Sacred Texts  Index  Previous  Next 

sacred-texts |  Web | Powered by Google

Internet Book of Shadows, (Various Authors), [1999], at

                                    The Wheel of the Year 
               From "The Witches of Oz", by Julia Phillips and Matthew Sandow,
                                      New South Wales.
                The Wheel of the year is of great significance to Wiccans, and
           is one of the principle keys to understanding the religion.  As we
           said earlier, Wicca sees a profound relationship between humanity
           and the environment.  For a Wiccan, all of nature is a manifesta-
           tion of the divine and so we celebrate the turning seasons as the
           changing faces of our Gods.
                The Wheel of the Year is a continuing cycle of life, death and
           rebirth.  Thus the Wheel reflects both the natural passage of life
           in the world around us, as well as revealing our own connection
           with the greater world.  To a Wiccan, all of creation is divine,
           and by realizing how we are connected to the turning if the seasons
           and to the natural world, we come to a deeper understanding to the
           ways in which we are connected to the God and Goddess. o when we
           celebrate our seasonal rites, we draw the symbolism that we use
           from the natural world and from our own lives, thus attempting to
           unite the essential identity that underlies all things.
                Undoubtedly the significance of the Festivals has changed over
           the centuries, and it is very difficult for us today to imagine the
           joy and relief that must have accompanied the successful grain
           harvest.  What with factory-farming, fast freezing and world wide
           distribution, our lives no longer depend upon such things and as a
           consequence, our respect for the land has diminished in proportion
           to our personal contact with it.
                Wiccans believe that we can re-affirm this contact by our
           observance of the passage of the seasons, in which we see reflected
           our own lives, and the lives of our gods.  Whether we choose to
           contact those forces through silent and solitary meditation, or
           experience the time of year in a wild place, or gather with friends
           in a suburban living room, we are all performing our own ritual to
           the Old Ones, reaching out once more towards the hidden forces
           which surround us all.
                What is of the utmost importance with the Wheel of the Year is
           that we understand what we hope to achieve through our festival
           celebrations, and avoid the trap of going through empty motions,
           repeating words from a book which may sound dramatic, but have no
           relevance in our everyday lives.  That simply leads to the creation
           of a dogma, and not a living breathing religion.  It is not enough
           to stand in a circle on a specific day, and "invoke' forces of
           nature, those forces are currents which flow continuously through-
           out our lives, not just eight times a year, and if we choose not to
           acknowledge them in our everyday lives, there is no point in
           calling upon them for one day.
                 By following the Wiccan religion you are affirming your belief
           in the sanctity of the Earth, and acknowledging that you depend
           upon the Earth for your very life.  Although modern lifestyles do
           not encourage awareness of our personal relationship with the
           turning seasons, or the patterns of life, growth, death and decay,
           that does not mean that they no longer exist.  The ebb and flow 
           of the Earth's energies may be hidden beneath a physical shell of
           tarmac and concrete, and a psychic one of human indifference, but
           they are nevertheless there for those who wish to acknowledge them
           once more.
                We do this by observing the changes of the seasons, and
           feeling the changes reflected in our innermost selves, and in our
           everyday lives.  In our rituals we focus upon different aspects of
           the God and Goddess, and participate in the celebration of their
           mysteries; thus we re-affirm our connections on the most profound
                The Wiccan Wheel has two great inspirations; it is both a
           wheel of celebration, and a wheel of initiation.  As a wheel of
           initiation it hopes to guide those who tread its pathway towards an
           understanding of the mysteries of life and the universe, expressed
           through the teachings of the Old Ones made manifest in the turning
           of the seasons.  For a Wiccan, the gods and nature are one.  In
           exploring the mysteries of the seasons we are seeking to penetrate
           more deeply the mysteries of the God and Goddess.
                As a wheel of celebration, Wiccans accord to the words of the
           Charge of the Goddess, where She says, "Let my worship be within
           the heart that rejoiceth, for behold, all acts of Love and Pleasure
           are my rituals"; and that, "Ye shall dance, sing, feast, make music
           and love, all in my praise".  Anyone can celebrate the turning of
           the seasons, in their own way, and in their own time.  Wiccan
           covens will commonly gather together, and make the Festivals times
           of joyful merrymaking, but you can just as easily make the
           celebration a solitary one, or with just one or two friends.  The
           principles do not alter; just the way in which you acknowledge
                Wiccans generally celebrate eight Festivals, roughly six weeks
           apart, which are pivotal points in the solar (seasonal) cycle. 
           Four of the Festivals are called the Lesser Sabbats: these are the
           Spring and Autumn Equinoxes, and the Winter and Summer Solstices. 
           The other four Festivals are called the Greater Sabbats, and relate
           to particular seasons when in bygone days, certain activities would
           have been undertaken, usually followed by a party of some kind. 
           There are variations upon the names by which these Greater Sabbats
           are known, but the simple ones are Candlemas, Beltane, Lammas and
           Samhain.  Candlemas is also known as Imbolg, Oimelc, or Brigid;
           Lammas is sometimes called Lughnassadh.
                 It is important to understand that the Festivals are celebrat-
           ing a time of year: a season, not a date.  Most books written about
           Wicca have been written by an author living and working in the
           northern hemisphere, who may quite rightly say that "Beltane is
           celebrated on May Eve."  Northern hemisphere readers will automati-
           cally interpret this as, "Beltane is at the end of spring, just
           before summer gets underway."  IN the Wiccan Book of Shadows, the
           poem by Kipling is used at this Festival which says, "O do not tell
           the Priests of our art, for they would call it sin; but we've been
           out in the woods all night, a'conjurin' summer in.... ."
                Of course, "May eve" in the southern hemisphere is autumn
           heading into winter, entirely the wrong time of year to celebrate
           the portent of summer.  In much the same way, Christmas and Easter
           are celebrated at the wrong time of year here.  In the Christian
           calendar, Christmas coincides with the Winter Solstice - and the
           growing popularity of the June Yule Fest in the Blue Mountains in
           NSW each year suggests an awareness of this, even if it is, in this
           case, expressed in a commercial sense.  The date of Easter changes
           each year, because it is the first Sunday after the first Full Moon
           after the Spring Equinox, (And they try to tell us that Easter
           wasn't originally a Pagan Festival!)  So in the southern hemi-
           sphere, according to the rules by which the date of Easter is
           determined, it should fall sometime in late September or early
           October each year.  However, Christianity is not a religion which
           sees a particular connection between humanity and the environment,
           and therefore has no problem in celebrating Easter in autumn, and
           Christmas at the Summer Solstice.  Wicca is different, and it IS
           important to us to attune ourselves to the passage of the seasons,
           hence we follow the natural cycle wherever we live.  In the
           southern hemisphere this means celebrating Beltane at the start of
           summer, i.e., the beginning of November, not the beginning of May.
                The Wiccan year starts and ends with Samhain, which is also
           known as Hallowe'en, or All Saints Eve.  It is the celebration
           which falls just before the dark nights of winter take hold.  The
           Winter Solstice comes next, where Wiccans celebrate the rebirth of
           the Sun; at Candlemas about six weeks later, we celebrate the first
           signs of the growing light (longer days,) and of spring beginning
           to show itself.  The Spring Equinox (around 21 September - it
           varies from year to year) is the time when day and night are equal
           in length, and the Sun is on its increase.  Next is Beltane, the
           Festival where Wiccans celebrate the union of the young man and
           woman, and everyone dances around a tree, crowned with a garland of
           flowers, and decked with red and white ribbons.
                About six weeks after Beltane we come to the Summer Solstice,
           when the Sun reaches its greatest height.  It is the longest
           day/shortest night, and in the southern hemisphere, falls around 21
           December.  Then the Sun begins its way back down towards winter,
           but we are still in summer.  Six weeks after the Solstice is
           Lammas, when in agricultural societies, the harvest is reaped, and
           we receive the benefits from our hard work.  The Sun at Lammas
           still has great strength, for it is the ripening time, rather than
           the growing time which ceases around the Summer Solstice.  The
           Autumn Equinox follows this, usually around 21 March (again, it
           varies from year to year), which is often celebrated as a Harvest
           Festival.  The next Festival, some six weeks after the Equinox, is
           Samhain, which is the time just before the winter really sets in,
           and when food is stored, and we remember those who have passed
           away.  In many countries this is the time when the Lord of the Wild
           Hunt rides, which is mirrored in the way that the winds are often
           wild at this time of year, and the clouds ragged and wind-torn.
                In parts of Australia you will find that some of these
           seasonal aspects are a little different, but generally speaking,
           you should be able to feel the change from winter to spring; spring
           to summer; summer to autumn and then autumn to winter.  The
           specifics will change, but the general trend is very similar - one
           season leading to another.  You have only to become aware of the
           natural changes in your own environment to realize that the
           concepts of the Wheel of the Year are valid wherever you may be.
                As a Wheel of initiation, the Wheel of the Year is the path
           which leads us through the experiences of our gods towards that
           point which Jungian psychologists call individuation, and which
           Wiccans call knowledge of the Old Ones.  As with all mystical
           experiences, these mysteries are not communicated in an academic or
           intellectual manner; they are direct experiences which each
           individual shares with the Old Gods.  Different traditions have
           developed different ways of travelling the Wheel, but all ways have
           a common purpose, and all are equally valid, provided the basic
           principles are sound.
                We gave a very brief description of the cycle of the Wheel of
           the Year above.  Now we can have a look at this in more detail,
           using for our framework a mythology which is used by our own Coven. 
           It is based upon the Gardnerian and Alexandrian traditions in which
           we were initiated, but has evolved over several years, and has been
           greatly modified to reflect our own understanding of the turning
           wheel of the seasons.  We should say at this point that we use the
           terms "King" and "Queen" to refer to the principle characters in
           the mythology.  It is important to understand that we are not
           referring to a modern monarchy, but to the ancient pagan principles
           those titles infer.  The King is the priest/king of the forest: 
           his tale is told in many forms in many lands.  He is the essential
           male that lies within all men, and is the animus (in it Jungian
           sense) of all women.  The Queen is Sovereignty:  she is the
           mysterious soul of nature; the essential woman that lies within all
           women, and is the anima of all men.
                So to begin our journey:  how do we set out to explore the
           mysteries of existence?  Well, the journey begins with a question -
           we have first to be aware that there is a mystery to explore!  And
           that most basic of questions is:  "where did life come from?  how
           did it all begin?"  For a Wiccan there is an underlying spiritual
           intuition that the answer to that question is quite simply that the
           universe was created by deity.  So we celebrate the beginning of
           the Wheel of the Year as a being the creation of all life by the
           God and the Goddess; we begin with a creation myth.
                The Wheel of the Year starts with Samhain; at this time we
           celebrate the Great Rite - the joyful union of the God and Goddess
           in the Otherworld.  This touches the very depths of the mystery. 
           We celebrate at this time the conception that will lead to the
           birth of all creation.
                Wiccans celebrate all life as a manifestation of the mystery
           of the gods, but do not pretend to understand how such life came
           into being.  Nor do we claim to fully understand our gods; to the
           Wicca they are a mystery, and when describing our vision of deity
           we use symbols to express as best we can the vision we have seen. 
           We do not know how the universe was created and this remains
           essentially mysterious.  However, by choosing to take the path of
           initiation - that is, by following the Wheel of the Year - we can
           learn to commune more deeply with the gods, and experience visions
           which can reveal a little of the mystery.
                The vision that we have of Samhain is of the creation.  In the
           Wicca the inexpressible mystery of the deity is symbolized in the
           form of the God and Goddess.  Thus at Samhain we celebrate their
           love as the root of all creation.  Samhain is the time of creation: 
           the moment when life is conceived in the womb of the Great Mother.
                As we proceed to the next of the festivals - Yule - it should
           not be surprising to find that following the moment of conception
           we should seek to understand the moment of birth.  The conception,
           the moment of creation deep within the mystery, took place at
           Samhain.  The seed planted at this time gestates in the womb of the
           Goddess until the child of the gods - in essence, the whole of
           creation - emerges from the womb of the Great Mother.  This is
           celebrated at Yule, which is symbolized by the birth of the Sun. 
           In pre-Christian times, this time was called "Giuli," and followed
           "Modra Necht" - the Night of the Mothers.
                Yule is celebrated at the time of the Midwinter Solstice. 
           This is the time of the longest night, and of the shortest day. 
           The Sun is seen to be symbolically born anew, as the Great Mother
           gives birth at the time of the darkest night.  The Sun is a vitally
           important symbol to us, for it has been long known that all life on
           Earth is dependant upon the Sun.  The Wheel of the Year itself is
           based upon the solar cycle, and the Sun is seen as symbolic of the
           life force which we worship as the God and the Goddess.  The Sun is
           the dominant force in all our lives.  Without its light and heat,
           life as we understand it is impossible.  The passage of the Sun
           through the heavens regulates the passage of the seasons we
           experience upon the Earth, and is therefore the foundation of the
           Wiccan Wheel of the Year.
                At the Midwinter Solstice we celebrate the rebirth of the Sun. 
           Many Wiccan covens follow the old pagan tradition of enacting this
           as the Goddess giving birth to the Child of Promise.  It was at the
           Midwinter Solstice in the northern hemisphere that the birth of
           Mithras was celebrated.  For the same reason it was decided in 273
           A.D. to appoint this date to celebrate the birth of Christ; the
           "son" of God.
                In the world of nature, Yule signifies the moment of the
           rebirth of the Sun.  In our own lives we can take it to represent
           the moment of physical birth.  Thus in our ritual cycle, we enact
           the rebirth of the Sun by the lighting of candles, and especially
           the lighting of a flame within the cauldron to represent the
           emergence of new life from the darkness of the womb of the Goddess. 
           We ritually invoke the Great Mother and All-Father, and we
           symbolically enact the Goddess giving birth to the new year.  In
           human terms the child represents all the potential for life, as yet
           unaware that all the mysteries of the universe lies hidden deep
           within.  Like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the child is born
           in innocence, created in the image of the gods.
                We have taken the second step upon our journey.  From now on
           the days continue to lengthen as the Sun climbs toward its height
           at the Summer Solstice.  In response to the greater heat of the
           Sun, the land begins to awaken as we start the journey from winter
           towards spring.  The next festival is Candlemas.  As we might guess
           from the name (given to it by the Christians), it is a festival of
           lights which celebrates the growth of the Sun.  By Candlemas, the
           days are appreciably longer.  Our understanding of this festival
           has been guided by ancient pagan tradition and our own inspiration. 
           We see this as a time of purification and most especially a time of
           initiation into the female mysteries.  At Candlemas we observe in
           nature the awakening potential for the fullness of summer.  In
           human terms we represent this by the first female menstruation. 
           This is the virgin aspect of the Goddess, marking the awakening of
           her potential to become the mother.
                We celebrate this ritual by arming the young virgin with the
           powers of the elements.  We celebrate her initiation into the
           mysteries of her sex.  To reflect this essential female mystery, we
           enact the young girl being instructed by her mother and grandmother
           into the mysteries of being a woman.  Thus we reveal that the
           mystery of the virgin is also found within the mother crone as
                It is at Candlemas in many parts of Britain that the women of
           the house dress a sheaf of oats in woman's clothing, and lay it in
           a basket called "Brighid's bed."  They also place a small phallic
           club in the bed and then call out three times, "Brighid is come,
           Brighid is welcome!", and leave candles burning all night beside
           the bed.  Behind all this we catch glimpses of deeper mysteries
           that can only be grasped by passing beyond a mere intellectual
           appreciation of the symbolism.
                To continue our journey we now come to the Spring Equinox.  It
           might seem that celebrating Candlemas as a female mystery is rather
           unbalanced in a religion which is based upon polarity of male and
           female; but no; for reasons of tradition, and because woman reach
           puberty before men, it is not until the Spring Equinox that the
           initiatory male rite is enacted.  In this we arm the young god with
           the knowledge of his own creative power; he is initiated into the
           mysteries of sex, just as the young girl was armed with the powers
           of her potential.  This ritual expresses the mystery that he
           contains within his young life; the potential to become a father
           and wise old man.
                This continues to reflect the turning tide of the seasons.  We
           are now in the spring.  New life is awakening on all sides.  The
           sap is rising in the trees, and both the young man and young girl
           have awakened to the mysteries of their sexuality.  The Spring
           Equinox is a vital moment in the passage of the solar cycle.  Day
           and night now stand equal, and from this point onwards the light
           will dominate the darkness.  The long dark nights of winter have at
           last been overthrown.
                Between the Spring Equinox and Beltane the young man and woman
           pursue one another, each becoming more aware of the other sex. 
           Thus the man understands that there is more to the mystery of life
           than pure masculinity, and the woman sees that there is more to
           life than her femininity.  Having found this vision, they express
           it in their desire to be joined as one.
                We arrive now at Beltane.  This is the time of the sacred
           marriage when the young man and woman are joined together as
           husband and wife.  With their wish to be married, they have
           glimpsed that the mysteries of love may lead to a deeper union
           still - in essence, to a union with the gods.  By going beyond
           their sense of individual self to embrace one another, they have
           taken a profound step toward the God and Goddess.  They have
           discovered that deep within themselves they are both male and
           female, and the experience of this brings a new sense of joy and
                Beltane is a time of joy and celebration; the dark of winter
           is forgotten, and summer is coming.  It is a time of fertility and
           fire.  We dance the ancient mystery of the Maypole, celebrating our
           understanding our understanding of the mystery of the love of a man
           for a woman.  The pole is crowned with a garland of flowers to
           symbolize their joining; the ribbons are red and white, reminding
           us of blood and sperm.  The dance is the sexual fire, as we dance
           about the pole winding the ribbons in the pattern of the spiral,
           which reveals the mystery of the serpent; that ancient awakener who
           slumbers until warmed by the rising Sun.
                This is the time of the sacred marriage.  It is a moment when
           human consciousness has grasped the powers of nature, joined with
           those powers and shared in the mystery of life.  The land and our
           lives are married as one.  For those that are able to see it, there
           is a vision of the creation of all life by the God and the Goddess. 
           For the mystery is now revealed for all to see - the woman
           conceives of her husband.  She is pregnant and will bear a child.
                Through their union they discover their deeper selves, which
           we symbolize as the King and Queen of the land.  The man and woman
           now take up their new roles, and rule the kingdom of their new
           found lives.  At Candlemas and the Spring Equinox a man and a woman
           were instructed in the powers of nature.  Now at Beltane that
           knowledge is transformed into understanding.  For in joining
           together they have understood that their lives and the land are
                The land continues to bring forth life in an ever greater
           profusion.  The woman who is now the Queen begins to show the first
           signs of the Beltane seed planted in her womb by her husband, the
           King.  She is pregnant; the mirror image of the maturing crops.
                Now we come to Midsummer, the height of the solar Wheel.  This
           is the time of the longest day and shortest night, and a time of
           maturity, both in the agricultural cycle and the lives of the man
           and woman.  They rule now as King and Queen; just as the Sun is at
           its height, so too they are at the height of their creative powers. 
           The woman's mature power is reflected in her approaching mother-
           hood.  The man's power is reflected in his kingship, and in his
           mastery of nature and rule of the kingdom.  Together the King and
           Queen preside over the kingdom of their lives, celebrating the
           vision of creative light.
                But the light does not continue to rise.  The vision of light
           must once more give way to a growing darkness.  As things grow, so
           too they must wither and die.  From Midsummer, the Sun must fall,
           until reborn once more at the Winter Solstice.  Thus Midsummer is
           a celebration of the King and Queen's power, but must also reflect
           the returning current of darkness.  We symbolize this by the
           appearance of a challenger who confronts the couple.  Until now the
           King and Queen have ruled supreme; they have imposed their will
           upon the kingdom without challenge, but now a single dark figure
           must appear.  This is the beginning of the ancient pagan theme of
           the battle between the brothers; the light and dark kings now begin
           their conflict.
                The challenger seeks to abduct the Queen; the child she bears
           represents the kingdom.  The King must now defend the land.  They
           fight, light against dark, but as yet the sun is still supreme, and
           the King drives the challenger back.  But, the challenger is armed
           with the power of fate; we know that the Sun must fall.  With a
           single stroke the challenger wounds the King, laying open his
           thigh; but still the light is the greater power, and the King
           defeats the challenger.  The light still rules supreme, but a
           shadow has fallen over the kingdom.
                Thus Midsummer comes to a close.  The King and Queen remain at
           the height of their power, yet a new force - darkness - is
           awakening in the world.  As the seasons continue to turn, the gods
           begin to reveal a further mystery:  not only are they light, they
           are also dark as well.  Thus the King and Queen have awakened to a
           deeper mystery; they have seen that not only are they male and
           female, but they are also light and dark as well.
                As we look at the natural world, we see that the Sun is now
           waning.  The days grow shorter, and we sense profound changes in
           the world around us.  After Midsummer, the next festival we come to
           is Lammas.  The crops have matured, and in the way of nature, aged
           and turned to seed.  The days are still longer than the nights; the
           light still rules in the land, but the powers of darkness are now
           visibly growing.  Summer is coming to an end and we are approaching
           autumn.  To symbolize the theme of the waning light and growing
           power of darkness, we celebrate Lammas as a Harvest Festival.  In
           cutting the corn (wheat), we celebrate the end of the vision of
           light.  We cut the corn with joy; as we have sown, so now we reap,
           but in cutting the corn we signal the end of the cycle of growth.
                As we gather in the harvest we watch as the power of the Sun
           wanes.  The cutting of the corn is an ancient symbol of death and
           transformation, and reflects the seasonal changes at work in the
           land around us.  As we look to the King and Queen, who were married
           to the land at Beltane, we see in their lives a reflection of these
           themes.  Just as the harvest is reaped, so the Queen now births her
                The mystery of Lammas is that by fulfilling the vision of
           light in bringing to fruition the seed sown in the spring, we must
           face the vision of death.  For the King bears the wound he received
           at Midsummer, it is a wasting wound and will not heal.  He slowly
           weakens, his creative power spent.  He is still King, but his
           powers are waning, a reflection of the falling light.  But Lammas
           is also a time of hope, for in the cutting of the corn the seed is
           gathered in, which is the hope for life to come.  As the King looks
           to his first born son he looks to the heir of the kingdom.  We
           celebrate Lammas as a time of fulfillment; it is a time of joy,
           when we reap all we have sown.
                Both King and Queen have been transformed.  The King had to
           accept the glimpse of the vision of death in his killing of the
           challenger and taking of a mortal wound; so now the Queen dies to
           herself, for in giving birth she has given the child a part of her
           life, passing her power to her son.  As the Wheel of the Seasons
           turns, it reveals that the gods embrace both life and death.  Just
           as the man and woman were born, so too they must die.  Lammas
           brings the vision of mortality, but reveals the hope of the
           immortal spirit hidden in the new cut grain, made manifest in the
           new born child, who symbolizes the awakening darkness; he is the
           power of the waning Sun.  He emerges from the womb as the growing
           darkness appears in the natural world.
                We must now move on.  Time will stand still for no-one.  The
           wheel must turn, and we must turn with it.  This is our fate, as
           our lives reflect the turning cycle of the seasons.  We must now
           make our way to the Autumn Equinox, where once again the powers of
           light and darkness stand as equals - but now it is the darkness
           that is in the ascendant.
                It is the nature of human beings to resist the darkness. 
           Humanity fears death above all things.  It is the root of all our
           fears; death is the final initiation.  Only through an acceptance
           and understanding of death can we hope to understand the goods. 
           Only in accepting death can we truly accept life.  Life and death
           are two sides of the same coin; we cannot have one without the
                By the time we reach the Autumn Equinox, it becomes harder to
           describe the mysteries that we celebrate.  The mystery that can be
           taught or explained is not, after all, a mystery.  At the Autumn
           Equinox we must face life's greatest mystery:  death.  This is the
           hardest trial of all.  In the ancient mystery schools, and in
           shamanic practices, the most important of initiations was - and is
           - the near death experience.
                The child born at Lammas is now a young man.  He is the
           reflection of the growing powers of darkness.  The old King of
           Light bears his mortal wound and is now advancing in years, his
           powers waning as the days grow shorter, and the Sun falls lower and
           lower in the sky.  The Queen also is no longer young; the flower of
           her youth is past.  The King and Queen are aging with the land, for
           they and the land are one.
                But as is natural in human affairs we none of us want to admit
           the darkness.  We fight against the coming of the night.  So the
           King and Queen each in their own way try to hold onto the kingdom
           they have been at such pains to build.  The King's powers are
           waning; his son is in the first flush of youth and vigor, and has
           been initiated into the mysteries of his power.  The King grows
           weak, and must rely upon his son to defend the kingdom.  But, the
           King now fears his son as a potential challenge to the throne.  The
           Queen likewise does not want to relinquish her power.  She sees
           that her husband grows weak and infirm, and is no match for a
           challenger.  To maintain her position in the kingdom she relies on
           the power of her son.
                 Finally, in the dead of the night, the old pagan tale replays
           itself.  The battle begun at the Midsummer Solstice between the
           light and darkness must now be resumed; the King and his son fight
           as the Equinox comes upon us.  Sword against spear the battle
           rages; the experience of the King against the naked strength of his
           son's youth.  The Queen watches as they fight, torn by hope and
           fear.  But as they fight, there is a great mystery at work.  Both
           the King and Queen now face their fear of death, and as they look
           death in the eye there is a moment of understanding.  The King, the
           Queen, and the land are one.  Thus they are both the light and
           darkness.  In the moment of vision the King looks upon his son, and
           at last realizes that he is only fighting himself, for all things
           are one.  The King and his son understand the mystery, and they
           join in love as one.  They give up the conflict of light and dark
           to pass beyond this world, and they become the Lord of the
           Otherworld.  The Queen too has seen both life and death, and knows
           that they are one.  With this realization she becomes the crone,
           and understands the ancient mystery.  The Equinox marks her last
           menstrual cycle; she can no longer bear children.
                So now we must take our last step upon the Wheel; we come at
           last to Samhain, from where it all began.  As we saw at the
           beginning this is the Wiccan New Year.  The Queen has become the
           crone - the hag, the Witch.  She lives alone, for the King is now
           dead.  The Sun is waning toward the Solstice; winter is upon us,
           and the night is now longer than the day.
                If we look to the land, the cycle of growth has come to an
           end.  The kingdom of the old year has symbolically passed away,
           transformed by the turning of the seasons.  The Queen is now a
           Witch; the ancient hag crone who knows the mysteries of life and
           death.  In making her journey she has discovered the ancient power
           which lies behind the Wheel of the Year.  She has seen the spring,
           the summer, autumn and winter, and she knows that an ancient
           mystery lies hidden within it all.
                Standing alone, for she is feared by those who have yet to
           walk the Wheel, she kindles the ancient Samhain fire.  As she
           raises her arms in invocation to the Lord of the Otherworld, a
           great storm gathers.  The veil is opened between the worlds.  The
           storm breaks, and the Wild Hunt is upon us as the spirits of the
           dead are led from the Otherworld by the ancient Horned God; the
           Ancient Lord of the Samhain fire.  To complete the final turn of
           the Wheel, the Crone must now join with his mystery, and go with
           him back into the Otherworld.  She and the Horned Lord travel
           together back into the depths of the mystery.  There they join in
           love as one; the supreme moment of the true Great Rite in which all
           the mysteries of the male and female, all the mysteries of the
           light and dark are married together as one as the seed is planted
           deep within the womb of the Great Mother.
                For now in the natural cycle the seeds of nature fall to the
           ground, the seed of life to come.  The seed harvested at Lammas is
           now planted in the earth, fulfilling the mystery of the return. 
           For a while the land sleeps, and lies fallow.  The darkness seems
           to complete, but of course we know that we will eventually return
           to the Winter Solstice, and the cycle will continue.
                Let us now approach the Wiccan Wheel of the Year as it is
           meant to be:  as a mystery.  Forget the intellect, and allow your
           intuition and emotions to be your guide.  What follows is a guided
           visualization, which you can read onto a tape, or have one person
           read aloud, as you follow the journey it describes.  Allow the
           images to form naturally in your imagination, and you will find
           yourself making a magical journey through the mysteries of the
                For those who are not used to following a guided visualiza-
           tion, there are a few simple rules to observe.  Before starting any
           meditation work (which includes the kind of altered state that
           guided visualization encourages), seat yourself comfortably in a
           quiet room, free from distractions.  Take the phone off the hook,
           and tell anyone who lives with you not to disturb you.  You can of
           course do this out of doors, but if you do, make sure you are well
           off the beaten track, with no danger of bush walkers stumbling over
           you, or any other kinds of disturbance.  Have a pen and pad handy,
           and if it helps you to relax and focus, use some incense.

Next: Wheel Visualization (Julia Phillips and Rufus Harrington)