One of the aspects of Contemporary Wytchcraft is the alignment with the changing seasons. This is done through the observance of the eight seasonal festivals, sabbats, that mark the turning of the year, often called the “Wheel of the Year“. Within modern Paganism there are traditionally eight sabbats – being the summer and winter solstices, the autumn and spring equinoxes, as well as four “fire” festivals. Samhain, Imbolc, Bealtaine and Lughnasadh.
The idea of this eight-fold Wheel of the Year was created in the 1950s by the founders of what has become two of the more popular modern Pagan traditions, Gerald Gardner, the founder of modern witchcraft (often referred to a Gardnerian Witchcraft or Wicca), and Ross Nichols, the founder of modern Druiry, and in particular The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids.
The festivals themselves pre-date the 1950s. In fact observances of them has been recorded dating back to ancient times around various parts of the world, where they often were related to the agricultural year, the arrival/departure of wild animals, or specific cosmic alignments.
Today, for the modern follower of Contemporary Wytchcraft, when we take the time to observe the sabbats, we align ourselves to the ebbing and flowing energies that are within nature, and which also exist within our own selves. In other words, our observance brings us more into alignment with the natural world that our modern lives often tends to distance ourselves (and our soul) from.
In learning about the Wheel of the Year it is important to explore the seasonal observances, myths and legends of your own land or location (ie, from the indigenous peoples) as well as the more traditional myths found within modern Paganism, which are often European and/or British orientated. In learning more about the local myths and seasonal observances this will assist you in tuning into the natural energies of the land in which you reside.