More and more, I get questions about the wheel of the year meaning. This is especially true this time of year (as I write this, the holiday season is in full swing). Because I’m a one-woman-show, I don’t always answer emails, but I DO read every message, and I listen.
All the emails asking about the symbolic wheel of the year meaning and Celtic holiday traditions got me inspired to write this article. That said, I want to thank everybody for writing in and expressing interest in seeing new symbolic topics on this website.
Before delving into the relevance of the wheel of the year meaning and the intricate symbolism circling the ancient dates of celebrations, there are a few things I want to preface. To explain, if you look around my website, you might notice I tend to avoid religious subjects.
This isn’t because religion is void of symbolic meaning. Quite the contrary. My belief is that all forms of religion and spirituality are symbolic. In fact, symbolism is what makes our spiritual walk more powerful and profound.
However, religion is a very specialized subject, and my work is not about converting or proselytizing (preaching). Rather, my work is about sharing origins and different views about age-old traditions and symbolic meanings.
With this in mind, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t lay out the origins of the wheel of the year meaning. It’s kinda like a cyclical calendar that marks important days in a year. These important days revolve around solstices, equinoxes and other important dates that represent big juju in every season.
What is the Wheel of the Year and Why it Exists
There are eight important festivals, solstices and equinoxes (also referred to as sabbats) that coincide with shifts in seasons and progression of time during a year. The source of these established eight time-events during the year is not entirely clear. However, there is evidence that ancient pre-industrial, Nature-loving cultures paid homage during these eight dates because they marked pivotal moments in time when major changes can happen.
Because of this, holiday traditions began to form around these eight sabbats in order to express gratitude and reverence for the bounty Nature provides as well as acknowledge spiritual influences that buoys the soul throughout the year.
Almost every ancient culture has some version revolving around honoring certain times in every season. But the Celts are largely attributed to today’s most popularly accepted wheel of the year meaning. In its current form the wheel of the year is a concept passed from country folk who honored the old ways. These country folk were commonly Celts and early Europeans.
The eight-phases within the wheel of the year addresses important times of the year such as four prime seasonal celebrations that mark heavy seasonal changes. This wheel also notates the four solar celebrations which are: Winter Solstice, Fall Equinox, Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice).
Here is a list of these important times of the ancient year and their approximate dates. Also included is the correspondence of the solstices (which occur in the summer and winter) and the equinoxes (taking place in the fall and spring) and connected holidays. Please note the dates are estimates.
Wheel of the Year Dates
|Celebration||Time of Year||Corresponding Times|
|Yule||December 20-25th||Christmas – Winter Solstice|
|Imbolc||February 1-2nd||Candlemas – Early Spring|
|Ostara||March 20-23rd||Easter – Vernal (Spring) Equinox|
|Beltane||April 30 – May 1st||May Day – Return of Light- 1st Summer’s Day|
|Litha||June 20-22nd||Summer Solstice|
|Lughnasadh||August 1st||Lammas – Feast of First Harvest|
|Mabon||September 20-23rd||Autumnal Equinox – Feast of Second Harvest|
The wheel of the year is important because each of these time-frames was recognized in order for humans to stop, drop, and roll into an attitude of gratitude. Let’s face it, ancient times were tough. The fight for survival was constant.
By comparison, the battles over toilet paper paled in comparison to our ancient ancestors fight to forage or hunt for food, survive injury or disease…or worse…overcome their village being pillaged by territorial invaders.
Closing Thoughts About the Impact of Wheel of the Year Meaning
Not only is does wheel of the year meaning revolve around appreciation for surviving and thriving – it is also a profound way to mark the passing of time and honor all the blessings bestowed by Nature and the Universe.
These blessings, in the Old Way of thinking, were given to humanity via spiritual means. Some might call these ‘spiritual means’ gods, goddesses, sprites, fairies, non-physical energies, the Universe…by any name…the purpose of the ancient wheel of the year is to recognize the energy that ensures wellbeing, provision or just plain old good luck.
If you want to know more about Celtic holiday traditions connected to the wheel of the year, please check out my additional article on ancient holiday traditions here.
I hope this article on wheel of the year meaning offers insights, and answers some questions from those who emailed me with inquires. Check out my other articles about seasonal symbolism via the links below for more information.
As always, thanks for reading!
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