An Introduction to the Wheel of the Year

Image:  Olena Ivanova

My approach to living slowly and seasonally is to be guided by the Celtic Wheel of the Year, an ancient calendar guided by the transition of the sun throughout the seasons. Many religions celebrate the festivals within the Wheel of the Year (paganism, for example), but my approach is not inspired by any one religion, rather it is rooted in a love and reverence for the natural world.

Each twelve month period is split into eight segments.

The beginning of each season is marked by a Cross-Quarter (or fire) Festival: Imbolc (February 1st) for spring; Beltane (May 1st) for summer; Lammas (August 1st) for autumn; and Samhain (October 31st) for winter. Though these dates may seem early, they are suggestions that a different energy is emerging; the smallest of signs that change is on the horizon.

The height of each season is marked by a Quarter Point (or solar festival): the Spring Equinox (20th - 23rd March); the Summer Solstice (20th - 23rd June); the Autumn Equinox (20th - 23rd September); and the Winter Solstice (20th - 23rd December). These are thought to be non-Celtic in origin, but are celebrated as part of the cycle nevertheless. From each Quarter Point, the season begins to wane, until we reach the next Cross-Quarter Festival that signifies one season has ended, and another has begun.

Using these eight markers provides natural pauses in the year, a chance to consider our lives and choices in a way that makes sense in relation to the Earth. For instance, at Beltane (May 1st) nature is full of life: the dawn chorus is building, flowers are blooming, and everywhere is beginning to look very green. In alignment with the Earth’s increased energy, it is a time to move forward with plans and intentions, for turning the potential of winter and early spring into reality.

In addition to working alongside (rather than against) the energy of the Earth, we can also use these markers to create ceremony, whether alone, with friends and family, or with community. We can use the markers as a reminder to look to the seasons and what’s going on in nature, and perhaps to adjust our own rhythm and rituals accordingly. So for Beltane, that might include waking a little earlier one day to watch the sunrise, eating more meals outdoors, keeping a posy of wildflowers by your bedside; small reminders of the season, but powerful when included in your everyday (or every week).

You can read more about Beltane, the next festival on the Wheel of the Year - in this post from Sarah, in which she explores Cornish traditions.

If you’d like to find out more and discover ways to celebrate the seasons guided by the Wheel of the Year, membership might be for you. In your monthly printed mini book, you’ll find a whole section on celebration, and you’ll also receive additional resources like guided meditations and journal prompts to help you mark the festivals in other ways too.