Wheel of the Year: Pagan Holidays
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
(Autumn Equinox) September 21
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
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