Alternative Wheel: Other seasonal cycle stories

Exploring different ways of thinking about the wheel of the year, reflecting on aspects of the natural world to provide Pagans alternatives to the usual solar stories.

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Nimue Brown

Nimue Brown

Nimue Brown is the author of Druidry and Meditation, Druidry and the Ancestors. Pagan Dreaming, When a Pagan Prays and Spirituality without Structure. She also writes the graphic novel series Hopeless Maine, and other speculative fiction. OBOD trained, but a tad ferral, she is particularly interested in Bardic Druidry and green living.

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Spider Season

One of the joys of autumn is the finding of webs, dew decked and glinting in the early morning light.

Spider webs are amazing constructions, and the whole spidering business is fascinating – all spiders produce 8 or more kinds of thread, and they only don’t get caught in their own webs because they remember where to stand.

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Holidays, Holy Days and Harvests

Right now it’s the summer holidays, and in many places, the young people are home from school, and families are off doing the holiday thing. Or trying not to kill each other. It’s worth noting however that the origin of the summer holidays has nothing to do with having a good time, and everything to do with needing the young people to help get the harvests in. The norms of our school systems pre-date the combine harvester and other such devices.

You don’t have to be much of an etymologist to spot that ‘holiday’ comes from ‘holy day’ and for many of our Christian ancestors, the holy days were the only days off, if you were lucky. Servants tended to have to work on Sundays and over Christmas etc, but religious celebration has provided our ancestors with much needed opportunities to down tools and socialise. The pilgrimage is the ancestor of the tourist industry, and holy journeys and holidays have a great deal to do with holidays.

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Coming of Age, in Fur and Feather

This is the time of year when many of the young things born in the UK’s spring will become independent. Inevitably it means this is also a time when a lot of them will die, through accident and inexperience.

The transition from dependant to independent varies from species to species, and part of why it varies is the complexity involved in being an adult. You can spot newly fledged birds, because they’re often waiting around making a racket, with parents coming back to feed them regularly even though they’re now out of the nest. They look like teenagers.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Nimue Brown
    Nimue Brown says #
    What a brilliant way of doing things! And a good way of reinforcing the responsibilities we have to our communities in taking part
  • Ann Edwards
    Ann Edwards says #
    When I was young we had a number of family celebrations or events which recognised various stages of coming of age. The first one
Alternative wheels for a changing world

It’s June. It’s cold and raining, and everything outside my window says ‘climate change’ to me in ways that make me deeply uneasy. High winds, torrential downpours, and at the same time, an explosion of hawthorn flowers like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The wild garlic and the horse chestnuts have been exuberant as well.

What does it means for Pagans? The ancestral dates of festivals no longer relate reliably to what’s happening. We don’t know what’s coming, or how it will impact on us. Our world is changing. The seasons are changing, the climate is changing.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Nimue Brown
    Nimue Brown says #
    I was struck when visiting the States by how very different the oak trees are.
  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    They are so common around here that they are practically a weed. I must have dozens of seedlings on our property. This one usually
  • Nimue Brown
    Nimue Brown says #
    That is huge for a hawthorn, if American ones are like the British trees, they are very slow growing, it may be really old.
  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    Funny you should mention hawthorn: our huge tree (30' tall) seems very abundant in this year's warmth (Oregon was QUITE warm, espe

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Grandmother Bluebells

I am more naturally conscious of ancestry around Beltain than I am at Samhain. Partly because there are so many traditional songs that start with someone roving out on a bright May morning. Usually to get laid, or to indulge in the kind of voyeurism intrinsic to folk music. And partly because of my grandmother, who loved the bluebells.

My grandmother was a keen walker for much of her life, having grown up with a mother who went walking on Sundays in preference to going to church. In old age, she could no longer climb the hills each spring to go looking for bluebells, and so this time of year became a source of grief to her. I have never driven a car, I was never able to take her out, but others did, and I’m not the only one to think of her when the bluebells are flowering.

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Celebrating the greening

In my part of the world the green returns somewhere between the standard Pagan festivals of the spring equinox and Beltain. It’s something I quietly celebrate, because the return of colour to the world, and the return of leaves is something I find uplifting. It’s not an event, and it’s impossible to ascribe a reliable date to it. The greening happens in response to light, temperature, and the mysterious whims of plants.

Underwood tends to leaf first – I’m seeing elder and hawthorn leaves. Weeping willows are in leaf, osier willows still have bare branches. Chestnut is underway, ash isn’t particularly. Each tree comes into leaf in its own time. Other plants all have their own unique relationship with the seasons – early spring flowers are going over, a new set of plants are flourishing, the woodlands are green with the leaves of garlic and bluebells, while the fields and hills brighten with new grass.

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Wake up calls for spring

In Pagan traditions, we tend to associate the winter with letting go of the old, and the spring with the coming of the new – it’s a tree based way of viewing things. Leaves fall off in the autumn, so we let go. New buds emerge in the spring, sap rises, catkins flower – we can make new plans.

However, there’s a longstanding tradition of spring cleaning, and it’s not just humans who do it. The return of the light shows up grime and cobwebs accumulated over the winter. With spring, it may at last be warm enough to open windows and air rooms. Other mammals will be clearing out the winter bedding to make fresh nests for new litters of young as well. New nests are built and old ones carefully refurbished.

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