Pagans refer to the progression through the seasons as ‘The Wheel of the Year’. Not only does this wheel encompass pagan holidays, including those now cloaked with Christian traditions, but a variety of energies as well. These energies are a combination of astrological influences, moon phases and full moons, solstices and equinoxes, the changing of seasons, and the magick of time.
*Note: More information & correspondences on the topic of pagan holidays, the months and their moons, astrological energies, as well as history and lore can be found Here
Upon this page:
Samhain (pronounced 'Sou-wen') is a celebration that has a more somber side than the revelry of modern Halloween. It is a day of remembrance of your ancestors and for those family members who have passed over.
Pagan families may set an extra place at the supper table on this evening, to honor those loved ones who are no longer with them. The veil between the world of the living and the dead is thinnest on this eve, and this night is an excellent time to perform divination, or try to connect with those from the other side.
Correspondences for Samhain
Herbs: patchouli, sage, heather
Altar Flowers/Herbs: acorns, apples, pumpkins/gourds, dittany, autumn leaves
Feast Foods: pumpkin, squash, nut breads, sweet potatoes, milled drinks (cider, wine), roast meat, root vegetables
Animals: bats, cats, crows, ravens, owls
Incense: cinnamon, cloves, myrrh, patchouli, pine, mugwort, nutmeg
Rituals/Spells: making besoms, divination, spirit contact, crone magick, working with dark energy, spells for new beginnings
Jack-o-lanterns are an important symbol of Halloween. The early pagans used gourds instead of pumpkins. It was thought that the jack-o-lanterns would scare away earthbound ghosts. Apples are a pagan symbol of the fall and harvest. Apples were used in many forms of divination. Have you ever heard of this one? Take an apple and twist the stem round and round while saying a letter of the alphabet for each turn. The letter of the alphabet you are on when the stem breaks is supposed to be the first letter of the name of the one you shall marry! Some believe that bobbing for apples was related to another divination right. Others believe that it is a form of pagan initiation called seining, similar to baptism.
Trick-or-Treating has it’s roots in paganism as well. Dressing in costume was not just for children. Because Samhain is the pagan new year, and a time for new beginnings, wearing a costume symbolized that you could be or do anything in the new year. There are two different thoughts on going door-to-door for candy. One is thought that it was a form of caroling that was practiced at all major holidays, and that the "treats" were actually liquid spirits. The other thought is that the poor would go door-to-door begging for food, and would be given pastries and cakes in return for promising to say prayers for the dead.
Today’s traditional colors for Halloween date back to the pagans as well, who were very much into color symbolism. Black symbolizes death and magick, while orange was the color of the harvest.
Winter Solstice...the longest day of darkness in the year; and with the darkness comes the promise of light, the rebirth of the Sun. It is no wonder, because of the importance of this date to the ancient pagans and the symbolism involved, that the Roman church chose this date to celebrate the birth of Christ.
This is the time that the brothers battle-- the Holly King & the Oak King. The Oak King will win this fight with his brother, and light and warmth will return to the Earth.
Correspondences for Winter Solstice
Herbs: frankincense, myrrh, sage, bayberry, rosemary
Altar Flowers/Herbs: holly, mistletoe, pine cones, evergreen, thistle, cedar
Feast Foods: fruitcake, gingerbread, cranberries, dried fruit, eggnog, cider/wine
Animals: white buffalo, stag, weasels, owls, squirrels, blue jays, cardinals, doves
Incense: bayberry, cedar, frankincense, myrrh, orange, sage, rosemary
Rituals/Spells: hearth and home magick, lighting the Yule log, hopes and dreams spells, wishes
Because Yule is the Winter Solstice, or the shortest day of the year, the pagans are celebrating the rebirth of the Sun God, who becomes stronger as the days grow longer. Pagans burned a Yule log to help bring back/welcome the Sun God. Later, the log became a fresh evergreen tree. The evergreen tree represents longevity and eternal life. The tree would be decorated with lit candles (to welcome back the Sun God), fruits and nuts. Hanging ornaments on the tree were meant to symbolize the immortality of the spirit. Other decorations were strings of popcorn or cranberries. Often the tree was topped with a five-pointed star (a pentagram).
It is believed that the tradition of gift-giving began with the Feast of Saturnalia. The Romans held this holiday from December 12-17 to honor the god Saturn. During the feast, masters would wait on servants and gifts of light (mainly candles) were given as well as coins, honey, figs, and pastries. It is believed the tradition of caroling started with this holiday but was practiced at many holidays. People would go door to door in expectation of gifts of money.
Honoring the Sun God with a large feast was believed to ensure a bountiful crop and healthy livestock for the coming season. Also, food was scarce in the winter, so they often ate less meat and a feast restored their strength and broke up the boredom.
The traditional colors of Christmas are red and green. Traditional Yule colors are red, white, and green. Red represents love, passion, energy, enthusiasm, and courage. White represents protection, peace, purification, and longevity. Green represents prosperity, luck, and health.
In the ancient world, and in the agricultural world of today, this is the time when the ewes begin giving birth. This is the time of, not only birth, but lactation, and a time to celebrate these two wonders of life. This is also a celebration of the transformation of the Old Woman of winter into the Young Maiden of spring. This is a festival of the Celtic goddess, Bride, so beloved by the people of the old world that the Roman church couldn't eradicate her. Instead they made her a saint, Saint Brighid. In Celtic lore, the Old Woman of Winter (the Cailleach) was reborn as Bride, the young maiden of Spring. Correspondences for Imbolc Herbs: basil, bay, celandine, benzoic Altar Flowers/Herbs: angelica, myrrh, flowers that are yellow/white/or blue Feast Foods: bread, cakes, dairy products, seeds Animals: burrowing animals, ewes, deer, goats, lambs Incense: jasmine, myrrh, neroli Rituals/Spells: candle magick, initiation, hearth/home blessings, fertility magick, healing magick, cleansing rituals
This is a festival of the Celtic goddess, Bride, so beloved by the people of the old world that the Roman church couldn't eradicate her. Instead they made her a saint, Saint Brighid. In Celtic lore, the Old Woman of Winter (the Cailleach) was reborn as Bride, the young maiden of Spring.
Correspondences for Imbolc
Herbs: basil, bay, celandine, benzoic
Altar Flowers/Herbs: angelica, myrrh, flowers that are yellow/white/or blue
Feast Foods: bread, cakes, dairy products, seeds
Animals: burrowing animals, ewes, deer, goats, lambs
Incense: jasmine, myrrh, neroli
Rituals/Spells: candle magick, initiation, hearth/home blessings, fertility magick, healing magick, cleansing rituals
Imbolc was the pagan's first spring festival. They had survived the worst of winter, and it was a time to divine what the rest of winter would be like. Originally a hedgehog was used in divination. Immigrants in the new Americas used groundhogs (or woodchucks), being the closest animal they could find to a hedgehog.
Imbolc is the celebration of Brigid, the goddess of health and birth. The early Christian church added Brigid into their pantheon of saints, and named her Saint Brigit. She is invoked by sacramental candles. Parishioners would hold the candle to their throats to prevent cold and flu. Holding the candle to the throat represents healing to the heart chakra, which honors the goddess of health.
Brigid was honored by bonfires. Fire represents purification and cleansing. The custom of spring cleaning developed from the fires of purification. It was felt that you should get all the household duties out of the way so that everyone would be prepared to work during the growing season.
This is the day when the period of light and dark are equal, heralding springtime planting and the promise of warmth returning for the summer months.
This is also a celebration of the Saxon goddess of fertility...Eastre. Eggs and rabbits are symbols belonging to the Goddess Eastre and are incorporated into the festivities and celebrations. Sound familiar yet?
It is interesting to note why the date for the Christian holiday of Easter moves every year...Easter is always celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox.
Correspondences for Ostara
Herbs: cinquefoil, rose, violets, tansy, celandine
Altar Flowers/Herbs: honeysuckle, iris, lily, daffodil, crocus
Feast Foods: eggs, fish, honey, sweet food, leafy vegetables
Animals: chicks, hares, rabbits, swallows
Incense: honeysuckle, jasmine, lavender, lotus, magnolia, rose, violet
Rituals/Spells: planting/sowing, rejuvenation spells, consecration of tools, grounding work, Earth blessings, spring cleansing
Ostara is when the world is awakening from winter, and a resurrection of sorts begins. It is a time when animals awake from the dead (hibernation), and the world is reborn as new crops begin to grow. Christianity also celebrates a resurrection at this time. They believe Jesus was dead for three days and comes back. It is believed the symbolism of three days comes from pagan mythology. While most think of the full moon as only one night, the moon is actually hidden from us for three nights. The mythology was that the goddess (represented by the moon) would walk in the kingdom of darkness for three days, just as Jesus is thought to walk in the kingdom of death for three days.
The word "Easter" even comes from a Teutonic goddess of spring and dawn whose name was Eastre or Oestre. These names come from the words "east" which means "dawn", and "aurora" which means "to shine".
Animals coming out of hibernation this time of year means a return to eating fresh meat. Also, one custom pagans had was to fast before Ostara. They believed it would clear out the toxins stored during winter and would create an altered state of consciousness during Ostara magick.
Fertility is an important symbol of this time of year. Rabbits (bunnies) and chicks are predominant symbols, especially in candy. Pagans would make cookies in the shape of bunnies and chicks. Anyone who has heard the term "multiply like rabbits" doesn’t need an explanation of why rabbits are a big symbol of fertility. Chicks are a symbol of fertility, but also a symbol of transformation/resurrection – from an egg to a baby chick.
Eggs are another symbol of fertility. The Greeks started the tradition of dying eggs and giving them as gifts. The tradition of hiding eggs came along with the Puritans. Pagans who lived among the Puritans, afraid of being exposed as a heathens and heretics, would hide the eggs so they would not be seen giving eggs as gifts. Later, children were paid by Puritans to find the eggs and to announce who was hiding them.
Some believe that Ostara is the day when the Goddess embraces the God and conceives his child who will be born at Yule.
This holiday is one of the most Pagan. It is a celebration of fertility and the sexuality that goes right along with it. To the modern world, it's more commonly known as May Day.
What the Roman church tried so hard to control, to portray as evil, sinful, or dirty-- is the very thing celebrated at Beltaine...human sexuality.
In modern celebrations of May Day, people still dance around the Maypole-- some not realizing that this is a phallic symbol, while they hold brightly colored streamers spilling from the top of this pole, symbolic of the creative force of sex.
The Pagan celebrates with bonfires, music, and revelry.
Correspondences for Beltaine
Herbs: cinquefoil, frankincense, marigold, meadowsweet,
Altar Flowers/Herbs: daisy, hawthorn, lilac, primrose, wildflowers, rose
Feast Foods: barley cakes, oat cakes, red fruit, elderflower drinks, herbal salads
Animals: honey bees, cats, horses, rabbits, white cow
Incense: frankincense, lilac, passion flower, rose, vanilla
Rituals/Spells: bale fire, fertility magick, sex magick, handfasting, beauty magick, love spells, The Great Rite
In ancient Ireland, there was a sacred tree named Bile, the fore-runner of the May Pole. It represented the connection between the heavens, our world, and the other world. It was believed that dancing around the pole would send energy down the pole into the earth’s womb to awaken her.
The early church called this holiday "roodmas" to try to sway people from honoring the May Pole to honoring the holy rood (cross). Of course, the May Pole is the symbol of life, and the Holy Rood is the Roman instrument of death, but that didn’t occur to them.
Making May Day baskets is a tradition that comes from young men placing garlands or boughs on the doors or windows of young women they were interested in on Beltane Eve. Later, the garlands became flower wreaths placed on the doorknobs. The young lady would accompany the young man who gave her the garland or wreath into the forest to spend the night awaiting the Beltane sunrise.
In modern day, the garlands and wreaths have been replaced by May Day baskets. Children make small baskets and fill them with candy. Then they place it on the doorstep of someone they like and ring their doorbell. The recipient chases the giver and tries to kiss them.
This is the longest period of daylight in the year, a time of magick, fairies, and the immortalized Mid-Summer's Eve. Fairy contact is generally easier to achieve on this day, for those of you who are brave enough to invoke the mischevious little folk, that is. But don't be surprised if soon after you can't find your favorite earrings, or the car keys, or any other shiny inviting objects you may have left laying around.
This is a popular month for weddings. The Druid's celebrated the Summer Solstice as the 'marriage between heaven & earth', and thus the popular belief that June is a 'lucky' month for marriage ceremonies.
There will be Pagan spirit gatherings all around the world at this time, the most famous and the most notable at Stone Henge, where large groups of people will light bonfires and stay up all night in order to welcome the dawn.
Correspondences for Summer Solstice
Herbs: fennel, lavender, chamomile, cinquefoil, mugwort, thyme
Alter flowers/Herbs: larkspur, rose, wisteria, St. Johns Wort
Feast Foods: apples, citrus, fruits, ale, mead, honey cakes
Animals: butterflies, frogs, toads, wrens
Incense: ylang ylang, thyme, rose, sandalwood, chamomile
Rituals/Spells: all night fairy vigils, candle magick, dream work, familiar blessings, herb gathering, self-dedication, sun magick
Pagan Lore In southern In many modern, Celtic-based Traditions of Wicca/Witchcraft the Summer Solstice festival is called Litha. The word “litha” may be derived from the Anglo-Saxon word Lida, which means “moon”. Some commentators have suggested that aerra lida corresponded to the month of June in the Anglo-Saxon calendar, while aefterra lida corresponded to July. Some modern Celtic oriented Wiccans believe that litha was actually the ancient name of the Summer Solstice, although there is no historical evidence to confirm this. In the popular fictional work titled: “The Return of the King”, by J. R. R. Tolkien, the author uses the word Lithe to denote Midsummer’s Day. In modern Wicca the use of the word Litha as the name for the Summer Solstice first publicly appears in the late 1970s in such works as “The Spiral Dance” by Starhawk. The information on Pagan Lore was taken from:
Summer Solstice marks the longest day of the year and is an important festival occasion in Wicca/Witchcraft. In northern European lore, the summer solstice marks the battle between the Oak King and Holly King, figures representing the waxing and waning forces of Nature. On the day of the Summer Solstice the Holly king defeats his brother, the Oak King. Even though this is the longest day of the year, the days begin to grow shorter from this time forward.
(Scroll down to shut off the music box.)
“Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft” by Raven Grimassi
To view/purchase this book, click here.
In many modern, Celtic-based Traditions of Wicca/Witchcraft the Summer Solstice festival is called Litha. The word “litha” may be derived from the Anglo-Saxon word Lida, which means “moon”. Some commentators have suggested that aerra lida corresponded to the month of June in the Anglo-Saxon calendar, while aefterra lida corresponded to July. Some modern Celtic oriented Wiccans believe that litha was actually the ancient name of the Summer Solstice, although there is no historical evidence to confirm this. In the popular fictional work titled: “The Return of the King”, by J. R. R. Tolkien, the author uses the word Lithe to denote Midsummer’s Day. In modern Wicca the use of the word Litha as the name for the Summer Solstice first publicly appears in the late 1970s in such works as “The Spiral Dance” by Starhawk.
The information on Pagan Lore was taken from:
This is the first of the harvest festivals, and in the ancient world this was indeed a time of celebration. A successful harvest would mean survival in the harsh winter months. In the northern countries this was, in particular, a celebration of the first harvest of wheat, thus bread is featured in the celebration of Lammas, also known as Lughnasadh.
As the modern day Pagans celebrate this festival they will build roaring bonfires, feed each other a mouthful of bread, and with wine they will toast each other..."May you eat the bread of life"
Correspondences for Lammas
Herbs: frankincense, wheat, cornstalks, heather
Altar Flowers/Herbs: corn ears, hollyhock, myrtle, oak leaves, wheat
Feast Foods: apples/apple pie, cornbread, sweet potatoes/sweet potato pie, grapes, blackberries
Animals: calves, roosters, deer
Incense: chamomile, rose, rosemary, allspice, sandalwood, carnation
Rituals/Spells: maternal magick, prosperity spells, purification spells, thanksgiving rituals, career spells
Lughnasadh/Lammas was the first in the trilogy of harvest festivals in ancient Celtic culture. It marked the beginning of the harvest season, and the decline of summer into winter. It was also known as Lammas from the Saxon word Hlaf-mass, the Feast of Bread. Festivities and rituals typically centered on the assurance of a bountiful harvest season and the celebration of the harvest cycle. Connected to Lammas was the gathering of bilberries, an ancient practice symbolizing the fruitfulness of the Lughnasadh rituals. If the bilberries were bountiful, it was a sign that there would like-wise be a plentiful harvest.
Lughnasadh was associated with the Irish god known as Lugh, the god of All Skills, the “Bright or Shining One”. Funerary games incorporating athletic prowess were conducted in honor of Lugh during the festival. They were said to be in memory of Lugh’s foster mother Tailtiu, who died while preparing the fields for planting.
The information on Pagan Lore was taken from: To view/purchase this book, click here.
“Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft” by Raven Grimassi
To view/purchase this book, click here.
This day brings equal hours of light and dark, a second celebration of perfect equality. Beyond this day, light will gradually fade as the dark season descends upon the world. At this time of year, the ancient Druids would burn a large human-like wicker figure as part of their celebration. This figure represented the vegetation spirit, and indeed, the heralding of the dark season would bring an end to the growth and flowering of summer.
Modern Pagans may celebrate this holiday with many of the foods connected with this time of year in their area. For us this would include pumpkin pie and apple cider. Decorations may include leaves of autumn hues, sunflowers, pumpkins and gourds.
Correspondences for Autumn Equinox
Herbs: marigold, myrrh, thistles, sage
Altar Flowers/Herbs: asters, mums, pine, ferns, milkweed, honeysuckle
Feast Foods: autumn berries, nuts, roast game, root vegetables, cider, wine, bread
Animals: stags, goats, blackbirds, canines, owls, birds-of-prey
Incense: cedar, myrrh, patchouli, pine, sage, sweet grass, oak moss
Rituals/Spells: drying herbs, gathering late harvest, past life work, harvest moon rituals, making willow wands, harmony spells, protection spells for winter
Autumn Equinox is a ritual occasion marking the beginning of the fall season, a day when the periods of day and night are of equal length. In mainstream Wiccan mythology the Autumn Equinox marks the time of the Descent of the Goddess into the Underworld. With Her departure we see the decline of Nature and the coming of winter. This is a classic ancient mythos also reflected in the Sumerian myth of Inanna and in the ancient Greek and Roman legends of Demeter and Persephone.
In modern Celtic Wicca/Witchcraft, the Autumn Equinox also bids farewell to the Harvest Lord who is the mythos of some Traditions was slain at the time of Lughnasadh (a Festival marking the beginning of the Celtic harvest season.). Many modern Wiccans refer to the Autumn Equinox as Mabon, named for a legendary Celtic figure who was abducted and imprisoned in the basement dungeon of an enchanted castle. Through this mythos, modern Celtic Witches have established a connection to the traditional Underworld association connected with the Autumn Equinox.
In Italian Witchcraft, the Autumn Equinox marks the slaying of the Harvest Lord, and the resulting descent of the Goddess to find her lost love. The Eleusinian Mysteries, originating in
The information on Pagan Lore was taken from:
“Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft” by Raven Grimassi.
To view/purchase this book, click here.