A NeoPagan Wheel of the Year
Yule (Winter Solstice/Saturnalia) 21 December - Longest night of the year; There are various methods of celebrating but most involve some form of illumination focused decoration such as candles affixed to a Winter surviving Evergreen and obvious phallic symbol known as the Yule Tree. A larger fire may be used such as the burning of the Yule Log but any and all are employed as an act of Sympathetic Magick intended to encourage/welcome the return/rebirth of the sun/son after the long passage into the fallow time of the year and the waning of the Sun's primacy exemplified by the continually lengthening nights. A Major Female Deity gives birth to (insert name of preferred solar deity here but "Mithras" is an acceptable default), a Child of Light whose destiny it is to be sacrificed in order to renew and redeem the world. There is much rejoicing and praise unto this Child while Her husband, the God of the Old Year who, dressed in a tacky red suit trimmed with rabbit fur, watches and packs Her a big red overnight bag stuffed with goodies and gifts in anticipation of Her departure from the Realm of the Dead. Celebrants light candles (indoors), ignite bonfires (outdoors mostly), drink to excess, sing carols, remove clothes, sing dirty carols, engage in group sex, drink some more, vomit copiously, have more sex, exchange gifts, have one more drink/boink for the road and return home.
Imbolc (Groundhog Day/Candlemas) 2 February - More lights, however by this time we're pretty sure the days are getting longer so we can throttle back on the pleas for Apollo/Ra/Lugh/Baldur to return; Also the commemoration of Brigid's downshift from Goddess to Saint in her covenant with the Snake Chaser in order to secure for herself the exclusive franchise to every blessed well in Ireland. Celebrants hold aloft individual candles intended to symbolically illuminate the ascent of the Mother of the newborn Solar Deity as She returns to this plane of existence from the Underworld bearing Her Son thus heralding the return of the Sun, the end result uncannily resembling a Melanie concert. This is related to the weather prognostication by observance of emerging hibernating animals such as the groundhog; Bears were ruled out early on as an appropriate animal for observance by trial and error and attrition of the bear watching advocates. Celebrants indulge in plenty of excessive drinking followed by group sex by those not immobilized by solidified candle wax drippings which in turn is followed by still more drinking culminating in the projectile vomiting "Write your Craft name in the snow" competition. Celebrants then scrape off remaining wax and whatever else has dried and caked to them, have a few more drinks and head back home. (Bonfires are optional unless you insist on watching for a bear in which case a bonfire is strongly advised)
Lupercalia (Valentine's Day) 15 February - (The 14th for Saint Valentine being a preemptive usurpation of the Roman Ides of February pre-Spring fertility celebration.) Not an actual Sabbat but included as a sentimental favourite. The wolves come down from the hills around Rome looking for a little nosh. Note that this is about two weeks after the Imbolc solar cross-quarter; if the groundhog didn't see it's shadow (and remained out) Winter is considered to end here, if it did see it's shadow (and returned to it's lair to resume it's nap) Winter ends about six weeks later than Imbolc at Ostara, the next Sabbat. Those celebrants who consider themselves sexually adventurous and hardy enough may wish to emulate a Roman tradition that makes the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona look like English High Tea. Ready? After the usual excessive drinking the attendant women strip naked (always a promising start) and are chased by men bearing flails (strips of goat-leather called "Februa") who warm the women's bottoms by vigorous application of those tools while chasing them. When the women decide their asses are sufficiently heated they allow themselves to be caught by the pursuing men who apply their pre-warmed bottoms to the ground to "break the ice", sometimes literally, and thus by the transference of heat make the ground ready for ploughing, both agricultural and human. All subsequently resulting vaginal secretions are allowed to flow directly onto the ground as further preparation for planting. This is the woman's precious bodily fluid contribution to the Earth mirrored by the God's blood at a Sabbat to be discussed later. Warned ya.
Ostara (Vernal Equinox) 21 March - Probably named after a Goddess whose name translates literally as "Easy lay, easy May", a reference to and reminder of the importance of the next Sabbat which is actually concerned with sex, unlike the previous ones in which sex is a welcome bonus and potential life saver in the colder climates. As the dynamic equilibrium of night and day is achieved the Child of Light god born at Yule ages to childhood and the goddess sheds her Queen of the Underworld persona to absorb His youthful energy and grow younger, back to childhood thus divinely enacting the universal perception of renewal of life at Spring; they then play "Asclepius". Once again celebrants drink to excess, paint a few eggs (rebirth representation) with increasingly blatant yonic/phallic symbols, followed by more drinking, then paint a few hares/rabbits (fertility totem), boil the eggs and probably the rabbits too, what the hell, chow down on the eggs and rabbits since nobody remembered to pack a lunch, then still more drinking followed by rabbit-fur-lined vomiting, group sex, lick rabbit grease out of the pot, more sex (any remaining rabbit grease at this point is given priority consideration as a sexual lubricant), a couple of more drinks, dress up in rabbit skins and return home.
Beltane (Walpurgisnacht/May Day) 30 April/1 May - "Hooray, hooray, the first of May, outdoor screwing starts today!" (Aside from the Romans who have been going at it al fresco for months) The goddess and god both age to adolescence and She assumes the mantle of "Queen of the May" after which They become betrothed. Celebrants erect large Maypole (get it?), which is the preserved trunk of the communal Yule Tree shorn of its branches. Half the festively clad Maypole dancers go deasil and the other half go widdershins interweaving their hand-held ribbons until they clothe the pole in colourful array and the Maywreath, previously laid at the top, rides the ribbons as they are being interwoven down to the very base of the pole -- as close as Neo-Pagans ever get to "safe sex". After which everybody attends the bonfires, usually two proximate bonfires so you can walk your livestock between them to be blessed by Prometheus/Ba'al/Wotan/Elvis but the really adventurous just build one big fire, or let the two smaller ones get out of hand until they become one big fire. Attendees then jump the Belfire (bare naked, as if I needed to mention), and preceded by the at this point mandatory excessive drinking, there follows a MAJOR ORGY of the Mongolian Cluster-Fuck variety wherein the writhing, heaving, sweat soaked bodies of the participants become so thoroughly entangled and interlocked that you can't tell who's doing what to whom and you couldn't care less and the alcohol induced vomiting actually contributes to the climactic sexual gestalt and provides much needed lubrication. For many devout Neo-Pagans this, the first of the two Hinges, is the most sacred day of the Year.
Litha (Summer Solstice/Midsummer's Night) 21 June - Longest day of the year; The young Sun God at His zenith, "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may". This is the marriage of the Goddess and Her incestuous consort who are both fully adult at this point and it turns out She's knocked-up anyway so He has to. This being a Pagan wedding celebration . . . well, you can just imagine the debauchery. Here is the origin of the "Honeymoon", where bride and groom stay plastered for a month (moon) on mead, a honey based wine. About this time the God of the Old Year grows bored with the limited interpersonal interaction with ghosts in the Underworld and bit parts in Ingmar Bergman films and so travels as a spirit to the womb of the pregnant major female deity and quickens Her unborn child in order to be near His rejuvenated love.
Lammas (Last Call For Crop Circles or John Barleycorn Must Die) 2 August - Ahhh, fickleness thy name is Woman. Sad day for the young Sun God; having passed His prime last Sabbat and with daylight noticeably waning at this First Harvest of the Grain Festival the Goddess decides He is more useful as compost and fructifies the ground with His blood to ensure future abundant harvests and thus preserve Their race of devotees. Any one of several tried and true methods may be employed by Her but whether by evisceration, impalement, dismemberment, immolation or a simple sprig of holly through the heart no Pagan method has attained the iconicly picturesque status of another religion's deity-specific version of being nailed to an uneven-armed upright solar cross with blood from the stigmata of the sacrificed son-of-god running down the vertical beam to the ground, nevertheless, one way or another our gal gets the job done. On this solemn occasion celebrants are expected to drink until they fall down in imitative honour of the dying God. Sex is reserved for those still conscious or who at least had the foresight to pin "Do me anyway!" notes to their beer and vomit drenched clothes. Gimme that old time religion!
Mabon (Autumnal Equinox) 21 September - Preggers and alone, sure, now She misses the slain Sun God and decides She cannot abide this world without Him. He, meanwhile, has found the abandoned throne in the Realm of the Dead and is having a high old time trying on the crown which looks suspiciously like a pair of antlers and is getting horny . . . the God that is. Depending on whose press release you read the Goddess is either abducted by the just-back-for-a-quick-one God or She jumps onto His chariot and refuses to get off until He takes Her all the way down. In any case, day is again equaled by night but with darkness ascending the God who as a child was borne into the World of the Living by the Goddess now escorts the living Goddess on her redemptive journey to the Realm of the Dead. The Descent of the Goddess and her seven stage processional divestment of worldly encumbrances is a profound human inculcation, so whether it be by belly-dancing off a trail of seven veils or circumambulating seven times around a meteorite adorned as a silver ringed vagina while pitching stones symbolising earthly burdens followed by reverently kissing the celestial vulva, humans have for eons dramatised and venerated Her pilgrimage. This Second Harvest Festival centers around grapes so celebrants consume barrels of wine and each then participates in his or her own personal Journey into Darkness by taking turns climbing into the warm, dank darkness of a recently drained wine barrel to play the traditional "Guess which orifice I've placed at the bunghole?" game. This Sabbat's accompanying lunar cycle is sometimes referred to as the "Keith Moon".
Samhain (All Hallow's Eve/Dia de los Muertos) 31 October/1 November - The by this time Big-as-a-House Goddess is crowned Queen of the Underworld by Her erstwhile son/lover/husband/sacrificial victim and current Lord of the Dead who is presently sporting a floor length black hooded cloak and wielding a man sized scythe in lieu of a sceptre . . . nattier than one might expect. At this, the second of the two Hinges of the Year, She and her reunited and now mature King prepare for the Third Harvest when, rather than grain, it is livestock that is winnowed in anticipation of the inevitable losses which will be inflicted by the approaching Winter. This is the reason it gets so crowded up here around then; Ghosts, Goblins and Ghoolies come topside for a little R&R or just to wish that special someone "Good-bye" in their own inimitable fashion. Celebrants offer food and drink to the dead and attempt sex with any who posses sufficient ectoplasm to generate friction. Around midnight the evening's festivities are capped by visiting a Crossroads, not the modern "+" shaped traffic intersection but rather what the Romans called "Tri Via", a "Y" shaped juncture where three roads meet without a clear continuation of any one of them. Here is where decisions are made concerning one's Path and celebrants petition Hecate to acquire the kind of wisdom that can't be taught in school and then proceed to play the original game of trivia, "You Bet Your Life". A splendid time is guaranteed for all.
Yule (Again, to complete the circle) - The Beltane Maypole, previously pickled in brandywine as befits the Giant Priapic Totem of a Pagan King, is burned as the Yule Log and thus fulfills it's life cycle. The once young and vital Sun God (pretty near pickled Himself) becomes the God of the Old Year in His turn and takes up sewing to pass the time. Since red is one of the few colors visible to the dead He makes Himself a red suit to keep them from bumping into Him during the long dark nights and trims it with some leftover rabbit fur; Waste not want not. He also uses some of the same red material to create a large gift bag for His wife and newborn son and packs it with treats, the preserved and sweetened fruits of the harvest for them to take on Their journey back to the Land of the Living so that They might have some fond memories of Their time spent with Him in the Realm of the Dead. He knows that soon He will assume His final role of this year's cycle, that of Father Time, stooped, bearded, ancient and now cloaked all in white but still clutching that scythe and now in addition in the other hand holding a lantern to dispel the prolonged darkness of Winter. Thus, on the Kalends of January He bids farewell to His son, the New Year's Baby, who, after getting a parting nod and a wink from Janus, the two faced Roman God of the Doorway Between the Worlds, is off to seek His fortune in the coming year. Mazel Tov!