Creating Your Own Wheel of the Year

In Atheopaganism,  similar to many other Pagan paths, we celebrate eight Sabbaths, or holy days: the solar equinoxes and solstices, and the points between them. But I encourage folks to adapt this calendar to fit the circumstances of the places where we live, choosing our own names and meanings for these holidays as necessary.

Why your own? Because we all live in different climates, and the traditional Pagan/Wiccan Wheel doesn’t really reflect any except that of England and places with similar seasonal cycles. Ours is an Earth religion, and connectedness to our local seasonal cycles is essential: our celebrations should reflect the land on which we live, not somewhere else.

I live in coastal Northern California, where we have a “Mediterranean” climate cycle: rain in the winter and completely dry in the summer. Snow is rare and even when we get it, it is usually just a dusting on the mountaintops after a particularly cold winter night.

So I have created my own cycle of holidays, still using the equinoxes, solstices, and points-between dates, but changing up the meanings and rituals somewhat to reflect this land and its seasons. I have renamed many of the Sabbaths from their common Celtic names, because I don’t personally relate to that culture or history.

I can imagine a wide range of Wheels of the Year for different climates: for example, in the Southwestern U.S., where the tail ends of hurricanes bring spectacular thunderstorms in August, I could see the Aug. 1 holiday being a rain Sabbath, or a Festival of Lightning. And in the tropics, of course, the Sabbaths may be totally different and mark the cycles of monsoon seasons.

Recently, Jon Cleland Host published a synopsis of his holidays and their associations over at Humanistic Paganism. It’s a good idea, so below, using an adaptation of Jon’s “cheat sheet” format, is my Wheel of the Year (note: I don’t use Jon’s concept of the midpoint Sabbaths as “Thermistices” and “Equitherms” because the climate where I live doesn’t really work that way).

Note that Sabbath names are live links to all articles on the site about this Sabbath; there are also a few other links to craft projects or ritual articles in the table.

DATE
NAME
ASSOCIATIONS
RITUALS

Winter Solstice (~ Dec. 21)
Yule
The Festival of Light; birth of the New Sun; beginning of the year; family and community.
Yule Tree; Yule Log; lights, presents; stockings; watching Hogfather; singing carols

Midpoint

(~ Feb. 1)
Riverain
The Festival of Water and beginning of Spring (first wildflowers appear)
Sowing seeds; planning for the coming year; Rain Baby (corn dolly); rain hike; spring cleaning, Spring Fast

Spring Equinox (~ March 21)
High Spring
The Festival of Childhood, innocence, playfulness, lightness.
Dyeing eggs; childhood games; focus on children in ritual; bright, childlike colors

Midpoint

(~ May 1)
May Day
The Festival of Adulthood, sexuality, beginning of Summer
Maypole; sexy/flirty games; May wine; rites of passage into adulthood

Summer Solstice (~ June 21)
Midsummer
The Festival of Enjoyment, relaxation, leisure, the long warm evenings, flitting about in the woods like fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Have a party—preferably in the woods! Relax and enjoy life. Perhaps a trip to the beach. Rebuild Sun broom.

Midpoint

(~Aug. 1)
Summer’s End
The Festival of Work and Craft; grain harvest, brewing, John Barleycorn, breadmaking, end of the fog cycle and beginning of Autumn and the hottest part of the year
Bake bread; pick wild blackberries; brew beer or Yule mead; handcrafts

Autumnal Equinox (~ September 21)
Harvest
The Harvest, the grape crush, wine, feasting, completion of efforts
Harvest feast with lots of wine!

Midpoint (~Nov. 6)
Hallows
The Festival of Death, mortality and morbidity, remembrance of Honored Dead, ancestry, beginning of Winter
Hallows ritual; divination; burn the Rain Baby in the Hallows fire; light the Hallows fire with yew branch gathered from cemetery the year before; carve pumpkins

I invite you to do the same! Here is a link to a blank version of this template, so you can create your own.

I envision a time when Atheopagans who meet one another from different parts of the world might exchange information about the Sabbaths they observe, just as other Pagans share their tradition or path with one another. Each land is different, and we who live there are informed by the seasons we experience: let’s get connected to our local Earth cycles and celebrate!

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