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Celebrating the Wheel of the Year


 What's known as the ”Wheel of the Year” is a series of ancient traditions and celebrations that honor the cycles of the Earth as she shifts, through what we understand as the seasons.

What Is The Wheel?

But it's more than that. We too feel these shifts deep within our beings and to align our lives and spiritual practices and harmony with the cycles is to go finally deep in our connection with the Earth. And the natural rhythms of all lives.


The wheel is divided into eight festivals, each with its own unique energy and opportunities for reflection, renewal, and growth. Winter Solstice (you), Spring Equinox (Ostara), Summer Solstice (Litha), and Fall Equinox (Mabon) all mark specific pauses in the Sun's dance with the Earth.


Imbolc, Beltane, Lammas, and Samhain are the cross-quarter point between each of these pauses.


These are the energetic pulses that propel the wheel forward - bringing in the transformative shifts that quicken energy during Imbolc and Beltane and release energy at Lammas and Samhain.


Festival Traditions

Historically, many of these festivals were much bigger affairs, lasting several days or weeks, and in all honesty, I do feel that this makes more sense. Although it may not be practical for our calendar-centric society, the reality is that nature does not spontaneously shift according to a specific date. It's a flow of energy that blends and evolves one vibration into the next, and so practicing traditions that align with this flow seems much more respectful of their original intent to me.


On top of that, different cultures and differing traditions have created different "dates" for their celebrations, so depending on what you resonate with, you may choose to celebrate at a different time from the 'standard' calendar choice.


As for me, my Virgo mind likes to be authentic, but also practical - so, I tend to go with what the "Calendar gods" say, and then plan my festivities over a few days when it fits into my schedule. As I've said many times over, 'it's not about a specific date, it's about the intentions and the turning of the Wheel.' That's where the magic happens. That's where the shift from "going through the motions" turns into "living with purpose and reverence."


Where To Start

Depending on the traditions, the 'beginning' of the wheel can happen at Samhain, Yule, Ibolc, or Ostara. For me, I feel the beginning starts with the Winter Solstice, aka Yule.


This is when the Sun seems to turn toward us again after its slow descent and we celebrate the return of its light and warmth.


What I love about the Winter Solstice is the quiet.

The days are short and the nights are long. Yes, the light is returning, but there is still plenty of time to turn inward and embrace the introspection that the darkness offers

Here in the North, the Earth sleeps under a thick blanket of snow and we're encouraged to do the same - to rest and restore, to give gratitude for the blessings and lessons of the past year, and to dream of all the potentials for growth and new beginnings.



Yule - light sparkling on frost covered berries

Yule

Traditionally, Yule is celebrated over 12 days, from December 20th to December 31st, with each day focusing on specific ways to deepen our connections with nature, spirit, community, and personal fulfillment. These are celebrations of giving, not just of material gifts, but the gift of presence, love, joy, and kindness.


Beginning with the Mother's Night, honoring the Divine Feminine and all the maternal energies, and ending with the Twelfth Night celebration of feasting, joy, and merriment, what better way to begin the cycle of the year than with celebrations that embody the magic and spirit of hope, gratitude, and renewal?



 

Imbolc- Candle in the Dark

Imbolc

In early February when Imbolc comes around, life here in the North is still mostly sleeping, snuggled down under a quilt of frost and snow. But, almost imperceptibly at first, there's a stirring that begins to happen - an anticipation that's growing day by day. A feeling that just under the surface, life is beginning to wake up from its hibernation, and the dreamy plans for the future are about to break through.


We're not quite ready to jump up and get going, but we're close, and it's time to start preparations.


Imbolc, for me, is like that first morning wake up alar, where we're just realizing the days are getting a little longer, and we're starting to feel the energy of life coming back.


It's a time for sweeping out the metaphorical and literal cobwebs in our minds and homes, and to stretch and energize all those seeds of possibility that we dreamed about during Yule.


 


Ostara

During Ostara, we celebrate the full awakening of Mother Earth, although depending on our northern winters, we may still be blanketed in snow and only the heartiest of sprouts and the stoutest of birds are seen peeking their heads out.


Marking the Spring Equinox around March 20th, we also recognize the delicate balance between light and dark, both in the Sun's journey across our skies and the spiritual journey within ourselves.


In any case, for me, Ostara represents the vibrant fertility and abundant rush of energy that comes with the lengthening of daylight.


This is the time when I plant the seeds (usually indoors) that will eventually cover my farm in beauty, food, and medicine. No matter how thick the snow cover is here, I know its days are numbered, and the rising heat will melt it down into the soil to nourish the abundance of life growing within.


Ostara reminds us to eagerly embrace the magic of life's revitalization, where the seeds we energized at Imbolc are now ready to burst forth and bloom.


 


Beltane

Beltane is when life really starts heating up, as the halfway point between Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice. Usually celebrated on May 1st, it's also known as "May Day,' and gifts of flowers and chocolates are anonymously left on the doorknobs of secret loves, flower-crowned maidens dance and weave colorful ribbons around a May Pole, symbolizing the potent fertility and union of the Divine Feminine and Masculine energies. Fires are lit deep into the night, symbolizing the Sun's strength to purity and revitalize the Earth.


Do I do any of these things?


Well, yes, once upon a time, but these days my rituals are somewhat less vigorous and I typically reserve "deep into the night" for the revitalizing energy of slumber.



 

Litha - Summer Solstice - Outdoor Picnic

Litha

The Summer Solstice, or Litha, is the time when the sun shines its brightest, the day is at its longest, and the Earth is at her peak of vibrant abundance.


Traditionally celebrated around June 21st, this is also my son's birthday, and so for me, this is a very special point on the wheel.


As a counterpoint to the Winter Solstice when all I want is quiet, at the Summer Solstice all I want is raucous merrymaking. Bring out the family, fire up the grill, and let's have a party to celebrate how wonderful life is and enjoy all the bounty that our Mother Earth provides.



 

Lamas - Vegetable Garden Harvest

Lamas

As the wheel turns to Lammas, also known as Lughnassadh in some traditions, all the work we've put in to nurture our fields and gardens is now rewarding us with the literal fruits of our labors.


Around the 1st of August, this is the beginning of harvest season, and even though these are often the hottest and driest days here in the North, there's a feeling of transition in the air. Just like its counterpoint at Imbolc, it's almost imperceptible at first, but nonetheless, there's a growing need to start gathering food and medicine to prepare for the long winter months ahead.


Because of this, it's also one of the busiest points on the wheel for me, so my days are usually spent weeding, watering, and harvesting, but I do try to stop and take a few moments to enjoy the warm Sun on my face, the cool Earth beneath my toes, and be grateful for all the beauty and blessing that grow around and within me.



 

Mabon - The Autumn Equinox - Pantry full of home-canned Goods

Mabon

By the time Mabon and the Autumn Equinox come around, harvesting is starting to slow down, my basement is full of food and medicine stored for winter, and the air is crisp and hinting at the colder, quieter months to come. I love this time of the year!


There's just something magical about it, when the Sun balances the light and dark for a moment and we realize that both have equal value and importance.


At Ostara, we celebrated the flush of new life and light growing in and around us.


Now at Mabon, there's a sense of turning inward, releasing what no longer serves us, and welcoming the quiet rest and renewal found in the deepening darkness.


 

Samhain - Cup of steaming hot tea pictured with fall leaves and blanket

Samhain

At the end of October/early November, we celebrate Samhain and the halfway point between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice. It is said that this is the time when the veil between the living and the spirit world is at its thinnest.


Personally, I feel that my ancestors and guides are always with me, but I do take extra time in honoring them at Samhain, and you will often find several extra place settings at my dinner table for them to join us. This also marks the beginning of "hibernation" season for me, when the gardens have been put to sleep, the outside work is done, and I can finally settle in for some much-needed downtime to read, reflect, let go, and begin to dream of the new seeds I will plant in my gardens and in myself as the wheel spins into a new cycle.



 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hi there! I'm Shannon Bueche, and this is my space to share what's on my mind, as concisely as my Virgo brain will allow. Not only do I 'spill the tea' on some common misconceptions, but I also like to drink it while I'm running down the rabbit holes of the hows and whys of what I do to harmonize with the greater connections of life.


Whether it's living, growing, and harvesting in tune with the cycles of the year, the struggles of being human in this age, or just the random musings of an everyday Earth Mother, you'll find it all here. I believe in keeping things authentic, but still practical.  So, while I may overshare details from time to time, I will always offer suggestions that make sense for living right now. 


So, grab a cup, sit a spell, and join me on this journey of living from the ground up.


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