The Wheel of the Year consists of the eight Wiccan holy days which we call sabbats and it is the seasonal cycle of life. These Pagan celebrations are directly linked to the Goddess and God in all their aspects and they are divided into two separate groups – the Greater and Lesser sabbats.
The Greater Sabbats are:
Samhain literally means “summer’s end” and is pronounced “sow-in” or “sow-een.” It is the Wiccan New Year and the third harvest of the year. It is the sabbat from which Halloween was born. The Goddess is in her Crone aspect and the God will die and enter the Summerland only to be reborn again at Yule.
Imbolg means “in the belly" (of the Goddess) and is also known as Imbolc (“in milk”).
It is the sabbat which honors the on-coming of Spring. Candlemas (“candle night”) is the Christianized version of this celebration. The Goddess is in her Maiden aspect and the God in his youth. The Celtic goddess Brigid (pronounced “Breed”) is honored at this time.
Beltane is the sabbat which celebrates the sacred marriage of the Goddess & God. The name was taken from Irish-Gaelic meaning “Bel Fire” or “fire of Bel.” Bel was the God of Light and was also known as Beli or Belinus. It is only one of two times a year that the veil between the world of the living and the world of spirit is thin. Samhain is the other.
Lughnasadh literally means “the chase of Lugh” (Lugh was the Celtic Sun God) and it celebrates the first harvest of the year. This sabbat is also known as Lammas (Irish for “old style”) and is also a mid-evil Christian holiday meaning “loaf mass.” The Goddess is in her Mother aspect, but beginning to age. The God is also getting older.
The Lesser Sabbats are:
Yule is the Winter Solstice. The word Yule was taken from the Norse “Jul” which means “wheel.” This is the sabbat from which the Christian holiday of Christmas originates. The Goddess is a “Triple Goddess” – Maiden, Mother & Crone and the God is born once again of the Goddess.
Ostara which is pronounced “o-stara” is the Spring Equinox and the sabbat from which the Christian holiday of Easter evolved. Much of the Easter lore i.e. rabbits, colored eggs, etc. stems from this Pagan holiday. The goddess Eostre, who was the Teutonic Lunar Goddess of Fertility, is honored at this time. Her sacred animal was the hare. Ostara also celebrates new life with the rebirth of the sun. The Goddess is in her Young Mother aspect and the God, the Young Father.
Mabon, pronounced “may-bone” or “may-bon” is the Autumn Equinox and the second harvest of the year. The name was taken from the Irish “Mabon ap Modron” which means “son of the mother” (Earth). The Goddess and God continue to grow old.
Litha, also known as the Summer Solstice or Midsummer, celebrates the long days and warm weather. Litha is Anglo-Saxon for “before summer” (Aerra Litha). “The Fae” (faeries) are honored at this time and animal blessings and protection spells are usually performed at this time as well. The Goddess is at her peak as Mother and the Father God at his.
Depending upon the tradition, the names of these Pagan sabbats may vary. However, the basic meanings and symbolisms of these ancient earth-based celebrations, for the most part, remain the same.