The Wheel of the Year and why it is Broken

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Image by Andreas Lischka from Pixabay.

In our Sanctuary, we are often asked why our observances are usually on different days or have different names.
This often leads to the discussion of The Wheel of the Year and why it is broken.

What is The Wheel of the Year?

The Wheel of the Year is a calendar created in the 1970s in a well-meaning attempt to better synchronize the greater Pagan and Witchcraft communities. Aidan Kelly authored the calendar and Oberon (Tim) Zell published it in Green Egg Magazine in 1974. Since it was published, it has become a de facto standard to a majority cross-section of the greater community.

Why is it broken?

When most individuals find themselves discussing how or why The Wheel of the Year is broken, usually it goes right into the Mabon Debate. However, there is a more compelling reason to call this particular calendar broken, and this is centered around how we know the ancients determined when a specific observance was.

The Mabon Debate

For those who have researched at least a little, you will see there is a bit of controversy around Mabon.
During the research Aidan Kelly was doing while creating the calendar, they did their best to use Saxon names.
They came across a bit of a problem with what to call the Autumnal Equinox. How they solved this problem was to instead look into Welsh traditions and mythology when they ran dry on Germanic and Gaelic sources. It was there that they had learned of Mabon ap Modron. They correlated the similarities of one of the few variations of the Welsh story of Mabon to the Greek story of Kore and decided to go with the name Mabon for the Autumnal Equinox. Although Aidan Kelly attests that this decision was not made arbitrarily, there is no current archeological evidence of the deity Mabon being celebrated in Autumn. In our Sanctuary we simply observe the Autumnal Equinox. For those who call it “Mabon”, we advise that they are aware it was created no earlier than 1974 and is not traditional, that it is purely a neo-tradition.

The Broken Timing

When discussing the flaws in The Wheel of the Year, a few knowledgeable and clever Pagans and Witches notice something is very broken, the timing. These observances are astrological and do not have a static date. Astrological events can be expected to fall within a certain range of dates. The range of dates is accurately provided for Solstices and Equinoxes in the Northern Hemisphere.
However, the calendar is broken for all Cross Quarters, with some observances having as bad as an 8-day margin of error in some years. What this means, is that the dates you were likely taught for Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain are all wrong. Half of your observances if you follow The Wheel of the Year, are just flat wrong in timing.
Not only are Cross Quarter dates flat wrong in The Wheel of the Year; Imbolc, Lughnasadh, and Samhain coincide with Abrahamic (Christian) holidays while Beltane coincides with a secular holiday where the festivities are largely organized by Churches, especially in Europe. This is why The Wheel of the Year is fundamentally broken.

The Misunderstandings

Other than the misunderstandings that are imparted by The Wheel of the Year by the author, comes all the misunderstandings shared and reinforced to the greater community. This has caused great confusion on the history, origin, and cycles of those who choose to observe Sabbats as presented by The Wheel of the Year. The misinformation is so bad that many who proclaim to be a High Priest or High Priestess sincerely believe that Mabon was a holy observance in antiquity, and that ancient Celts observed Samhain from October 31st through November 1st. They teach misunderstanding not knowing any better or refusing evidence when presented. All because of a broken calendar from the 1970s.

The Aidan Kelly Wheel of the Year

Aidan Kelly’s Wheel of the Year.

The SotP Wheel of the Year Northern Hemisphere

SotP’s Wheel of the Year for the Northern Hemisphere.

The SotP Wheel of the Year Southern Hemisphere

SotP’s Wheel of the Year for the Southern Hemisphere.

Further Confounding

In 1978, Doreen Valiente published her book “Witchcraft For Tomorrow” where she dissented from the names made by Aidan Kelly for the cross quarters. She is the Wiccan origin of using Christianized names for Sabbats, namely Candlemas, May Eve, Lammas, and Hallowe’en.

The SotP Difference

Here at Sanctuary of the Phoenix, we believe in giving the most accurate and honest information we have regarding our Spiritual Practices, Faith, and Path knowledge. We believe we would be disingenuous if we did not share accurate information. When we are presented with facts or evidence that is substantial, we adapt and reform to have the most sincere understanding and teachings that we can provide.

The degrees presented in how we calculate a Solstice, Equinox, or Cross Quarter is accurate for the foreseeable eternity.
We suggest using a birth chart to determine the sign the Sun is in and what degree it is at. The date ranges provided are accurate for at least the next 7 or more years, they are mostly for quick reference to help you zero in on dates with the charts.
We will be making adjustments periodically to account for the slow drift in the Ephemeris as well as minor deviations of expected dates that do occur. We use the Swiss Ephemeris and the NASA JPL Ephemeris to better calculate our dataset ranges.

We believe that Science is a tool that can help us protect and continue to participate in the astrological events celebrated in our world heritage. Science is also a tool that can present us with new knowledge about our diverse Pagan past that has been lost to time through Archeological studies. The Scientific Method is most certainly an important factor in keeping with the sincerity and accuracy of our Theology.

Final Summation

Though the works of Aidan Kelly may have debatable contexts and astrological inaccuracies, the intent behind the creation of his Wheel of the Year was meant to be a focal point to celebrate commonalities.
In Paganism’s diverse world, the varied Paths have varied observances.
The Wheel of the Year is not the end all be all or the de facto standard. It is a commonality.
We now live in an age of information, where more facts, history, and mythologies are readily available at our fingertips. The evolution and reform of Paganism is inevitable as new facts are presented, and we are always hesitant about any change in a deeply held worldview.
Paganism has always asked us only to go with the flow of nature in finding our spiritual truth.
As a Sanctuary, we will always honor this flow as well as the spiritual truths held by others. Though our teachings may evolve and reform at times to meet the many wonderful discoveries made each day, one thing will never change, our spiritual commitment to our Paths and protecting this world we all share.

Light, Love, and all the Blessings.

Blessed Be!