A neo-pagan holiday. There are eight in total.
The Wheel of the Year is used to describe the solar year. The year is pictured as a wheel that turns, marking the passing of time. The Wheel has eight spokes, corresponding to the eight Sabbats. It has many versions according to each individual's beliefs, but the most common one is this:
Like this, the Wheel also corresponds to the cardinal directions and the four Elements: Yule, midwinter, is associated with North and Earth. Ostara, mid-spring, corresponds to East and Air. Litha, midsummer, is South and Fire. And finally, Mabon, mid-autumn, is associated with West and Water. Witches on the Southern Hemisphere, however, may feel differently: they might connect Litha with North and Fire, as North is probably the hotter direction for them! You can change the correspondences according to your personal beliefs.
The eight Sabbats all have their own correspondences, associations, traditions, and lore. Since they're part of Wicca, some of the lore relates to the two deities of Wicca. However, even if you're not Wiccan, you can celebrate the Sabbats and honor your own deities, if any.
The Wheel of the Year symbolizes the Cycle of Life: birth, life, death, rebirth. This is seen in both the real world in plants and animals, but also in the Wiccan lore that tells the story of the God and the Goddess. In fact, the story is also symbolism for the phases that nature goes through over the course of a year. On Yule, the Goddess gives birth to the God. He grows throughout the Spring, until on Beltane, he and the Goddess celebrate a sacred marriage (NOTE: It's not incest; this is symbolism. None of this is happening in real life). The Goddess becomes pregnant, and after Litha the power of the God starts to diminish. He gradually weakens, until on Samhain, he dies. Then, when Yule arrives again, the Cycle begins from the start: the God is born again. Notice that the weakening of the God is seen in the real world as the shortening of the days, and how sunlight starts to decrease during autumn and to the winter. The Goddess never dies; she's believed to be eternal.
The most powerful Sabbats are Samhain and Beltane. It's believed that on those days, the veil between this world and other worlds (such as the spirit world) is very thin. This is why witches can look through the veil in divination to access knowledge about the future and other worlds. Due to the veil being thin, on Samhain spirits are believed to travel through our world to the land of the Dead. To many, Samhain is even more powerful a day than Beltane.
The Wheel of the Year: Northern Hemisphere
What if you live on the Southern Hemisphere and the seasons are reverse from the Northern Hemisphere? The answer is simple: reverse the days of the Sabbats accordingly! The dates are different on the Southern Hemisphere because the idea of the Wheel of the Year and witchcraft in general is to follow and attune with the cycles of the Earth. The Earth has different energies during different seasons, and it would be really hard to celebrate autumn if it's spring in your place! The Sabbats are not tied to a specific day on the calendar, but a specific state in nature.
The Wheel of the Year: Southern Hemisphere
NOTE: Some Southern Hemisphere witches celebrate Samhain on April 30th. I suggest you do some research and look around to see whether April 30th or May 1st is a better day for you.
YOU ARE READING
A Guide to WitchcraftSpiritual
This guide covers the basics of witchcraft: practices, rituals, beliefs, magic, items. It is mostly directed toward beginners but anyone can benefit from it. Everything is explained clearly and definitions of possibly confusing or unfamiliar words a...