The Wheel of the Year is an ancient universal symbol which has been used for thousands of years to live in harmony with the rhythms of Nature. In a world that is rapidly changing and increasingly complex it is crucial to remember who we are, where we are and why we are here. The Wheel of the Year is a powerful tool which can provide us with meaning and orientation.
At the end of my first year of training with the Druid College, I created a Wheel of the year Design, based on what I have learned, the research I have done, my personal experience and what works for me. In different cultures around the world, we find that elements, animals and trees, … are associated with different geographical directions, according to what feels right in relation to the actual landscape.
Working with the Wheel of the Year
The Wheel of the Year is a mandala of life, that speaks in symbols and images to the deepest parts of our consciousness. It can be used in many different ways.
Printed on cotton, I use it as a portable altar cloth, that helps me to focus during rituals and meditation. I place different objects on the cloth so that it becomes even more alive. Since I first made this altar cloth available in 2016, many individual people and groups have been working with this design and find it both useful and inspiring.
Understanding the Wheel of the Year
Here comes an overview of the main parts of my Wheel of the Year design. For more details, have a look at the Wheel of the Year Infographic.
The four directions and the four elements
The air element in the East stands for the morning star, sunrise, birth, spring, childhood, new inspiration, the sky, the mental body.
The fire element in the South stands for the sun, midday, summer, teenage years and adolescence, passion, sexuality, summer, our will and motivation.
The water element in the West stands for the sunset, the moon, the time of parenthood and maturity, autumn, the emotional body.
The earth element in the North stands for midnight, winter, the earth, our physical body, darkness, old age, death and the ancestors.
The eight seasonal festivals and the twelve star signs
On the outer part of the wheel, the twelve symbols for the star signs of the Zodiac are included.
If you would like to know more about the eight festivals of the year, have a look on the website of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.
Eight animal spirits
Starting from the top turning clockwise you see a buzzard, stag, snake, dolphin, owl, badger, wolf and bear. The animals have changed since the first version of the design.
Every animal is so unique and special, that it would be great to have them all included. Every one of these eight animals is on his position on the wheel for a particular reason.
For example, the bear is placed at the time of early spring when he comes out of hibernation and starts to look for the first fresh plants. The bear can also be seen as the young sun God, who accompanies the Goddess of spring.
Eight tree spirits
The trees I have chosen are birch in the east and then turning clockwise hawthorn, oak, beech, hazel, yew, holly and fir. They also correspond to the seasons. The oak is placed at midsummer and the holly at midwinter. I placed the yew tree at Samhain, the time between life and death, the gateway to the realm of the ancestors.
Two tree languages – the Runes and the Ogham
I decided to include both of these tree languages into the illustration because I feel connected to both Nordic and Celtic mythology. For many people, the Runes seem to be “dark”. I think that’s mainly because of the way they have been abused in the last century.
Personally, I feel strongly that it’s time to reclaim these beautiful magical glyphs. The Runes are channels of light and wisdom, they can all be found in the flower of life and represent universal principles like balance, love and transformation. Just like in a tarot deck some Runes represent destructive forces, but that doesn’t mean that they are bad.
A basic introduction to the Ogham can be found on Wikipedia.
The center – the world tree and the gateway to the inner forest
Yggdrasil, the world-tree is represented in the center. He connects the upperworld, the middleworld and the underworld. This is the vertical axis, the axis Mundi, or the spine of the universe
More information about the Tree of Life can be found here.
The door leads to the inner dimension, to the inner forest, our sanctuary or medicine place. Two guides are standing in the center. They are representatives of God and Goddess inside of us. The dragon is the guardian of the inner forest. Biting his own tail, he represents oneness and unity of all creation.