Wheel of the year

magic number Wheel of the yearThe Wheel of the year is said to have been used by many ancient peoples to remind them of the growing seasons. Celebrations would be held and thanks would be given at the start and end of planting and harvesting.

Sun Festivals (Sabbats)

These were originally a way of ensuring that all the farmers were doing the right thing (sowing, planting, harvesting, preparing) at the right time to avoid the extremes of weather conditions. It was also a good excuse for the (sometimes far-flung) communities to get together and share food, drink, music, dancing and convivial company.

The lesser Sabbats were linked to the extreme positions of the sun. 
At the equinoxes (equi nox = equal night) there are 12 hours of sun and night. The Summer solstice has 16 hours sun and 8 hours night, the Winter solstice has 8 hours sun and 16 hours night.
In between were the major Sabbats (known as fire festivals), times of great joy with feasting, dancing and tributes paid to the Gods.

Sabbat Date Focus of celebration (current equivalent)
Samhain October 31 Paying tribute to the dead (Halloween)
Yule December (19-23) Midwinter solstice celebration (Christmas)
Imbolc February 1/2 Candle festival, pledges for year (Valentine)
Ostara March (20-23) Festival of trees at Vernal equinox (Easter)
Beltane May 1 The feast of May Day
Litha June (19-23) Summer solstice celebration on longest day
Lughnasadh August 1/2 Festival of bread (Lammas)
Mabon September (19-23) Harvest thanksgiving festival at Autumn equinox

Moon Festivals (Esbats)

There are thirteen Esbat celebrations in a year, based upon the thirteen moons. Our ancestors assigned a name to each Lunar month in accordance with the nature of the activity that took place at that time. Depending upon the path we follow, these names may differ. The Moon is named by many cultures, and can be known by tree names, astrological names, American Indian names – the list is endless. The following are some of the most commonly used names for the Esbat Moons - if you know of any more, please let me know when they are and I'll add them to the list:

Months Moon names
Jan-Feb Big Winter Moon, Chaste Moon, Ice Moon, Old Moon, Wolf Moon
Feb-Mar Chaste Moon, Hunger Moon, Snow Moon, Storm Moon
Mar-Apr Crow Moon, Hare Moon, Lenten Moon, Paschal Moon, Sap Moon, Seed Moon
Apr-May Egg Moon, Grass Moon, Hare Moon, Planting Moon, Rain Moon
May-Jun Dyad Moon, Flower Moon, Milk Moon
Jun-Jul Honey Moon, Rose Moon, Strawberry Moon
Jul-Aug Buck Moon, Hay Moon, Thunder Moon, Wort Moon
Aug-Sep Barley Moon, Green Corn Moon, Grain Moon
Sep-Oct Fruit Moon, Harvest Moon, Hunter's Moon
Oct-Nov Blood Moon, Falling Leaf Moon, Hunter's Moon
Nov-Dec Beaver Moon, Dark Moon, Fog Moon, Frosty Moon, Moon Before Yule, Owl Moon, Snow Moon, Storm Moon
Dec-Jan Cold Moon, Long Night Moon, Moon After Yule, Oak Moon, Snow Moon, Wolf Moon
Jan-Feb Big Winter Moon, Chaste Moon, Ice Moon, Old Moon, Wolf Moon