The Wheel of the Year is an interpretation of the Earth’s seasons created by Neopagans and Wiccans. The wheel itself is formed from eight festivals more or less equally spaced throughout the year. The origins of the eight festivals can be traced back to pre-Christian Germanic and Celtic feasts and the wheel combines both cultures. The eight festivals are not only celebrated by Neopagans and Witches as the most commonly known have been adopted by various religions throughout the world.
The eight festivals of the wheel are known as Sabbats, which is a term of Hebrew origin, and there are four greater and four lesser Sabbats. The greater Sabbats are also known as cross-quarter days or Fire festivals and are of greater importance. The lesser Sabbats are also called quarter days and fall on the solstices and equinoxes. The combining of the Sabbats into the Wheel of the Year is a modern concept as there is not thought to be any such wheel before Wicca Witchcraft created it in the 1950’s.
Early forms of Wicca only observed the four cross-quarter festivals and it was not until 1958 that the solstices and equinoxes were added by the Bricket Wood Coven, whose High priest was Gerald Gardner, the founder of Wicca Witchcraft. They were added to allow for more times of celebration, which brought Wicca more in line with Neo-Druidism, founded by Ross Nicols, a friend of Gerald Gardner.
The festivals on the Wheel of the Year are closely linked to the seasons and lunar cycles, which explains the common celebrations across religious groups, as the seasons play an important part in most systems of belief, be they bathed in ancient history or more recent. The eight festivals have set days in the modern world but older forms of Paganism and religion follow the more exact dates which change annually depending on the lunar cycle. This cycle can alter the date by a few days which allows some Pagans to conveniently celebrate each on a weekend rather than a working day during the week.
The festivals of the Wheel of the Year are not copied from ancient rituals by Wiccans but they do draw inspiration from them. Common charms or items are still used in modern Paganism as they have been for thousands of years. Samhain, more commonly known to most of us as Halloween and celebrated on October 31st, is the start of the Neopagan year and is, therefore, also the start of the Wheel of the Year.
Source : ezinearticles.com