Alternative Wheel: Other seasonal cycle stories

When this column started, it was all about 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. It's still very much an alternative wheel, but there's a developing emphasis on what we can celebrate as the seasons turn. Faced with environmental crisis, and an uncertain future, celebration is a powerful soul restoring antidote that will help us all keep going, stay hopeful and dream up better ways of being.

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Celebrating the sun

In other years I’ve been sunburned at Beltain. I’ve been overwhelmed by the heat and had to hide in the shade of the trees. I’ve had to worry about not de-hydrating during rituals. It’s a festival whose traditions include young couples going off into the woods at night.

I’m writing this blog post while wearing a winter jumper, the windows are shut because it’s too cold to have them open. Right now, there is sun outside, but most of the day has been cold and wet. May the first was cold and wet, at the end of a cold, late spring and a winter that seemed to go on forever. It’s years like this when you can start to see why our ancestors might have felt the need to do dramatic things to persuade the sun to come back.

Except that this year, the idea that we have angered the seasons, the sun, the land – these thoughts are very rational indeed. Why is it so cold? Climate change. Climate chaos. We have an excess of rain while other people experience drought. I gather that warming at the North Pole caused the weather shift that brought the UK snow and a freezing spring this year. We have made this, with human greed and human hubris and human carelessness. I wonder how much more chaotic things will get before enough people start taking it seriously enough to act. I worry that it will be too little action, too late.

Now, more than ever, it seems vital to me to celebrate the everyday things. The moments in the day when the sun breaks through. The return of leaves to trees. The robins nesting near my home. Everything that is still alive, still hanging on, not extinct yet, not entirely ruined. Because if we succumb to despair, we won’t try, and there is much that can be done, and much that survives despite human activity.

I cannot celebrate fertility at Beltain; we have too much fertility in the human populous, and too little restraint. Nature does not offer us infinite bounty, we have taken more than our share already. We make demands on the fertility of the land and other creatures that cannot be sustained.

As I come to the end of this blog, another cloud passes over, dark, and chill. It does not feel like spring, much less early summer. The wind has picked up. High winds have become normal in recent years. I can only wait for the return of the sun.

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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 feral, she is particularly interested in Bardic Druidry and green living.


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