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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Emerging from Hibernation

Early spring means that many of the creatures who hibernated, are now emerging. I’ve seen a few butterflies and one bat. Here in the UK, the hedgehogs will be waking up as well. Many amphibians hibernate, and wake with the warmer weather.  In other places, the great hibernators are bears. I wish we had bears here, but as with many larger mammals, the intensity of human activity in the UK pushed bears out a long time ago.

Late in the autumn, when the weather is cold and the nights long, I feel an urge to hibernate. I want to pull in, wrap myself in blankets, sleep more. I go to bed earlier and I go out less. I feel keenly the imposition of clock time and school time that requires me to get up in the dark.

We’ve now reached the point in the year when I can get up after it’s light, and that feels a good deal better. It is also the point in the year when I feel inclined to emerge, sleep less, and go out more. Having not hibernated, I emerge from my not-hibernation state. It is something I celebrate.

Humans in cold climates have to work during the winter. We’ve always had to deal with issues of food and warmth. I can’t help but think it would be easier to do all of that when not having to live by the clock. I wonder what it’s like for people leaving even further north, where nights are longer, and where winter is one long night. How does the human body clock respond to an Arctic winter? I don’t think mine would cope.

We do best, no doubt, when we are allowed to form relationships with the seasons and our environments that make some kind of sense. The imposition of industrial time and work practices divorces us from our locations. Most of us live according to the demands of work and school, with no scope for seasonal shifts. I think we’ve lost more than we’ve gained by doing this.

One of the things I celebrate in the spring is that for a while, the patterns imposed by life, and the patterns I feel in my body in response to light and temperature, are pretty much in harmony.


(The image with this blog is by Tom Brown, from the book ‘I heard a Bird’)

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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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