A Personal Wheel of the Year
I love the quarterly and cross-quarterly days that make up the Pagan Wheel of the Year – Samhain, Yule, Imbolg, Spring Equinox, Beltane, Litha, Lughnasadh, Autumn Equinox and back to Samhain again. The yearly cycle is a great excuse for seasonal celebrations – and a comforting reminder during difficult times that life goes on. Noticing the Wheel turn is a great exercise in keeping in touch with the natural world. Knowing that Imbolg is just around the corner you are on the lookout for the first signs of spring. At Litha you notice the long sunny days; at Lughnasadh the grain ripening in the fields has special significance and at Samhain both you and the Earth hunker down in preparation for the onset of winter.
But the quarterly and cross-quarterly days are just the beginning. Depending on their path, Pagans may celebrate – or at least mark in some way – many other days such as full moons, new moons or the festival day of a particular deity, or honoured ancestor. Earth Day is now popular with many Pagans, who use it as a reason to get out and do something practical (litter picking, tree planting), or hold a ritual to honour our Mother Earth – or both!
I believe we should each create our own unique and personal Wheel of the Year, taking the eight main festivals as a starting point and adding dates meaningful to us as a way to really embody the Wheel in our lives. Possible additions to your Wheel could be (as previously mentioned) based on the lunar cycle, deity feast days or Earth Day. Or how about birthdays (of your Tradition’s founder, your Beloved Dead, or coven or family members), the anniversary of the date your group first met, the date a local harvest begins (Strawberries? Apples? Almonds? Olives? Honey?) or the date the first bread, or beer, or wine is produced from this year’s harvest. Local festivals could be incorporated too – does your town have an annual carnival, or country fair? Or maybe something more unique and distinctive like a folk custom or celebration of a local hero/hera. You can also make a point of noting and celebrating, say, the time of year that a migrant bird species arrives in your area, the leaves return to (or fall from) the trees or the first roses appear.
While developing your Wheel, you may like to make a visual representation to refer to. A circle divided into ‘pie slice’ sections is one way. Divide the circle into 8 equally spaced sections first, for the quarterly and cross quarterly days, and then add more spaces for your chosen meaningful dates. Alternatively you could use a perpetual calendar or book of days as a starting point (note that if you want to add moon dates you will need to make a fresh chart each year as the lunar year and solar year are not synchronised). Your Wheel of the Year chart can be decorated with artwork, photographs, feathers, shells, beads, ribbons, tiny crystals, pressed flowers, leaves and herbs… let your imagination inspire you. You could also add information on seasonal changes in the natural world, astrological or astronomical information, folklore, herblore, weather patterns etc.
As your relationship with the Wheel of the Year develops and grows, you will no doubt discover or create rituals to mark the passage of the seasons and important dates. You may like to keep a special book of these – or perhaps a ring-binder so that the contents can be added to or adapted over time. Favourite rituals repeated year on year deepen in meaning, becoming cherished traditions in their own right. Along with your Wheel of the Year chart the information will become a valuable resource and perhaps even a treasured heirloom to be passed on to your family or coven.
You can build on and adapt your Wheel over time. Gradually you will find you have created a rich and uniquely meaningful tapestry that is woven into and through the fabric of your daily life, bringing the sacred into your routine, adding significance to every day. Each of us will find we have some dates and practices in common with other Pagans and some which are special just to us. We are in unison and we are distinct at the same time. That is one of the great strengths of Paganism – let’s celebrate both our shared values/experiences and our diversity!