In the Atlas of the Year I write about the division of time as it relates to the medicine wheel of the year. In this art project the year begins with the Vernal Equinox, approximately March 21. This date is based on the moment the sun progresses from the astrological sign of Pisces into Aries, so the exact time is different each year. We start our calendar year on January 1, the fiscal year on July 1. The medicine wheel time keeper helps us with our soul work by mapping our true nature so we can be in the right place at the right time.

Sun Worship, detail of drawing by Kathleen O'Brien

©Sun Worship, detail of drawing by Kathleen O’Brien

The sun has tremendous influence on us. One year can be divided by the light half, May 1 –  October 31 and the dark half, November 1 –  April 30. This division has an ancient ancestral relationship with time. I like to think of it as marking the last frost date (in temperate zones) on May 1 and the first frost date of November 1.

From this basic perspective of two, we have a division into four demarcations of solstices and equinoxes. The equinoxes help us feel the balance between the light and the dark. It is a transition point that prompts us to get ready for action at the vernal equinox, and to prepare to rest and complete tasks at the autumnal equinox. We feel the height of outward attention at the summer solstice, and the most inward focus at the winter solstice.

These are cosmic moments that are associated with the four cardinal compass points. The exact moments are determined by the sun’s progression into the cardinal signs of the zodiac; vernal equinox into Aries, summer solstice into Cancer, autumnal equinox into Libra and winter solstice into Capricorn.

These four times can be further divided by half, making eight prime occasions to orient us to being in the right place at the right time. Since ancient times these mid-points are associated with agricultural activity, compared with the cosmic attunement of the equinoxes and solstices. There is an actual midpoint of the fixed signs marker, but traditionally they are celebrated over several days at the same time each year.

Beltain in Taurus is midway between vernal equinox and summer solstice. It is a time for purifying livestock and marrying from sunset on April 30 – May2.

Lughnasa in Leo is midway between summer solstice and autumnal equinox. It celebrates the first harvest from sunset on July 31 – August 2.

Samhuin in Scorpio is midway between autumnal equinox and winter solstice and is the time to honor our ancestors from sunset on October 31 – November 2.

Imbolc in Aquarius is midway between winter solstice and vernal equinox. It welcomes the first signs of spring and the milking of baby animals from sunset on January 31 – February2.

These four holidays are the most potent energetically, and the reasons why many people schedule events during this time. Think Derby Day, Harvest Festivals, Halloween and Candlemas.

Experiencing these eight days with celebration, contemplation, time away from duty can help you evaluate your progress and plan for your next creative venture.