The "Wheel of the Year" is what Modern Witches call our cycle of yearly celebrations, both religious and magickal. Our solar sabbat rituals are timed by the turning of the seasons, marked by the sun's movement through the zodiac of outer stars as we perceive them from earth. The Wheel resets anew with the sabbat of Yule celebrated on the winter solstice as the Sun enters the earthy sign of Capricorn. Lunar esbats flow with the tides of the moon as she sails her 12-13 revolutions around the earth during that same solar year. Unique to "The Pentacle Path of Modern Witchcraft" that I practice is an additional mapping of the eight elemental mysteries to the Wheel of the Year framework. These elemental mysteries include four projective lessons, and four receptive lessons taught by the powers of earth, air, fire, and water.1 This framework becomes the energetic map of ebbing and flowing energies on multiple levels of reality. From these tides of power, a Witch's Great Work of Magick is actualized throughout each turning of the Wheel.
As with all occult mysteries, the truth begins in the darkness, during the transmuting pause just before the dawning of a new cycle. So, while the solar year may reset at Yule, The Great Work actually concludes at the Samhain beforehand, in the dark dusk felt at the peak of Autumn and 15 degrees of watery Scorpio. Following is a brief exploration of how the eight tides of elemental witchcraft flow through the seasons, and practical ideas about how we can engage with those mysteries to live a magickal life upon The Pentacle Path of Modern Witchcraft.
Samhain Until Yule: Earth's Silence
Along the Witch's Wheel of the Year, from Samhain to Yule is a time of rest and reflection. During this time, check in with the earth's projective mysteries of silence, when we hold open space for the incoming bounty we've been cultivating all year. This period of waning into the darkness is when the lessons of the previous harvest are integrated and concluded. Read your old journals and reflect on what you've learned. Nurture your body with plenty of rest, sit quietly by a fireside and dream into the deeps, dine on delicious foods, and pamper yourself. Practice active silence by listening carefully to what people around you have to say without interruption or judgment. Pray in open dialogue with your guides, then pay attention to signs and synchronicities in your daily life, following the intuitive breadcrumbs as they land.
Yule Until Imbolc: Earth's Resonance
From Yule until Imbolc, switch into elemental earth's receptive lessons of resonance. Look to the birth of the new cycle and ask the cosmos, "What's next?" Seek guidance with tarot or another form of divination, seeking which Great Work intention you should dedicate to achieving during the new Wheel of the Year. Then strike that cosmic gong of possibility and tune yourself to the new frequency of your choosing. Prepare the magickal goodies you'll need for the coming dedications to that goal at Imbolc: write intention statements, dress the candles, blend the incense, etc. Physically clean and then spiritually purify your house with a thorough hallowing. (You can read more about this process here. Clean all the altar tools, wash the altar cloth, and polish the furniture. Set a fresh tableau for the new magick to come.
Imbolc to Ostara: Air's Knowing
From Imbolc to Ostara, shift into the airy mental investigation of your dedication for this Great Work. Explore the intellectual world and air's projective mysteries of knowing. This is a good time to dive deeply into existing texts on the subject of your dedication. As the winter season wanes, curl up with a hot cup of your favorite brew and enjoy reading. Research to discover what is already known, or assumed to be true, about the subject. This would be a good time to take a class from a reputable source. Ask a lot of questions and seek out established answers from experts in that subject.
Ostara to Beltane: Air's Wonderment
From Ostara until Beltane, throw open the mental windows and let in the receptive breeze of airy wonderment. All those facts and opinions you just researched? Don't accept everything at face value! The very definition of "occult" is that there are hidden meanings beneath the surface of the obvious. Question the way things have always been—your beliefs, practices, and life in general. Seek a fresh perspective based on all that you've learned so far. This is the time for experimentation.
As the season of spring waxes, plant both your intellectual and physical gardens and generously fertilize them with the compost from last year's refuse—including the outmoded ideas or preconceived expectations that no longer aid your growth. As you weed the physical garden a practical bit of magick is to grasp the unwanted plant near the roots in your projective hand, center your mind, breathe in the power of nature around you, and visualize any unwelcomed thought or condition that hinders your spiritual progress. Name the weed that thing out loud, then yank it from the ground with vigor! Shake it off, and compost it with a hearty, "Be gone! So mote it be!"
Beltane to Litha: Fire's Will
As spring wanes, kindle your elemental fires of will by taking action upon your Great Work dedication. Apply what you've learned so far in some tangible spell work. As the season of spring wanes, and the days lengthen and heat up, this is the time to roll up your sleeves and dig into the "doing things" portion of life. Apply your fires to the practical projects around your home: tend your garden and finish that ever-lingering home repair project. Get into nature and enjoy some necessary physical exercise. Go and do magickal things that further your witching sovereignty (earth) and strive toward your highest ideals (air). See an issue that needs improvement at work, home, or out in the community? Take the lead, rally others to help, and work together to change it (fire).
Litha to Lammas: Fire's Surrender
As waxing summer tides heat up, shift into the fiery receptive mysteries of surrender by feeding the forge fires of your will. Let go of any old forms that are hindering your progress, like the snake shedding a skin that is too small. For some practical magick, each day clear out one area of congestion in your life. Take out the literal or metaphorical trash. Cull possessions for donation and unsubscribe from unwanted email lists. Prune back the excesses in your household budget. Prove to yourself that you're in charge of your life, not your addictions or obsessions. Give up an undesirable habit or overindulgence until Lammas just to exert your will to live the healthier lifestyle you choose. Unplug and go camping, take a social media vacation, or try a dietary cleanse of some kind (under the guidance of your physician) to balance your physical, mental, and emotional health.
Lammas to Mabon: Water's Daring
From Lammas to Mabon, apply the watery mysteries of daring and ask which emotional barriers need to be smashed in order to make way for the fulfillment of your Great Work. As the summer wanes, consider which impediments need to be overcome in order to regain emotional balance? Which societal impediments, taboos, or outmoded restrictions about love and relationships need to be redefined in order to advance your sacred mission in the world?
In regards to romantic love and sexual intimacy, know that however and whomever you love, so long as it is shared consensually, responsibly, and authentically among adults, that love is sacred worship to our God/dess. Be daring in your love and express your feelings to someone special without expectation of where that may lead. Make plans for a fun adventure and invite friends or potential lovers to come make some memories with you.
Mabon to Samhain: Water's Acceptance
As the autumn waxes, shift into water's receptive mysteries of acceptance. Take stock of all you've harvested so far this year and notice which new mold is coming into form around you. This mold will shape your improved self and the witching life you've been building. As you approach the third harvest of Samhain, cease striving and settle in. Consider the wounds of the heart and whatever you are grieving, then do spell work for emotional acceptance and healing. Drink plenty of pure water to stay hydrated, and enjoy a hot soaking bath with plenty of Epsom salts and yummy herbs of healing and purification as you envision all your heartbreaks dissolving into the bath and flowing away.
As the dusks of Samhain fall once more, the cycle of the Great Work of Magick conclude again with the lessons of earth's silence. The Wheel ends with Samhain, but does not truly begin again until Yule, after that necessary the pause of transmutation in-between. So, Earth's mysteries bookend the process. With each turning of the Wheel of the Year, Witches spiral into deeper understanding of themselves and their sacred place within the God/dess. With each turning we become healthier, more independent and authentic, more internally controlled and cooperative, and more emotionally balanced and trustworthy in our relationships. The ultimate goal of all this Witchery is a happy abundant life full of fun, fulfillment and adventure…and whatever other dreams you choose of your own free-will.
For an in-depth exploration of the history, thealogy and elemental mysteries of The Pentacle Path described above, check out my book, Elemental Witchcraft: A Guide to Living a Magickal Life Through the Elements. In those pages you'll find many illustrations and exercises, with complete instructions for the formulary craftings, Hermetic witchcraft rituals with guided journeys, and planetary magick spells for balancing each element and the Goddess and God within and without.
1The four projective lessons are traditionally called The Four Powers of the Sphinx and originated with Levi, Eliphas. Transcendental Magic: Its Doctrine and Ritual. Translated by A. E. Waite. York, ME: RedWheel/Weiser, 1972. Page 30. The four receptive lessons were originally presented as "Widdershins Spirals" by Roderick, Timothy. Dark Moon Mysteries: Wisdom, Power, and Magic of the Shadow World. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1996. Page 79.