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Article Specs

VxAcct: 5

Article ID: 2729

Section: parent

Age Group: Adult

Posted: March 19th. 2000

Views: 24844

Children and The Wheel of the Year

by Christina Aubin

[WVox Sponsor]

Pagan/Witch holidays occur on what we refer to as the Wheel of the Year. This terminology illustrates the innate belief that earth religions hold that time is circular, not linear. Time, in essence, has no beginning and no end, it is not forward in motion but rather revolving and evolving. Time is, then is not and then is again, not always the same but rather spinning itself upon itself in the ever-evolving dance of perfection.

It is through the holidays on the Wheel that we celebrate the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. The Cycle is apparent in nature as well as human life, in fact it is apparent in all aspects of Being. Each turning of the Wheel connects us to the ever-changing spiral of life, death, and rebirth. We become united with the endless mystery of existence, as each rotation revolves we find ourselves attuned in kinship with the circle of life. It is through this connection we are allowed to experience and thus know this ever-eternal process that is life.

The Wheel of the Year is a beautiful gift we share with our family and friends. Living the Wheel with children brings a new depth, understanding and magic to the whole process. The eyes of children offer views of wonder and enchantment in the everyday, which we can forget in our busy lives. Moreover everyday is how the Wheel spins, it does not stop between holidays but rather the holidays mark important shifts within the year. It is about the moment to moment change that is all around us, it is ever spiraling, ever unfolding, it is a continuous process. Winter into springtime, spring into summertime, summer into autumn and fall into wintertime, transforming ceaselessly. The shifts can move gradually and then quicken and slow once more, but all the while in motion, like the ebb and flow of the tides.

Children are the magnifying glass through which we see clearly the subtle changes that occur, they notice everything that is and is not, both large and small. When we live the Wheel with our children, we find that we are not so much teaching them as they are instructing us in the importance of the moment, each twinkling that sparks the year around. As we celebrate the seasons and assist the Wheel to spin once more, reciprocally the Wheel enlightens us, showing us the beauty and wonder that is apart of the Wheel and our lives.

Experiencing the seasons with my children has brought a new level of excitement and magic to the passing of each season. The awe and enchantment, through the eyes of our children, brings a special fascination and wonder to the ever spinning Wheel.

The Standard Holidays of the Wheel of the Year are:

  • Samhain (October 31st)
  • Yule/Winter Solstice (around December 22nd)
  • Imbolc (February 1st)
  • Spring Equinox (around March 21st)
  • Beltane (May 1st)
  • Midsummer/Summer Solstice (around June 21st)
  • Lughnasadh (August 1)
  • Mabon/Autumn Equinox (around September 21st)

The holidays are grouped into two groups: Quarter and Cross Quarter Holidays. Quarter holidays are those, which fall on the wheel in the 12:00, 3:00, 6:00, and 9:00 positions, Cross Quarters, are those holidays which fall between the quarter holidays.

Quarter holidays are Winter Solstice (Yule); Spring Equinox (Ostara); Summer Solstice (Midsummer); Fall Equinox (Mabon). These holidays are marked by the precise movement of the Sun in his yearly journey across the sky.

Solstice marks a time when the sun appears to stand still its northward or southward motion and is at its greatest distance from the equator. Summer solstice is the longest day of the year whereas Winter solstice is the shortest. In Latin sol is the sun; sistere is to cause to stand.

Equinox is when the sun crosses the celestial equator and when the length of day and night is equal (approximately). From the vernal equinox, Sunlight will increase during the day and after the point of the autumn equinox the Sunlight will decrease of during the day. Equinox comes from the Latin aequinoctium: aequi- equi-means equal and nox, noct means night.

The Cross Quarter holidays are Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lughnasadh. The cross quarter holidays fall approximately half way between the Quarter holidays. Additional factors were used to determine these holidays as well. Such factors were indications of earth changes, animal migrations, harvest and specific astrological alignments. For example, the sighting of the Pleiades star cluster just before sunrise on the morning horizon was one of the indicators that the Light half of the year (summer) had begun. Whereas, the Dark half (winter) begins about six months later, when the Pleiades rises at sunset.

The time of the rising of the Pleiades has always been a major indicator of the seasonal changes throughout the ancient agricultural world. The Pleiades are a cluster of seven closely placed stars, the seven sisters, in the constellation Taurus, just to the right of Orion. When looking for the Pleiades with the naked eye, remember it looks like a tiny dipper-shaped pattern of six moderately bright stars (the seventh can be seen on very dark nights) be sure you are looking in the constellation of Taurus toward his shoulder.

Most, if not all, agricultural societies were lunar-based civilizations using a seasonal calendar. Their months were measured according to the complete cycles of phases of the moon (synodic months) and the changes in the seasons (solar year). These festival calendars were regionally specific and based upon changes locally observed. In every year of the seasons, there are about 12 1/4 synodic (moon) months, as the moon completes one orbit approximately every 29.5 days. Therefore, to keep the lunar year in synch with the seasonal year, a periodic addition of days was necessary, hence the year and a day terminology.

The day in most lunar cultures, specifically the Celts, actually began with the nightfall before the dawn, and thus the Wheel holiday festivities begin the night before the solar calendar date. Another interesting note is that is appears these festivals were multiple day events, beginning at sundown on the first day until sunset of the last. It seems that the two primary festivals were Samhain (beginning of Winter) and Beltane (beginning of Summer), with Imbolc and Lughnasadh being two other key festivals. This by no means indicates that these were the only festivals celebrated within agricultural and pastoral villages, but the most prevailing commonality infestival celebrations widely accepted. In some of the old books (i.e. late 1800's) I have read there is an assumption that some of the eight holidays were actually lumped together, for example Beltane and Midsummer and Samhain and Mabon were cited as one holiday. Social archaeology will continue to present new and newer information as time goes on, and we will have a clearer and clearer picture of the ancient festivals upon which we base our Wheel of the Year.

As the world has become larger and society more global, the Gregorian calendar has been widely embraced, by most civilizations (interesting side note: the Jewish calendar is lunar and still used, as is that of the Muslim). The Gregorian calendar attempts to draws into one scheme the dating of religious festivals based on the phases of the Moon and seasonal activities determined by the movement of the Sun. It a world that is as connective and vast as our own, this seems the best method in offering some continuity globally.

Days, dates and schedules are in a more fixed mode than they were in times passed. Whereas in times passed the placement of festivals were governed by many outside factors and society had a certain understanding of time that was not as rigid as our own, today we are not blessed with that same ease of time and schedule flexibility. Schedules and day planners need specific, preset dates for folks to be able to get together, as it is no longer a whole village celebration. In so much, there are mutually agreed upon time-frames for Sabbat celebrations, that have become more or less Craft/Pagan norms, however do not allow these to bind you to the calendar in your own personal celebrations.

Celebrations of the Wheel need not be confined to one or two days. Nature does not rigidly adhere to a timetable, as we humans tend to do. Depending on the ages of the children and their schedules, plan it out over a period of time, as to enjoy and relish the season and the point in time the holiday marks. As stated before the Wheel spins continually not only at the date of the holiday at hand, it is in perpetual motion spinning toward the next holiday. This allows us to savor the year and all it has to offer.

The pastoral and agricultural societies from which we receive the Wheel based practices were a far-reaching collection of peoples. Each arboricultural group had their own particular rituals, ancestral practices and stories, in one country this could vary greatly, without even getting into the wide diversity that can be found throughout Europe and beyond. However, one can find the many common threads of customs that emerged and were recorded. It is from these customs, many of which are still practiced in some counties throughout Europe we base this reclamation of our ancestral roots.

In practicing the Wheel with your family, look around locally to the changes that are particular to your area. Each area has it own bounty of particular natural attributes, strive to incorporate these, as well as ancient customs, into your celebrations, as they tie you with the land upon which you are living. For example here in Massachusetts between Imbolc and Ostara the Maple sap starts to run, and the Maple season begins. There are maple houses throughout our area, we make sure to get out and take part in the maple season, as it is a typical New England indicator that spring as definitely begun.

As important as it is to draw from ancestral sources it is also important to draw from the vast fountain of local riches, for we are a product of where we have come from as well as were we are headed and all the stops along the way.

Understanding the Wheel of the Year from an intellectual perspective allows us to live it, understanding the symbolism, archetypes, and magic of the past, seeing the roots upon which modern celebrations are based and understanding the common themes that bind all together. Upon this knowledge base we can build our own personal Wheel practices, for our families and ourselves. The beauty of the Wheel of the Year is that it is not tradition exclusive, geographically barring, community obligatory, or culturally narrow. It is encompassing, incorporating, and encircling, it allows us to draw on the past, pull from the present and invent in the future. It is about the earth, the seasons, and the changes they bring, it is about life, death and life again,

it is about us.

General Wheel of the Year Family Activities:

Sun related activities:

Sun Journal: Keep a journal of the Sun, at least from one season into the next. Mark the times of sunrise, location of sunrise (direction & local landmark), the arch in the sky (does it go straight overhead, or more to the side, etc.), time of sunset and location of sunset. Younger Sun Journal: for smaller kids, use drawing as a means to create awareness of the sun and its travels. Perhaps pick a spot where you have a wonderful view of the sunset and visit frequently. As the child draws the setting sun, he/she will begin not notice that throughout the year the sunset location moves. You can do the same for the sunrise, if early morning is your time.
Astrologically related activities:

Horticultural related activities:

General Sabbat Planning Ideas:

Check your local and state tourism offices They can offer great insight into local activities that can be done with your kids. You can get a feel for what is available in your area that will work with your Wheel ideas and schedule. Remember agriculture is not the only harvests that occur, there are fish and shellfish, as well (both fresh and salt), there are many possibilities!

Check into local theater and performing arts. Look into folk and ethnic festivals and other such gathering in your area - gatherings can be great fun especially on a summer's afternoon.

Have Fun!

Christina Aubin
Sunday, March 20th, 2000
Email: Christina


Christina Aubin

Location: North Shore, Massachusetts

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