The Wheel Of The Year

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In LESSON II we spoke of the Wheel of Life. In the Vangelo Delle Streghe it is said that the Goddess spins the thread of life from the Wheel, while the God turns it. The God is often likened to a great serpent curled in a circle and swallowing its' tail to represent that He is the body of the Wheel, i.e.; that the Wheel turns through physical manifestation. As Above So Below; the great Wheel is mirrored each year in the cycles of the Seasons, and the Eight Holidays of Wicca. As explained above the Wheel of the Year follows the process of Involution and Evolution, having both a Dark and a Light half. The Eight Holidays are known as SABBATS. They are also simply called Festivals. The word "Sabbat" is of uncertain origin. It may be related to the word ESBAT, which comes from an Old French word meaning to Frolic or Celebrate. We will talk more about Esbats shortly. Or Sabbat may be related to the Judaeo-Christain word Sabbath. There is no way to know as medieval chroniclers did not leave any clear etymological references.

The Eight Sabbats are divided into two sets of four. These are the Grand Sabbats, which are feminine and dedicated to the Goddess, and the Lesser Sabbats which are masculine and celebrate the God. The Grand Sabbats are Lunar in character, and in former times were tied to the Lunar Calendar. Some groups still reckon the Grand Sabbats by the Lunar calendar, and some fix their date by other means, but most groups today celebrate them by the Calendrical dates which will be given. The Lesser Sabbats are Solar in nature and are the Equinoxes and Solstices of the Sun, on which the Solar calendar is based. As the year is divided into a Dark and a Light half, there are two Grand Sabbats and two Lesser Sabbats in each.

A list of the eight Sabbats follows:

SAMHAIN November 1. Begins the Dark half of the Year. DARK.

YULE December 20-22. Celebrated on the Midwinter Solstice, date varies. DARK.

IMBOLC February 1. DARK.

OSTARA March 20-22. Celebrated on the Vernal Equinox, date varies. DARK. BEALTEINNE May 1. Begins the Light half of the Year. LIGHT. MIDSUMMER June 20-22. Celebrated on the Summer Solstice, date varies. LIGHT. LUGHNASSADH August 1. LIGHT.

MABON September 20-22. Celebrated on the Autumnal Equinox, date varies. LIGHT. Each of these Festivals has a particular meaning and customs...

SAMHAIN (Pro; "SOW-en", or "SOH-en") Samhain is the beginning of the ancient Celtic liturgical year, and is the Festival of the Dead. At Samhain we honor the Spirit world, the spirits of our Ancestors and deceased loved ones, as well as our Spirit Guides. At this time we reflect upon our own physical mortality and the nature of change and transformation in the cycle of Life and Death. Samhain is the festival of the end of the Harvest and the beginning of Winter (by traditional reckoning). The word Samhain is GAELIC and means "Summer's End." Samhain is pronounced "SOW-en" in Ireland, and "SOH-en" or "SAH-en" in Scotland. Samhain is celebrated on NOVEMBER 1. By ancient reckoning the day begins at sundown, which is why the Samhain celebrations begin on October 31. The night time portion of the festival is properly called the OICHE SHAMNA, or Vigil of Samhain. Oiche Shamna is pronounced "uh-EEK-uh HOW-nuh." Samhain is also called Hallows or Hallowmas, and the Oiche Shamna is also called

Hallowe'en.

The word Hallow means "Spirit" -literally "Holy One."

Samhain is a Lunar or Grand Sabbat, and is sacred to the Crone Goddess, from whom the image of the "Hallowe'en witch" descends. The Crone has many names, including Hekate, Morgan, and Cerridwen. She is depicted as an elderly woman, and is Patron of magic and of the Spirit World. The Crone is the Goddess of the dead, of wisdom, and of the ultimate Spiritual origin of all things.

In the Vangelo Delle Streghe the Crone is equivalent to Primeval Deity, Goddess before the first creation. At Samhain the Psychic Tide is at a high point, and it is a good time for all sorts of magic, divination, and inner workings. Traditionally Wiccans consider Samhain the most sacred of all festivals.

YULE Yule is celebrated at the MIDWINTER SOLSTICE and by traditional reckoning it marks the high point of Winter. The word Yule comes from the Germanic "Iul" and means "Wheel." Yule celebrates Winter, and the rebirth of the Sun God. As Yule is the shortest day of the Year it marks the Suns low ebb, and after this the Sun will begin to grow stronger.

Yule is a Solar Sabbat and is sacred to the Old God, the Lord of Winter. This ancient God has many names including Cernunnos, Odin, Harlequin, Santa Claus, and the Holly King. This God is portrayed as an old man, majestic and often jolly. Sometimes He is shown as a King in ermine trimmed robes, other times He is shown as a Jester and called the King of Fools. As the Crone is the Goddess of Death, the Old God is the Lord of Death and of the Spirit World and magic. He is the God of the forest, of animals, and of the hunt. Often He is shown with antlers or horns. In this form He is the subject of one of the oldest paintings known to exist, "Le Sorciere" a cave painting from Cro Magnon times.

Yule is also known as Midwinter, and as Alban Arthan (pro; "AL-bahn AR-than").

IMBOLC Imbolc is celebrated on FEBRUARY 1. Some groups however, celebrate it on February 2. Imbolc is the Festival of the beginning of Spring, by traditional reckoning. It represents the renewed life of the Earth after Winter and the growing strength of the Sun. Imbolc is a festival of Light, and of the dawn. It is traditional to light many candles for this Festival, to encourage the Sun to shine brighter and the Earth to throw off the cold of the Winter months. For this reason Imbolc is also called Candlemas, and this is perhaps the more popular name for the Festival. Because Winter does not always end this early, however, the custom of the Ground Hog was developed as a form of sacred divination. A Ground Hog is released at dawn on Imbolc. If the Ground Hod doesn't see its' shadow it is believed that Winter will end. If the Ground Hog does see its' shadow it is believed that Winter will last six more weeks -'til Ostara, the next Sabbat. This rite can also be performed with other, similar creatures, such as Hamsters or Guinea Pigs, who are easier to handle than Ground Hogs.

Imbolc is a Lunar or Grand Sabbat, and is sacred to the Maiden Goddess, the Goddess of the dawn and of fire. The Maiden Goddess has many names including Brighid, Bride (pro; VREE-juh), Eos, Aradia, and Vesta. The Maiden is not only the Goddess of physical fire, but also of the fire of inspiration, the fire of creativity. Hers is the fire that is the first spark of fertility and life. In the Vangelo it says that when the Goddess first beheld the beauty of the God She trembled, and Her trembling was the first dawn; that is why Dawn is thought of as a Goddess, and that quality of inspiration and desire for beauty is the nature of the Maiden Goddess.

Imbolc is also called Oimelc (pro; "EE-mell"), which is Gaelic and means "Lactation of Ewes."

Another Gaelic name for this Festival is La Fheile Bride, "the feast of Bride" (pronounced "Law EYE-lah VREE-juh"), honoring the Goddess Brighid. The Festival is also called Ground Hogs' Day, because of the ritual described above.

OSTARA Ostara is celebrated at the SPRING EQUINOX, when day and night are equal. It is considered the high point of the Spring season, when life is bursting forward in all directions. Like Imbolc, Ostara is a Festival of the dawn and of increasing life. Ostara comes from the Germanic word "Ost" or "East," a reference to the dawn and the renewal of life. The rituals of Ostara celebrate renewed life in many forms; eggs, a symbol of rebirth, are painted in bright colors and used in sacred rites before being eaten. Baby animals, especially chickens, ducks, and rabbits, are symbolic of the season. The Rabbit, ancient symbol of the Moon, represents the Earth's renewed fertility.

Ostara is a Solar Sabbat and is sacred to the Young God, Lord of the rising Sun and of Life. He is the custodian of the growing plants and animals, as well as the growing light of the Sun. This God has many names, but He is particularly venerated as the Green Man, in which form He is shown surrounded by greenery and breathing it out from His lips. In this form He is also known as Green Jack, or Green George. Sometimes he is represented as a tree. "Maypoles" are sometimes used as part of the Ostara festivities, and represent the phallus of the Young God.

Ostara is also known as Eoster (pro; "EH-yoh-ster", "eh-OH-ster" or "YOH-ster"), Alban Eilir (AL-bahn EYE-lir), or simply as Spring. Ostara also has strong feminine connotations, and is sacred to the Maiden Goddess as well as the Young God. Ostara and Eostre are both Germanic names of the Maiden Goddess as Lady of the Dawn.

BEALTEINNE Bealteinne is celebrated on MAY 1 It is the beginning of the Light half of the Year, and the beginning of Summer by traditional reckoning. Bealteinne is the polar opposite of Samhain, and is the Festival of Life. Bealteinne comes from the Gaelic "La Bealteinne" (pro; "Law BALL-tuh-nuh), and refers to the sacred Balefires; bonfires which were lit in ancient times for the God Bel, or Belenos. Bealteinne celebrates the union of Goddess and God, and is celebrated with great joy. Flowers are used to symbolize the Divine union, and the Maypole is used to represent the phallus of the God planted in the body of the Earth Mother.

Bealteinne is a Lunar or Grand Sabbat, and is sacred to the Great Mother Goddess. This Goddess has many names including Eartha, Demeter, Mati Suira Zemlya, Yemaya, Gaia, and others too numerous to mention. She is the Lady of Life, Who brings fertility to the Earth, and at this time Her power is on the rise as Earth brings forth an abundance of life. The Mother Goddess is the principle archetype of the Goddess.

Bealteinne is also known as Beltane, Kalenda Maia, Roodmas, Walpugis, May Day, or simply May.

MIDSUMMER Midsummer, as its' name implies, is celebrated at the SUMMER SOLSTICE, the longest day of the Year. Midsummer is considered the high point of the Summer season. Midsummer celebrates the very height of the powers of the Sun and of Life. But it also acknowledges that after this date the Sun will begin to weaken and the days to grow shorter.

A Solar Sabbat, Midsummer is sacred to the Sun God, as Lord of Life. This God has many names, including Apollo, Balder, Lugh, Horus, Chango, and many others. He is the God of Life and the Physical World, and is the principle archetype of the God. The celebrations of Midsummer stress the powers of light and life, and rejoice in the good things the Universe has to offer.

Midsummer is also known as Litha (pro; "LEE-thuh").

LUGHNASSADH Lughnassadh is celebrated on AUGUST 1, though a few groups may celebrate it on August 2. The name "Lughnassadh" comes from the Gaelic "La Lughnassadh," pronounced "Law LOO-nuh-suh," and means "Marriage of Lugh." Lugh is the Celtic God of the Sun, and also of vegetation and the cultivated fields. The "marriage" of Lugh is the Harvest, when the crops are reaped. When the harvest is completed and the last of the crops has been cut, Lugh is symbolically married to the Crone Goddess of the Dead. But Lughnassadh marks the beginning, not the end, of the harvest. It is the beginning of the Autumn or Fall season, by traditional reckoning. Lughnassadh is the Festival of First Fruits, when thanks is given for the fertility of the fields, and the first bread baked from the new harvest is blessed.

Though Lughnassadh celebrates the death of Lugh, it is a Lunar or Grand Sabbat sacred to the Mother Goddess as Lady of the Harvest. It is She who provides the bounty of the Earth, and to Her thanks are given. At Lughnassadh the promise of Bealteinne is fulfilled by the bounty of the Earth.

It is in this form, as Lady of Life, that the Goddess is portrayed in the famous Venus of Willendorf statuette. Some 30,000 years old, the Venus of Willendorf shows the Mother Goddess pregnant, Her busoms heavy with milk, a testament to the fertility and life-giving qualities of the Great Mother.

Lughnassadh is also called Lammas, First Fruits, and Bron Trograine.

MABON Mabon is celebrated at the FALL EQUINOX, when day and night are again equal. Mabon is the middle of the Harvest and of the Fall season. This is the time of the Sun's denouement, its' slow slide into Winter and symbolic death. It is also the time of the Earth's' ebbing life force, as the plants of Summer bear their fruit and decrease.

The name Mabon comes from the Celtic God Mabon, or Maponos, who died every year, to be reborn in the Spring. Mabon is pronounced "MAH-bohn."

A Solar Sabbat, Mabon is sacred to the Father God. This is the God as King and Judge, Lord of the Tribe and Elder of the community. He is the Lord of balance, law, and justice, the God of honor, and conscience. This is the God Who willingly gives His life for the renewal of the land, as a good parent would give their life for their children, or a good leader for their people. The Father God has many names, including Zeus, Nodens, Thor, Jupiter, and many others.

Mabon is also sometimes associated with the Old God, especially in His form as Dionysus, because this is the time of the grape Harvest. In this sense Mabon honors the God of ecstasy, spiritual visions, and freedom.

In addition to Lunar and Solar Sabbats, Wiccans also celebrate Esbats.

Sabbats are the big ceremonies. Sabbat ceremonies tend to be about celebrating and attuning to the season, and honoring Deity.

Esbats are the little ceremonies. They also honor Deity, but are much more personal. At Esbats groups tend to do more individual work, geared toward the goals and growth of their members, rather than cosmic phenomena.

Traditionally Esbats are held on the nights of the New Moon and the Full Moon. In practice however, groups will often choose a specific day, such as Saturday, and hold their Esbat on the Saturday night closest to the actual New or Full Moon. The period from New to Full Moon is the Light half of the month, while the period from Full to New Moon is dark. The Light half of the month is used to work for things one wishes to create or accomplish. The Dark half is used to do releasing of things one wishes to let go of, and to do inner work which requires looking inside oneself.

A New Moon Esbat takes place at the very beginning of the Moon's cycle, the start of the Light half of the Month. At New Moon one works to manifest things which will grow along with the Moon as it waxes. The Full Moon Esbat takes place at the very end of the Light half of the Month, when the Moon is at the strongest point in its' cycle and the energy of the monthly cycle is at its strongest. We use that heightened energy of the Full Moon to give added strength to our working. Esbats are not commonly held during the dark half of the month.

These then are the basic points of the Psychic Tide; That it rises and falls during each month, reaching its' highest point at Full Moon and its' lowest point at New Moon.

The Psychic Tide also rises and falls each year, reaching its' highest points at Samhain and Bealteinne. Winter is the Dark or internal half, Summer the Light or external half of each year.

The Psychic Tide further rises and falls during each Zodiacal Age, reaching its' highest point at the turn of each Age, such as the period we are in now (during the turn from Pisces to Aquarius).

By knowing and understanding the Psychic Tide, you can attune to it, to take advantage of its' points of highest energy.

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