The holidays of Witches occur on what we refer to as the Wheel of the Year. This terminology illustrates the innate belief that earth religions hold that time is circular, not linear. Through the holidays of the year we celebrate the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, apparent in nature as well as human life. Consequently, through the celebration of the Wheel of the Year we are linked to the ever changing cycle of life, death, and rebirth. It is through the celebration and connection of these holidays we are allowed to experience and thus understand the eternal process.
WINTER SOLSTICE/YULE: (December 22) Yule is the time of greatest darkness and the longest night of the year. The goddess awakens from her sleep and finds she is pregnant with the Sun god. Solstice rituals are universal and are intended to help the sun change its course in the sky.
IMBOLC: (February 2) A winter purification and fire festival, often called the feast of Lights, Imbolic, which means "in the belly" and signifies the growing of life in the wombof Mother Earth. Imbolic provides the first glimmers of life in the darkness of earth. The goddess prepares for the birth of the sun god for the coming summer months.
SPRING EQUINOX/OSTARA: (March 21) A solar festival, in which day and night , and the forces of male and female, are in equal balance. It marks the birth of the sun god and paves the way for the coming lushness of summer.
AUTUMN EQUINOX/MABON: (September 21) Once again, day and night and male and feamle forces are equal. The BELTAINE: (April 30-May 1) The Land represented by the Goddess is now ripe and fertile and the Young God expresses His Love for Her. This is a time of joyous reveling as the first flowers of Summer are gathered in Their Honor. Celebrants jump over brromsticks and dance around maypoles, bothe symbols of fertility. It begins at moonrise on Beltane Eve. People danced deosil around the fires or crept between the fires for good luck and protection against illness.
SUMMER SOLSTICE/MIDSUMMER: (June 21) In European tradition, the night before the solstice, Midsummer's Eve, is a time of great magic. Witches and fairies roam about and a bit of madness is in the air. Great bonfires are lit to help the sun change its course in the sky, and rites resemble those for Beltane. Burning wheels are rolled downhill and burning disks are hurled at the sun. The peak of power of the sun god is manifested in crops and livestock.
LUGHNASADH: (August 1) A great festival of games and dance. The word Lughnasadh is related to words meaning "to give in marraige" and was once associated with marraige contracts. Nine months away is the next Beltane, the birth of summer and life. First harvests are made and, accompanied by thanksgivings and rites to ensure the fertility of next year's crops.
autumn equinox is the time of second harvests.
SAMHAIN: (October 31-Nov 1) The beginning of winter is celebrated, marked by death, and the beginning of the Celtic New Year. Samhain means "end of summer." It marks the third and final harvest and the storage of provisions for the winter. The veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is at its thinnist point in the year, making communication easy. The souls of the dead come into the land of the living. It is a tine for getting rid of weakness. Cakes are made as an offering for the dead.
The neo-pagans also celebrate the moon cycles: the full, new, and quarter moons. These celebrations are known as esbats. The moon is seen as the feminine deity, which has three phases/faces - the maid, the mother, and crone. The esbats are the celebration of the cycle of birth, growth, and death. The moon in 28 days, goes through its cycle of birth, growth, and death, and ultimately rebirth, just as in life women in that same approximate time span go from ovulation to either fertilization or menstruation and back to ovulation.
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