The Wheel of The Year
Samhain (October 31st)
Samhain is the Pagan New Year, and marks the coming of winter. It is more commonly recognized, by non-Pagans, as Halloween. This is a date that is often recognized as a time where the barriers between different planes of existence (our mundane plane and the Otherworld, where the spirits of the departed dwell between lives) are at their thinnest. Pagans generally use this as a time of reflection, in memory of departed loved ones. This Sabbat also marks the symbolic death of the God, who awaits his re-birth with the coming of Yule.
Yule (22nd December)
Yule is celebrated on the Winter Solstice. It is on this, the shortest day of the year, that the God is symbolically reborn, with the days now beginning to get longer as the Sun grows stronger, symbolizing the reborn God now growing. The sun was often recognized as the symbol of the God, in ancient religions. Most Pagans believe in reincarnation, sure in their knowledge that they will be reborn again (as the Sun God is Reborn each Yule) to experience new lessons. Traditional activities include the Yule Tree, Yule Log and the giving and receiving of gifts.
Imbolc (2nd February)
Imbolc (also known as Candlemas) is a celebration of fertility, inspiration and purification. It symbolizes the awakening of life deep within the earth, although that life is not yet visible. The God is beginning to grow, and his strength (visible in the power of the Sun) is beginning to be noticeable with the continued lengthening of the days. It is traditional at Candlemas to light every lamp in the house for a few minutes in honor of the Sun's rebirth.
Ostara (21st March)
Ostara (also known as Eostara) occurs on the Spring Equinox, and is considered the first day of true spring. The day and night are equal in length, and the Plants are beginning to bud and sprout. Some ancient Pagan traditions are still practiced on this day, such as coloring eggs (which are a symbol of fertility), collecting wildflowers, walking in nature's beauty and cultivating herb gardens. This is the time to free yourself from anything in the past that is holding you back.
Beltane (30th April)
Beltane is commonly recognized as May Day, by non-Pagans. It is a celebration of love and desire, symbolizing the Union of the God and Goddess, which honours the fertility of the Earth.. Many flowers and plants are often gathered, as decorations, the flowers being symbolic of the Goddess. Celebrations include weaving a web of life around the "May Poles" which were often erected (and sometimes still are), as a symbol of the God (an obvious fertility symbol, some consider Phallic in aspect), and leaping the Beltane fire for luck. Beltane is a choice day for many Pagans to get 'Handfasted' (Pagan Marriage). This is a time of self-discovery, love, union and developing your potential for personal growth.
Litha (21st June)
Litha (also known as Midsummer), which is celebrated on the Summer Solstice, is the time of year when nature is at it's peak strength, The God at the Peak of his power, the days being at their longest. This is a time when many Pagans feel it is best for rituals and spells. Bonfires are often made, to symbolize and honor the God.
Lammas (1st August)
Lammas (also known as Lughnasadh) is the first Harvest Festival, observed during the beginning of harvest. Pagans are thankful for the food with which they have been blessed. Plants are withering, but they are also leaving seeds, a promise of their eventual re-birth. The God is beginning to weaken and dim with age, as the days grow shorter, giving his energy his energy to the crops to ensure life while the Mother prepares to give way to her aspect as the Crone. Now is the time to teach what you have learned, to share the fruits of your achievements with the world. Wheat weaving, such as the making of corn dollies, is traditional. Bread is baked and the altar is decorated with fruits and vegetables of the harvest.
Mabon (21st September)
Mabon (also known as the Autumn Equinox, or Alban Elfed) is the Second Harvest Festival, observed at the end of harvest. The day and night are once again equal in length, another time of balance, but light is giving way to increased darkness. The God is quickly losing strength, and is preparing for his end, and the Goddess is mourning her fallen consort, but the emphasis is on the message of rebirth that can be found in the harvest seeds.. Summer is over, and Winter is quickly approaching. It is a good time to walk the forests, gathering dried plants for use as altar decorations or herbal magick. Cornbread and cider are good additions to festivities and fall leaves make good altar decorations.