Why I follow the Wheel of the Year

The Wheel of the Year is central to my spiritual practice.

I am not a Pagan or a follower of Druidry, nor do I define as a witch. I don’t follow any religion, or even, if I’m honest, a defined spiritual path. Instead, I use tarot and the Wheel of the Year – together with the full and new phases of the moon – as a way of observing and marking the passage of time and noticing the seasonal changes within myself.

Mine is a relatively simple practice: at its heart, it means being aware of the moon and my ever-changing environment. At different times of the month or year I’ll take this idea deeper, but not always, and not routinely. Sometimes I’ll use a quarter or cross-quarter festival as an opportunity for a much-needed ritual or gathering, other times, I simply stand outside and absorb the full moon’s light, or draw a tarot card for a simple check-in.

Briefly, if you’re not familiar with the eight festivals of the Wheel of the Year, they comprise: Samhain at the end of October/start of November. Midwinter Solstice, coming up tomorrow on the 21st December. Imbolc, at the start of February. Spring Equinox towards the end of March and Beltane in early May. Midsummer Solstice in late June, Lammas in August, and Autumn Equinox around the end of September. You can find blog posts about each of these festivals right here.

These festivals have their roots in various Celtic traditions (though interestingly, no one cultural tradition seems to have marked each and every festival – their formalisation as a coherent ‘wheel’ is a neo-Pagan idea) and are intimately linked with agriculture and the changing energy of the land, generally concerned with giving thanks for the elements of the seasons which bring harvests of food and the other resources our ancestors relied on.

I’m not a farmer, but I am still able to witness the fresh green shoots that appear in spring, like the new ideas inside me that have been in incubation for so long and are finally finding shape and expression. I can enjoy the bright colours of summer wildflowers and the buzz of activity as my friends and I enjoy long summer days. As the leaves turn in autumn and the land ‘dies back’, I feel myself retreating, too, taking time for pause and reflection. And, just as Karen wrote in yesterday’s post, Four lessons from the winter season, in cold and dark months of winter, I give in to the urge to tuck myself away, to allow my own shadows to be as much part of me as my lights, and to give myself the nourishment and warmth I need to grow stronger in the coming year.

The Wheel of the Year provides a framework for observing the connection (or sometimes disconnection) between my inner life and the world around me.

I witness my own internal shifts as the seasons change, enjoying the connection between inner and outer worlds, finding metaphors in nature for the often inexpressible shifting inside me. I also notice times – like this summer just gone – when my own energy doesn’t seem to reflect that which characterises the season. The act of checking in and noticing is enough – there’s no pressure to ‘match’.

It’s a practice that links me firmly to the passage of time. Through watching the seasons and checking in – often with my tarot cards – at eight regular points throughout the year, I witness myself growing and changing. I see progression or regression upon the year before. I see challenges overcome, others appearing anew. Above all, I witness the cycle of life, death and rebirth that rolls on and on, regardless, a life in unstoppable progress. No matter how ‘stuck’ I might feel, the turning of the wheel keeps the energy changing, keeps me moving forwards. The Wheel of the Year shows me that every day lived is precisely that: another day lived, different to the one before, different to tomorrow.

If you want to follow the seasons, but Celtic traditions have little resonance or meaning for you, there are of course infinite other ways to observe the changing seasons. This is simply the framework that I use, as it feels rooted in my own ancestry and the land, seasons and weather I inhabit. You may find frameworks for observing the cycles of the year within your own cultural heritage, or you could make up your own, or adapt those of the ‘wheel’. My practice is based on the Wheel of the Year, but my rituals, writings and tarot practice are my own creations (though are often inspired by the writings of Glennie Kindred and others who write about earth-based spirituality – see below.) Your spirituality belongs to you – there’s no right or wrong way to do this.

Books and resources that I use within my practice:

Note – all of these are northern-hemisphere focused, relating particularly to northern European or temperate US -type climates, and also to Celtic cultural traditions.

Sacred Earth Celebrations, by Glennie Kindred
This book works through the Wheel of the Year, chapter by chapter. For each festival, Glennie offers detailed information about the energy of the season, it’s ancient traditions and modern interpretations, poems and illustrations, as well as practical craft projects, herbalism, ritual suggestions, magical traditions, correspondence tables, ideas for your altar and much more. It’s a wonderful reference guide for anyone wanting to align more closely with the wheel, and one of my very favourite books.

The Earth Pathways Diary and The Earth Pathways Calendar
These two hand-illustrate datebooks combine the eight festivals of the Wheel with solar and lunar astrology (much more detailed in the diary, whilst the calendar shows full and new moons and the sun’s movement into each sign of the zodiac.) They are illustrated collaboratively, with art and poetry from earthy types around the UK.

The Wildwood Tarot, by John Matthews, Mark Ryan, and Will Worthington
This tarot, created in the UK by followers of Druidry, is based on the Wheel of the Year and links the four elements with the four tarot suits. It’s guidebook goes deeply into seasonal shifts, centred on the theme of an imagined life in the woods. Not a diverse deck by any stretch, still it’s a favourite that I reach for for seasonal reflections rather than readings for myself or others.

Letting in the Wild Edges, also by Glennie Kindred
This beautiful book follows the months of the year and is filled with practices and meditations to encourage you out into nature, engaging with what is changing, what is growing, what is happening. This is such a lovely book to keep around, to pick up and read a few pages each month. It helps me to tune in, to notice the details and colours, the birds and their migrations, the trees and their cycles and much more. If there’s one book that can make me go out for a walk within a single paragraph, it’s this.

My own poster: The Elements of the Year. I created this a few years ago as a way of expressing my own experience of the turning seasons and how these relate to my tarot cards and the four elements.

6 comments

  1. hejyork says:

    Hi Beth, posts like these really resonate with me. I don’t have a specific or clear belief system but I have spent a lot of my past trying to find one. Knowing that other people follow their own eclectic path is very validating. I too am trying to follow the wheel of the year for the same reasons as you and you have articulated what I have been trying to say so much mo

    • Beth
      Beth says:

      I know what you mean about the validating thing… there are so many belief systems and structured ways to approach spirituality, nature, the universe, personal cycles, all of the above – I truly believe its for each of us to find our own way, but still it can feel a little weird, like I’m not doing something ‘properly’ if I don’t follow the rules. In a sense, writing this post was validation for my self and my own path, too.

  2. Katelyn says:

    Your perspective sounds so much like mine, and it’s nice to see some others share it too. Tracking and appreciating each season helps me focus and ground my scattered mind. As an highly independent person, it also gives me a sense of connection to something greater and more enduring than my one little life. Not to mention the endless surprises and inspiration nature offers us when we pay attention. :-) Thank you for sharing!

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