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New Folklore for the Wheel of the Year

Many modern Pagans celebrate eight sabbats or sacred days that mark the changing seasons. Known collectively as the Wheel of the Year, these celebrations have their roots in the pre-Christian cultures of Europe and the Mediterranean.

It seems there was no early culture that actually celebrated all eight of these sabbats. The solstices (and possibly the spring equinox) were marked by the Germanic peoples, and the cross-quarter days (particularly Samhaim and Beltane) were observed in Celtic lands. It should also be remembered that documentary evidence pertaining to these celebrations in early times is quite scant, and there is room for much conjecture.

Some of these celebrations came to be associated with a particular deity (Imbolc and Brigid, for example, or Lughnassad and Lugh), but modern Pagans have also been tantalized with the possibility of an overarching mythological narrative for the entire cycle of seasons, perhaps relating to the story of a dying and resurrecting nature God. There tends to be quite a mishmash of associations of these sorts in modern Pagan practice: perhaps the Oak King kills the Holly King on the Winter Solstice, perhaps Persephone descends into the underworld on the spring (or autumn) equinox, or perhaps Samhain, as the final harvest and the day sacred to the dead, marks the death of the Green Man or the Horned God.

The series of stories presented here represent my own creative revisioning of the mythology of the Wheel of the Year, presented as folktale. I hope you enjoy them and that they enrich your own seasonal celebrations. Please note that this is not in any way meant to be a "reconstruction" of any actual ancient mythology, but rather a modern invention that is informed and flavored by some of the old myths and stories.

I owe a great debt to Janet and Stewart Farrar and especially Mike Nichols for inspiring this particular interpretation of the mythology of the sabbats.

The Cycle of the Goddess

The Cycle of the God

Samhain, a Tale of Death

Yule, Light in the Darkness

Imbolc, a Tale of Hope

Ostara, the Victory of Light

Beltane, a Tale of Love

Litha, Darkness in the Light

Lughnassad, a Tale of Reward

Mabon, the Victory of Darkness

Copyright © 2007-2008 Tom Waters