Season and Spirit: Magickal Adventures Around the Wheel of the Year
The Wheel of the Year is the engine that drives NeoPagan practice. Explore thw magick of the season beyond the Eight Great Sabbats.
Lions & Lambs: Ostara & Balance
When I was a child growing up in Michigan, the seasonal adage of March coming in like lion and going out like a lamb was taught to us as a divination. IF March came in like a lion, cold and stormy, it would leave with lamb-like warmth and gentleness, perfect for Easter time. And year after year, I saw that March 1 was often a stormy sleety mess but by March 31 the cherry blossoms were about ready to pop.
But the reverse was also true: if March came in like a lamb, it would leave like a lion. And some years, we would have a sudden inexplicable warm snap towards the end of winter. There would be warmer air and clear skies when there should still be storms, and March would come in Springlike and inviting. And sure enough, March 31 would be wracked with tornadoes and electrical storms, going out very much like a lion.
The transition from Winter to Spring is a dynamic one, with lots of pulling and pushing as the weather goes from one extreme to the other. In this dance between two opposing forces, we can see the Earth’s changes at their most dramatic. There is increasing light, but the rain-heavy clouds are much darker and gloomier than the bright icy snow clouds of a month ago. As we celebrate Ostara, and honor the divine balance it represents—the balance as night and day, life and death are both equal—we are reminded this balance is hard won. Perhaps we see this transition as a movement away from the hardships and struggles of Winter, to the greater ease and gentleness of Spring. Or we feel the movement from the repose and introspection of Winter to the increasing noise and activity of Spring. While we may welcome the arrival of spring, it's not uncommon to feel irritable or restless and dissatisfied this time of year. Waking up to the waxing year, whether the month of March begins as a lamb or lion, we feel the energies of the Vernal Equinox calling us to balance, a place where light and dark are equal. This balance is never easy to achieve.
This transition is very much like waking up after a long sleep. Sometimes it takes some stretching and grumbling and rubbing of the eyes to get fully awake. Sometimes it's not entirely inviting to to get out of our warm bed and put our feet on the cold floor. But the dynamic balance of Ostara reminds us that change is the way of things. We cannot stop the Spring from coming any more than we can stop ourselves from feeling the rising energy, noticing the excitement (anxiety) just below our skin, as the world wakes up.
Here in Colorado, the dynamic tension between the seasons is particularly noticeable. Today, my coven's Ostara ritual was canceled due to a blizzard that has dumped about eight inches of snow. It's ironic to be raking out the vegetable beds in one part of my yard, while other parts are 6 inches deep in snow. This is always a busy time of year, with the chores running from shoveling snow to turning beds and pruning trees. But out in the garden, even on the coldest day, even with the plants still dormant, I can feel the energy rising, ready to pop out and drench the world in color and life No matter how much it looks like Winter, Spring is ready to roar inside us. And no matter the weather, we can welcome the Spring by honoring its energies of renewal and hope.
This is the season to make changes and try to rewrite bad habits and old patterns. For example, isn’t it silly to try and start a new diet on January 1, deep in the coldest part of winter, just when our bodies most crave heavy, high fat foods? In Spring, we begin to crave the bite of new greens and veggies, we want to cleanse and detox, we long for lighter fare as we shed our Winter layers.
The old tradition of “Spring cleaning” is a very natural inclination. This time of year, I find myself longing to re-organize my entire house for top to bottom. Cleaning out our space can really relieve so much stress and anxiety, of course, but the itch to get clean is not just for our spaces, but ourselves. We respond by getting new clothes or cleaning our homes, but what we long for is to be clean on the inside. Letting go of old bad habits and dysfunctional patterns and routines can be difficult, but the energy of the season truly supports these shifts. Part of our restlessness as the Winter gives way to Spring, is that we begin to notice things that we were resigned or complacent about, and find we aren’t comfortable with them anymore. Maybe it's a compromise we don’t want to make, or something in our home or workspace that is not working quite right. Maybe it's a outgrown relationship, or a desire for new challenges. All the places where we fall short of where we feel we should be, everywhere we see dysfunction and breakdowns in our lives—whether magickal or mundane, personal or professional—these gaps rankle us, and spur us to action. We may wish to re-organize our lives from start to bottom, getting rid of anything that we feel no longer serves us. This time of year, I find I have no tolerance for procrastination and dithering after decisions are made. I also have very little patience with my own bad habits and dysfunctional routines. I want everything that feels like clutter, the feels extraneous and dysfunctional, out of my space.
Last time I described Winter as being a time of repose, of non-action, peace and rest that was necessary for our optimal functioning. If we wake up from this repose in Spring, how do we approach this waking up consciously, with intent, acknowledging the shifts around us, without being driven by them? I know that unless I make sure I don’t over-schedule myself, I will over-commit my time and energy, and then look up suddenly and say, “Wow, when did Spring start? And where has it gone?” If I don’t remember that the impulse to clear clutter out of my house is so amped up right now, I will follow that impulse and get rid of things I might need later. Plugging into the rising earth energy after such a long rest can be exhilarating, and it can be also be overwhelming and uncomfortable. Right now I find myself noticing the shift from Winter to Spring very closely, and I wonder how to tap into this current of energy and move with it, with balance and awareness:
At times of change and transformation, it helps to get quiet. Do not be fooled by the sudden pop of energy and action everywhere. We still need to get quiet especially when the world gets loud. Don't lapse on your meditation practice now.
Speaking of meditation, as the weather get nicer, take some time to walk in a park or other natural area. Walk silently and take in the scents, sounds and sensations of the waxing year. Put all your awareness into noticing the life around you, even if much of it is still hidden.
Cleansing and purification are huge elements of the ritual work of this time of the year cross culturally. Clean your house, then purify it with smudge or incense. Open the windows, even for a brief time, to get the power of Air clearing out your space. Sprinkle your space with Florida water, or blessing oils or Van-Van oil diluted in water.
If you drop the ball on New Years's resolutions, now is the best time to give it another shot.
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