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|DATE||HIGH DAY||COMMON PAGAN NAME||MEANING|
|Winter Solstice||Alban Arthan||Yule||Rebirth|
|February 1 (Aug. 1 in Southern Hemisphere)||Imbolc||Imbolc||Quickening|
|Vernal Equinox||Alban Eiler||Ostara||Youth|
|May 1 (Nov. 1 in Southern Hemisphere)||Beltane||Beltane||Young Adulthood|
|Summer Solstice||Alban Heruin||Litha or Midsummer||Adulthood|
|August 1 (Feb. 1 in Southern Hemisphere)||Lughnasadh||Lughnasadh or Lammas||Maturity|
|Autumnal Equinox||Alban Elved||Mabon||Old Age|
|November 1 (May 1 in Southern Hemisphere)||Samhain||Samhain||Croning|
The Sun Path of Druidry in the Black Mountain Druid Order involves honoring the Wheel of the Year. In many Western cultures, time is seen as linear; but in Druidry, time is seen as cyclical. In Druidry and many other forms of Paganism, the cycle of the year is divided up into eight Sabbats, or High Days. These High Days are often celebrated with feasts and rituals. They constitute the Pagan holidays. These eight High Days consist of the solstices and equinoxes (the Quarter Days) and the midpoints between each solstice and equinox (the Cross-Quarter Days). The eight High Days of the Wheel of the Year are often depicted in graphic form as a wheel with eight spokes.
In modern times it is easy to miss the significance of the Wheel of the Year. We get our food from supermarkets and fast food restaurants, and most of us don’t depend on agriculture and animal husbandry for our wellbeing. In an agrarian society, though, not knowing the proper times to plant and harvest could literally be a matter of life and death. So it is only natural that our Pagan ancestors gave the Wheel of the Year a central place in their spiritual and religious practices.
For today’s Druids, each High Day on the Wheel also marks a different phase of spiritual development. Taken altogether, the Wheel of the Year is symbolic of the cycle of birth-death-rebirth found throughout nature, and within an individual’s spiritual and personal growth. The circular nature of the Wheel reminds us that all of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again. The Druidic teaching of reincarnation is a theme in many of the surviving epics of Ireland, and the Wheel serves as a living representation of this concept.
On another level, the Wheel can be taken as a metaphor for life’s journey. The Wheel tracks the Sun as it waxes and wanes throughout the year. With sunrise on the Winter Solstice, the days begin to grow in length, reaching their peak at the Summer Solstice. From there, the days begin to get shorter and shorter until the next Winter Solstice. So the period from Winter Solstice to Vernal Equinox represents youth, the period from the Vernal Equinox to the Summer Solstice represents young adulthood, the period from the Summer Solstice to the Autumnal Equinox represents middle age, and the period from the Autumnal Equinox to the Winter Solstice represents old age.
Further symbolic meaning in the Wheel of the Year can be seen in the balance between light and dark. The brighter months of summer give way to the darker months of winter, and then the cycle begins anew. This can be seen as a metaphorical representation of one’s own life journey. We all have periods of darkness and periods of light. When in a period of darkness, it helps to remember that the light will come again. Also, when in a period of light, it helps to remember that darkness will come again.
The rites, rituals and celebrations of the cycle of the seasons allow us a tangible symbolic representation of these inner states of being. Just as the seasons move back and forth between cycles of light and darkness, so our own moods and feelings cycle between lighter and darker times. Celebrating the Wheel of the Year allows us to acknowledge both our lighter and our darker impulses in a sacramental way. By acknowledging them, we restore balance to our lives and to our spiritual journey.