Holiday Vectors by Vecteezy

Happy New Year!

This year, I want to explore the Pagan Wheel of the Year, the Sabbats, folk traditions, and Wicca. Much of this research finds its way into my stories and poetry. I hope it will inspire you, as well.

The Wheel of the Year is a circle and has no beginning or end. Some say the new year begins at Samhain, and others say the new year begins at Yule, as this corresponds with our current use of the Gregorian calendar. Since we’ve just passed Yule, we will begin there.

Wikipedia defines the Wheel of the Year:

The Wheel of the Year is an annual cycle of seasonal festivals, observed by many modern pagans, consisting of the year‘s chief solar events (solstices and equinoxes) and the midpoints between them. While names for each festival vary among diverse pagan traditions, syncretic treatments often refer to the four solar events as “quarter days“, with the four midpoint events as “cross-quarter days”.[1] Differing sects of modern paganism also vary regarding the precise timing of each celebration, based on distinctions such as lunar phase and geographic hemisphere.

Observing the cycle of the seasons has been important to many people, both ancient and modern. Contemporary Pagan festivals that rely on the Wheel are based to varying degrees on folk traditions, regardless of actual historical pagan practices.[2] Among Wiccans, each festival is also referred to as a sabbat (/ˈsæbət/), based on Gerald Gardner‘s view that the term was passed down from the Middle Ages, when the terminology for Jewish Shabbat was commingled with that of other heretical celebrations.[3] Contemporary conceptions of the Wheel of the Year calendar were largely influenced by mid-20th century British paganism.

Wikipedia.com: Wheel of the Year

What is the Wheel of the Year?

The Wheel of the Year represents the eight pagan holidays or Wiccan Sabbats. The holidays honor and celebrate the seasons and cycles of life for those who practice paganism or Wicca. Many consider it to be an earth-based religion.

What are Sabbats?

The holidays, or Sabbats, start each season and the mid-way points between them, which are evenly split throughout the year.

The pagan holidays spring from the roots of the pagan religions of the Celtic and Germanic pagans. Wiccans mark these days as Sabbats. The word Sabbat comes from Judaism and Hebrew. When used to reference the Wiccan religion, the word originates from the word Sabbath, which means a meeting or gathering to practice rituals and rites.

What Are the Eight Pagan Holidays?

Exemplore.com/paganism shares the following charts:

HolidayDate(s)Significance
YuleDecember 20–23Winter solstice; preparations for upcoming cold months
ImbolcFebruary 2Celebration of the promise of the return of spring
OstaraMarch 19–22Celebration of spring and fertility
BeltaneMay 1Halfway point between spring equinox and summer solstice; celebration of fertility
LithaJune 19–23Summer solstice; celebration of the harvest
LughnasadhAugust 1Midway point between summer and autumn; first harvest
MabonSeptember 21–24Autumn equinox; celebration of the arrival of autumn
SamhainOctober 31/November 1A time for honoring passed souls; thin veil between the living and the dead

The holidays with Celtic origins are:

  • Imbolc
  • Beltane
  • Lughnasa
  • Samhain

The holidays with Germanic origins are:

  • Yule – winter solstice
  • Ostara
  • Litha – summer solstice
  • Mabon

The pagan holidays or Sabbats are not only split between Celtic and Germanic pagan traditions. They are also:

Greater and Lesser Sabbats

According to Wiccan beliefs, the Sabbats are split into Greater and Lesser Sabbats.

The Lesser Sabbats are those that fall on the solstices and equinoxes, known as quarter holidays, as they split the year according to the sun’s position. These holidays come from the Germanic pagan religious celebrations.

The Lesser Sabbats are:

  • Yule – winter solstice
  • Ostara – spring equinox
  • Litha – summer solstice
  • Mabon – autumnal equinox

The Greater Sabbats fall in-between the cross-quarter days and also come from the Celtic or Gaelic pagan traditions. These Sabbats are also called fire festivals.

The Greater Sabbats are:

  • Imbolc
  • Beltane
  • Lughnasa
  • Samhain

Sun and Moon Sabbats

Pagans split the Sabbats or pagan holidays into the Sun and Moon Sabbats.

The Sun Sabbats are those that are based on the position of the Sun falling on solstice or equinox.

The Sun Sabbats:

  • Yule – winter solstice
  • Ostara – spring equinox
  • Litha – summer solstice
  • Mabon – autumnal equinox

Pagans celebrate the remaining Sabbats on Full Moons, or with Samhain, the dark moon.

The Full Moon Sabbats:

  • Imbolc
  • Beltane
  • Lughnasa
  • Samhain

The seasons and astronomical positioning of the sun during the solstices and the equinoxes take place worldwide. We find similar celebrations from across the world.

These seasonal dates are not only pagan holidays or Wiccan Sabbats, nor were they first celebrated by them. Humans have honored these natural occurrences throughout the history of humankind.


Here’s our first Sabbat: YULE

Yule: Winter Solstice (Dec 20–23)

Yule is the Midwinter Sabbat, also known as the winter solstice. This day occurs on December 21st or December 22nd in the northern hemisphere, and on June 20th or 21st in the southern hemisphere. In the northern hemisphere it is our shortest day with the least amount of sunlight, and in the southern hemisphere it is the longest day, with the most sunlight.

In the northern hemisphere, during Yule, we make the last preparations for the coming months of cold. It is also a time to remember the warmth and life-giving source of the sun. We decorate trees to celebrate the holiday, as evergreens thrive in the cold months, which represent continual growth and life through the dark, wintry nights.

Various Christmas traditions originated with Yule, such as our use of decorated pine trees, mistletoe, and yule logs, which were thought to banish evil spirits and bring good luck. One of the oldest winter traditions in the world, the winter solstice, occurs on the shortest day of the year.

(Read more about the winter solstice and Yule traditions and mythologies in Fairies, Myths, & Magic II – A Winter Celebration on Amazon.com).


UP Next: Imbolc, February 2, 2023

Celebration of the promise of the return of spring

Photo by Alena Koval on Pexels.com

24 thoughts on “The Wheel of the Year

    1. Me too, Robbie. There is so much that makes sense to me in this nature based path. I also like following the phases of the moon, just like the ancients did. It will be fun to learn all of this together. Thanks so much for the read.

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  1. Any practice that involves respect for Mother Earth has my attention. This is all great information. So glad I read. Thanks for the share, Colleen.
    Happy New Year.

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    1. You’re so welcome, Selma. I wish I had learned this ages ago. I think when we follow a nature based path we connect to nature as we were meant to do. Of course, a bit of meditation and poetry always help along the way too! Happy New Year, my friend. 🙏🏻

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  2. This is exciting, Colleen. Following a nature-based path gifts us wisdom and creativity. Since we are surrounded by nature, the connection is meant to be.

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    1. Nature is where we find inspiration. It’s a great way to connect to the world around us. There is so much we can learn and what we all need in modern times. Thanks so much, Franci. ❤️

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      1. Yeah. After my current studies I’ll zero in on the African research. I sometimes feel so distant from the Western world. I feel it has its worthy champions already, and maybe I’ll start from home in my writing before I can venture overseas, but I will venture.

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