What is the Wheel of the Year? An introduction to the Sabbats

What is the Wheel of the Year? An introduction to the Sabbats

If you’re new to the craft you may have started spotting new celebrations you have never heard of starting to appear on your News Feeds, especially on TikTok. Don’t be fooled by thinking the Wheel of the Year is something only used by Wiccans but also, if you don’t want to follow the Wheel of the Year, you don’t have to either. Everyone’s practice is personal. 

As you’re here at Digital Coven to learn and discover, it would have been remiss of us to not at least introduce you to the sabbats. As a caveat before we get into the nitty and gritty, the dates I’ll be using are for the Northern Hemisphere as that is where I am and is what I know and I wouldn’t want to get anything wrong.

The Wheel of the Year, is a medley of fire festivals, chief solar events, equinoxes and solstices. Almost a calendar for the working pagan / witch / Spiritual Person™ . The Sabbats and a lot of Magic is seasonal and an easy way to connect to your path as a beginner, especially if you’re still not open about your craft yet.

This post in particular is more of a ‘starting point’ or a snapshot to the sabbats and the Wheel of the Year, throughout the year we will include more detailed posts for you so you can learn as much as you can in one place.

Now, let’s get cracking. 

Yule – 21st December

Everyone knows this one. Associated with Christmas, the Wild Hunt, the deep midwinter. It’s actually a 12 day long celebration too so no need to worry if you miss the first day. 

SHE'S A WITCH!! Hiding in the shadows we see a witch shrouded in darkness, mystery and, most importantly, black velvet. 

She seems older than her years yet her hands are still that of a maiden. She holds a bare wreath in her hands but you get a feeling that this isn't just a standard wreath. It is 'more' in capital letters. Something powerful.

In front of our witchy friend is a red candle glowing which is the only colour in the image. 

Beside the candle is a christmassy reindeer which feels out of place. Out of place but belonging.
Witch making a wreath and Yule

Here are a couple of starters for ten in terms of rituals and celebrations: 

  • Bring green into the home. If you’re still in the broom closet that can simply be a wee christmas tree.  At this point of the year, there is little to no natural growth so bring that life inside to encourage a healthy winter. Also, some pagan traditions suggest that by bringing in  a tree to your home, you’re providing somewhere warm for the woodland spirits during the winter and they will thank you with abundance in the spring.

    Personally, I like to gather local holly and hang it through my home.
  • Welcome back the sun. As Yule starts on the Winter Solstice, this is the beginning of the astrological winter (in the Northern Hemisphere) and the point where the nights can reach their darkest.

    Light candles, hang fairy lights, I like to light a candle as I cook.

  • Yule Log: There are actually a couple of variations of this.

    If you have an open fireplace, you can burn a specially chosen log on Christmas eve. You can ‘scent’ with cinnamon as well for the vibes and protective qualities.

    You can create a Yule Log display for your altar / space. Find a log, decorate it how you feel with candles, greenery runes and sigils.

    Eat a chocolate Yule log, great if you’re still not open with your craft.

Imbolc – 1st February 

Meaning ‘in the belly’, imbolc is a celtic festival originating in Ireland and represents the stirring of new life. This is where the earliest signs of rebirth appear, sometimes in the form of new leaves and buds. The world is getting ready to wake up again. 

White and green snowdrops sit on the mossy ground. They're open but pointed downwards as though they are hats on invisible fairies.
Snowdrops on the mossy ground

Imbolc is also associated with the Goddess Brigit / Brigid/ /Brighid Bríg. Some may already know her as St Brigit. Brigid is a fire goddess and often associated with protection, healing, smithcraft, and poetry.

In the Christian calendar, this date is also marked by Candelmas so some of the traditions may be the same or similar. 

Things you can do to celebrate imbolc:

  • EAT: As with all festivals of the Wheel of the Year, this is a time to feast. Foods associated with imbolc are those that would traditionally be available when it was still winter. Dairy products like milk, cream and butter as this would be the time of the ‘first milk’ since winter, baked goods, dried foods. What you would have been able to store in your pantry to get through until spring.

    Bake bread, pies and cakes and look for foods that are associated with sun and rebirth, eggs are a nice easy one if you’re low on energy you can just scramble an egg in the microwave as a way to honour the festival.
  • Leave an offering for Brigid: traditionally the first milk would have been poured on the ground for Brigid.

    When it comes to food offerings, especially in the current climate where the cost of living is soaring, this may not be the most practical. Instead, pour yourself a glass of milk (plant based counts too), or make some buttery toast. Toast Bridgid before you consume instead of leaving out / pouring away. This way she has been thanked and you have been nourished at the same time.
  • Plant seeds: This is the time to start sewing your seeds (but do look at an Almanac to be sure depending on what you’re planting). If you’re like me and don’t have access to an outside space,I  treat myself to a herb plant around this time or try and regrow things from scraps (leeks, ginger and garlic are really easy to do this with). 

Beltane – 1st May

Beltane is the first Fire Festival of the year and where celebrations really start to begin. Beltane originates in Ireland from the celtic god Bel. Traditionally, bonfires would be lit to honour Bel and also to celebrate the return of the sun and spring with longer days coming ahead. You may also be thinking May Day and May pole and you’d be correct!

Flower crowns, ribbons, white dresses. It's pure spring party vibes right here as children surround the maypole.
Maypole dancers gather around the Maypole

Beltane is around the time of year where everything has really sprung to life and as such is also associated with fertility and the idea of ‘everlasting’. 

The bonfires lit for Beltane were often public bonfires that people would ‘jump’ for protection and fertility and before they were extinguished, the people would take some of the fire with them to light their hearths.

Things you can do for Beltane:

  • Have a BBQ / Bonfire if you have the space: You can’t really have a fire festival without fire, can you? If this isn’t possible for you, lighting a candle works just as well.
  • Dress in Beltane colours: Green, red, white. Green for regrowth, fertility and abundance, red for passion and vitality, white for cleansing and clearing of negative energy. Now’s the perfect time to practice your colour magic.
  • Make a flower crown: Even a simple daisy chain will do!

Summer Solstice: 21st June

Probably the most famous solstice, the one you see on the telly every year where people flock to Stonehenge to take in the vibes. This is Midsummer (like Yule is midwinter) and also the longest day of the year. Many will make a pilgrimage to Stonehenge or other spiritual sites, but if this is not possible for you, there is plenty you can do at home too.

Stonehenge is standing proud with the Milky Way above. The Milky Way almost looks like magic itself but there is no up or down. Is the magic flowing into Stonehenge or is the magic radiating from it?
Stonehenge at night with starry milky way sky on winter solstice.
  • Sunrise and Sunset: As the longest day, we celebrate the sun. Watching both the sunrise and sunset means you can experience the most of the day. To be honest, even opening your curtains and staying in bed can work too if it’s not possible for you to be up and about at this time.
  • Sun Symbols: a simmer pot or even food made from lemons and oranges as we honour the return of the sun. I make an orange drizzle cake (mostly because i don’t really like the taste of lemon!) and you can easily buy things like lemon cakes if you can’t make them.
  • Colour Magic: dress, display or even use coloured candles in your rituals. Yellow for the sun, green for the earth and blue for the sky. 

Lammas / Lughnassadh – 1st August

Lammas literally translates as ‘loaf mass’  and is the time we celebrate the first grain harvest (basically, the first of many harvest festivals). Lammas is also known as Lughnassadgh and Lugnasad. 

A single chunk of bread lies on a worn wooden table next to some chestnuts in a dark and moody room. The bread has been picked up so there are a few crumbs around. Was this from a midnight snack? Or could this be an offering for unknown spirits.
bread on a wooden table

As with many dates on the wheel of the year, particularly those that follow Lammas. This is a time where we give thanks for the harvest and feast as well as honouring Lammas, our harvest queen.

Things you can do for Lammas:

  • Eat bread: Whether you have baked it or bought it, just… bread.
  • Make a corn dolly / mother: these are traditionally made out of wheat but this isn’t always easy to come by, especially if you live in a big city. If you can’t access wheat you can use straw, which you can find in pet shops, or even draw one for your altar.
  • Colour Magic: Dress in oranges golds and yellows to represent the harvest

Autumn Equinox / Mabon – September 19th – 22nd

Another transitory time where the days start getting colder and shorter. The leaves are starting to turn red and orange, occasionally there will be a little bite in the air… Autumn in my favourite. 

The sun is rising, mist and an eery glow. Bare, shadowy trees frame the sun. It's beautiful, cold and warm at the same time, with an almost haunted feel
Misty wood

The Autumn Equinox is also known to some as Mabon, you’ll see this more often in American Wicca or witchcraft practices. This is the time of Mid-Harvest, particularly for fruit. As the seasons change we would traditionally start preserving food for the winter and long night ahead.

Things you can do for the Autumn Equinox:

  • Jam: like to go to my nearest woods to gather blackberries around this time and make jam with them. I like to plan the foraging and making around the  full moon where I can as well. If you don’t have access to blackberries, buy the fruit you like and make some from that. If you can’t make jam, get some jam for jam on toast… Say jam again.
  • Decorate your altar: Basically lots of Autumn-y things! Acorns, pine cones, leaves, the colours of autumn! Also, if you happen to find an acorn during this time… save it for Imbolc and plant it under the first tree that blossoms.
  • Stew and Kitchen Witchery: Autumn is the time the Kitchen witch THRIVES. Making stews with seasonally appropriate food, ‘canning’ for the winter and basically living our best lives. I have previously shared my ‘mabon’ casserole on TikTok, and Emma has her own go-to stock recipe that can be utilised at this time. Anything hearty and warming. As you cook, you can include your intentions and wishes for the season too.

Samhain / Hallowe’en – 31st October

Also known as AJ’s Christmas… Samhain is the point where the nights are at their darkest, the veil is thin and spirits can wonder again, not only that… it’s the Witches’ New Year.

pumpkin

Any Scorpios here, this is where you are at your most intuitive. Some of us feel the energies of the spirits as they come and go, we can celebrate the cycle of life and death as the Witches’ year and the nature around us has ‘passed’.

Samhain has its roots in Celtic practices, particularly in Ireland. We have the legend of Stingy Jack and how he lead to the creation of the Jack-O-Lantern, bonfires would be lit and costumes would be worn to ward off unwanted spirits. 

Anyway, surely you know a lot about Samhain / Hallowe’en so let’s get down to what you can do…

  • Jack – O – Lanterns: It would be remis of me not to include these, sure they seem a little obvious but let’s remember they have been used for centuries as a way to light the path home for family spirits and also to ward off unwanted energies. As you carve your pumpkin, you could make it a ritual. I like to ‘set a vibe’ with incense and music as I turn my pumpkin into a protective ward for the evening. No energy or ability to carve a pumpkin? That’s OK. I have a collection of Pumpkin tealight holders that work just as well, they’re only £1 from Poundland!
  • Soul Cakes: Soul Cakes are generally a gift for the spirits and can be left as offerings on Samhain night. I have used my own amended version of this recipe for a couple of years now. Baking not possible for you? Get yourself your favourite cookies or biscuits. You can even get some of those little icing pens and add sigils to them or even names for the dearly departed you’re leaving them for.
Bonfire on a dark night

So, there we go. A little snapshot into the Sabbats, be sure to add them to your diaries and celebrate the old ways with us.

If you want to follow Aj check out her fabulous social accounts:

TikTok

Instagram

Until next time!

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