The Wheel of the Year is the cycle of eight seasonal holidays celebrated by most modern pagans over the course of the year. Whether they’re called sabbats, festivals, holy days or something else, they are broken down into two categories— The quarter days which are the Solstices and Equinoxes, and the four cross-quarter days which fall between them.

The seasons played a much larger role in the lives of our ancestors. Their very lives depended on knowing when to plant, when to harvest, when to expect the last frost and the first rains. Failure could end in starvation. The historic festivals upon which our modern practices are based upon grew out of astronomical observations of the Sun’s movements combined with ritual observances representative of the changing seasons.

Most people have a passing familiarity with the Wiccan Wheel of the Year. This contemporary Wheel is not representative of any one culture. It originated in the mid-20th century and was synthesized from both Celtic and Germanic traditions.

In addition, not all pagan traditions or practitioners celebrate all eight. Some may assign greater significance to one or more of the  holidays over the others. Some subtract, others add additional celebrations. There’s also quite a bit of variance in the naming and dates the holidays are celebrated on— particularly the dates of the cross-quarter days.

Many of their names have become encoded into our collective conscious in large part through pop culture. Samhain pops up in a plethora of spooky stories, television shows and movies— generally in reference to biased and stereotypical depictions of paganism, but that’s a can of worms we won’t be opening here.

Other traditions have their own Wheels. Below you’ll find examples from four different paths:

Atheopagan Druid Heathenry Naturalist
Yule Alban Arthan Yuleblot Winter Solstice
Riverain Imbolc Disablot Winter Thermistice
High Spring Alban Eilir Ostarablot Vernal Equinox
May Day Beltane Walpurgisnacht Vernal Thermistice
Midsummer Alban Hefin Midsummerblot Summer Solstice
Summer’s End Lughnasadh Freyfaxi Summer Thermistice
Harvest Alban Elfed Hausblot Autumnal Equinox
Hallows Samhuinn Winternacht Autumnal Thermistice

I didn’t include dates above because they are dependent upon which hemisphere you live: North or South. When it’s Winter Solstice in the North, the Southern hemisphere is on the opposite spoke of the Wheel: Summer Solstice— same date, but different holiday. Also, because the dates are dependent on astronomical observations of the sun’s orbit, the exact date and time is dependent on the year and to some extent, the local time zone. Below is a table that shows the date ranges for the Northern Hemisphere for 2018-2019, placing the cross-quarter days at exactly the midpoint between the associated Solstice and Equinox.

Winter Solstice December 21st, 2018
Winter Thermistice February 4th, 2018
Vernal Equinox March 20th, 2018
Vernal Thermistice May 5th, 2018
Summer Solstice June 21st, 2018
Summer Thermistice August 7th, 2018
Autumnal Equinox September 23, 2018
Autumnal Thermistice November 7th, 2018

Most pagans do not celebrate the cross-quarter days at the exact midpoint as show on the table above, but usually on or near the 1st of the month. May Day is pretty much always celebrated on May 1st. However, I prefer to track the exact midpoints for my own edification and practice.

As mentioned previously, not every tradition places the same emphasis on their holidays. Wiccans consider the cross-quarter days to be their Greater Sabbats and the Solstices and Equinoxes to be the Lesser Sabbats. Meanwhile, some Druids put the opposite emphasis on them with cross-quarters being of lesser import. Some pagans opt to celebrate only the holidays that they have a personal connection with— Yule and Samhain tend to be quite popular, while holidays like Lammas do not get the same attention.

I should mention that there are traditions that don’t follow an eight-spoked wheel of the year. Greek and Roman re-constructionists have a vast calendar of holidays and festivals to draw from, some of which match up with the seasonal celebrations of their Celtic and Anglo-Saxon pagan counterparts, but many are associated with particular gods and goddesses rather than a time of the year.

There’s a great deal more personalization of the Wheel popping up these days, especially if you’re not involved in the organized contemporary pagan movements such as Wicca, Asatru, Troth, Ár nDraíocht Féin, Reformed Druids, etc. One of the draws of aligning myself with Atheopaganism, aside from the fact that I could let my non-theist flag fly, is that it encourages you to define your own practices, including renaming the holidays to better match your own environment.

Living in Southern California, the names and associations of the traditional holidays don’t always mesh with my local climate. I began this Journey with Yule. It took several months before I’d finished my research and refined my Wheel down to it’s current state. One that I’m not even sure is actually, finalized. I suppose time will tell. You can read more about how I came up with my own Wheel in this post: “A Journey Through the Year”.

My Wheel of the Year

Name Equivalents Date
Yule Winter Solstice, Christmas December 20th – 23rd
Imbrida Imbolc, Saint Brigid’s Day February 3rd -4th
Vernalia Spring Equinox, Ostara, Lent/Easter March 19th – 21st
Belfire Beltane, May Day May 4th – 5th
Litha Summer Solstice June 20th – 22nd
Solaria Lammas, Lunasa August 6th – 7th
Harvest Autumnal Equinox, Mabon September 22nd – 24th
Heartha Samhain, Halloween November 6th – 7th

I’ll be adding individual pages for each of the Sabbats as work my way through the upcoming year and figure out what each of these festivals means to me and how I wish to celebrate and honor the Earth and the changing seasons.