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The Green Witches Coven

Step Two

Step Two - The Wheel of the Year


Witches name the seasonal cycle the Wheel of the Year. Witches celebrate a cycle of
eight festivals, which occur every six or seven weeks throughout the year and divide the
wheel into eight segments. Each of these festivals is named Sabbat.

Four of the Sabbat festivals have Celtic origins and are known by their Celtic names
of Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain. You may be more familiar with the
Christianised versions of Candlemas, May Day, Lammas and Halloween.
The other four are points in the solar calendar. These are the Spring and Autumnal
Equinox (when the length of the day is exactly equal to the night), the Summer and the
Winter Solstice (longest and shortest days of the year).

These Sabbats help you tune in to the seasons and the cyclical characteristics of nature.
The festivals historically mark important times in the agricultural cycle of the year. The
festivals were used to honour the ancient gods and goddesses and to acknowledge the
birth, death and rebirth of everything within nature. The ancient peoples believed that
without divine intervention the cyclical nature of the land, that provided food, warmth and
shelter could not continue. All of the eight Sabbats were celebrated in the Ancient world
in some form or other.

I haven’t always been a Green Witch, nor did I celebrate and honour nature.

I was born in an industrial town on the outskirts of two major cities. In fact my birthplace
of Lancashire in the United Kingdom was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. The
Industrial Revolution beginning around 1700 saw the massive shift from an agricultural,
rural based society reliant on the land, the seasons and the forces of nature for its very
survival to the machine and factory based way of living. The two great industries of coal
mining and cotton mill production coupled with urbanisation changed not only the
landscape of the whole of Britain but changed the daily lives of millions of people. The
changes subsequently spread throughout Europe and North America and eventually
impacted the whole of the world.

No more were people living off their small plots of land and using wood from the forest
for shelter and for fuel. Gone were the days when it was possible to be self sufficient by
growing crops and vegetables and keeping animals for food. The rising and setting of
the sun, the moon phases and the changing seasons mattered little in the depths of a
coal mine or in the large, noisy and dusty factories.

In the factory mill or working down the pit you were paid a wage that enabled you to buy
food, pay for shelter and use coal for fuel.

The factory siren, the mine whistle, the Town Hall clock or the ‘knocker up man” all
summoned workers from their slumber. The clock was now master. The changing
seasons mattered little if you lived and worked in an industrial town. My great
grandparents, grandparents and parents all lived and worked in this industrial setting.
Whereas the previous generations of my family line all worked on the land and lived in a
rural setting.

As a girl growing up in an industrial town I knew little of nature. The concrete tower
blocks, built on what was once farming land, rose to infamy in the 60s and 70s and
housed the industrial town dwellers. The urban sprawl laid waste the natural land. The
newly built supermarkets of the time replaced the corner shop, the market, the butcher,
baker and candlestick maker. As time raged on, plastic wrapped, factory processed,
deep frozen, additive laden foods became standard fare. We could buy everything and
anything from all over the world with little thought given to fair trade, intensive and
damaging farming techniques, battery chickens and inhumane treatment of animals. We
cared little for the transportation impact on carbon emissions so long as we had a full
range of plentiful and cheap perfectly shaped, blemish free foodstuffs.
Today, I am lucky enough to live in a rural community on the Greek Island of Crete. The
people here are mainly self sufficient farmers producing all their basic needs in a natural,
organic and “gentle on the land” way. Great care, effort and energy are used to grow
fruits and vegetables and to tend livestock in a humane way. The care and effort they put
in is evidenced in the absolute freshness, goodness and nutritionally rich and tasty foods
they produce.

The changing seasons, the sun and the rain, matter greatly to the farmers. Many do not
own a clock or a watch and use the sun as their time piece. They know with the
guidance of the changing seasons throughout the year when to plant, when to prune and
when to harvest.

As well as the sun they follow the phases of the moon believing that the moon produces
an influence on the development of growing plants. There are specific times in the
moon’s cycle when it is beneficial to plant certain crops and other times to harvest. The
belief in moon farming by the phases of the moon is an ancient system of agriculture
used by the Ancient Greeks but still holds place today. It is believed that the sowing of
seeds, planting of trees, sheering of sheep and setting of hens should occur during a
waxing or growing moon. The waning moon is said to be the best time for fruit picking
and preserving and for pruning and wood cutting.

The phases of the moon and the cyclical nature of the seasons link in with the religious
festivals and holy days that punctuate the year here in Crete. Great importance is placed
on religious worship held in the many, many Greek Orthodox Churches here. Candles
are lit, prayers are chanted, offerings are made, incense is burned and holy blessed
water is used in the rituals that celebrate feast days and important religious festivals.

Not to dissimilar to how Witches today may conduct Magic spells as you will see later.

But back to the Christian festivals – the most important of which is the religious festival
of Easter when the concept of death and resurrection are the central feature.

The date for Easter Sunday is dependent on the sun and moons cycle. It always falls on
the Sunday, which follows the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. The Spring
Equinox being the time when the length of the day is exactly equal to the night and the
sun and moons influence is the same.

Indeed the ecclesiastical calendar has marked similarities to the Pagan Sabbats of the
ancients. This is because the Christianisation of Pagan feast days took hold soon after
the fourth century A.D. and incorporated the Pagan holidays and festivals into the
Christian church.

In this way the Pagan festival of Spring Equinox became Easter, the Winter Solstice has
been Christianised as Yule or Christmas and the Summer Solstice became St. John’s
Day (John the Baptist). The most famous and celebrated Sabbat is that of Samhain
which was Christianised into All Hallow’s Eve or Halloween.

Being aware of the turning of the Wheel of the Year and marking significant points in it
enables the modern day Green Witch opportunity to reflect on the forever turning of the
circle of life. It gives us chance to be reminded of the ever changing, never ending cycle
of birth, death, and rebirth. We can reconnect with the natural world in purely natural
ways.

For many of us the hectic modern life lived at a frenetic pace is simply too stressful. Like
a caged hamster on a wheel, frantically running fast and getting nowhere, we need to
take a rest. We need to pause in our thoughts, words and deeds.

Pausing for reflection on events such as the coming and going of Spring, Summer,
Autumn and Winter focuses the mind on what nature gives us and what it takes away.

The first days of fertile spring with new growth of colourful wild flowers carpeting
hillsides, baby lambs being born and fresh energy surrounding us may inspire us to take
on new, fresh and creative projects.

The long daylight hours of Summer can motivate us to get the unfinished tasks we were
meaning to do finally completed.

Autumn may focus the mind on harvest and abundance and a need to preserve and
cherish all we hold dear in preparation for a long winter ahead.

Saying farewell to the carefree days of a bright Summer and warm Autumn may for
some seem a sad time - and quite literally very sad for others. The Winter months that
trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) quite literally signals a dark and depressing
time for many sufferers.

In the winter months with very short daylight hours many of us journey to workplaces in
the dark and literally never see daylight all day returning home again in darkness.

In this modern day we seem to be disconnected from the seasons. We can buy
unseasonal strawberries in winter. We can turn up the heat and wear hardly any clothing
in the depths of winter. It maybe snowing outside but with the flick of switch we can
experience tropical heat. We have lost the ability to tell time and where we are on the
wheel of the year.

A Witch can easily reconnect with the seasons of the year by acknowledging and
honouring the eight Sabbats.

The dates each year of the Solar festivals – the Winter and Summer Solstices, known as
Yule and Litha and the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes, known as Ostara and Mabon –
vary slightly each year. This is because the Earth’s orbit around the sun does not align
itself exactly to modern calendars. They are always on or around the 21st of December,
21st June, 21st March and 21st September.

The four intervening lunar festivals are fixed dates each year - Samhain (Halloween)
31st October, Imbolc 31st February, Beltane May 1st and Lammas August 1st.

Below is a brief introduction to the eight Sabbats that make up the Wheel of the Year.
Samhain

Samhain, which is pronounced “sow-in” heralds the beginning of the year and is the first
spoke on the Wheel of the Year. More commonly known as Halloween, this Sabbat is
held on the 31st October each year. It marks the beginning of the dark period of the year
which will gradually give birth to a new sun and new life.

Samhain has been celebrated since ancient times and has its origins in Pagan Celtic
traditions. Traditionally it was believed that the barrier between the living world and that
of the dead was lifted during this special time. Because of this it is a time of
remembrance, honouring ancestors, thinking about the past and looking forward to the
future.

Traditionally Samhain saw bidding farewell to the Sun God as he faded away into the
darkness. This absence was only temporary, though, as he is born once again to the
Goddess at Yule. At Samhain the Goddess takes her role as older wise woman known
as her Crone aspect.

The Christians adopted this ancient festival and celebrated it as All Hallows' Eve, later
shortened to Halloween. In the Christian calendar All Hallows' Eve is followed
consecutively by All Saints Day and All Souls Day thus still retains its connection to the
dead.

Yule

The Winter Solstice or Yule is a celebration of the shortest day and longest night and
begins the Yuletide festivities on or around 21st December. Traditionally Yule was
celebrated as a welcome return of the Sun God who had been given life by the
Goddess. As the Goddess tends her newborn son, she takes a rest, in order to prepare
for the change and growth of the coming seasons. This is a time to rejoice, and to look
forward to lighter, brighter days.

The Christians celebrate this time of year as Christmas and claim it as the birth of Jesus.

Yule is the longest night of the year, marking the time when the days begin to grow
longer and the hours of darkness decrease. Love, family togetherness, and
accomplishments of the past year are also celebrated at this time.

Imbolc

Imbolc is celebrated on 1st February. It was Christianized to become Candlemas. Often


this festival is named the Feast of Lights and candles are lit in homes. It marks the first
signs of spring and new life after the cold dark winter.
Imbolc means 'in the belly' and symbolises the growing of life in the womb of Mother
Earth. On this day the Celtic goddess Brigid is celebrated. In the Christian church it is St.
Brigid’s Day – a Christianised version of the Pagan goddess.

Traditionally this day marked the recovery of the Goddess after giving birth to the new
Sun God. He grows steadily into a young boy by this time and brings the lengthening
days of sunlight. His power however is unpredictable because of his youthfulness
bringing warm sunshine one day, the next, grey skies. The Goddess begins to manifest
her Maiden aspect, as the earth is fertile and creative at this time and ready to give birth
to new things.

Ostara

Ostara is also known as the Spring Equinox. On this day both day and night are equal.
Ostara falls on or around 21st March and marks the beginning of spring. This festival
has been Christianized to Easter.

At Ostara it is the time when the maiden aspect of the Goddess embraces spring and
begins to cover the Earth with fertility, budding trees, colourful wildflowers and the
freshness of spring. This is the time when the Goddess, joyful in the youthfulness and
lust of a Maiden sees the strengthening adolescent Sun God in a very new light. The
God grows in maturity, his strength on the verge of conquering the darkness. The Ostara
Sabbat is a celebration of the return of spring when night and day, light and dark, the
Sun and the Moon, male and female are equal. It is a time of balance, when all the
elements within us must be brought into a new harmony. It is a time of year to make a
commitment or recommitment to your spiritual growth. It is a time to look ahead in hope
and joy for what is to come. It is a time for cleaning and purification.

Beltane

Beltane or May Day is an ancient fertility festival celebrated on May 1st. The traditional
lighting of bonfires and dancing around the Maypole celebrates the fertility of the earth.
Beltane is traditionally is a time of great merriment, a celebration of the joy of life reborn.
The celebration of life and love and the weaving of all things together in the dance of the
maypole are of course symbolic of the burgeoning life and fertility of spring. Traditionally
many couples choose this day to marry.

Traditionally at Beltane the God is now fully grown and is aroused by the Maiden with
her fertility all-encompassing. Their union creates the new Sun God-to-be and many
couples choose this day to marry or to be hand fasted. In some Pagan traditions hand
fasting is the union (similar to marriage) of a male and female. The couple’s hands are
fastened together with a rope or ribbon and this is where the saying ‘tying the knot’
originates.
Litha

Litha also known as Midsummer and the Summer Solstice is celebrated on or around
21st June. The Summer Solstice marks the shortest night of the year and the longest
day. The power of the sun is at its zenith now, as is the God’s. Both God and Goddess
now mature in their deepening love; celebrate the fertility of the earth despite the
knowledge that from this point on, his power will begin to wane.

Lammas

Lammas or Lughnassadh (pronounced loo-nus-oo) is celebrated on 1st August. Lammas


is the first of the harvest festivals, it also marks the waning strength of the God as the
nights grow longer and the days become shorter. The Goddess, now fully evolved in her
Mother aspect, looks on sorrowfully at the God’s demise but finds comfort and strength
in the realisation she carries the seed of the new year's Sun God within her. Lammas is
a time of thanksgiving and counting our blessings.

Mabon

Mabon is also known as the Autumn Equinox. Mabon falls on or around September 21st.
This day marks the final harvest of the crops before winter. Mabon is once again a time
of balance when days and nights are equal. Nature readies itself for the cold winter dark
as the Sun God wanes in his powers. The themes then of Mabon are the completion of
the harvest, the balance of light and dark, and of male and female. The Wheel of the
Year turns once again towards Samhain getting ready for the depth of winter and the
start of a new turning of the Wheel.

Completing your Second Step


Go to a park, forest or other place where you can collect items that are representative of
the current season, for example leaves, wildflowers, pine cones etc. You can place these
items on a special place, shrine or your altar if you have one. Make notes in your
Magical Journal of how you felt about your outdoor trip. What did you smell, touch, hear,
see and taste while out walking? Be aware of where you and nature are on the wheel of
the year.