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Planetary Productivity 101; Wheel of the Year

Turning (your life around) with the Seasons

Wheel of the Year by the Way of the Buzzard
Wheel of the Year - image credit to the Way of the Buzzard -

Once upon a time, I was an upstart go-getter. Then, eventually I said, fuck that.

Sure, I like to be productive, pursue my personal interests and run my life like it were a business. But that is mainly for fun and to fall deeper into what I love doing – truth be told, I am not the most ambitious person and I do not want to ruin a good thing.

The Wheel of the Year is the most chill and nourishing way to approach life and work that I can think of. It brings an easier, flowing pace to the year.

Where some may find working with Moon cycles too frequent, not allowing for lessons to sink in and feeling completely ragged by the second or third month, the Wheel of the Year sees you corroborating with the seasons.

It is favoured by Wiccans / Pagans / Druids / Heathens alike as it is a nature-based process. It has a more experiential quality to its cyclical system, as opposed to a purely esoteric understanding of planetary movements.

I decided to include the Wheel of the Year in this Planetary Productivity 101 series as it is due to planetary movements that life on Earth is affected. (Also, it is popular, and I didn’t want to exclude it).

Specifically, this system follows our relationship with the Sun. Spinning on our axis as we orbit, the seasons are created.

The Earth’s movement and seasonal energetics are marked by eight Sabbats. These are festivals celebrated by the Pagan lot. The calendar includes four solar festivals and four seasonal festivals set in between them.

Because solstices and equinoxes are pinned on exact astronomical moments, these holy days change each year, but they occur every six weeks or so.

And adhering to the world around us, we naturally feel more nourished and aligned. Life flows a bit easier and more joyfully.

To accompany a little slice of information, I made some cute infographics detailing themes and yoga practices that are applicable to each Sabbat.

Yule / Winter Solstice

Quarter-point Solar Festival

Celebrated on the shortest day of the year, Yule is a fun and important time for the Wiccan and wider pagan community.

Yule revolves around the return of the Sun.

Wicca acknowledges this as the Goddess in her mother aspect, giving birth to the God on the longest night of the year, before resting through Winter.

For many pagans, this is interpreted as the 'Child of Promise', conceived in Ostara and born on Yule as the 'Sun Child', who will defeat the powers of darkness. Sounds very Jesus Christ superstar, no?

Some sources cite Yule as the first festival of the Wheel of the Year whilst others assert Samhain, which is notably the Celtic New Year.


Cross-Quarter Fire Festival

Spring signals nature's triumphant return.

Imbolc is known to be one of the Wheel's four Greater Sabbats, alongside the other Cross- Quarters.

Origin stories of its name are undetermined. However, its generally agreed that it hails from old Irish for 'in the belly' or 'in the womb'. This is in reference to the pregnant ewes roaming the countryside, just before lambing season.

It's a beautiful, budding time. Keep an eye out for signs of the nascent year stirring; the frost begins to thaw, shoots of green rise through the soil. This is the Child of Promise offering light and energy. And the world awakens.

Imbolc was also traditionally the celebration of Brigid, the Celtic goddess of fire, healing, smithing, poetry, fugitives, midwifery and newborn babes.

Ostara / Spring Equinox

Quarter-point Solar Festival

Ostara is a Saxon goddess, and is also one of the four Lesser Sabbats.

The Spring Equinox occurs when day and night are equal in length, typically around the 21st March.

Whilst Imbolc marks the beginning of Spring, Ostara celebrates Spring in its glory. Think flowers, crops, full green tree-tops blossoming and birdsong. All romantic everything everywhere.

For modern pagans, this is where the God and the Goddess conceive the Child of Promise. They come together, equal part day and night before falling into the light's favour, bringing Summer.

The contemporary Christian word for Easter is derived from these Saxon roots and also has similar traditions such as painting eggs to symbolise new life. Ostara also appears with a rabbit, due to it's charming, exponential skills of reproduction.


Cross-Quarter Fire Festival

Welcome to May Day, where we burn bright fires with the arrival of Summer. All of nature is flourishing, including us. It is basically party time.

We decorate our houses with primrose and other darling buds of May. This great fertility we see reflected in the land represents the commitment of the God and Goddess.

More well known pagan activities such as dancing around the Maypole occur at this time, twirling the ribbons around the pole, symbolising fertility and the spiral of life.

Traditionally, herdsman drive their cattle out into the pastures, forcing them between two large bonfires to protect them from evil. Beltane is directly opposite Samhain on the Wheel, and its notable that these two festivals are when the veil is thinnest.

Midsummer / Litha / Summer Solstice

Quarter-point Solar Festival

Midsummer is the zenith of the solar year. The God has reaches his ultimate cosmic power and delivers the longest (technically sunniest) day we get.

Although this time signifies the strength of the God, pagans also remember it is all downhill from here.

Practices passed down to us include setting a wooden wheel on fire before literally dropping it down a hill, nodding to the dwindling decline of the Sun.

Another notable mention; the entire layout of Stonehenge is dedicated to the Summer and Winter Solstices.

Many cultures have marked this celebration with festivals and rituals as it is such a vital display of nature's fullness and the almighty Sun.

Lammas / Lughnasadh

Cross-Quarter Fire Festival

The gathering of Lugh, an Irish god, or Lammas, from the Anglo-Saxon 'loaf-mass' occurs at the beginning of August. It is the first of the Harvest Festivals.

The God sacrifices himself before the Goddess with a sickle. His blood spills across the land ensuring its continued fertility in the next Wheel of the Year. He is no longer the Lord of Light. At Lammas, he becomes the Dark Lord of Death.

Pagans make corn dollies and Wiccans bake bread. Either way, this revolves around the harvest and agricultural work.

It is a moment of gratitude, enjoying the fruits of labour and shown through sacrifice.

Mabon / Autumn Equinox

Quarter-point Solar Festival

The second harvest of cereal fills our food stores for the Winter. Darkness gains.

It is a mystical time that aligns with European harvest festivals, giving thanks. The theme of reincarnation is strong here and following Lammas, we take more time to reflect.

There is joy and melancholy, the recognition of seed and grain, life and death.

The God enters the Underworld and dwells with the Goddess who is now known as the hag. The absence of the Goddess results in Winter.

Day and night are once more perfectly balanced and the astronomical phenomenon has us pondering over the stability of our lives, concepts of equity, accountability and truth.

We gather within ourselves.


Cross-Quarter Fire Festival

Gerald Gardner called this Greater Sabbat, Hallowe'en. However, many pagans try to distance themselves from the modern holiday and keep it Samhain.

It is the last harvest festival, dating back to the Dark Ages and the etymology may come from a Gaelic word meaning Summer's End.

There are banquets and the rest of the harvest has been stored away for the Winter.

Some believe this to be the most important Celtic festival, simultaneously the start of the New Year and the last spoke on the Wheel of the Year.

The cattle return from the pastures and are received by large bonfires as an offering to the spirits. The veil between this world and the Other is thin.

We tell fortunes. We face death with courage and optimism. We venerate, not from pain but from a place of respect and celebration.

Some debates concern themselves with Samhain's relation to the Christian festival, All Hallows' Eve. The only thing that is for sure is that they have influenced each other over the years e.g. apple bobbing is a pre-Christian merriment.

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