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The Pagan year or wheel of the year, consists of 8 festivals, known as sabbats.

Imbolc, Beltaine, Lughnasadha and Samhain are usually known as the fire festivals or cross quarter days.

Then there are the two equinoxes, Autumn and Spring.  And the two solstices Winter, or yule and Summer or Litha.

Even if you don't have the time to celebrate any of these in a big way, it's nice to acknowledge each festival, by lighting a candle or maybe connecting with nature and outside.

Samhain:  31st October

Pronounced "Sowen".  The night of spirits and one of the most powerful and mysterious of all the festivals.  Please, please don't muddle this with "Trick or treating"!  It is a time for candle lighting, bonfires, pumpkins, feasting on autumn fruits, veggies and other home baked goodies.  Tarot reading, crystal healing, lots of reminiscing and remembering the past year, discussing future plans and projects.  Honouring the Goddess and enjoying the day.

Spells and blessings for all healing, spiritual and mystical.  For beginnings and looking forward.

It is the time when the veil between this world and the spirit world is thinnest and communicating with those that have passed on, is easiest.  Honouring and remembering those who have passed on and those we love.  Saying goodbye to the old year, the end of yet another life cycle and welcoming the start of another.

The Goddess descends to the underworld once more.  And the earth mourns this time.  Winter, dark, cold nights will begin.  Take this time to connect with the outdoors, weather permitting.  The animal/nature spirits and guides - listen for a sign or message.  Perhaps the hoot of an owl, the call of a cat, the bark of a fox, the wind through the trees.  This is a great time for spiritual omens, messages and communication.

Samhain Goddesses are the crones and winter ones.  Dagda, Henwen, Lilith, Arianhrod, Morrigen (triple Goddess - Badb, Macha, Nemain).  Plants include cypress, nutmeg, sage, thyme, pine, spices, mullein, rowan, blackberry, apple, nuts, pumpkin, oak, ivy,  vervain, mullein and all late autumn fruits.

Tarot card is death or the dark Goddess.  A card of irreversible change, transformation, rebirth, letting go of negativity, self-empowerment, leaving bad situations behind, releasing the past and starting over.  Closure.  Promise of a fresh new beginning.

As a fire festival, it's nice to use bold orange, gold, red,  fire shades, yellow/golden candles.  And crystals may include amber, hematite, black amethyst, red jasper, obsidian

I do like to try and always celebrate this festival with an autumn meal of pumpkin (of course), and wintery dishes.  After the meal, we all take time to discuss the highlights of the year for us and what we would like to do for next year.  We take turns in remembering a loved and missed person.  Maybe each choose a tarot or oracle card and each person give their personal interpretation. 

.Telling mystery, (fairy stories!)  spiritual and scary stories  And for the younger ones, give them a range of autumn objects to draw or make lists of etc.  They can also join in with scary (obviously age-appropriate) stories.   Well that always works really good for us and we usually all have a nice time.

Winter Solstice:  21st December

Night of the longest dark. The point of the deepest/dark winter.  Returning, birth of a new life.  Return of the light and also of hope.  Earth will begin to awaken from this point.  And so the celebration of the returning light and of the Goddess, begins.  Energies from this moment on will reappear, strengthen and begin to shine, slowly but surely. The Goddess gives birth once again.

The old dark winter gods/goddesses will now wane and fade.  The Oak king reigns after his battle with the Holly king.  Some of the Goddesses and Gods of this festival include Callieach, Bona Dea, Danu, Cerridwen. (as always, other sources will differ).

Plants and herbs of this festival include all evergreen plants, chamomile, juniper, frankincense, holly, and myrrh.

The tarot card Temperance represents balance, creativity, self-realisation, reconciliation, especially after a period of conflict, discord  A card of self-healing, a perfect balance of energies.

Candle colours of green, scarlet, red, purple, white. Silver and gold are also nice to use.  And crystals of gold, malachite, topaz.

Warm, wintery and comforting food and drink.  Home made wintery fruit drinks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.  Music and lots of (nice/pleasant) noise - to symbolically welcome and hurry in the new birth.  (In the nicest possible way of course).

Some nice things to do include the wish game:  Get everybody to write a wish down on paper and then go outside each with a little sparkler.  Tell some winter stories.  Wrap some little gifts up:  Or another nice thing to do is let the younger ones wrap some little goodies up.  This is a time for giving - not just material things, but think of more unusual and special things you could give somebody.  One really lovely thing is just to give your time - one hundred percent of your time and attention.

Decorate your home with evergreens, fir cones, mistletoe, all things wintery.  Burn spicy, orange incense.  Use this occasion for healing blessings and spells.  For the birth of new plans and projects.

If you are outside, again listen for a special sign, a shooting star, a hooting owl.  The rustling of leaves on the floor. Tune in to the magic and mystery of the evening and the night.

Candlemass (Imbolc):  2nd February

Celebrating the return of the light, after the dark .  The Goddess is returning at long last.   Farewell to the Cailleach and the old winter Gods and Goddesses.  We now welcome the maiden Goddesses.  The reawakening of the earth after the long/cold winter months.

Light and energy are within us, as the maiden Goddess brings us hope and promise.  The tiny shoots of joy and renewal will follow.  Earth begins to stir, the very first signs of spring are here. 

The Goddesses associated with this festival include Britania, The Virgin Mary,  Venus, and Brigid - possibly the best known for this festival.  Brigid, the Celtic Goddess of healing, poetry and inspiration and very much a women's Goddess, which also suggests this was more of an ancient women's festival.

Our ancient ancestors would light a candle in the window and leave to burn throughout the day, as a kind of cleansing ritual.  It is the time for letting go, clearing out and making way for the fresh and new.

Early spring flowers are associated with this festival - snowdrops, crocus, and also coltsfoot, chamomile, willow, violet, angelica, tansy.  Colours are white, cream and pale blues, pink, lemon, silver.  And crystals may include moonstones, rose quartz as well as coloured and milky ones.

The tarot card is the Star for this festival. Natural/holistic healing. Getting nearer to our goals, aims and hopes.  Following our dreams. Possibilities shine with the star. A guide within your life, that you can follow (follow your star) Creative ideas and projects become more of a reality, more an actuality.

Decorate candles as artistically as you like and put them in your window.  Shine your light.  Let the Goddess know she is welcome back. 

Bake some yummy muffins, scones and serve different types of bread for a meal.  Let younger ones bake, decorate and create tiny cupcakes.  Serve cheesecake and yogurt.  Talk about the magical births of people in your life.  It's even more magical if there is somebody already pregnant with you.  Maybe a cat or dog,  horse, goat or rabbit - whatever, it doesn't matter - this is a magical and special time.  And the miracle and promise of a new birth is also.

Use the energy of this festival for gentle healing blessings. Send healing energies and messages of hope  to those you know, and those you may not know.

Spring Equinox:  21st March

A time of perfect harmony. Day and night are equal.  The sun is growing in it's power and awakens warmth and passion within us. The light will win over the dark from now on. The days become longer. 

Persephone is at long last reunited with her mother Demeter, and we begin to see the earth flourishing  and growing again.  The Maiden Goddess joyfully flings open the doors to spring and a new optimism and hope - light and dark have fought and the dark has lost - so we say farewell to the dark months (for now).  Energies are beautifully balanced this day/night.

This festival is very much about fertility, growth and the renewal of life.  Mother earth is busy with her plants and animals.  Our ancient ancestors would be busy tending the earth, growing what they could, nurturing their animals and looking forward to a plentiful harvest. 

As well as closely associated with the Christian Easter, this festival is also known as the Festival of the Trees. 

Weather permitting this festival could be celebrated outside and planting seeds is an (obvious) nice idea.  Visiting a sacred site is also another.  All Spring and fresh flowers and blossoms are associated with this festival. As well as celandine, sage, dandelion, violet, honeysuckle and rose buds.  Amethyst, blue lace agate and jade, lemon opal are nice crystals to use.  And for candles, pale yellow, lemon, pale/spring green, lavender, silver.

Some spring Goddesses include Ostara, Cybelle, Persephone, Blodeuwedd. Olwen, Bran.

A Spring Equinox wish:  Plant some seeds and as you cover the seeds with earth, make little wishes (don't make it all about you, but maybe something that would benefit the earth, or maybe a person/child/animal who is ill)) as your little seeds grow and flourish, you will know the Goddess is granting you these wishes.

For the younger ones, I guess making and decorating chocolate eggs would be a good one.  And if it's warm go on a little Spring nature walk,  making a list of all the things you can spot.  Foods ought to include egg based dishes, picnic type foods, little cupcakes, salads, herbal teas.

As a cleansing festival (Spring cleaning), light some sage, violet, rose, lemongrass incense.  If you're feeling really artistic make a little broom of (fallen) twigs, to symbolically sweep your house clean.  Ask the Goddess to bless and protect your home and cleanse of all negative energies.

The tarot card for Spring Equinox is the Moon - which also nicely ties in with the Hare, an animal very much associated with lunar energies.  As well as the subconscious mind, karma, emotions, intuition, magic and mysteries.  Women's and children's ( and of course men's) health and issues and.  Goddess power.  And all moon magic.

Beltaine:  1st May

Celebrating the growth, balance and fertility of life.  The Goddess (now becomes of age) and God are in union and symbolise the mystery of the sacred marriage.  It is a festival of passion, love, sensuality and inspiration.  Light and sun become even stronger and bolder.  Vitality, energy and spiritedness increases.  Sexual forces are at their peak.  The beginning of summer is here. 

The earth is lush, green and full.  We welcome the Goddess's gifts of nature. This would be the time our ancient ancestors would release their animals into fields and pastures for them to feed.

Another of many customs and rituals of Beltaine was men, women and animals would leap through fires as a cleansing ritual - or the remains of a smoky atmosphere.  It was also the traditional time for hand-fasting (marriage).

Honouring the Goddess and ask her to bless the coming crops.  It was a festival and celebration of fun, passion, pleasure and playfulness. And lots of sexual and sensual messages within many of these customs.  The cauldron, for example which was possibly used to collect blossoms and flowers, is also a symbol of women and fertility, was prominent during this festival.

The Gods/Goddesses of this festival include, Flora, Maeve, Llew, Olwan, The Green Man, Rhiannon (and most flower Goddesses and fire Gods).  Crystals include rose quartz, amber, tiger's eye. 

Candle colours may be pinks, greens, blues, lavender and lilac.  And plants of this festival include chamomile, almond, meadowsweet, clover, sorrel, marigold, daisy, coltsfoot, rowan and chestnut blossom.

Another nice festival to celebrate outside.  Especially as Beltaine along with being  a  fire festival is also a celebration of honouring the four elements (earth, air fire and water).  So outdoor picnics are ideal.  Herby scones and breads, fish salads, honey drinks, cakes decorated with (edible) flowers, smoothies, yogurt and young leaf salads.

Make your own herbal bags,  if you have time. Light flowery incense and candles in the morning as early as possible. If you have an alter or sacred space, decorate this as well as around your home with fresh blossom and flowers.   And anything you feel appropriate. 

For younger ones let them braid and decorate each others' hair, with coloured ribbons.   Maybe let them dress up in flower fairy, elf, or little animal costumes. Perhaps they might like to act out a little nature play.

Think about and reaffirm your commitments - they may be anything from remaining on a diet to keeping a diary.  Use this festival for on-going inspiration.  Send out loving and healing blessings.  If you are single and would like a partner, now is an excellent time to do a little love spell.

The tarot card is the High Priestess. She symbolises the sensual magical energy flowing within your life. Spiritual enlightenment.  The veil that hides secrets hidden issues  and looking beyond for answers. Our subconscious mind.  And our inner voice.

Summer solstice:  21st June

The longest day and shortest night.  Point of the sun's peak, power and strength.  The sun has reached it's zenith.  And from now on energies will begin, gradually to wane. The Holly King now wins over from the Oak king.

But for now, seize the moment, have fun and celebrate. Maximise your opportunities and chances.  All nature is open to power, happiness, life-giving energies and joyfulness.  Traditionally the time for fairies, elves and nature spirits cast their magic and spells.

This festival has many traditions and rituals.  (one that usually comes to mind is Stonehenge). The word solstice comes from the Latin word "sun stopping", as at this moment the sun appears to pause, before continuing on his journey. 

In ancient times a burning, wheel of hay or straw, which represented the sun, was rolled down a hill. This was thought to symbolically help strengthen, the now weakening sun.  People would gather in open spaces, to honour the Sun and the goddesses and give their thanks, around blazing bonfires.

All sun god and goddesses were honoured during this festival  Some which may include Minerva, Sulis, Aine, Hestia, Epona, Vesta, Rhea. This is also a special time for men (being a sun/masculine festival)

This is another lovely festival to have outside and enjoy the natural environment.  Either way, (inside or out), prepare your sacred space with St. Johns Wort, a herb strongly associated with this festival as a protection herbs. (traditionally picked today, as many herbs, flowers are on this day)  Lemon balm, vervain, tansy, honeysuckle, roses, sage, fennel,  jasmine  bright, coloured flowers and petals.  All trees are associated with this festival too.

Colours and candles may be reds, golds, orange, yellow, bronze, golden/yellow  and all shades of the sun. Crystals are turquoise, sunstone, tiger eye and, again all colours of the sun.

Prepare (or buy) honey based dishes, summer fruits, yellow and red foods (sun coloured foods) Barbequed foods. Refreshing fruit drinks, herbal drinks, summer fruit wines.

To make it really special, play your own musical instruments, but if this is not possible, then listen to music, dance and sing songs.  Later have a tarot reading circle, with the cards forming a circle (sun). 

Discuss what has been the most fulfilling and successful moment of last year.  What has been a special and important moment for you.

For the younger ones let them (with supervision) make and decorate a sun catcher, or dream catcher, make a "sun" picture of petals. Let them bake round cakes, fruit salads etc.   And obviously, if it is possible, get up early to watch the sun rise.

Spells for the summer solstice (Litha - is another name) include courage, self empowerment, self confidence, joy and inner peace/balance

The tarot card is the chariot. This is a card of driving force, being centred and focused at al times, getting things done.  A point of victory.  Balancing energies, emotions and actions.  Mistress/master of your own destiny.  Self expression, purposeful.  Spirit.

Finally, although this is a fun festival, I find it also a little sad as the Goddess will return to the underworld, the sun wanes and so wheel turns.

Lughnasadh:  1st August

Pronounced loonasah, or also known as lammas. The fruits of the first harvest. Celebrating and giving thanks to the generosity of the Goddess. For blessings and abundance  received from the harvest. 

The fullness and ripeness of this season. The mystery of nature.  Spiritually and symbolically what you have sown, you now reap. The light which has given us power and strength will now begin to wane and become weaker. It is time to gather in all our resources.

The power of the sun has been  unified within the grain and as a result is symbolically sacrificed: Or we again return to Demeter and Persephone - Demeter, the corn mother and Persephone as the grain, which is now returning back into the earth once more. There is a kind of tension, suspension, waiting with this festival.  As the summer strength has been cut down.

Traditionally the last sheaf which has been cut is the one which the corn dollies or little totem animals were made of. The corn dollies would then be hung around the home for protection.

All gods and, in particular Lugh, the Welsh sun god and god of light (where the name lughnasadah derives from) and goddesses of the grain and harvest, which include Dau, Ceres, Demeter, Olwen, Cerridwen.

Celebrate with all rich earthy colours of brown, golden brown, spice, cinnamon, mahogany.  And herbs/plants - mints, cedar wood, hollyhocks, berries, sunflower, oats and grains, fenugreeks, sunflower and marigold. Crystals may include green tourmaline, jasper, brown chrysanthemum and any earthy brown stones which you feel appropriate. 

This is a time for spiritual house cleaning. Sells/blessings which centre around protecting the home and families and tree magic. Gathering resources for the coming year. Creativity of any kind.  Harvesting all we have done over the year.  For younger ones let them make little corn (or any dried stalks) totem animals. Let them help bake all kinds of breads and scones.

This is also a time for giving as well as receiving.  Sharing with others food and drinks and other little things we have created.  Perhaps swapping craft - your special talent ideas.

Foods will obviously include all sorts of breads - be as creative as you wish, if you are baking your own. Fruit pies, autumn salads, beers. And any hand baked dishes you wish. And again this is where everybody (including the younger ones) can join in - perhaps each family or person making one lovely to dish to share with others.

Visiting all natural outdoor places, weather permitting. Woods, is a really special time this time of year. Rivers, sea sides, meadows etc. Lovely long walks and picnics.

The tarot card associated with lughnasadh is strength:  Learning to acknowledge and face your inner insecurities. A gentle and inner strength. Staying strong and relying on your inner guide/intuition.  Using your own resources to resolve problems. Good, robust health. Spiritual force.

Autumn Equinox:  21st September

Day and night stand equal. We honour again the changing of the seasons and different shifting energies. Sometimes called Mabon, the second harvest of the pagan year. We give thanks for all our blessings. We pay our respects and honour the oncoming dark energies, the power of the Caileach, who bring us gifts of wisdom and insight.

Darkness takes over and as these energies shift, we celebrate these changes and look forward once again. The longer nights,  acknowledging the aging or the wise crone Goddesses, the dark mother.

This is a time for tying up those loose ends. What may not have worked out, we now blow away, and be patient for our wishes to be granted next time. Recognising the eventual winding down cycle.  Looking forward now, to future events.

The earth is a little more barren now, harvests having been gathered safely in, offerings given to the Goddess. This is a time to remember, recognise, and work with flow of change as the wheel of the year constantly turns.  A time of balance (the sign of Libra).

Goddesses of mabon include Gaia, Epona, Venus, Pax, Diana and all the Gods/Goddesses of animals and nature.

Celebrate this festival with deep, autumn shades of reds, gold, gold-yellow, yellow and deep green.  Crystals also may be autumn shades of citrine, amber. Or perhaps azurite, agate, beryl.

Herbs and plants could include nuts, pine cones, sage, oak leaves, saffron, passion flowers, geranium, rose hips, skullcap, dark rose petals, sandalwood.

Foods are usually warming, filling and as usual as seasonal a possible - root vegetables, soups, yummy stuffed vegetables, Jacket potatoes, pecan pie, apple pie, apple cake, toffee apples, cider, apple, pear, pomegranate drinks.

Spells are balancing, harmonising and uniting. Letting go of what is no longer necessary or useful.  Forgiving (letting things go)

Fill a glass dish with autumn leaves and petals.  As you pass this dish round to everybody, let them take a leaf/petal and blow it away and as you do this, think about what hasn't worked out and what you now want to leave behind.

Share your experiences, feelings, actions, reactions of the past year. What have you been most thankful, happy, grateful for? (no negatives - turn everything as far as you can to positive experiences).

The tarot card for Mabon is the Hermit. Inner world and values. Your journey in life.  Knowing there is always light/illumination ahead. Your own inner light guiding you. Seeking your own sense of perfection. Sense of discovery. Going beyond the five senses to look for hidden messages. Helping others to seek their quest, answers. Their grail.