‘There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.’ — Rachel Carson
‘Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.’ — Ralph Waldo Emerson
I don’t have much in the way of guidance.
I’m not religious, I haven’t been raised with many good habits, yet I find myself yearning for some kind of direction or foundation on which to build myself or think day to day. I set goals but they don’t sit within anything bigger, so I quickly grow bored and drop them. There wasn’t much to suggest what I do next, and I didn’t know if I’d believe it if I heard it anyway.
I did a little research and the natural cycles of the planet, seasonal blocks of time, eight of them, each roughly 6-7 weeks with a bounty of cultural influences in each, seemed to achieve provide decent time periods. Beyond that, folklore and stories have given space in which to consider how I approach each.
If you’re a stickler for accuracy: these are the dates for the Gregorian calendar. There’s a spectrum if you’re going by astronomical or lunar calendars, if you need a little celebratory wiggle room.
words: hibernation, end of darkness
for me: clearance
It is celebrated on the shortest day of the year, about 21st December.
For many pagans, Yule is a key part of the life cycle of the ‘Child of Promise’, conceived in Ostara and born in the winter solstice as the ‘Sun Child’ who will defeat the powers of darkness in the coming spring, ushering in nature’s triumphant return.
One important site at Yule is Newgrange, Ireland’s grand megalithic monument and ancient resting place of kings. Here, at the solstice, the Sun Child’s birth is represented by the rising sun flooding the inner chamber of the monument with light.
Celtic peoples have celebrated the winter solstice in the British Isles since before the arrival of Christianity, though many Yule traditions flowed into Christmas and there are obvious parallels between the two traditions, such as the exchanging of gifts.
words: hibernation, light, growth & energy
for me: deep cleaning
Rooted deep in a Celtic past, Imbolc is traditionally about ushering in a productive farming season and celebrating the coming of spring. The name has uncertain origins, but probably comes from the Old Irish for ‘in the womb’ - a reference to pregnant ewes, precursor to the lambing season. It’s generally dedicated to Brigid, goddess of healing, smithing, and poetry.
words: bonfire, flower crown, maypole, fairies & supernatural, primrose & hawthorn, sex & fertility, passion, purification through burning, wild joy
for me: bright mornings
All fires were extinguished, then the bonfires were lit.
Beltane (‘bright fire’) was traditionally one of the two largest Gaelic festivals, the other being Samhain (or Hallowe’en), when the veil between humans & the supernatural world was at its thinnest. It marked the peak of spring & the start of summer.
Household fires were doused. Bonfires were then kindled, often up high on mountains or hilltops, whose flames & smoke & ashes were deemed to have protective powers. The people & their cattle would walk between or leap across the embers, before hearths at home were re-lit from the Beltane bonfire. These gatherings would be accompanied by feasts, with offerings of food & drink for the spirits. Windows & barns & livestock would be decorated with yellow flowers to evoke fire; some would make a May Bush: a branch or thorn bush decorated with flowers & ribbons & bright shells & candles.
For the self, Beltane is the start of the most fruitful time of the year. In Ostara, seeds for growth & positive change were planted; now, they begin to bear fruit.
words: heat, heavy, sweat, pressure, abundance, beaches, islands, pirates, coasts, cowboys & westerns
for me: isle of wight, glastonbury, connected back gardens, football, hayfever