What days of the year are most important to you? Are you making a place for them in your practice, or are you by-passing them altogether? What makes your year go’ round? These are important points to consider when finding your life rhythm and setting a sacred schedule for your own Wheel of the Year.
All too frequently, new practitioners approach this path and feel they must absorb a whole new system directed by a book. That includes celebrating the Wheel of the Year down to the letter, even if it doesn’t make sense for your location, background, beliefs, myths, real life experiences, and so on. This approach can leave you feeling out of touch with what’s happening around you or even make you wonder if you’re doing witchery all wrong.
But there are very few hard and fast rules in Witchcraft — instead, they’re are many suggestions and recommended guidelines. The Wheel of the Year model, as it appears in most books over the last fifty years, is a relatively new construction pieced together from different traditions, I’m not pointing out this fact to knock the system — it does work well for many people. Yet it can be all to easy to forget that the Wheel of the Year is a guideline, not a rule to be adhered to religiously or exclusively. The intention behind its information is to give modern Pagans a cycle they can connect with. How you mark or celebrate the seasons, mythic changes, and important dates will depend heavily on the foundation of your personal practice.
Take into consideration that the popular version of the Wheel of the Year is heavily steeped in Celtic myth. What if you wish to delve into your Slavic, Japanese, or Brazilian heritage? Every culture has its own vibrant collection of myths and sacred days. Sometimes they overlap with the eight sabbats, similarly landing on solstices, equinoxes, or the cross-quarter days, but sometimes they don’t. For example, the Slavic/Russian sun-oriented fest of Kupala occurs in early July while Obon, a Japanese festival that honors the dead falls in mid-August.
There’s also the problematic trappings of culture that insists on separating the sacred from the secular. Big festivals and fest days help bring a community together, but that doesn’t mean they are more special or powerful than days that have a deep personal meaning in your own life. When we are able to see the correlations between the big moments and our day-to-day lives, we enhance our ability to connect with the world around us. The more we can honor and celebrate the seawsons in our own lives, the deeper our practic becomes.
Anniversaries, Birthdays, and Other Important Life Moments
The first category may seem pretty obvious, but we often tend to not look at these dates in a spiritual context. We may even view them as obligations versus observances over time. Birthdays aren’t just about getting older; they are opportunities to reflect on the events that took place in the past year and set goals for the next year. A birthday can serve as a reminder for us to be kinder to ourselves.
Marking the beginnings of a relationship (wedding, union, handfasting, etc.) is a great time to remember what brought you together and what you have accomplished along the way. Similarly, anniversaries of endings can be moments to recall we have come and how we have changed. For example, nearly a decade after the fact, I still remember the date when I finally decided to end an abusive relationship. It marks not only the end but also a new beginning, the new me. Celebrate your moments of strength in dark times as well as your triumphs in the best of times.
What other important moments mark significant changes in your life? A college graduation date, the day you arrived in a new place, an initiation or elevation into a tradition, the day you met you best friend, or the day you reconciled with someone — all are possible things you might choose to acknowledge on a yearly basis.
Celebrating the Deceased
There is a tendency to think of the dead at certain times of the year, such as Samhain. But if you work with the spirits and deceased enough, you will find they are around us all year long all year long. I celebrated my loved ones who have crossed over on their birthday. Some people my choose to celebrate the deathday, but I prefer the birthday [Side note: I celebrate both days]. Why? Well, on a technical level I tend to only remember the season of someone’s passing, not the actual date, so that’s not really helpful. The main reason for using their date of birth, though, is that I want to celebrate their life and the impact they had on the world while they were alive.
Saint and Deity Days
While certain sabbats may have an associations with specific deities, what if those gods aren’t deities you feel connected to? Maybe the one or ones you choose to work with historically have a special date used to honor them. If you can’t find a specific date or seasons in the records, you might use the day of dedication instead, if you have performed such a rite. Or you could use divination or trance work to determine which day would be pleasing to them.
There’s also a fair amount of folks who have a fondness for saints — whether because they are coming from a Catholic background or they made a connection to that saint via their current path. In some religions, the deities of old became saints because of their powers that be couldn’t squash the belief in them, so they were “legitimatized” instead. In other instances, they can be viewed as the Mighty Dead, or enlightened humans who act as intermediaries to the divine.
Family and Familiar Feasts
Is there a particular occasion that has been long celebrated in your family or has a speical place in your heart? Carry on that tradition then! Even if it is tied to a religious tradition that you no longer follow or is completely secular in origin, consider what makes that day special to you. Is the meaning rooted in who was in attendance, the time of year, or what meal was always served? Think about what spiritual or magical context that feast has for you now. Traditions survive through a healthy mixture of both preservation and change.
Where we live has a huge impact on how we turn the Wheel. The landscape, the seasons, and local culture all affect how we experience the world around us. The community in which you live probably all ready has festivals that honor certain changes, such as a harvest festival, an annual block party, a yearly parade to commemorate an event in the town’s history, or a natural phenomenon that happens like clockwork (monsoons, fog season, second summer, etc.) These modern-day observances can have just as much power as the commonly accepted sabbats — and even more personal meaning for you because the event directly reflects the spirit of where you live. Remember everything has an origin!
Follow, Your Roots
Not only is it important to acknowledge the patterns of the land where you live, but you may also find exploring your roots very inspiring. Where are your ancestors from? What traditions and celebrations did they observe historically? You probably won’t find books on these subjects in the New Age section of the library or bookstore — instead you’ll want to wander over to anthropology and folklore sections. If a particular tradition or day really resonates, consider how you can sincerely explore it. Are the people who live in that area today still observing it? Can you find videos online of the festivities? It might be worth a trip to immerse yourself more and see what you can discover about your roots.
How Do You Celebrate?
Now, all this exploration doesn’t mean that every day you note as important must be acknowledged with elaborate ritual. Lighting a candle on your altar, taking a few moments to meditate outside, or preparing a favorite meal of a deceased loved one all work beautifully. If you know a particular day is going to hit you hard emotionally or mentally, then remember to schedule self-care of some kind. That can be anything from taking a cleansing bath to scheduling an outing with friends to dedicating the day to doing community service.
Copyright by Laura Tempst Zakroof Llewellyn;s Witches’ Datebook 2020 Pages 20 to 23