The natural world moves in seasons. So does the Wheel of the Year, the annual cycle of seasonal celebrations observed by many people around the world. Throughout the year, I’ve created stock photo collections for each of these celebrations, or sabbats, so I thought it would be fun to give you an overview of each and offer a sampling of my favorites from each collection!
Samhain (31 October)
This is arguably the witchiest time of the year. Samhain (pronounced sow-win or sau-win, depending on your accent) means “summer’s end” and is the celebration to close out the season of light. We step more into the darkness, representing a time when the sun is in the sky for fewer hours during the day.
Some believe it is a time when the veil between the living and the dead is thin, allowing for heightened communication between the two. At Samhain, we honor our ancestors, reflect on those we’ve lost, and remind ourselves that there is no light without darkness. Many of the celebrations we have at Halloween can be traced back to original Samhain activities.
Stock photos featuring divination tools and ancestor veneration are perfect for Samhain.
Yule (20-25 December)
Yule happens at the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Some of the images we associate with Christmas have their roots in Yule celebrations. The Yule tree, for example, was decorated outside for the holiday, and the Yule Log is still a central feature of celebrations.
Yule marks the time when the Oak King defeated his brother, the Holly King, as the days begin to grow longer.
Our Yule collection will arrive in time for this year’s observance. In the meantime, here are some stock photos to help you celebrate all of the winter holidays and observances.
Imbolc (1 – 2 February)
Imbolc means “in the belly” in Old Irish and refers to the fact that this was when the sheep would be pregnant with their lambs for the year. This sabbat focuses on fertility, hope, and the promise of spring. Brigid, the Celtic goddess of fertility, poetry, medicine, and sacred springs, is revered on Imbolc.
The Brigid’s Cross is a familiar symbol that lasts to this day. It’s a symbol of luck and fertility. We have several representations of Brigid’s Cross in our Imbolc Collection.
Ostara (20 – 23 March)
At the Spring Equinox, Ostara is celebrated. Ostara is the fulfillment of the promises of Imbolc – when the lambs and other baby animals are born. There are many visual similarities between Ostara and Easter: bunnies, eggs, chicks, and flowers.
In ancient times, Ostara marked the Germanic spring goddess, Eostre, emergence from the earth where she’d been sleeping in the colder months. Some stories claim that Eostre emerges pregnant with the sun god, who will be born on Yule.
Here are a few of our members’ favorite Ostara stock photos.
Beltane (30 April – 1 May)
Beltane means “Bel’s Fire” and references the Celtic sun god, Bel. Celebrants light bonfires at Beltane in honor of passion and desire. It’s the time when people are encouraged to eat, drink, and be merry – with all inhibitions thrown out.
Dancing is an integral part of the Beltane celebration, and this is where the Maypole comes from. In some celebrations, the May Queen is crowned in homage to Flora, another springtime goddess.
Images of blossoms, candles, honey, and herbs are perfect for sharing your love of Beltane online.
Litha (20 – 22 June)
Litha honors the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice. This is the time when the Oak King surrendered his throne to the Holly King. After the longest day of the year, the days begin to shorten until the Winter Solstice.
At Litha, bonfires, dancing, honey cakes, and feasting celebrate the triumph of light over darkness. Many weddings took place at Litha too. Today, June is one of the most popular times of the year for weddings.
Here are some of my favorite soulful stock photos for this time of year.
Lammas/Lughnasadh (1 August)
Lammas, or Lughnasadh (pronounced Loo-nah-saw), celebrates the Celtic god, Lugh. Lugh is associated with truth and order, and this sabbat marks the oncoming autumn. The first harvest of the year coincides with this sabbat.
Activities that celebrate harvesting and friendly competition, such as fencing, races, and archery competitions, are celebrated at Lammas, as Lugh’s tribute to his foster mother, Tailtiu. She was one of the earliest goddesses of Ireland and legend says she plowed the land for farming to exhaustion. After her death, Lugh called for celebrations of her life and work.
This is the perfect time to share soulful stock photos that capture the essence of the Divine Masculine.
Mabon (20 – 23 September)
The Autumn Equinox signals a shift in the seasons, and Mabon is a celebration of this time. Rituals focus on the departure of the goddesses for the winter. Persephone is one of the most popular of these goddesses, who returns in the spring. In Celtic tradition, the god Cernnunos goes to the underworld at Mabon and then emerges in the spring as the Green Man.
Our Harvest Magic Collection features an assortment of soulful stock photos perfect for Mabon.