When I first began my Pagan journey, I was presented with the Wheel of the Year with which it seemed most Pagans worked. I learned all the dates and correspondences, which took me ages, and I often forgot what was supposed to be where! But I duly decorated my altar for each Sabbat and did the ritual, although I am not sure how much I actually connected with each one. As my journey has deepened and the years have passed, I realised that the Wheel of the Year isn't about dates on calendars; it's more about connections. Mother Nature does not keep to a schedule, and perhaps more so in recent years; the seasons seem to be all over the place. The energies will also change depending on where you are in the world and how your seasons work.
The Wheel of the Year you are probably familiar with was created in England, so it follows the seasonal weather pattern of England, although even in our small country, the weather and temperatures vary from area to area. But not everyone in the world will be able to relate to these calendar dates and their meanings. Some places in the world have four definite seasons as we do in England; others don't.
I urge you to bend the rules of the Wheel or even change them completely. Follow your local weather system and landscape. This is one of the reasons why I break down the year into months and why I extend the Sabbats over a series of weeks rather than just one or two days. Your path is your own; each person will walk it differently. The same applies to the Wheel of the Year: it must work for you and where you live.
- Spring Equinox/Ostara: I like to start my celebrations for the Spring Equinox at the beginning of March and they usually last until the end middle of April.
- Beltane: For Beltane my preparations begin mid April, following on from the Spring Equinox and right through until about the third week of May.
- Summer Solstice/Litha: Summer Solstice celebrations start in my house in the last week of May and run through the whole of June, often until mid July.
- Lughnasadh (sometimes called Lammas): Once I finish with my Summer Solstice festivities I begin setting up for Lughnasadh, usually from mid July and running through until the third week of August.
- Autumn Equinox/Mabon: In the last week of August I start preparations for the Autumn Equinox and carry the celebration through until the end of September.
- Samhain: Samhain celebrations for me fill the whole of October and the first week or two of November.
- Winter Solstice/Yule: Often beginning in the second week of December my Winter Solstice festivities carry on through the rest of December and into the first week of January.
- Imbolc: I usually take a couple of weeks off at the beginning of January to clear space and take a breath. Then I prepare for Imbolc mid January and run it through until the end of February.
I wholeheartedly believe you should follow the Wheel in your own way. You can modify the Wheel depending on your culture and any celebrations in your area. I believe it is entirely possible—and, in fact, should be encouraged—to merge these together. Christmas is a good example. I celebrate with my non-Pagan family and just mix up the traditions. I do the same with those who follow another religion or are part of a specific culture; we take the practices and traditions and merge them. If you and your family are Christian or Jewish, for instance, meld those celebration dates and practices together with your Witchcraft or Pagan journey. Make it work for you. Create new ways to celebrate and bring in new family traditions. Or resurrect old ones.
Don't do things if they don't feel right to you. Don't go through the motions just because everyone else is doing it. You shouldn't feel the need to celebrate the first harvest on a certain date if it hasn't yet happened in your area. And the harvests in your location will also be specific to produce, which might be wheat or barley, but it could also be mangoes or pineapples. (The latter is unheard of in the south of England, where I am!) Tailor your connection and celebrations to what is going on in your area.
And if you miss a Sabbat? Don't beat yourself up. You won't be struck down by the Gods—really, you won't.
Make It Yours
There are many different Pagan pathways and traditions within. Each one has its own beliefs and guidelines. My own is that of a Pagan Kitchen Witch. I work with the old gods that hail from the land I live on. As such, I focus primarily on working with deities from ancient Britain, but you should work with gods or nature spirits that have meaning to you in your own journey. I don't follow rules or guidelines laid out by others—I never have liked being told what to do! What I do is trust my own intuition and tune into the ebb and flow of Mother Nature and the landscape that surrounds me.
Whilst the Sabbats are a wonderful way to separate the year and give us a good excuse to celebrate, my purpose is to encourage you to make the year more personal to you and your own journey. Take yourself on a journey through the year that is based on a strong connection to Mother Earth. I believe the key to riding the ebb and flow is to connect with the source.
- Trust your intuition.
- Connect with the land.
- Celebrate and enjoy the journey.
- Most importantly, make it your own!
Tips for Working with the Wheel
The celebrations are yours to make as personal as you want. There are, of course, some traditional historical practices, but ultimately, this is your path. Always trust your intuition when working magic or choosing corresponding items. Your intuition won't let you down. There are a lot of ways you can celebrate the Sabbats and work with the months, but I encourage you to connect with the energy of each "season" and allow its flow to carry you as you build your own ways of working with each one.
- I connect to the magical energy of Mother Nature every morning. I do this when I let the dog out first thing. Whilst he is bounding around and sniffing every plant, stone, and corner of the garden, I take a moment to myself. I encourage you to take a step outside every day.
- Look at the plants around you; see the leaves and the flowers and the stage of life they are at. Look up to the sky. Feel the sun and the air on your skin. Note the clouds and their patterns. Listen to the birds and the sounds of life around you.
- Take a deep breath in and feel the energy of the moment. Sometimes when I am doing this, a word or a feeling will pop into my head. Occasionally, I even get a message about what magic to work or which tasks to take on that day. Most importantly, I am connecting with Mother Nature and the energy she provides, watching, looking, listening, and feeling the moment that nature is in. If you build a regular connection to Mother Nature, this will help you tune in to the turning of the Wheel and the seasons in your locality.
- Get to know your area. Don't just get to know your area in the ordinary sense of going for walks and finding out where everything is—really delve into the history. With so much information available at our fingertips, it is easy to source the history and folklore of any one place.
- Find out what has happened in your area over the past few centuries. What history does it hold? What folk stories or myths are associated with it?
- Connect with the energy of the land that is below your feet. Interact with the ancestors that came before you. The Romans called it genius loci, which translates to "spirit of place." Every location has the spirit or energy of the place, whether it is a field, a forest, a shopping mall, or a car park. Even modern buildings and spaces will have a spirit or an energy with which you can connect. It is a feeling, an energy, or perhaps an aura. I am not talking ghosts or spirits of those long dead, but the energy of a place made up from memories of those that have been there before and the energy of the buildings or land itself. The energy is held within the buildings, the earth, and the space. Not only will it help you understand your local area, it will also help you feel comfortable, connected, and at home with the land. When I visit a place—or even when I am just in my own garden or house—I connect with that energy. Open yourself up, use your senses, and feel the energy; talk to it.
Remember that you don't need to visit a famous, "sacred" place to feel connected. Every place is sacred, and none more so than your own home and yard.
Finding Seasonal Correspondences
Each Sabbat has either a set date or one that varies by a day or two each year. Generally, we do tend to see them as only one day on the calendar. However, I like to work with them as a period of time. Using one of the most popular Sabbats as an example, Samhain is celebrated on October 31 each year, but most of us crack open the Halloween decorations a couple of weeks beforehand, sometimes more. There is a buildup of energy before the event and then a calming down of the energy afterward. For me, this kind of thing works for each Sabbat. Then each Sabbat flows nicely into the next one, with a "handing over" of the energies as the next one approaches. One of my lovely friends likens the energy of the Sabbats to the phases of the moon: the waxing phase is the weeks beforehand, the full energy on the calendar date of the Sabbat, and then the waning phase is the days afterward.
I like to break the Wheel down into months; each month has its own unique energy, so I work with that. Sometimes I work with the energy of each week or even each day as well. My book A Witch for Every Season will give you prompts, tips, and suggestions for how to make those connections and celebrate the seasons, months, and Sabbats in your own way.
The most important part of this journey is the connection. By noticing what the weather and nature are doing, you form a bond. Make that connection with the land you live on. You are in tune and in touch with Mother Nature, and that is a true gift.
Recording Your Practices
If you like to use a journal, then this is the perfect way to keep track of the energy of each month. If you find journaling tedious (count me in that group), then you may prefer to keep a scrapbook or use an online version. Either way, it really can be useful to document the seasons. This can help you connect to the month, and it also gives you a record to look back on each year and notice any changes.
- You don't need to write an essay; just make a few notes each day or each week noting what the weather is like and what is happening in nature.
- You could take photographs and upload them online to keep a record of what you have seen. Just remember to note where and when.
- Or you can print out photos and stick them in a notebook with dates and places.
- If you are artsy, you could sketch images of plants, animals, and trees as they blossom and fruit.
- If videoing is your thing, how about keeping a video journal of your explorations?
- Remember to make a note of the energies you felt; this will help you connect with the flow of magic throughout the year.
Why not work out a list of your own correspondences for each month? I suggest the following headings as a guide:
- Moon Name: Give the month's moon your own name based on what nature is doing in your area.
- Celebrations: What Sabbat falls in the month, and what local or national festivals or celebrations do you want to honour and include? How will you celebrate?
- Magical Energy: What magic will you work for each month?
- Plants and Flowers: What is growing in your garden? What about your area?
- Foods: What foods are in season?
- Crystals: What crystals do you associate with each month?
- Animals: What animals do you associate with each month, and/or what animals are active in your area at the time?
- Deity: What deities do you associate with each month?
- Altar Decorations: What items do you relate to each month? These could be natural or otherwise.
- Meditation prompts: Write a meditation that leads you through the scenery of each month.
- Incense & Oils: Create blends that resonate with the energy of each month
I don't want you to reinvent the Wheel… Actually, that's exactly what I want you to do!