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.
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.
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.
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.
Why not work out a list of your own correspondences for each month? I suggest the following headings as a guide:
I don't want you to reinvent the Wheel… Actually, that's exactly what I want you to do!