For many years I’ve been celebrating the Sabbats by the dates from the Northern Hemisphere. And it is very common to hear all sorts of criticism of that decision, some even impregnated by surprise (“well, that’s absurd!Summer is summer and winter is winter!”), revolt (“Ridiculous! Here is the Southern Hemisphere!) or even of certain air of superiority (“Who is really connected to Earth celebrates the cycles from the South).
Although most people eventually accept that each one celebrates according to what they feel and believe, and the celebration always work – be it the North, South or Mixed Wheel – we need to stop having so much prejudice. Many people find that celebrating by theNorth is some sort of ignorance or madness, in which the “pseudo witches” express how they ignore the nature. However, far from this prejudice, there are many reasons to celebrate by the North, and I will now expose them.
When I started practicing Wicca, I did the North Wheel, then tried turning South and I didn’t fit in. With the deepening of the studies and experiences of the Wheel, I’ve been through a profound reflection on the subject.
For people to get out of the superficiality of this discussion, as if the thing gets reduced to a simple geographical criterion, or a reverse of dates, we must stop to question if we know exactly what we’re celebrating at the Wheel of the Year.
The Wheel of the Year as it is celebrated in Wicca represents seasonal festivals of planting and harvesting. Its origin lies in the early days of the times, in the Neolithic age, more than 10 thousand years ago, when grazing and agriculture arose.
You’re wrong, dead wrong if you think we’re celebrating festivities of the Celts (Celtic peoples lived in Europe between 2000 BCE – before the common era-and 400 CE–common Era). Virtually every pagan in the world has celebrated the harvest festivals.
Whereas the Celts existed in Europe about 2 thousand years ago, just for that one realizes that we are celebrating more than a people’s or ethnic festivals.We’re celebrating the dance of nature, as it presented itself to our ancestors since the time that agriculture and the cycles of vegetation planting and livestock breeding, showed the human species that solar cycles existed but went unnoticed before because they are of great length and difficult to noticeif not pragmaticallyaccompanied on a daily basis.
Considering, therefore, that the Wheel appears in function of human activities related to planting and harvesting, we have to remember that it has several dimensions and social functions: it is notoriously filled with magical intent, because these celebrations aimed at ensuring that crops were hearty and that people survived the rigors of winter.On the other hand, they made human society mark their events – dating, weddings, celebrations of majority, celebration of the dead – as a function of the cycles of these crops.
Thinking like this, we have to realize that the Wheel of the Year has several dimensions:
1) the sequence of the solar cycles itself, and the changes of temperature and duration of sunlight each day;
2) agricultural activities;
3) livestock caring activities (whether it was time for fattening, reproduction, lactation of cattle or if it was the time of slaughter);
4) the alternation of food availability (if it was time of plenty of grain or time to save, whether it was time to harvest perishablevegetables and fruits or time to feed on the nutritive seeds, for example);
5) human activities that corresponded to those cycles – whether it was time of great collective parties with enough food or if it was time to gather indoors with the family and save food to survive the winter.
Considering all this, it is very important for us to wake up to the following: a lot of people talk about the Wheel of the Year as if it were a law that the Goddess wrote for the Celts or for Gardner and he came down from the Mount Tor with light horns and gave it to the Pagan people.Ridiculous! The Wheel of the Year is not like the Christian Ten Commandments, it was not “bequeathed” by the Goddess, nor is it “indisputable”.
Who, after all, determined that the Wheel of the Year works simply with dates reversed in the Southern Hemisphere? Surely that arose when Wicca began to be practiced in Australia, according to criteria from groups that followed the Gardnerian or Alexandrian Wicca.It is not absurd to believe that nobody really thought of the Wheel and how it would work, there might be many differences. Simply someone who lived in the Northern Hemisphere and knew nothing of the nature of the Southern Hemisphere, when was guiding the new Southern practitioners, acted rationally and simply switched the dates according to the seasons. But is that magically and energetically valid or is it a simple mental operation without much basis?
To answer that, we need to continue thinking about the origins of the wheel and what it really means.
All that the Wheel of the Year means is human cultural construction on natural events.Celebratory rites, propitiatory rites (for better harvests), rituals of sympathetic magic to ensure that prosperity came back after winter.
Those who cling too much to the question Southern/NorthernHemisphere adhere to the fact that “Hey, here it is spring,not autumn” … but forget that their own concepts of what is spring and autumn are HUMAN CULTURAL CONSTRUCTS.
We are so conditioned to accepting spring/summer/autumn/winter as “natural” things that we don’t even stop to think that even this, thisdivision, has a culturallydefinedcontent.Not all nature in the planet presents quaternary well-defined cycles.In many ecosystems, the binary system is much more obvious (rain and drought, for example), and people end up applying the terms spring/summer/autumn/winter much more by cultural inertia than because they are the description of the reality of nature.
Fromany angle we study either theWheel of the Year or the cultural concept itself which defined as the 4 seasonsare,we always come to one conclusion: ALL THIS WAS DEFINED EXCLUSIVELY IN FUNCTION OF HOW NATURE BEHAVES ON THE NORTHERN HEMISFERE.
The Wheel of the Year celebrated in Wicca (in the majority of traditions, as there are traditions that celebrate other seasonalities, as the Egyptian or the Greek, for example) which deals with a mythology in which the Goddess gets pregnant from the God, kills Him on the harvest and then makes Him be reborn in Her womb to resume the cycle, is the mythology born of the interpretation of ancient peoples for the fact that in the Northern Hemisphere, especially in Europe, at one time of the year all died under the snow. In the solstices the difference between the time of sunlightreaches 6 to 8 hours, i.e. in England, on the summer solstice, the sun rises at 6 a.m. and just goes down near midnight, while in winter it rises at 6 to setat 3 or 4 in the afternoon.Note that this is the nature which inspired the myths of the Wheel, in which the God dies and is reborn, because the solar lighting regime is much differentiated.
In the Southern Hemisphere this huge difference, even in locations closer to the pole, is never so marked.Even in Brazil, or in Australia, for example, there is such a difference between the lighting in both summer and winter.Our vegetation NEVER die all at the same time and there are crops and planting all year … so, it’s more than obvious that the way the cycles are expressed here will never match what occurs in Europe.
So, this was the first major conclusion I reached when I thought about the Wheel: TRY TO MAKE THE EIGTH SABBATS TO EXPRESS THE REALITY OF THE NATURE OF THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE IS COMPLETELY IMPOSSIBLE. Our Sun, even in winter, never dies for good, nor there are long periods of darkness.The difference between the hours of summer and winter lighting does not reach 2 hours… then what changes here?Certainly, if we build a mythology to express nature’s cycles of Brazil or the Southern Hemisphere, we’d have a mythology centered not on the disappearance of the Sun, but of the water.Much more than the difference in lighting, in the Southern Hemisphere, the cycles of water arewhat denote seasonalitymore.In summer it rains a lot more, in the winter there is drought.
TRY ADJUSTING THE WHEEL OF THE YEAR TO THE NATURE OF SOUTHERN HEMISPHEREIS EQUIVALENT TO TRYING TO FIT A ROUND PEG IN A SQUARE HOLE – IT DOES NOT WORK.The Northernn Wheel, that is the wheel of 8 Sabbats, with a cycle of planting and 3 sequential harvest, can never serve to describe the Brazilian nature, for example, where there are 3 different cycles of planting grains – there are, for example, 3 maize harvests in the year, the largest one in the middle of winter!.People who simply reverse the dates end up celebrating falsely the agrarian cycles, because they will never be able, with a wheel of only 8 festivals, to compute the timing of all our plantings and harvests.
We must therefore conclude that whoever celebrates by the Northern dates celebrates “contrary to” the seasons, but those who celebrates by theSouthern dates ALSO DON’T CELEBRATES THE REALITY OF NATURE.So what does that mean?
For a while I even thought, with other Pagans Brazilians, if it was not the case of building a different mythology. We soon abandoned that idea.Mythologies are not invented,they are not the result of a group of people, nor just rational acts. They are fruit of the soul of the peoples, they need to arise spontaneously, and be transmitted by generations, if they are to have power and express truths that go far beyond simple description of climatic phenomena.
And then, when thinking about that, we start to realize what really is the Wheel of the Year, as we have been bequeathed by our European ancestors. It does not speak of temperatures, nor times of the Sun or dried leaves or green sprouts… those things only served as markers of what is really the Wheel. It speaks of realities beyond human, beyond crops, beyond the ways which express it. It speaks of things that are mysteries, much deeper than the temperature or geographical criteria.
If the Goddess we believe in is the All and Her body is the Universe itself, then we have to admit that the Wheel of the Year describes the breathe of the Goddess, how She behaves and how She changes along the dance of the year.Check it out: how the Goddess changes, and how the energies flowing through your ENTIRE, WHOLE body.
The Wheel of the Year speaks, really of what is often called in inspired writings as “the only lesson from the Goddess”, which is the Lesson of the Cycles.The Wheel of the Year says there is a time to wake and grow up, a time to mature, a time to reap, a time to die, a time to wait and then another time to be reborn.And this does not happen only in onepiece (North or South) of the Body of the Goddess.This happens, obviously, throughout ALL THE BODY OF THE GODDESS AT THE SAME TIME.
I firmly believe that the wheel of the year cannot and should not be reduced to geographical criteria.It needs to be understood as the description of the flow of energy and its variations in the All, which is Her Body.By this view, then, it ceases to be important in which Hemisphere we live or what the temperature is on each Sabbath and we ended up seeing the Sabbats in their essence and understanding local climate change only as references to the cycles.Because if Her body is the universe, so is Imbolc throughout the land, and in Alpha Centauri, Pluto or the Halley’s Comet, for example…
Explaining;I don’t celebrate Ostara just as the beginning of spring.Ostara is the entrance of the Sun in the sign of Aries, i.e. a time of impulses, new life, initiatives, explosions and spurts of life and energy.March is,thus, Ostara, whether in the North, where it corresponds to the spring, or in the South, where it corresponds to the autumn, but the autumn brings up that spurt of beginnings, because the calendar year begins for real.Or don’t you feel a time of beginnings in your life after Carnival?
Today I celebrate Ostara in March and celebrate the planting in my life, although it is the time when it will start the 6 months of drought in the cerrado (kind of Brazilian savannah), where I live.In our Ostara there is always the traditional celebration and afterwards the greeting and welcome to the drought forces, that will kill the cerrado, but will make it be reborn later. We celebrate also the planting in our lives.And really the year has barely begun and it’s time to plan and want for more.
As it turns out, those who celebrateby the North do not ignore the climate and the nature that surrounds then, they only interpret this cycle as part of a universal cycle of the Sabbats.
As a person who is born in March in the Southern Hemispheredoesn’t becomes, by the geographical criterion, of the sign of Libra, but remains of the sign of Aries.This is because the Zodiac, as the Wheel of the Year, has a universal application: it is a language that describes the predominance of energies in the Body of the Goddess, no matter where you are.
So we can see the exact match of the signs with the Sabbats:
- Imbolc – Aquarius – renewal
- Ostara – Aries – Impulses
- Beltane – Taurus – Sensuality
- Litha – Cancer – Family
- Lammas – Leo – Sacrifice of the Sun
- Mabon – Virgo – harvest and gratitude
- Samhain – Scorpio – Death and mysteries
- Yule – Capricorn – Hopes
Note however that THERE WILL ONLY BE AN ACCURATE CORRESPONDENCE OF THE SIGNS AND SABBATS IF WE KEEP THE DATES FROM THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE.If we reverse the dates, this correspondence is lost, and worse, I think that we also lose the notion that when celebrating the Wheel we are celebrating something universal and not just local.
Celebrating by the Northern Hemisphere has two enormous advantages:
1) We celebrate according to the ANCESTRAL EGREGORE and not against it.That is, we celebrate following the same energy flow which has lasted for more than ten thousand years.This force is nothing to sneeze at and all who celebrate by the South knows they often have impulses to celebrate, for example, Samhain on October 31.
2) We celebrate what Brazilian society is living, that is, we celebrate the flows of energy created by the beliefs and by the activity of 200 million people alive here and now, to whom Yule (or Christmas) is in December, Ostara (or Easter) is in March, Day of the dead is near Samhain in October/November and so on…
Remember that this force is not to be ignored, because if the Wheel originally expressed what human society was celebrating according to the time of year, we can’t say what the Brazilians are celebrating doesn’t affect our personal Wheel.Nor be it said that people follow Christian festivals, because that’s not true.People celebrate what our Pagan ancestors celebrated, ACCORDING TO THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE. Then, celebrate the by North keeps us connected to what surrounds us, our social reality.
We must leave aside this strange mania that leads us to think that what is human, or cultural, is outside of nature.We are nature too!
Looking at what occurs in nature of Brazil, we see that many times the Northern Wheelends up expressing some moments of our reality.For example, at the time of the June Festivals (traditional Brazilian maize harvest festivals) we celebrate Litha/Lammas.Now those are festivals of plenty.And the corn is very abundant. Those who reverse and celebrateby the South, are in Yule, which should be a time of scarcity.Well, but they allege they follow the reality of nature and are solemnly ignoring that abundance and celebrating the shortage!All this fully shows that you will ignore aspects of nature in the Southern Hemisphere celebratingby the North Wheel as celebrating by the South Wheel.
The observation of some agricultural Wheels of Brazilian indigenous nations festivals reveal remarkable coincidences with the NorthWheel. For example, the Arawete People has the custom of harvesting only until the end of October, leaving on the farm to rot which was not collected until then.This is a custom typical of Samhain, and was celebrated by a genuinely Pagan Brazilian people in October…
It is up to each Wiccan to decide what they want to celebrate and how they feel better.I suggest you try in every way, in order to know how you feel.Without prejudice, without being bound only by the formal criteria of “spring, summer, etc”. Feel the Wheel, look to the nature, look at the people around you and answer: your next Sabbat will be of beginnings or endings? There will be growth or decline? Only then, you will be able to choose what you want to celebrate.
And, please, never look with prejudice to those who celebrates on the NorthSide.
Good Wheel of the Year!