The Old Religion, Wicca, divides the year into eight main high days or Sabbats. Four of these are associated directly with the two equinoxes and the two solstices. The other four fall at dates in between these points.
In the Celtic Tradition, the year begins at SAMHAIN, or as it is called now, Halloween.
[October 31st.] This is the night that the veil between the world of men and spirits is considered to be the thinnest, so it is of little wonder that people should think of it as a night that all sorts of things roam about. It is New Year to the Celtics and a time to try and peek a little into the time ahead or to see if it is possible to view the future with Divination. Divination is done in many forms but all seek to establish a look ahead, whether the answer appears good or bad. SAMHAIN is also considered to start the reign of the GOD or the dark time of the Year when the Sun goes lower each day and begins to weaken.
December 21 is called YULE. It is the time of the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.
From this day forward the sun again begins to grow in strength and rise to new heights each day. It is a time of celebration and gift giving. At each of the Sabbats a number of Covens will meet and those that practice solitary may come to celebrate in the festivities. Families come together traditionally to these festivals. At Yule the celebration is in honor of the Sun being reborn and its start to warm the Earth and drive the Winter from the land. In the early days the LORD of the HUNT, or the HORNED GOD of the HUNT, was most important for survival in Winter since hunting was the means of survival practiced. The Horned God is in no way to be confused with the DEVIL.
Wicca does not consider the Devil to be an entity but believes that all good and evil are contained in each individual and it is up to that individual to be as good or as bad as they deem.MAN is man, both good and bad.
CANDLEMAS or BRIGIDDAY
February 2nd is celebrated as Candlemas. This is a festival of lights. This date is approximately half way between YULE and SPRING. BRIGID was the Celtic Goddess of Fire, Smithcraft, Healing and Wells and this was her day. Candlemas is considered in some traditions as the marker point where the Mother Goddess, the Great Earth Mother marks the path for the Sun God to find her in the dark times. It is a time when the first rush of Spring may be felt in the air and the warmth of the Sun grows stronger.
March 21 is the festival of Spring and the return to the land of life after the dead of Winter. It is a celebration of the return of growth and green things to the land. This festival is usually considered to be a sharing of love between the GOD and GODDESS, a period of equality, a balance between the forces of nature and man and woman. If possible this festival is done outdoors so the feeling of being close to nature is attained. All around the feeling of Spring may prevail from the new grass beneath the feet to the sweet clean smell of the air. The joining of mankind with nature at this festival is easily accomplished with the land renewed all around us.
April 30th is the celebration of Beltane. This is one of the old fire festival at which BALE-FIRES would be started across the country with a new fire that had been started by the Priests and hearths would be rekindled with the fresh flame. In some quarters stock would be driven between two fires , one to each side to purify the animals(not to mention get rid of pests they might be carrying). It is also considered as the coming together of the God and Goddess in fruitful union to add new life to the crops and hasten their growth.
June 21st is the longest day of the year and marks the high point reached by the Sun on its yearly journey. It is the height of Summer and the fields are green with the new crops. Life abounds all around us and in every living thing is the feeling of oneness with nature. It is easy to stand in a woods or a field and feel the Earth around you while the Sun shines on your face. To hear the birds in song or to watch the animals teaching their spring born young what they must learn to survive winter is a beautiful feeling
of oneness with all beings.
August 2nd is the festival of Lammas which is the first harvest. The early crops are being brought in and stored for winter while the abundance of nature is all around. The corn stands high in the fields and the days are warm and luxurious. Lammas is the time of sharing the first harvest and breads that are made from the early grains. It is a festival where sharing between all present of the harvest and its bounty forms a closeness or bond. It is a time of thankfulness to the God and Goddess for their help in the creation of a full harvest for the winter that lies ahead.
September 21st is the exact opposite of March 21st. Both of these are times of equal night and equal day. Fall Equinox is a reminder that the Sun will now start to grow shorter each day from this point on until again at YULE the longest time of darkness will come again. This is again a time of equality between the God and Goddess, the God represented by the Sun, the Goddess by the Moon.
Each representing half of one whole that is fulfilled by their joining as one. Fruitfulness of the land being the end result of their mutualness, the bounty of the harvest will be brought in and stored against winter, and the dArk times. From here the next festival is again SAMHAIN and the start of a NEW YEAR.
SO THE WHEEL OF THE YEAR TURNS IN THE OLD RELIGION