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The wheel of the year

The wheel of the year is an ancient Celtic calendar based on festivals that celebrated our connection with nature. Pausing at these times can remind us that we are not here to keep moving towards unrealistic goals and targets rarely pausing for breath. Through honouring nature and the seasons we are reminded and invited back to who we truly are.

The wheel revolves around eight festivals, from Imbolc to Yule – each one marking a shift in the season, weather, and the natural world.   On these dates, the beginning and end of the seasons are celebrated, such as the equinoxes and the solstices. In pagan and Wicca traditions there may be deities attached to these times but the wheel relates to the cycle of growth, maturation, and death and connects with nature and its cycles, so no religion is needed to celebrate the wheel of the year. Celebrating these seasonal shifts with festivities is intended to help us to connect with the spirit of our ancestors, a connection that leads directly to Mother Earth more than to any deity.

The Celts had four great festivals: Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lughnasadh, these are called the “major sabbats”, which are celebrated at the midpoint between each solstice and equinox. Although for the Gaelic peoples these four celebrations existed, they corresponded more than anything to farming.   Since then, we have known these four festivals, whose purpose is to indicate the holidays and the change of season. 

Later the Celts included the solstices in their festivities, a tradition that the Saxons brought with them, but actually the tradition of celebrating the solstices and equinoxes is inherited from the Germanic peoples. These celebrations are called the “lesser sabbats”, and each of the eight festivals is celebrated roughly every month and a half, or every six and a half weeks and makes up what we now refer to as the Wheel of the Year. 


The eight main celebrations (or festivals) that make up the Wheel of the Year.

4 Cross-Quarter (Fire) Festivals:

Imbolc (February 1st) for spring

Beltane (May 1st) for summer

Lughnasadh/Lammas (August 1st) for autumn

Samhain (October 31st) for winter

And 4 Quarter-Point (Solar) Festivals:

Ostara  – Spring Equinox (20th – 23rd March)

Litha – Summer Solstice (20th – 23rd June)

Mabon – Autumn Equinox (20th – 23rd September)

Yule – Winter Solstice (20th – 23rd December)

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