The Lion King Explains the Wheel of the Year
Author: Sevati Pari
The Wiccan tradition celebrates eight festivals or Sabbats that follow the Wheel of the Year (their term for the Earth’s seasons) (Wikipedia) . Among these are Yule, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha or Midsummer, Lammas, Mabon, and Samhain (Healing Happens) . Allow me to tell you a little about each Sabbat and the mythology behind it before moving on to concentrate on Yule and Litha for my pop culture reference.
For reference though the Wiccan Goddess is a triple goddess. She is Maiden, Mother, and Crone separate and simultaneously. The Maiden is when she’s a youth still young and virginal, the Mother is after she gives birth to the Sun God who becomes the Horned God at Beltane, and the Crone is the wise woman she becomes in her elder years when the cycles of her life are done.
There are two different myths that follow the wheel of the year. One being the Goddess/God duality where the Sun God is born to the Mother/Crone at Yule, The Mother becomes the Maiden at Imbolc as the God grows in power and courts the Goddess in her Maiden aspect during Ostara, He impregnates the Goddess Beltane during the height of his power becoming the Horned God, he begins to wane in power during Lammas, and passes away at Samhain becoming the Sacred King who dies so that the land might be reborn, to be born again to the Mother/Crone at Yule (Healing Happens, Sherri Maddon) .
Another myth is that of the Holly King and the Oak King. One rules winter the other rules summer. The Holly King fights and defeats the Oak King at Litha only to have the tables turned at Yule when the Oak King comes back to challenge and defeat the Holly King (About.com) .
Samhain begins our calendar as the beginning of the Pagan New Year. It falls on October thirty-first and corresponds with the Christian’s Halloween. It’s a celebration of the final harvest and a day to honor those that have passed before us. Samhain is not a mournful holiday in which we mourn their passing but more a celebration of their life. It is on this Sabbat that the Horned God passes on to the Summerland (Wiccan afterlife) .
The wheel continues on to Yule which falls anywhere from December twenty-first to December twenty-fifth depending on when the Winter Solstice (the longest night of the year is) . It is a celebration that even in the dark there is light, of the hope that spring will come again and winter soon will be over.
It is on this night that the God is born to the Goddess in her Crone aspect. Imbolc is the next Sabbat on the wheel’s cycle. It’s celebrated on February second and is one of the first spring festivals. It’s also a time for purification as the Goddess moves from her Crone state to that of the Maiden.
Following Imbolc is Ostara, which lands on the Spring Equinox usually around March twenty-first. It corresponds with the Christian’s Easter. It’s a celebration of Spring. Then comes Beltane celebrated on May first.
Beltane is a celebration of the fertility of the land and would usually end up in more than one woman walking away from the Beltane fires carrying a baby in her belly. The Sun God mates with the Maiden and she walks away a Mother while he walks away as the Horned God. The days grow longer till we reach Midsummer, which falls on June twenty-first, or the Summer Solstice (the longest day of the year) .
Midsummer is a celebration life in general. Next on the wheel is Lammas celebrated on August first. It’s one of the first harvest festivals. It is a time to celebrate the fruit of our yearly labors.
The days progressively decline till we reach Mabon, which actually just passed on September twenty-first. Mabon celebrates the Fall Equinox and is a day of Thanksgiving. It’s a day to be thankful for what you have and for those you have to share it with, much like the American holiday of Thanksgiving that falls in November.
As the day’s decline we swing back around to Samhain where the Horned God becomes the Sacred King and dies so that the land may be reborn (Healing Happens, Sherri Madden) .
I know I went a little off topic here telling about all the Sabbats but I wanted to give you some basic knowledge so you could understand the two I chose for my pop culture reference example, which was that of Walt Disney’s “The Lion King.”
The story was actually based off of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Disney’s movie Bambi but I doubt Walt even knew of the story of the Holly King and Oak King or the Wheel of the Year when he set about making this Disney Classic and created the “Circle of Life.” At the beginning of the movie you see Simba being presented to the kingdom as heir, much as the Goddess presents the Sun God at Yule.
Then later on Mufasa gives Simba a tour of the lands he will one day rule teaching about the “Circle of Life” and how everything is born and dies but even in death nurtures the land (i.e. the wildebeest eat the grass, the lions eat the wildebeest, and when a lion dies his body becomes nourishment for the grass which keeps the circle going) , a clear reference to the Wheel of the Year.
Scar (Simba’s uncle) leads him into the gorge for a “surprise” for Mufasa that turns out to be a stampede that Mufasa tries to save Simba from. He saves him only to be pushed off a cliff by Scar a clear example of the fight of the Holly King vs. the Oak King, Scar being the Holly King and the Winter of Pride Rock.
Simba runs away and grows up meeting Nala (a childhood friend) , they fall in love, and she convinces him to come back to save Pride Rock an example of Ostara and Beltane when the God courts and mates the Goddess. Simba returns and exiles Scar but Scar attacks him forcing Simba to push him off a cliff like Scar did to Mufasa.
Again this is a reference to the battle between the Holly King and the Oak King, this time with Simba being the Oak King and the Summer of Pride Rock. Scar survives the fall but finds himself surrounded by Hyenas who attack him (Wikipedia) .
I didn’t even think of this till I got further into my studies as a first-year initiate in Wicca and I started this class. I just happened to be watching the movie with my little sister and it all fell into place. It was one of those Ah Ha/Eureka moments where the light bulb goes off in your head. But now the movie makes perfect sense to me.
Then I started thinking about how Lion King has affected pop culture. Snippets of the movies have shown up in other movies, TV shows, and books. It’s shown on Home Improvement multiple times since Jonathan Taylor Thomas played Simba voice one clear example was: “I found another Lion King reference on Home Improvement [episode titled “Say Goodnight, Gracie”– 7th season, 15th episode].
In one scene, Tim and a little girl named Gracie are playing with some Lion King animals. Randy gets a chance to tell Gracie about “his” experiences impersonating a lion cub. Tim says, “Oh sorry, I’ve never been a lion cub before, ”
Then Randy replies, “Well, I have. And let me tell you. It’s a tough gig. Everybody expects you to be king.” (Lion King Sightings) .
There’s also a scene in Aladdin and the King of Thieves where Genie turns to Pumbaa and says “Hakuna Mattata” Then turns back and goes “Whoops, I just had an out of movie experience, ” (Lion King Sightings) .
About.com: Paganism/Wicca. 23 September 2008. About.com
Healing Happens. 23 September 2008. http://www.healinghappens.com/wheel.htm
Lion King Sightings. 4 August 2008. Brian Tiermann. 24 September 2008.
Madden, Sherri. Personal Interview. No specific date (classes)
Wikipedia. 25 August 2008. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. 23 September 2008.
Wikipedia. 25 August 2008. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. 23 September 2008.