The CAWTN Wheel of the Year

Introduction

The annual cycle of the seasonal celebrations are a central part of Pagan worship, referred to as the Wheel of the Year, the Sacred Round, the Cycle of Sabbats or the Sacred [calendar] Year. The Great Festivals are represented as The Great Cycles of Life, from Birth to Death to Rebirth, and are represented and simulated by the rituals and Myths associated with each one. The eight spokes of this Wheel are the seasonal Great Festival Sabbats of Wicca. These Sabbats occur at Solstices, Equinoxes, and the Cross-Quarters midway between them. Most Temperate Zone indigenous peoples celebrate their own version of these Festivals, and not surprisingly - they've been assimilated into the Christian liturgical year as Masses and Saint's Days. An evening bonfire is a very common feature of these festivals.

The Church of All Worlds Tradition (CAWT) has evolved a complex cycle of celebration where we have assimilated many elements of the customs and folklore of our ancient Pagan heritage, mainly drawing from Western European, Britain; the Gaeltach of Britanny, Wales and Ireland; Greek (and Roman) Mythology and ritual, such as the Eleusinian Mystery ritual cycle has always been incorporated as a strong component of our seasonal observances. The main characters of of seasonal dramas are Mother Earth (Gaia), Father Sun (Sol), and their children: The leafy Green Man, or Florus; the Maid, or Flora/Kore); the Horned Red Man, or Pan/Faunus where Clorophyll is represented by green, and Hemoglobin by red.

The Wheel is a circle that comes to each section of its circumference in turn, so any starting point is arbitrary, and the Sabbat New Year may be different for various Traditions. Unlike "the CAW Wheel of the Year" document, this version starts at Samhain instead of Eostre, even though Eoster is considered to be "East" where the casting of a Circle begins, mainly because Samhain is the Celtic/Gaelic New Year.

The Seasons of the Wheel


In larger rites, the King and Queen of the Underworld held Court and presided over the Dumb supper and the Summer King's abdication, where his crown is laid down - instead of his life, in ritual sacrifice ! Another ritual Drama was the Red maid seeking Her lost Love, the Green Man, who descended into the Underworld at Mabon, and reigns there at this time as its King. We often do scrying at this time, with a crystal ball or concave black mirror. The Circle was considered to be held in the Underworld abd energies and rituals moved widdershins. And, so we shall do so, again and anew.


Yule which is Norse for "Wheel" is the Festival of Lights, for the candles burned this night. The Winter Solstice occurs around December 21st, the longest night of the year. This Festival is one of the most celebrated times around the World, In Northern countries it's the most important festival, because it commemorates the Birth of the Sun-God from the womb of Night. In Rome the same celebration was the "Natalis Solis Invictus", the Birth of the Unconquered Sun. It took place within the longer festival of the Saturnalia, whence comes the image of Father Time (Saturn) with is scythe. Because it was the most important Roman Festival, in 352 CE it was the first one to be assimilated in christianity as Christmas or the Birth of Jesus, whose birthday was moved from sometime in September to the Winter Solstice to compete with the Mithras' Birthday, and alot of other solar gods. When Protestantism reared its ugly head, the Puritans under Oliver Cromwell, and others, tried to outlaw "Christams" because it was Popish or unchristian ! But 'Christmas' survived in spite of their fanatical efforts to surpress and outlaw it.

The many customs of Yule (candles, decorated trees, Yule logs, wreaths, gift giving, wasshail and caroling, costimed mummers, plays, mistletoe, "deck[ing] the halls with boughs of holly" (or pine) are all Pagan, and still provide a rich store of material for our contemporary celebrations. While the emphasis of the Season is the Sun or Father Deity, the Mother is still present and honored. Yule's opposite is Litha.

At this time we may find ourselves gathered around a large fireplace where a ritual drama may be enacted the story of the first Yule, when the Sun went away, and the children had to go find him and bring him back. Some of the characters of our Yule ritual may include the Wintery Queen; the Queen of Night; Father Winter; Father Time; Lucia, the Maiden with a crown of candles, and of course the Young Sun-God. we'll bring in the Yule log amid singing and toasting, drink athelbros (traditional Scots wasshail); exchange gifts; display the Wren; and share songs and stories around the fire, hold the Night Vigil 'til Dawn, for somebody has to stay up all night to make sure the Sun rises in the morning...


Oimelc, Imbolc, and Imbolgare some of the names for the Cross-Quarter Sabbat traditionally celebrated around February 2nd, but falling astrologically several days later at 15o Aquarius. Oimelc (ee'melk) is Gaelic for "ewe's milk", or Imbolg, "in the belly", or the festival of Pregnancy, Birth and Lactation. It celebrates the bursting of the locks of frost, and the bursting of the waters as the sacred set of Twins lower in the womb of the Earth Mother. The Celtic 'Festival of the Waxing Light' is also called Brigantia, Brigid, or Bride's Day which is dedicated to Brigit the Irish Goddess of fire, forge, inspiration, herbal healing, sacred poetry, and midwifery. her festival marks the beginning of both the lambing and plowing season. Oimelc is celebrated with the woman's Mysteries of birth, menstration, and the rite of Passage into womanhood. It's the time of Dianic Initiation, the celebration of sisterhood, and woman-to-woman loving. In some Craft Traditions its has another name - Lady's Day. Oimelc was christianized as Candlemas or Candelaria, and popularized as Ground Hog's Day.

The customs of this Festival include making a Bride's Bed and a Brigit Doll to sleep in it. Brigit fires up Her Forge and leads us to forge talismans in token of our pledges to complete some creative project during Her year. The Goddesses reign and two Priestesses may assume the parts of the Red and Green Maids. This is a great time for Bardics around a campfire or in a Temple, where we share poetry, songs and stories which She has inspired.


Ostara or Spring's Height is the Spring Vernal Equinox Sabbat which occurs around March 21st. Another name for it is Eostre, or "Eastern Star" (the planet Venus) is the Saxon Goddess of dawn and fertility, cognate with Isthar, Astarte, Ashera, Aphrodite, Inanna, and the goddess Venus. The female estrous cycle of ferility and sexuality takes its name from Her. Eggs, bunnies, and ducklings are all symbols of fertility, of course, and are universally associated with this Festival, even among christians. It's the New Year of the Zodiacal Calendar, and the name of the current 2,000 year astological Age began on the sign where the Vernal Equinox falls on in its continuing precession, which is currently in a cusp between Pisces and Aquarius. This festival celebrates fertility, and birth, when Mother Earth bears two sets of Holy Twins, the Green Man and Maiden, and the Red Man and the Maiden, representing the plants and animals. Hot Cross Buns or paska are a traditional treat that represents the Balanced Sun. In the Eleusinian Cycle, Persephone returns from Her six months in the Underworld, reborn as Kore, the Flower Maiden.

During this time children dye Ostara Eggs, and each egg has a Goddess' name written on it, and using red dye is a traditional favorite color. Choosing "oracular eggs" are chosen from a basket while blindfolded, and each person msut learn the lessons of their chosen Goddess in the coming Ostarian Year. Ostara was christianized as Easter, another form of the Goddess' name.


Belta[i]ne, or Bel's Fire, is named for Belenos. Other names include Flora Day, Hare Day, Caedamh Dea Dia, and Summer's Beginning and May Day, (not a message of distress) is traditionally May 1st. Naturally, it astrologically falls several days later at 15o Taurus, and is another celebration of sexuality, or "Hooray, hooray, it's the First of May, Outdoor Loving begins Today !" in the vernacular. This day celebrates the Heiros Gamos or Sacred Marriage of the Red Man, Robin (Fauna) and the Green Maid Marian (Flora, Maia) with the dancing the Maypole Rite. However, May marriages among mortals is considered to be ill-fated because they're linked to the Doom (Wyrd, Fate) of the May King. Leaping the Balefire, which is made of nine sacred woods, secures protection from evil, brings good luck, and increases one's fertility. making love in a garden will cause it to florish. Floral wreaths are worn and May Baskets are left on door steps for loved ones. The Red and Green Men Dance, and men may dress like women. Women, of course, dress like men all year long ! [;-)] It's also a good time for a man to buy his yearly suit, and for women to shop for new outfits [:-)] Belta[i]ne was christianized as Roodmas.

May Eve is Walpurgisnach; presumably named for St. Walpurgis, an English woman missionary to Germany who died there in 780 CE; but Walburg is an old Teutonic name of the Earth Mother. This evening is for celebrating the begetting of Spring by Wodan {Odin, Wotan] and Freya, and the bonfire must be lit suing spark from fint and steel. This was thought of as a night of madness for the veil between the Worlds is particulary thin, for its opposite is Samhain, and the beginning of the Summer half of the year. Brocken Mountain in Germany is famed for the site of great Witch's orgies on this night. In Classical times, there was the Festival of Hades, Lord of the Underworld.

A full all-night ritual with a large group on Walpurgisnacht begins with a Theme involving a journey into the Mythic Realm of Faerie. We'll hold bawdy May Games to select the Queen and King of the May, who are crowned as the Horned man (Robin) and Flower Maid (Marian), who become consorts and avatars for the men and women of our community during their Reign, which ends at Samhain for the King, and completes a full year for the Queen. Childern's May Games may also be held to select a May Prince and Princess, and the New Royal Court will convene at festivals throughout the Summer season. Morris Dancing, and a variation of the Abbots Bromely Horn Dance is performed with much feasting is part of the Beltane celebration. The women prepare the Maypole Crown, the Circle, the Yoni Gate and the Hole, decorating them with ribbons and flowers, while the men go off to meet and bring in the Maypole, topped with a huge crowned phallus, or 'John Thomas', inscribed with the years of Beltane celebrations past. The Pole is brought through the Yoni Gate amid great merriment and sexual innuendos, crowned, placed in the Hole, and raised up.

The Maypole Rite IS the Heiros Gamos, the centerpiece of Beltane, the Sacred Marriage of the new King and Queen. He is bound to the Pole and She dances seductively around him, Everyone grabs an end to one fo the many ribbons hanging from the Magyole Crown, and they dance the Weaving Dance to wrap Pole and King together.


Litha is also Midsummer or Summer Solstice, and occurs around June 21st. Litha is the name of a Saxon Grain Goddess, cognate with Demeter, or Ceres, and Her festival is one of joy, abundance and play. On the longest day of the year usual activites are swimming, picnicing, and water play are customary, (not to mention fun !) as are bonfires and fireworks in the evening. Cakes are shared with one piece containing a bean or other marker; the one who gets it is considered to be "dedicated" and is required to jump the flames three times. Throughout Europe lovers clasp hands or toss flowers to each other across the bonfire, or leap through it together before vanishing into the woods and fields, "searching for the Midsummer grass" to make love under the stars. Litha is specifically in honor of the Earth Mother, who nourishes us with Her bounty from Her ever-flowing Cauldron, but we may also honor the Sun-Father at this time in a rutual enactment of the Sacred Marriage of the Earth and the Sun. Litha is a festival of families, marriage partners and children. It's the best time for marriages, and also a time for future visions and Faery favors. Celebrating Litha was celebrated in CAW in years past with a big skinny-dipping beach party, and pot-luck barbecue with dancing in the evening. A Primal Ooze Pit lends to the merriment, as well as a performance of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream .


Lughnasadh, or the Games of Lugh, traditionally August 1st, but it (you guessed !) astrologically falls several days later at 15o Leo. Lugh is an Irish Solar God of ritual combat as well as competitive sports. It was Traditional to hold Faires at this time, which marked the beginning of "Earths's sorrowing Autumn", as Emer said to her husband Cuchulain, this 'Blessing of the First Fruits' is also called Bron Trogain, or "Harvest's Beginning" - the 'Feast of Bread', when the first grains to be harvested are set aside to be made into the first loaves of ceremonial bread. The bread represents the body of the fallen God. Once a month-long festival was held in Ireland at Teltown on the River Boyne (named for the Cow Goddess Boann, "She of the White Track", i.e. the Milky Way). "Teltown Marriages", lasting no more than a year and a day, were once famous (and is often the length of a modern handfasting).

Lughnasad (Loo-na-sahd) is traditionally celerated with competitive games among men and boys. The winners were declared Champions and Heroes, and held responsible for the ( ceremonial ) defense of the village. This festival is dedicated to male energy; male virility and sexuality is honored, including that which passes between men. The Irish Tailtean Games were orignially held in honor of Tailtiu, but other competitive male games of strength and skill, like hammer throwing, tossing the caber, and ritual dancing have traditionally been held at this time as well, including the Olympics, the Panatheniac Games, the Highlands Games, and the modern football and soccer seasons - Yessss ! Finally watching Football is a sacred and holy act ! This festival was christianized as Lammas or Loaf-mass.


Mabon, AKA Harvest Home, Kirn Feast, Mell Day, Ingathering, and Harvest's Height is the Autumnal Equinox, and is named for Mabon, the Welsh god of the Harvest, the Sacred Son of Modron, the Great Mother. He's the Green man whose blood is intoxicating beverages ("Drink, for this is my Blood") Dionysios, wind; Osirus, beer; and John Barleycorn ('Uisge Beatha' or Whiskey, the Waters of Life) are some of his earthly attributes. The bay tree is sacred to Mabon, as its magickal action is peservation, a time-honored Harvest-tide occupation and activity. This festival commemorates the ritual sacrifice of the God and His descent into the Underworld, and the brewers' art that produces the Sacrament of this season. In Latvia their Harvest festival is called Vela Laiks, or the 'Time of the Dead'; in Mendonesia it's the festival of the Grape Harvest. Harvest Home is the traditional Feast of Thanksgiving, but the Pilgrims had a late harvest so America's Thanksgiving is in November instead. The most universal tradition in Europe was the "corn dolly", made from the last sheaf of grain harvested. It was believed that that 'spirit of the grain' resided in this doll and so, it must be treated accordingly, by presiding over the Harvest Feast.

This is the time of the Eleusinian Mysteries, where Persephone, the Flower Maid, is abducted by Hades, the Lord of the Underworld, to reign as his Queen for the Winter half of the year, until She returrns at the Vernal Equinox. Those chosen for the roles of Hades and Persephone become our Underworld Royalty for the Winter half of the year, holding Court at Samhain, and offering counseling in matters dealing with Personal Underworld Issues.


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