If you’re going to work with faeries, you have to be aware of the yearly rhythms in nature. Pagans call this the Wheel of the Year because it’s a cycle that continues from one year to the next. These high holidays are also faery holidays! Old agrarian societies probably followed this cycle too, because we were farming communities for most of our human history. This cycle traces the year from cultivation through harvest, life through death. We are coming close to the end of the cycle, ready to begin a new year.
If you are a pagan, you may or may not know all about these holidays. Humans have celebrated them in one form or another as long as we can remember, and even some Christian holidays match up with the dates (again, that’s a different post). If you don’t know anything about the Sabbats, you can also check out Edain McCoy’s book, which is a wealth of information, though it is bent more toward a Wiccan practitioner.
The first and last holiday of the cycle is my absolute favorite holiday. I have always felt an affinity for it, though part of that may be the sugar-induced endorphin rush I always experienced as a child.
Halloween, also known as Samhain, October 31.
SOW-en. Say it with me, “SOW-en“. Yes, I know it doesn’t look like it should be pronounced sowen but it is. (It’s Celtic.) Basically, it’s an all-out day when the spirits can cross over into our world. Nearly all cultures all over the world celebrate some form of this day, from Día de Muertos in Mexico to the Day of Dracula in Romania to the Hungry Ghost Festival in Hong Kong. This is the day when faeries are most easily seen and when they can cause the most mischief.
Samhain is the pagan new year, the end of an old cycle and the beginning of a new one. It is a holiday to let the things that no longer serve you die away in order to conserve energy over winter and make room for new growth. The year is drawing to a close. The light is fading, as it were, because the days are getting shorter. Samhain is a great time to remember your ancestors, or the loved ones who have gone before you.
Even though it’s kind of a festival of death, it also marks the beginning of the new year, which is pretty rad when you think about it. I mean, things have to die off in order for new things to take their place, right? It doesn’t matter whether it’s old habits or old plants. Personally, I like to think of Samhain as one huge faery party where faeries invite those spirits who walked with them in life to have fun. You can celebrate with them by drinking cider or mulled wine (if you are of age) or eating pumpkins or sweet potatoes (in pies or however you prefer). You could also make a Jack o’Lantern. Faeries love making faces at these silly pumpkin heads.
Winter Solstice, also known as Yule, December 21.
The winter solstice is the longest night of the year; quite literally! I really don’t like the time of the year when the nights are longer than the days, but I know that Yule means the days can only get longer. Basically this is the day that our ancient ancestors would start to get frantic about winter and darkness. They may or may not have developed rituals to draw the sun back to the earth. It sounds a bit nutty, but you try living in a cave in the middle of winter with a glacier surrounding you. You might go a little stir-crazy too.
A lot of the festivities surrounding Christmas have been taken from pagan forms of Yule (basically, because it was easier to get pagans to convert to Christianity if they could still celebrate in a way they were used to). Evergreen trees were seen as manifestations of diety because they did not “die” over the winter. Celtic Druids are believed to have decorated these trees with everything they wanted to manifest in the coming year. If you have any outdoor evergreen trees, why not decorate them with lights or with your own intentions for the next year?
This is a great day for introspection and for acknowledging all the growth that happened over the past year. This is especially important because so many of us in the Western world have hectic holiday schedules. Having a day to sit down and just breathe is important. While you’re thinking about the growth from the past year, you can begin to think about things that you would like to bring to fruition for the next year. You don’t have to decide exactly how you’re going to achieve this; just put it out into the world.
Only a few faeries are active right now. Most of the ones I work with lying low and doing their own introspection. But keep your eye out for snow drifts or little circular air currents. Those are where the winter faeries are making their magic.
Midwinter, also known as Imbolc, February 2.
This is the point where we’re halfway through winter. Faeries emerge from their underground boroughs, and if they see their shadows, there will be six more weeks of winter.
I kid, of course. This holidays is also known as St. Brigid’s Day in Ireland, Groundhog’s Day in the United States, and Candlemas, which is a time when our pagan ancestors would light candles or bonfires to lure back the sun. Imbolc itself means in the belly, which is when many cattle and other animals are either getting pregnant or are already pregnant, and getting ready to bear their young in the spring.
You can support wildlife’s eventual reproduction by setting out birdseed for birdies. Getting in good with those little critters means that you will enamor the faeries to you. Birds are just starting to migrate back for the spring, and they can use any seeds they can get their beaks on. Those birds who did not migrate for the winter will be grateful as well!
Funnily enough, this is a great holiday to celebrate fire faeries. It seems counter-intuitive, since many fae are still resting. But it also kind of makes perfect sense. Would you rather build a huge bonfire on a sweltering summer night or on a nice cold one? You can think of this bonfire as burning away that which no longer serves you. Indeed, this is a great thing to ask fire faeries to help you with; fire faeries are excellent guides through the shadowy and dark layers. They’re great at illuminating that which we do not want to see. Just be careful that you ask them to only see that which you are ready for.
Vernal Equinox, also known as Ostara, March 21.
What’s an equinox, you ask? It is Latin for equal night. That means that the day and the night are made up of the same number of minutes and hours. They’re equal. September 21 is the Autumnal Equinox, which is technically the first day of fall (though the weather does not always agree). There is also the Vernal Equinox on March 21 (vernal means spring in Latin).
This is the first true day of spring. I always look forward to this day! It means that the nights are getting shorter and the days are getting longer. If you took the time to think about what you’d like to manifest during Yule and Imbolc, now is the time to get to work on planting those seeds for the year ahead. If you have a green thumb (or feel like trying, at least), you can literally plant your intentions. Find some flower or herb seeds you would like to start indoors, and plant each one with an intention. When the plants start to grow, keep tending until the shoots are large enough (or until the frost date has passed!), and then you can move those flowers or herbs outside. As they bloom, so should your intentions!
If you live in a land that seems to be perpetually in winter, take some time to go on a nature walk. Spring is a magical time of the year. I always feel like the greenery creeps up on me until one day -POW!- there’s greenery everywhere. But subtle signs are out in nature if you take the time to look. Faeries have probably already begun rousing the crocuses from their deep winter sleep. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to catch some spring beauties popping out of the snow, or see some early wildflowers. And check out the buds on the trees; they’re getting huge and swelling with all the new life that is soon to burst forth.
May Day, also known as Beltane, May 1.
May 1 is an incredibly important day. It comes directly opposite Samhain on the Wheel of the Year, and celebrates the exact opposite. Beltane celebrates fertility, pregnancy, and new life. And indeed, spring should be well underway by now! Leaves are abundant on trees, flowers are popping up, and the fields have been sown. The new cycle of growth and harvest has begun, which means that those seeds of intention that you planted back at Ostara should be thriving by now. You could probably move those flowers outside to reap the full benefit of the sun, depending on if your last frost date has passed.
Beltane is a day that our ancestors built bonfires and had lots of sex to ensure a plentiful harvest. You can follow this tradition as well (as long as you are of age and have a consenting partner. If not, you can still explore your own body). This is now, officially, the growing season! From now until Halloween, you should be focused on what you are growing in your life. This is time time for action and perseverance; the reflection period of winter is over. Now is the time to ask your fae friends to help you grow.
Beltane is the second biggest faery holiday. I’m pretty sure this is when the fire faeries are passing the torch (hahaha) to the earth faeries. This is a great time to take all of the ashes from all of the sage you burned all year and plant it in your garden (or even just in a pot outside). You can sprinkle the ashes around the seeds you started growing at Ostara, or plant new seeds (if you’re like me and have a hard time growing from seeds indoors). Put all that fire energy back into the earth to grow an even bigger harvest.
Be wary of faery mischief on this day. Just as the veil between worlds is thin at Samhain, so it is on the opposite day of the year. Burn white sage or paolo santo for protection, leave an extra offering on your altar or outside to appease their trickery. You can try hanging wind chimes or bells to ward off faeries, though most of the ones that I know are all too happy to play with said bells. It can at least keep them distracted enough that they won’t hide your keys between your couch cushions– somewhere you know you didn’t leave them.
Summer Solstice, also known as Litha, June 21.
The summer solstice is the longest day of the year. Depending on what latitude you’re at, you’re looking at 12-plus hours of sunlight. This is a great time to get out into nature and celebrate. The trees have finally filled out their foliage. Some trees are already growing the seeds they need for the next year; indeed, cottonwood trees are already dispersing their puffy clouds of seeds to the winds. The air faeries love cottonwood seeds; they blow them around much like snow. Keep your eyes peeled for whirling and dancing white puffs.
If you started an herb garden around Ostara or Beltane, now is the time to collect from it. Herbs usually grow fairly quickly; anything in the mint family (mint, basil, catnip, thyme, bee balm, lavender, oregano and lemon balm, to name a few) grows like a weed. Faeries love herbs, and like to visit their flowers in the form of butterflies, moths, bees, and hummingbirds. You can always leave some herbs to flower for those natural creatures. Herbs can take a lot of cutting back during the growing season. If you like having fresh thyme and basil, simply cut the amount of the herb you need each time. Make sure that you pinch off any flowers that form, or else the herb might start to taste bitter.
Faeries love herbs! Try making a honey-lavender cake or some cookies to share with them. You can mull wine with cloves, cinnamon, orange rind, and star anise, or make a fruit sangria to share. This is the height of the growing season, so your desires are still growing and working their way toward manifestation. Be sure to water your plants often, especially if the sun is strong and hot.
Lammas, or Lughnasadh August 1.
This is the first harvest festival, which is a grain harvest. Lughnasadh was the day that honored the Celtic Sun God Lugh. Lammas is an old Anglo-Saxon word that means “loaf mass”. Basically, this is a bread celebration. There’s nothing that faeries like better than fresh bread . . . except maybe fresh bread with fresh butter and fresh honey! You can bake small loaves of bread to leave out for your fae friends; they could be plain or even have some of the herbs you’ve been tending all summer in them!
Lammas marks the end of the growing season and the beginning of the harvest season. You’ve had your time to grow, you’ve let your desires manifest. Now is the time to take action and harvest them! Pay attention to signs and symbols around you, especially those left by your fae friends. They are working with the Universe to help you grow. This is a time of transition, when the energy shifts. We tend to get lots of rain and humidity during this time of the year; this is when the water faeries are out in abundance. Listen for the calls of frogs or water birds. See if you can hear those crickets chirping in the heat!
After Lammas is when I really start to notice that the days are getting shorter. I’ve even seen some leaves starting to change color already, even though it’s been nothing but hot and muggy outside. I also notice that most of the trees in the parks I like to visit have started to go to seed. Acorns have fallen, black walnuts are being stolen by squirrels, and magnolia seeds are bursting from their pods. This is a great time to go out and gather supplies to decorate your altar for Mabon.
Autumn Equinox, or Mabon, September 21.
Mabon is the last time that light is greater than or equal to nighttime in the year. I love autumn and I always am excited for Halloween, but this holiday makes me a bit sad. I love the bright springtime days and the long summer sun. But I also really love when the trees smolder with their autumnal hues (as long as the weather doesn’t get too cold too quickly).
This is the perfect day to go for a walk outside, somewhere in nature. Find a park near you, whether it is a challenging uphill climb or just a leisurely stroll, and take a look around you. A lot of the parks near me have chicory and purple cone flower lining the paths. I’ve gathered many different colored leaves and horse chestnuts from parks over the years. You can also pick up any trash you find as an offering to your fae friends. They love it when their natural areas can be kept natural. Go out and see what you can find.
You could also throw a big party. November is when we in the United States celebrate Thanksgiving, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait! That doesn’t mean you need all that family drama twice a year! Get together with some of your closest (human) friends, bring your favorite seasonal dish, and have a few drinks. Celebrate that the year is almost over, and share what you are grateful for.