The Wheel of the year – Where did it come from and when to celebrate.

The original year was split into two halves in ancient Celtic times, the light and the dark. To mark the passing of time, the year was further divided into celebrations. The wheel of the year was popularised in the 1950’s and 1960’s in its current format of eight celebrations, revised from the original four traditional Quarter Day celebrations to include the four solar festivals¹. We now recognise the celebrations are well recorded in Celtic traditions, and in the North East of Scotland remnants of the fire festivals are still celebrated. The four quarter days’ importance lasted well into the 20th Century “as feeing days for farm servants and rent days.” ²

 

The modern Celtic calendar has been designed as a wheel to symbolise the Celtic belief of the turning circle. Was their original festival calendar in a circle? We don’t know, although we do know the earliest Celtic calendar we can find, the Coligny calendar³, was written on a square tablet and laid out in a similar method to our own modern calendar. However each month of the Coligny calendar was tied to the start of the new lunar cycle. 

 

The festival days are tied to the lunar and solar calendars as those are when the changes of nature can be seen, tied to life itself and what is need to survive the coming months.

 

The eight festivals still celebrated are;

 

Samhain (31 October) – Pagan new year – Quarter Day fire festival

 

Yule (20-25 December) – Solar festival – Winter equinox

 

Imbolc (1-2 February) – Quarter Day fire festival marking start of spring

 

Ostara (20-23 March) – Solar festival – Spring equinox

 

Beltane (30 April-1 May) – Quarter Day fire festival – marking time between spring and summer

 

Litha (20-22 June) – Solar Festival – summer equinox

 

Lughnasadh (1 August) – Quarter Day festival marking start of harvest time

 

Mabon (20-23 September) – Solar festival – Autumn equinox

 

The fireball festival still celebrated in Stonehaven North East Scotland - a chance for a wee dram with friends and strangers and fireballs. Those are really heavy, covered in tar and very hot.

Every celebration is a time to mark what has passed and to celebrate and think about what is coming in the next turn. Each festival has their own traditions, deities and worship.

As the time draws near to each one, we will share celebrations, ideas and traditions. The Quarter Day festivals were large social events and when that is possible we look forward to sharing them with you!

 

Blessings to you, The Crow.

The origins of the Wheel of the year and its celebrations

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