Seasons of Wicca: The Essential Guide to Rituals and Rites to Enhance Your Spiritual Journey - Ambrosia Hawthorn 2020
The Heart of Wicca
In this chapter, we’ll dive into the core concepts of Wicca, including the Wheel of the Year (and the eight sabbats) and the five elements. We’ll discuss the four classical elements that make up the physical world (earth, fire, water, and air) and a fifth element often recognized in Wicca: spirit. Spirit, often referred to as akasha or aether, is the connection between the other elements and the bridge between the physical and spiritual worlds. These foundational concepts form the heart of Wicca, and they are vital to building and strengthening your practice.
Rituals are ceremonies or celebrations that are an integral part of Wiccan practice. They are often used to mark the sabbats, changing seasons, milestones, and esbats (full moons), or they are used to honor a deity. Rituals can help you grow spiritually and become closer to the God and Goddess.
Rituals differ from spells in a few ways. Spells are a set of steps for an intended purpose, such as healing, love, or prosperity. Rituals are generally more diverse and elaborate than spells, and they involve work with a deity for an intended purpose. Rituals sometimes include a spell.
Rituals are popular because they can be tailored to your practice. A formal ritual might include rigorous planning, self-cleansing and purification, an altar setup, casting of a protection circle, a meditation session, an offering to the deity, a rite or celebration, a giving of thanks and closing of the protection circle, and even cake and ale. A less formal ritual might consist of basic purification, casting a circle, a rite or celebration, and closing of the circle. I’ll discuss ritual steps in greater detail in chapter 4.
The first decision to make before performing a ritual is to decide on the celebration or event you wish to honor, such as a full moon, a sabbat, or a major life event.
Next, it’s important to purify both yourself and the area where you’ll be performing the ritual. Purification refers to cleansing, consecrating, and charging (raising energy) in preparation for a ritual. Instructions for purification can be found here.
After purification, it’s time to prepare your altar for the ritual. An “altar” refers to a ritual workspace, which is where you place your magical tools and any physical representations of the ritual’s theme or purpose. You can be creative when decorating your altar space, but remember to prioritize functionality and to work with what you have. Instructions for creating an altar can be found here.
From there, you’ll create or “cast” a circle of protection. When casting a circle, you use energy to create a sacred space or imaginary boundary surrounding your workspace. This energetic boundary separates your ritual from the everyday world and protects against outside forces or unwanted spirits. Instructions for casting and closing a circle can be found here.
To finish the ritual, you can leave an offering for the deity or have a “cake and ale” ceremony in which you share an offering of food and drink with the deity to thank them for their blessing and time. More information about invoking and thanking a deity and cake and ale ceremonies can be found here.
Above all, understand that there is no “best” path and no “correct” way to perform a ritual. The purpose of this book is to help practitioners of all paths enhance their spiritual practice through ritual. A Wiccan’s journey shouldn’t focus on being right or wrong, but, instead, focus on growing, learning, and accepting oneself and others through practice.
WHEEL OF THE YEAR
The Wheel of the Year comprises eight sabbats (or celebrations) that mark the changing seasons as Earth makes its journey around the sun. The eight sabbats include four solar festivals that mark the four seasons, also known as the Lesser Sabbats, and four Earth festivals that mark the midpoints between seasons. The Earth festivals are called the Greater Sabbats or cross-quarter days. The terms greater and lesser don’t signify the relative importance of the sabbats; rather, they refer to the corresponding energies of Earth at the time. You can find rituals for the sabbats in chapter 5.
The solar festivals include the spring and autumn equinoxes, Ostara and Mabon, and the winter and summer solstices, Yule and Litha. The word equinox comes from the Latin word aequinoctium. Aequi means “equal,” and noct refers to “night.” As such, an equinox is a 24-hour period of equal night and day. The word solstice comes from two Latin words: sol, meaning “sun,” and sistere, meaning “to stand still.”
The two solstices are often represented by the Oak King and Holly King. The Oak King represents the waxing or growing sun during the light half of the year, and the Holly King represents the waning or dimming sun during the dark half of the year. Legend has it that during each solstice, the Oak King and Holly King battle. During Litha, the Holly King triumphs, and the Oak King triumphs during Yule.
The four Earth festivals—Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain—mark the midpoints between the solar festivals. These sabbats are originally Pagan holidays, and they combine history, agriculture, culture, religion, folklore, and magic. Anglo-Saxons celebrated the solstices and equinoxes, whereas the Celts celebrated cross-quarter days, sometimes referred to as “fire festivals.”
Along with these eight sabbats, Wiccans often celebrate esbats, or full moons. More information on esbats can be found in chapter 6. Yule (yool or ewe-elle), also called Winter Solstice, Midwinter, Witch’s Christmas, or Yuletide, is celebrated on December 21 to 22 in the Northern Hemisphere and June 21 to 22 in the Southern Hemisphere. It celebrates the longest night of the year and the rebirth of the sun, or victory of the Oak King. After Yule, the nights begin to shorten. Yule is a time to honor rebirth, transformation, the darkness of night, and the waning sun.
Imbolc (im-bullg or im-bolk), also called Candlemas, Imbolg, Brigid’s Day, Lupercalia, or Oimelc, is celebrated on February 1 in the Northern Hemisphere and August 1 in the Southern Hemisphere. This is the first of the three spring festivals. It celebrates the time when life wakes up after winter. Imbolc is a time to honor fertility, love, and creativity.
Ostara (oh-star-ah), also called Spring Equinox, Vernal Equinox, or Eostra’s Day, is celebrated on March 20 to 21 in the Northern Hemisphere and September 20 to 21 in the Southern Hemisphere. Ostara is the second of the three spring festivals. During this sabbat, the length of day and night is equal. Ostara is a time to celebrate renewal, balance, and rebirth.
Beltane (bel-tyn or bel-al-tin-ah), sometimes spelled Beltain and also called May Day, is celebrated on May 1 in the Northern Hemisphere and November 1 in the Southern Hemisphere. During this sabbat, the veil between life and death is thin (this also happens during Samhain). Many Wiccans use this time to work with spirits and fae (nature spirits such as fairies, elves, and goblins). Beltane is the third of the three spring festivals and is a time to celebrate new beginnings, passion, and romance.
Litha (lie-tha or lee-tha), also called Summer Solstice, Midsummer, or Midsummer’s Eve, is celebrated on June 21 to 22 in the Northern Hemisphere and December 21 to 22 in the Southern Hemisphere. It celebrates the longest day of the year and the death of the sun, or victory of the Holly King. After Litha, the days grow shorter. Litha is a time to celebrate strength, the sun, vitality, and growth.
Lughnasadh (loo-nah-sah), also called Lammas or First Harvest, is celebrated on August 1 in the Northern Hemisphere and February 1 in the Southern Hemisphere. Lughnasadh is the first of the three harvest sabbats. It is a time to celebrate abundance, creativity, and gratitude.
Mabon (may-bun), also called Autumn or Fall Equinox, Harvest Home, and Witch’s Thanksgiving, is celebrated on September 22 to 23 in the Northern Hemisphere and March 20 to 21 in the Southern Hemisphere. During this sabbat, the length of day and night is equal. Mabon is the second of the three harvest sabbats. It’s a time to celebrate abundance and express gratitude.
Samhain (sow-in or sah-win), also called Hallowmas, Day of the Dead, All Hallows Eve, and Witch’s New Year, is celebrated on October 31 in the Northern Hemisphere and April 30 in the Southern Hemisphere. Samhain is the third of the three harvest sabbats and a time when the veil between life and death is thin (as it is during Beltane). Many Wiccans use this time to honor their ancestors and deceased friends and pets, and to work with spirits. Samhain is a time to celebrate life, death, and endings.
The five elements—earth, air, water, fire, and spirit—are an integral part of Wicca. These elements are present in all life forms and make up the universe. Each cycle, deity, tool, moon, and event has an elemental correspondence and associations. Each element has a crucial purpose in providing guidance and energy in a Wiccan’s practice. Many rituals invoke the elements for assistance, and you’ll often place items on your altar to represent the elements. More information on elemental representations can be found here.
CARDINAL DIRECTION North
PENTACLE PLACEMENT Lower left
STONES Emerald, onyx, jasper, salt, azurite, amethyst, quartz
GODDESSES Ceres, Demeter, Gaea, Mah, Nephtys, Persephone, Rhea
GODS Adonis, Athos, Arawn, Cernunnos, Dionysus, Mardyk, Pan, Tammuz
QUALITIES Abundance, femininity, prosperity, grounding, stability, strength, wealth
ZODIAC SIGNS Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo
CARDINAL DIRECTION East
PENTACLE PLACEMENT Upper left
STONES Topaz, pumice, rainbow stones, crystals, amethyst, alexandrite
GODDESSES Aradia, Arianrhod, Cardea, Nuit, Urania
GODS Enlil, Kheoheva, Merawrim, Shu, Thoth
QUALITIES The mind, communication, psychic powers, inspiration, imagination, ideas, knowledge, wishes
ZODIAC SIGNS Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
CARDINAL DIRECTION West
PENTACLE PLACEMENT Upper right
STONES Aquamarine, amethyst, blue tourmaline, pearl, coral, blue topaz, fluorite
GODDESSES Aphrodite, Isis, Marianne, Mari, Tiamat, Yemaha
GODS Dylan, Ea, Manannan, Osiris, Neptune, Poseidon
QUALITIES Emotion, absorption, subconscious, purification, eternal movement, wisdom, soul
ZODIAC SIGNS Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
CARDINAL DIRECTION South
PENTACLE PLACEMENT Lower right
STONES Ruby, fire opal, volcanic lava, agate
GODDESSES Brigid, Hestia, Pele, Vesta
GODS Agni, Horus, Prometheus, Vulcan
QUALITIES Energy, inspiration, love, passion, leadership
ZODIAC SIGNS Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
CARDINAL DIRECTION Central
PENTACLE PLACEMENT Top
DEITIES God and Goddess
SEASONS Entire Wheel of the Year
QUALITIES Connection, presence, balance, eternity
ZODIAC SIGNS Any