Interesting word that). Their authority was that of a higher knowing, they were guided by their intuition and what felt right in their hearts. They understood that they were not separate from each other or the plants and animals with whom they communicated freely and respected as part of the whole. Each member of this community knew their particular talent – be in mid-wife, shaman, hunter, weaver, poet, seer, black-smith or craftsman.
Today is a different time, and the battle of light and dark is now one of good and evil and we can no longer afford to be complacent. For all we know we may well be in yet another cycle, as the macro wheel spins, but the alarm bell has gone off and it’s time to wake up! The wheel of the year, and the myriad of ancient teachings that are flooding the world today, can help us to reconnect with our true nature and open our minds and lives to a wondrous world of magic and delight.
But we have to do The Work! If we stay together and work together we win. – Jyoti Eagles