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Explore the weird, winding, and wonderful ways in which we Pagan-types mark cyclic and special times, events, and celebrations in our everyday lives.

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Wintering In

Hi everyone, and welcome to my inaugural blog post for Witches and Pagans. I'm happy to be here, and I hope you'll enjoy reading along with my monthly meanderings. This blog—Celebrate!—is about exactly that: the ways we Pagan-types mark cyclic and special times, events, and celebrations in our everyday lives. Expect the path to be winding…. We'll probably talk about the traditional eight Sabbats from time to time, also known as the quarter and cross-quarter dates. We may explore the fire festivals associated with the ancient Celts. We might drift into purely agricultural season markers or gaze heavenward for a lesson in seasonal astronomy and reading the night sky. You might join me as we ramble off-trail, touching on wildcrafting or phenology or biodynamic gardening as a way to shape an observance. Or, we might gather in the kitchen for a bit of hearth magick. We could even pull a couple of comparative mythology books off the shelf, considering religious or cultural approaches to celebration and commemoration or following Joseph Campbell's hero's journey. And we're almost sure to read some folklore and practice some magick along the way…. I want this blog to be interesting, entertaining, and, I hope, thought-provoking, and I'm looking forward to your feedback to help me fine-tune the process.

A technical note: I live in Oregon, in the northwestern corner of the United States and very close to the 45th parallel. When I talk about time, I'll be using my own Pacific time zone, and all references to the seasons and the heavens will be north-hemisphere centric. For my readers "down under," please adjust as needed. ? Also, I'll be using the US system of weights, measures, and temperatures.

As I write this, the first day of "astronomical autumn" is just around the corner, with the autumnal equinox due to arrive on Saturday, Sept. 22 at 7:49 am (US Pacific). An equinox occurs when the Sun's visible path through the sky—known as the solar ecliptic—crosses the celestial equator. What's the celestial equator? Imagine you're standing on Earth's equator. Now imagine extending the entire equator outward into the heavens, and you'll have created the celestial equator, an important marker we use to talk about movements of the Sun, Moon, and other heavenly bodies. The Sun's ecliptic crosses the celestial equator twice a year, creating the autumnal (autumn) and vernal (spring) equinoxes. At the equinoxes, night and day are approximately equal in length, making it easy to see how these astronomical points mark a shift in the seasons.

While walking my dog today in the 80+ degree midday heat, I considered the fact that while many of my friends have been talking about how it feels like autumn, fall hasn't yet set in here. Our leaves are still brilliant green, the days long and hot, and my tomato plants are churning out fruit by the bowlful. The nights are a little cooler, but still, the changes of autumn haven't quite arrived yet. Soon, though. It can't be soon enough for me—autumn is my favorite time of year. Alas, quite a few of my magickal friends actively bemoan the arrival of autumn and winter. They revel in spring and summer, but once autumn rolls around, they sort of shut down, go into a semi-fetal position, and begin pining for spring. They don't like the weather, the dark, or any of the changes associated with the cold time of year. Some even get a little depressed, and a few move right on into full-blown Seasonal Affective Disorder.

This type of reaction, as far as I'm concerned, is a problem. Here's why….

As magickal folks, we live our lives and carry out our magicks in a multiverse of natural cycles. The movements of the heavens, turning of the seasons, ebb and flow of magickal energy, and cycling of the elements each fuel and inspire our magickal practices, and each is essential—and necessary—in maintaining the balanced give and take associated with those activities. The old axiom says that one can't have light without casting a shadow, and this is absolutely correct. Each season likewise plays a key role in our Earthwalk. Spring is widely regarded as the time of new beginnings, initiations, and fresh starts. Summer is all about passion and fruition, while winter is the time to rest and reflect. And autumn? That's the time of reaping, the time to fully realize one's yield over the past year. It's time to bring in the harvest and prepare for winter's coming quiet. It's easy to see the balance here: summer's fruition balances winter's contemplation, while spring's beginnings balance the autumn's harvest, and we can't have one without the other.

If you, a magickal person, aren't making full use of autumn and winter, you're missing out on some truly precious and valuable opportunities. We'll continue this discussion in the next blog, but for now, I have an assignment for you. As autumn approaches, think about what you've accomplished over the year. What seeds did you plant last spring that have grown and flourished? How will you prepare for the coming winter, a perfect chance for contemplation and planning? What will you harvest?

My grandmother called this time of year the "wintering in"—the time to pile up a stack of books, fill one's root cellar, put wool blankets on the beds, and be prepared for whatever was to come. How will you manage your own wintering-in, and how will you celebrate autumn's arrival? Please share your thoughts as a reply, below, or join me on my Facebook author page. Please be sure to tune in during the next couple of months for more discussion about autumn fetes and festivities. Cheers, everyone!

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Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker is a writer, college English teacher, and hearth Pagan/Druid living in northwestern Oregon. Her magickal roots include Pictish Scot and eastern European/Native American medicine traditions. Sue holds a Masters degree in nonfiction writing and loves to read, stargaze, camp with her wonder poodle, and play in her biodynamic garden. She’s co-founder of the Druid Grove of Two Coasts and a past faculty member of the online Grey School. Sue has authored Crafting Magick with Pen and Ink and The Magickal Retreat (Llewellyn, 2009-2012) and regularly contributes to the Llewellyn Annuals. Visit her at on Facebook.

Comments

  • Angela Kurkiewicz
    Angela Kurkiewicz Tuesday, 18 September 2012

    I am so looking forward to following your blog!
    Wintering In for me is a bit of a Catch 22. It is my favourite time of year, when I feel the most alive I suppose you could say. The problem is that the cold damp weather wreaks havoc on my body due to chronic health conditions. I'm almost certain this brings me closer to the Gods somehow. I usually start canning this time of year, with my first baby here now I'm not sure how much of that will actually get done. I will drag out all the books I meant to read over the summer and start crocheting obsessively again.
    My celebrations for the Equinox will include going to my favourite farmer's market to check out the produce and definitely pick up some apples and squash. I also hope to bake some pies and make some non-alcoholic cider....oh! and make some delicious apple chips!
    My major celebrations for the reaping time of year are celebrated over Samhain, which for me starts at sundown on October 30th and ends at sundown on November 11th (long I know!).

  • Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker
    Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker Tuesday, 18 September 2012

    Thank you so much, Angela! It's good to know at least one person will be reading my blog. :D I liked reading your comments, too. Perhaps knowing that the cold air affects you could help you tailor-make some "fixes" in your home. For example, I have a small electric space heater in my office/sanctum. I tend to spend evenings in there, writing and working, and the little heater (which looks like a fireplace, complete with flickering logs!), keeps it cozy-warm. Maybe keeping your environment snuggly would help you maintain your health?

    I've been canning, too, and trying to keep up with the apples from my trees. Sigh.... That might make a good blog topic....

    Thanks again!

  • Theresa Wymer
    Theresa Wymer Friday, 21 September 2012

    Idunn and Pomona have been very generous this year! We can't keep up with the apple yield from the one Gravenstein in our backyard.

    Good equinox from another Oregonian just south of the 45th parallel. :)

  • Rebecca Buchanan
    Rebecca Buchanan Sunday, 23 September 2012

    Welcome to PaganSquare! :) Will you by any chance be writing about modern festivals created by co temporary Pagans? For instance, Heliogenna?

  • Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker
    Susan “Moonwriter” Pesznecker Thursday, 04 October 2012

    Theresa, forgive me for the slow reply-- it's lovely to meet you!

    Rebecca, at this point, anything's possible. And thank you for the suggestion!

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