Many of our readers of might hail from the Southern Hemisphere. For these folk, the standard progression of the seasons is shifted… i.e. they are celebrating spring in Australia, New Zealand and Brazil, when those of us in the Northern Hemisphere are celebrating Fall.
Clearly the “standard” correspondences of holidays to dates of the year don’t really apply to those in the Southern Hemisphere. What are they to do? Do they “rotate” the wheel of the year around?
They celebrate the holidays in accordance with the changing of the seasons just as we do. While the particular dates may be different, the rituals are the same. For instance, when pagans in the Northern Hemisphere are about to celebrate Yule, those in the Southern Hemisphere are about to celebrate Midsummer.
It is important not to confuse dates with the seasons themselves. The holidays celebrate the changes of the seasons, the birth and death of the God, and the three aspects of the Goddess.
The correspondence of Christmas with Yule on December 25th (which is so ingrained into the consciousness of northerners) is an artifact of the fact that Christianity evolved in the Northern Hemisphere and Christmas is the birth of the Christian God. If Christianity had evolved in Australia, for example, Christmas would be in July (together with the southern Yule celebration).
This difference between festivals on both hemispheres is a point that rises controversy every time it’s discussed it appears. Some of the people living in the southern hemisphere try to keep the same schedule as the northern hemisphere witches. However, the correct view is that this schedule should be changed to suit the hemisphere.
We, as adepts to what are called Earth Religions, such as Wicca and Druidism, we seek to achieve a balance and attunement with nature. That is one of the reasons why our 8 Sabat celebrations fall synchronized with the planting and harvest seasons, or the solstices and equinoxes.
Besides that, let us keep in mind we are also re-enacting a cosmogonical cycle; one stage corresponding to each of the main Sabbats. Each of these stages is actually closely related to the astronomical position of the sun at any given moment, but as we all know, seasons (and solstices and equinoxes) fall alternatively in each hemisphere: i.e. when it is winter in the North, it is summer in the south, and of course vice-versa.
What does all this have to do with our Sabbats? Simple. If we’re trying to attune to nature, we can’t possibly celebrate the Death of the God and last harvest in the middle of Spring, or His birth at the moment of the sun’s highest peak. If we did that, we would be guiding ourselves merely by man-made dates in the calendar, which were originally developed in the Northern Hemsphere and not by the circle of nature itself, that it was develped upon in the first place and that we’re all trying to follow in actual fact.
Once we understand the astronomical mechanics of it all, the conclusion is simple; in that the folk in the Southern Hemisphere need to change the dates for all the festivities. When, after all, we look at the meaning of each celebration, we’ll see that they are all set in a certain logical order, telling a story per se.
Therefore, if you live in the southern hemisphere your seasonal cycle is just the opposite from the northern hemisphere. Please note that the exact dates of the equinoxes and solstices may vary from year to year, but are herein listed for your information.
The Wheel of the Year Wiccan Festivals for the Southern Hemisphere
Samhain (April 30th)
Samhain is generally considered the pagan New Year. It takes place on the brink of winter, as the nights are getting longer, and is a time for remembering friends and relatives who have passed away. A possible ritual is to light a large, bright candle for every person that is being honoured, in a colour that is appropriate for them, and surround them with rosemary branches and greenery from the garden, as tokens of rebirth and a pledge that they will stay fresh in your memory. Also, meditate on the year gone by, working out the ways in which you’ve changed, the plans, dreams and habits you’ve neglected, and those that should be let go. Divination is also supposed to be particularly effective on this date.
Other names are: All Hallow’s Eve, Festival of the Dead
Yule: (June 21st)
Yule is a celebration of the rebirth of the Sun, when the sun, after it’s withdrawal and the longest night of the Year, starts to come back closer to the Earth. This new closeness marks the rebirth of the God from his own seed planted on the Goddess, and was later taken by Christianity as Christ’s birthday (keep in mind Yule falls near Christmas in the northern hemisphere). It’s a solar festival, in which traditionally all lights and fires were put down, lighting a new one by midnight using rubbing methods. Then, from that first fire all the rest were lit. Yule usually involves a handsome feast with a centrepiece of blazing gold, red and green candles, chocolate pudding and lots of spicy mulled wine with oranges and raisins.
Imbolc: (August 2nd)
Imbolc is a celebration of the end of winter and the return of light. A Fire festival, taken by the Christians as their Candlemass celebration. At this time we celebrate the first hints of spring after the long winter and August is usually the darkest part of winter, so this festival of light is especially welcome. It’s the childhood of the God, and a celtic traditions honours on this day the Goddess, calling that feast Brigantia. A mass of lit white candles makes a very heartening sight on the altar and a lit candle can be carried from room to room of the house to welcome the Sun and celebrate its growing strength. Other names are: Candlemas, Brigantia
Ostara: (September 21 st)
Ostara or Spring Equinox – The beginning of Spring! The God is young, and He and the Goddess fall in love, their love renewing Nature like the Sun that gently caress the Earth, also inspiring the animals to multiply. It’s a feast of love and growth. In the northern hemisphere this festival often coincides with Easter, (taken from the Goddess of Fertility Ostara) and indeed Her coloured eggs and fertile Hare and Rabbit are a traditional symbol of this time and adopted of course by Christianity. The night and day are of equal lengths and this is a festival of balance and fertility. Planting herbs seeds at this time is a good idea.
Other names are: Ostara, Vernal Equinox
Beltane: (Octubre 31st)
Beltane is a celebration of the approach of summer when the breezes are scented and the evenings are getting warm, and the divine union of the Lord and Lady. A festival of love, lust and fertility. Celebrated with famous fires, it’s perhaps the most well known Sabbath after Samhain. It’s THE fertility festival, where we celebrate the union of the Goddess and the God. It still survives in the May Poles in some places of the Northern Hemisphere. This celebration was condemned by the Church, saying it promoted indecent sexual behaviour. This is a great time to have an outdoor barbecue, or a party with a bonfire on the beach. Instead of a maypole, try decorating a tree in your backyard with red and white ribbons in celebration – or wrap the ribbons around your broom and display it in a prominent place. Rituals for friendship, creativity and prosperity and appropriate at this time.
Midsummer: (December 21st)
Litha or Summer’s Solstice, where the God reaches the peak of it’s power before starting it’s withdrawal again. The longest day of the year. The shortest night of the year, and traditionally good for magick and love rites. At this time, rituals of personal power and protection can also be performed. The Sun is at the height of His power and glory, so make good use of this powerful time. An old Christmas tree covered with crocheted flowers and other non religious ornaments, as well as purchased ornaments shaped like fruit, suns and stars. Fruity drinks and food are appropriate, and altar decorations are coloured gold, to celebrate the Sun Lord’s power. Most Australians spend at least part of their Christmas festivities outdoors, and this does blend well with our celebration of the solstice.
Other names are: Litha, Midsummer
Lamas or Lughnassadh: (February 2nd)
Lamas or Lughnassadh is the feast of the celtic god Lugh, identified with the Sun, and one of the names the God can take upon Himself. The power of the God is lesser, but even then he blesses the cattle in a traditional ceremony where they’re driven over the ashes of the fires lit during the festival. A harvest festival, at which time it is appropriate to give thanks for the bounty of the earth, and celebrate with a feast of seasonal foods and breads. A time at which we strive to understand the meaning of sacrifice, that any harvest must be the result of our own work. This is also the beginning of the school year in Australia, which makes it an excellent time to reflect on the nature of reaping what we have sown. The reaping of grain is an ancient symbol of death and rebirth.
Mabon or Autumnal Equinox (March 21st)
Mabon or Autumn Equinox, when the Earth gets ready for the absence of the God and the days start to get sensibly shorter. It’s a good time for meditation and introspection. Again, the day and night are of equal length, and we give thanks for the last fruits of the harvest. Mabon is a good time to gather herbs for magickal uses. Autumn leaves make glorious decorations, especially on the altar with red and brown candles. A time to stock up on mundane and magickal needs, as our ancestors did as they prepared for the harsher months of winter. Mulled cider is a lovely warming drink to celebrate this festival with.