My Wheel of the Year is unique, and since it will likely pop up all over this blog I thought I’d add some clarification. (Also check out the page on Elements and Kindreds.)
You won’t see a lot of fertility references in my Wheel. If planting/harvest festivals were how I was meant to interact with the world I would have been born Amish. Since I wasn’t, there has to be something in my current life path that will encourage my soul’s growth. In my opinion the fertility emphasis is just a metaphor for the movement of energy from potential to manifestation and back. So I’ve dispensed with the metaphor and work directly with the cycle as I understand it. Energy starts off as potential, swells towards manifestation, and then begins to recede until it dissipates and again becomes potential.
The holidays are signposts along this path, as the swelling/receding energy covers different realms, and remind us to see to all the areas of our lives. From the pure potential of Yule the energy swells to cover first the mental/spiritual realm, then the emotional, and then the physical. Since the energy is swelling during these stages, the focus within each realm is more expansive as well – beginning, exploring, learning. After it crests and reaches full manifestation at Midsummer the energy recedes through those realms in reverse order. And since the energy recedes during these stages, the perspective is more reflective too – appreciating, thanking, and honoring. Think of Midsummer as a hinge: Lammas mirrors Beltane, Mabon mirrors Ostara, and Samhain mirrors Candlemas. And of course Yule is the exact opposite of Midsummer. I tend to use my own personal names for these days since I feel the traditional ones are too loaded with other associations, but I’ll use the standard ones in public.
I’ve also added a day to the traditional Pagan holidays. I call it Origination, and it occurs 9 days before Yule. So I’ll start there.
Origination: Origination – in fact, the whole 9 day period prior to Yule – is like a cosmic reset button. It is the first day that the previous cycle’s energy is totally spent, and the whole period is a kind of limbo before the next energy cycle begins. For me Origination is the ultimate liminal space – the time after death but before rebirth, when absolutely anything is possible because there is nothing to oppose it. This is a day for meditation and communion. A big focus for me is discussing my devotional practices and projects with my Lady, my Ancestors, and the Land to see if there are any changes They would like to me to make, and then begin preparing to implement them at Yule. I also revamp my altar space, make offerings, cleanse and dedicate new tools, etc. Magick can be incredibly successful here too – with the “power” off, I find that I can build extremely finicky spellwork with little interference from other energies. The best candidates for this are long-term goals, as the lack of energy means that my very complicated structure doesn’t have the energy to run yet. However, as the Wheel spins the spell can gain momentum and grow exponentially. It’s pretty awesome, actually.
Yule: The potential of the coming cycle is present at Yule – although not yet begun to manifest – and we are about to begin a new road. Starting off on any new path can be terrifying. Even if it has the potential to be better, we don’t know that. We chain ourselves down so much in our heads, weigh our lives down with so much emotional baggage, get so settled in our ruts that we can feel powerless or even disinclined to grow and change. As this is the longest night of the year, for me this is a direct representative of the Dark Night of the Soul, when only faith and hope keeps you going. I like to hold an overnight vigil and use the time to explore the dark unknown, both alone and with other-planar allies. What areas of my life are legitimate weak points I need to work on, and how do I do that? What “weaknesses” are self imposed, and why? What are my legitimate strengths, and do I use them effectively? What vulnerabilities do I try to cover with arrogance and bravado? What can I find hidden in my inner darkness, and how can I make that a tool instead of a stumbling block? It is a ruthless exercise of self-examination. At sunrise, I do a simple cleansing/purification ritual to discard that which I’ve left behind and welcome the new realizations. That’s why I personally call this holiday “Liberation” – it frees you. Yule is all about taking stock of the Self, using that knowledge to “clean your personal house”, and preparing to take action over the coming year.
Candlemas: Here the energy of the year is beginning to manifest, but it’s only affecting the mental/spiritual levels of life. So it’s perfect for initiations, starting the path to learning new skills or knowledge, branching off into a different type of practice, etc. I call this day “Exploration”, as it is a great time to begin seeking out new knowledge and/or spiritual truths. I like to formally commit to some new endeavor in the mental/spiritual realm at this time, be it a magickal style new to me or learning a new form of math. It’s also the day that I like to begin overtures to new deities, if necessary or advisable. Divination about the coming year is appropriate as well, as it’s tracking the trends of the still-manifesting energy – a bit similar to Groundhog Day, actually! I really push Dreaming and astral workings around this time. I find that it is more effective when everything isn’t so bogged down.
Ostara: Energy is still manifesting, and while it is more “solid” than at Candlemas it’s not done yet. I often call Ostara “Protection”, as it is about protecting, guarding, and honoring the home sphere and the people in it. This is the day I sterilize-clean my house, cleanse and bless my home, and shield it. It even fits in with the tradition of spring cleaning! My favorite activity here is the creation of “witch balls” (I stock up on hollow glass Christmas ornaments in January) for home use and as gifts to loved ones. For those oriented more towards attack than defense, this would be an excellent time to begin training in a martial art or with a new weapon. (I keep planning on doing that, but eh. Maybe this year.) I find that this day is excellent for loyalty oaths between friends that become family. Also in that vein, establishing/refining Ancestral devotional practices and welcoming others to my line seems particularly appropriate on this day. I tend to consider my house spirits part of the family so I honor them here too – Beltane would also be a good day for this too if my relationship with them was less personal.
Beltane: I also call this day “Celebration”. The energy has totally manifested in the physical, so I do all the things here that make being “physical” wonderful. Sex is traditional here, but I also find that massage, dance, good workouts, amazing food and drink, and enjoyable textures are perfectly fitting here too. Sensuality and indulgence can be remarkably useful in your life as long as you keep it balanced – most people either do too much in this area or not enough, so Celebration is a good reminder to keep this aspect of life in perspective. For instance, I also find this a good day to begin a new exercise regimen or start a diet. As Ostara covered the home and family, here the focus shifts to the wider community. I find Beltane a great time to begin stretch beyond my comfort zones and interact with new people and new groups – just think about all the summer mixers and parties that occur at this time! This is also the perfect day to focus on land spirits. I already have good relationships with my local land spirits, so Beltane is when I “pay calls” on the spirits of neighboring territories, honor the “higher” spirits (like the spirit of the whole city as opposed to just my neighborhood), work directly with unfamiliar elementals, etc.
Midsummer: On Midsummer the year’s energy has expanded to its limit. We are all connected to each other, across all levels and realms, and this is absolutely a day for major magick that works with that. I like to hold rituals aimed at manifesting the kind of world I want to live in, that focus on things like world peace. Every little bit helps. I encourage everyone to pick a pet cause or charity that will help others and volunteer time (as well as donate money if possible) for it. In addition, this is when I purge my excess stuff and donate it to those in need. Energetically it’s a good idea to put action where my magick is. And mundanely, this is the time of year that most charitable organizations start having real problems meeting needs, since people tend to do most of their volunteering and contributing near the end of the year. I also like to remember, during this time of cookouts and summer vacations, that not everyone is so fortunate, and that the suffering of anyone directly influences my life. We’re all in this together. Midsummer – or “Participation” – is the opposite of Yule. As Yule was all about me and my journey, so Midsummer is all about everyone else and theirs.
Lammas: Here the energy begins receding towards potential again. This mirrors what happened before during Beltane, except instead of moving out I’m looking in. Lammas, or “Consideration”, is all about embracing and honoring that which I already have. This is where I check in with all the physical stuff in my life – is everything healthy? How is the roof? Mundanely I like using this day to mend clothes, maybe rearrange my furniture, and spend some time with my budget. Another awesome thing to do here is put out a bird feeder, nuts for squirrels, or other things as an offering of thanks to the local land spirits. We began new relationships at Beltane – this is the time to value, honor, and nurture the relationships already established. Personally I like to treat my land spirits to something special here, like imported wines and cheeses, and share a lovely picnic with them. This is also a great time to throw neighborhood or community parties, as acknowledgment and thanks.
Mabon: Again, this is a reflection of Ostara. Instead of forming new relationships, this is when I give thanks for the ones I’ve got. This is when I honor all of my families, blood and spirit, living and dead – basically everyone who has had a direct influence on the person I am today. I like to share a big feast with those who are nearest and dearest to me, visit if possible, hang out, and give small tokens of appreciation. I also do elevations for my dead here, as I feel it just fits. In that same vein I honor Ancestral spirits who are not directly part of my line, but to whom I feel indebted in some way – usually because something about their lives or works have inspired me and made me a better person. My “heroes” can include individuals (like Hypatia of Alexandria) or groups (like soldiers), and I honor them all. (As this kind of honoring is traditionally done at Samhain, if I’m facilitating a public Samhain ritual I tend to focus on this type of stuff for the comfort of the attendees.)
Samhain: Traditionally this is a day for the Ancestors, and I work with that – I just shift the focus from my direct line. This is a major day of honoring for me, perhaps the most meaningful and important work I will ever be called to do, and because of the intensity I’ve started breaking it up into two distinct rituals – preferably over a weekend – with recovery time in between. The first ritual is for the Forgotten Dead, the spirits to whom I want to extend honor and appreciation because they didn’t get it in life. I call them “forgotten” because we don’t know their names or their personal stories – all we know are descriptions of the types of experiences they had. Our LGBTQAI brethren who lived lives of either public abuse or secret shame, those forced at sword-point to “convert”, the mentally ill and clinically insane, victims of child abuse and neglect, battered wives, lost souls – all these beautiful yet misunderstood and wounded spirits are welcomed and honored on Samhain. And oh, do they come! I typically spend a few hours here, and need time afterwards to settle down and recover a bit before continuing. The second ritual is for the Forgotten Deities. Some deities I honor here are those I feel were victimized in ways similar to the Forgotten Dead. Being deities doesn’t necessarily make them invulnerable. Others are those who have, over time, faded from memory. We might have just a story, or merely a name. Maybe we have less than that: a nameless image, an obscure reference, a crumbling artifact. But just because we don’t remember them doesn’t mean they’re not here. On Samhain I give them a welcome, a place, a feast, and a voice. I make it a point to honor them, appreciate them, and love them without asking for a single damn thing in return save their company, if they feel so inclined. My experiences with these rituals are simply overwhelming, and I have learned so much from them! If I have one goal in my life it is this – to share the need for these two rituals so that other people can do them too. The Forgotten Ones need not be forgotten forever, and have so much to teach us.
After Samhain the energy continues receding from Samhain until it totally disappears. At which point we have reached Origination, and the cycle begins again.