The Wheel of the Year is the calendar of holy days, of sacred holidays. And they correspond with the four solar Earth days, cycles, and the four dates, midway punctuating the solar Earth holidays.
So traditionally, in the Celtic, in the Wiccan tradition, the Celtic Anglo, the new year began at Samhain, which we know as Halloween. Which was the day upon the mythos is that the goddess entered the underworld. The initiation begins. The descent begins. The harvest is over and a number of the animals have had to be slaughtered because there's a concern about having enough to be able to get through the winter. And it's the moment where you enter the underworld, the dream time and winter begins to come and the Earth starts to go to sleep and things stop growing.
The, six weeks later we have the winter solstice, which is the shortest day and the longest night. And it is the night of mystery, the night of the womb, the night in which the great goddess gives birth to the sun, S-U-N. And the Christian calendar had to adapt itself and move the date of the birth of Christ to be proximal to winter solstice because the old religion was hanging on and people wouldn't give it up.
So it is the celebration of the return of light. That out of the dream comes this spark of new life. And that's hope and everyone celebrates light in the darkness and the return of life and the return of light. And at that moment all the great religions have this in common because that's what's happening to the planet a the same time.
The next holiday comes six weeks later and that's Imbolc, which means, 'in the belly,' and it's the first lactation of the ewes, the female sheep. It was the first sign of the return of life. And it's typically celebrated, it was celebrated, by the community coming together. Sharing candles, food, laughter, songs, humor because the stores are getting low. Everybody's got cabin fever. And the community comes together to rejoice and to celebrate the fact that Spring is on its way and we made it through the Winter and it's fabulous, it's wonderful, it's joyful.
Which is followed by another solar Earth holiday which is the spring equinox, the vernal equinox, when the goddess emerges from the Earth. Those little green shoots that start to come up, the Earth gets soft, rains start to fall and the goddess returns. Things start to grow again and the green appears.
Followed, in turn, by Beltane, or May Day, the first of May, which is a delicious holiday. The Maypole, the phallic symbol, wrapped by the ribbons, the young maidens dancing around it. Wonderful folk practices. Still enormously popular and practiced all over Scandinavia and still somewhat in England and Ireland as well. And you get the Maris dancers, waking up the Earth with the bells and the hankies and sticks. It's fabulous.
There are lots of folk practices throughout Europe that are reminiscent of these, at the Wheel of the Year, these holidays. And I could go on with all of them. There are eight of them in all. And, essentially, what they're reflecting is this dance between the Sun and the Earth. As the Sun, as the Earth grows closer to the Sun and warms up and life returns and there is this erotic dance and there is a whole mythopoeic cycle that goes with it of the dance and the god and the goddess together as companions and lovers.
And then the Sun begins to wane as the Earth moves away from the Sun. And we move into the cycle, full growth, where the Earth is very fertile and rich and producing all of the abundance that gets us through the winter.
And then we have the harvests, Lughnasadh, in early August and then the autumnal equinox, September, usually September 21st, followed by Samhain.
The community comes together and celebrates. There's a mythological motif that goes along with this in which we see ourselves and our own lives reflected. And then there are the mysteries of the Earth that reveals itself. As the Sun goes into the seed and the seed goes into the Earth and rest and then returns again.
So it's a cycle, it's the cycle of life. And it shows you the infinite, the sacred energy, infinitely recreating itself, recreating itself. We say the Sun goes into the seed, the seed goes into the Earth and then returns again. And by bringing our own, by celebrating and holding ritual we bring our own lives into that harmony and work with that rhythm. And it enhances your ability to live a full life and a rich life.