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Reinventing the Wheel: a Modern Folk Witch’s Take on the Wheel of the Year

A Love/Hate Relationship with the Wheel of the Year

Everyone who is relatively close to me knows that I have a love/hate relationship with the Wheel of the Year. As the wheel turns each sabbat, you can typically find me dragging my feet as everyone else is writing beautiful articles and crafting sabbat-inspired wares. Getting a sabbat-related article out of me is most likely easier than pulling teeth. I am the self-proclaimed Ebenezer Scrooge of the sabbats. Don’t get me wrong though, I love the turning of the seasons and the magic that resides within them.

Having grown up in the pagan community, I never really questioned the Wheel of the Year. Ostara came with spring, and Yule meant presents. To me, the Wheel of the Year was no different in practice than Easter and Christmas are to most children. I would like to think that I was this wonderfully enlightened child who saw the depth in everything, but that wasn’t my experience. Part of this was because the “why” was never explained to me. Sure, I heard the myths of deities typically tied to them before each ritual, but they meant nothing to me. Gods were a far-off concept from far away lands and books. Eventually, I stopped celebrating the sabbats entirely.

What is interesting is that I didn’t start really understanding the underlying ties of the Wheel of the Year until I stopped celebrating it. Once I stopped filling the assigned dates with rituals and the correspondences that I was told were appropriate, I was able to start observing the actual tides of the seasons around me. I realized that if I merely walked mindfully, I could feel the pulling of the seasons. I began to watch as the flora and fauna changed around me. Slowly, I started to walk in pace with the spirits of place all around me. It was at that point that I began to see the land that I inhabited through their eyes.

What is a “Modern Folk Witch”?

The subtitle of my blog is “the Rantings and Ravings of a Modern Folk Witch,” but I realize that I have never delved too deeply into what that means to me. I’ll start with what I don’t mean first. I am not a practitioner of any pre-established folk traditions such as Ozark or Hoodoo, though I will admit that my witchcraft has borrowed from those practices (as most witchcraft has).

When I say “folk,” I invoke the spirit of the word. The practices born of necessity and accessibility. Of learning the ways of the spirits of the land that you come from. When I call myself a “modern folk witch” I mean that I walk in step with the forgotten gods and spirits of place. I walk the tides, and I attune myself to the energies of the land, whether they are good or not. My role is to do my part in healing and bettering myself and my own little piece of the world so that the greater macrocosm may also feel those effects. While I can relate with some of the human experiences of those who have come before and lived in other cultures around the world, their experiences are not my own. It is for that reason that I seek to modernize my practice and focus on what I can experience.

This isn’t to say that I don’t study or utilize practices from traditions though. I have studied in a few traditions, as well as having grown up surrounded by witchcraft authors and teachers. I will be the first to admit that my love of being a student is only rivaled by my love of books. I don’t, however, incorporate theory into my practice until I have personally worked through it and found it applicable. Sometimes things aren’t relevant in the form that they’ve been presented in because they are from a different time or place, but the core practice is still highly valuable. With enough study and practical application, these practices can be reworked and updated.

Developing a Personalized Wheel of the Year

For years I let go of the structure of a “traditional” Wheel of the Year practice and instead focused on honoring the seasons as I felt them change. By slowing down and surrendering to the seasonal ebb and flow I was able to redefine, not just my annual practice, but what my witchcraft practice meant to me overall. A couple of years ago I was in a class that focused on the Wheel of the Year for an entire month. It was at that time that I allowed myself to sit down once again with my pen in hand and start writing out my personal Wheel of the Year.

It’s at this point that I feel I’m ready to start sharing my work on this with the greater community, not so that others will follow the same practices as me, but to inspire others to personalize their own practices potentially. For those curious about what my personal Wheel of the Year now looks like, I will be starting a monthly series here on Patheos outlining the path that I walk on a month-to-month basis. This series will describe the basic seasonal rituals that I follow as well as seasonal recipes of all kinds from my personal formulary. I will also be offering a workshop on developing your own Wheel of the Year at TempleFest 2019.

Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

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