Samhain, or All Saint’s, recently swept through the northern hemisphere, bringing the first icy breath of winter with it. It’s the favorite sabbat of many pagans and witches (rightfully so, we love spooky season) and it got me thinking about the famous Wheel of the Year and my own approach to it – as a pagan, witch and animist. I know there’s a lot of mixed feelings about the seasonal Wheel out there and I’d like to share mine.
The steady rise of the neo-Wiccan and New Age wave has made the Wheel of the Year incredibly popular, that’s for sure, but it has also gotten itself a bad rep in some more traditional circles. Most of us know that The Wheel of the Year isn’t an ancient tradition by any means, but a fairly modern take that was put together in the 50’s by Gerald Gardner. Now does this fact alone mean that we should throw the whole bag out the window and never look back? Not really. Here’s the thing – new tradition doesn’t equal bad tradition. Traditions are invented, shaped and changed all the time. Traditions, cultures and spirits live and breathe through us. They adapt to our time because that’s how they survive, century after century. Everything doesn’t have to be ancient and set in stone in order to be legit, in fact most things aren’t. The idea behind Wheel of the Year isn’t bullshit or taken out of thin air either. Many of the solar events that make up the Wheel have been observed by our Europeans precursors for much longer, under other local variants and names. With that said, the problem with the Wheel of the Year arises when it’s presented as a 101-model that’s supposed to fit every witch and pagan. It becomes a problem when it makes newbies feel obligated to follow the sabbats in order to be “legit”, even though their land might speak a whole other language.
For someone not living in upper Europe, or where’s no solstices and equinoxes, following the eight sabbats might not be ideal. As witches we are supposed to be in tune with the land around us – hell even become it – and so researching local traditions, folklore, and spirits is absolutely mandatory for this. That’s the key(*) regardless of what any eurocentric beginners book try to tell you. It’s with this knowledge we then construct our own local calendar that makes sense for our surroundings. We look outside our window and note the mood of nature around us, we keep track of the air’s movement and talk with the spirits who live inside the earth. As pagans (those of us who are) we follow the traditional festivals that honor our gods, of course, but we also make an attempt to see our gods and their myths in the nature around us. So for me, as a Setian kemetic, I might choose to celebrate the rebellion of Set and the slaughter of Osiris during Lammas, a season that’s all about harvest and kingly sacrifice. I would then consider the dark half of the year to be under Set’s reign until the winter solstice comes around and the light slowly returns, which symbolizes Isis magical resurrection of Osiris. The possibilities for this are endless and highly suggest any pagan to give it a try – find your gods in the nature around you. It will enrich your devotional life.
“It’s an important part of Traditional Witchcraft because it is within our local landscape that we can most thoroughly experience mysteries of the natural world and tap into the immense wisdom and power that lies therein. However, it would seem that instead of concentrating on the land directly beneath their feet, many Witches tend to follow a system of seasonal celebrations that don’t always alight with their own region, call upon spirits of faraway lands, and by herbs and stones that come from distant and unknown locations. […] This is not to suggest that anyone should break up with foreign spirits or toss out their crystal collections but rather to point out the benefit of incorporation the magic that already exist in our own backyards. Simply put, because we come into direct contact with our local landscape on a daily basis, we are much more apt to establish a deep, meaningful bond with nature by attuning to its virtues.” – The Crooked Path, Kelden
Those who follow my other social media might have noticed that I personally celebrate most of the sabbats in the Wheel of the Year. There’s only one reason for this and it’s a very simple one; it follows my natural landscape and local folk traditions very well. This isn’t very surprising since the British Isles – whose natural cycles is what the Wheel of the Year is based on – aren’t far away from Scandinavia on the map. A lot of similarities can be found between the Celtic and the Norse-Germanic traditions in general, as they have intermingled in the past (I jokingly call them ‘cousins’ at times). However, this doesn’t mean that my calendar only consist of these eight sabbats. No, I too have to dig through folklore to find the magical days for my region, research old local cults, and listen to what the spirits whisper to me at night… just like everyone else.
My personal calendar is an ever-growing and shifting thing, led by both personal gnosis and historic records. and that’s just how it should be; alive. Down below I’ll share (roughly) how a year for someone in my region might look like.
THE YEAR OF A SWEDISH WITCH
– Candlemas, Imbolc (February 1) The return of the light.
– Vårdagjämning, Spring Equinox (March 20) The first seed, growth.
– Skärtorsdag, Maundy Thursday (April 14) Witches sabbat at Blåkulla. The Devil is said to have extra power during this time up until Jesus resurrection.
– Valbergsmässoafton, Walpurgis Night (May 30) Witches sabbat at Brocken. Bonfire.
– May Eve, Beltane (May 1) Green Man (Frey) & Lady of the Wild Wood (Freyja). Lust, fertility. Warding the home and peace offerings to the mischievous spirits of spring.
– Midsommar, Summer solstice (June 20-25) Magical eve. The procession of the shining elves. Plants are the most potent during this time and are to be harvested in silence. Divination about love or the future is done.
– Lammas (August 1) The first harvest. Breaking of bread. The Witch King is sacrificed and his blood is sprayed out over the land.
– Höstdagjämning, Autumn Equinox (September 21-24) The second harvest.
Mid-October blót (Oct.14) The winter procession ride out over the skies. We welcome the dark half of the year.
– Allahelgona, Samhain (Oct. 31 – 6th Novemeber) Third harvest. Feeding the ancestors and the mighty dead. Omens and divination.
– Lucia, Old solstice (December 13) Lussi’s and Horn-Per’s Wild Hunt. Liminal time as the trollfolk roam. It’s said that water turns to wine at night and animals are able to speak. Offerings to Lussi’s horses are made.
– Jul, Yule, Winter Solstice (December 21-24) Alfáblót. Yule log and mead.
– Twelfth Night (December 25 – 7th january) The three Mothers, weavers, or Good Ladies of Fate. The reign of the Lord of Misrule. The Yule log is fed for the last time and then offered back to the land on Mother’s Night. Yearly divination and house protection.
[ *I want to clarify here that I’m not stating that people cannot or aren’t suppose to work with spirits or deities from foreign cultures (it would be very hypocritical of me), I’m just pointing out how important it is to also connect with one’s region and local spirits in order to grow a beneficial practice, regardless of other spirit relationship. ]