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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Rituals for unbalance

We’ve not long passed the equinox, that twice yearly point in the wheel where normal Paganism stops to talk about balance, and usually alongside this, peace. World Peace Day falls close to the autumn equinox and Earth day, and Earth Hour are around the spring one. Peace and balance are, without a doubt, good things to work for.

Some days my life has little of either. On the whole, I have a quiet, easy, privileged sort of life, free from many of the things that torment many of the world’s inhabitants. Even so, I find celebrating balance really difficult. Not least because I do not see much of the balance of nature as a comfortable harmony – all too often, balance is created by things in tension, pulling in opposite directions. Conflicting needs counterbalancing each other can create harmony very easily when you look at the whole effect. The experience of any part of the whole, is not of the harmony, but of the conflict.

It is in the nature of energy to seek balance, distributing itself evenly. It is my understanding that in the end this means all the energy in the universe will be evenly distributed, and when that happens, nothing else will happen. The movement of energy is all about imbalance, while perfect balance will be the death of all things. So much of what we do on a much smaller scale also depends on imbalance to make it work. Walking is the fine art of not quite falling over. Without unbalance, there is no driver for change, no need for something new to come in. Only the dead lie still.

The Pagan Wheel of the Year celebrates the cycles, the predictable turning of the seasons on which agriculture depends. We celebrate the shifts of the moon, which governs the tides, and the tides of female fertility. We celebrate the things that we can predict and that give order and a sense of coherence. Sometimes, this makes it really hard to know when, or how to talk about the chaos. When do we talk about the things that do not harmonise? The broken, the wonky, the profoundly wrong? These are also part of nature, part of the experience of being alive. When do we stop to celebrate the gifts of being slightly off-balance?

For me, that would make sense as something to do in the mad, light soaked days of midsummer, or the deep darkness of winter, when the light levels impact on my mind, and I am equally likely to be a bit mad. It makes sense, if you want a tidy wheel, to consider imbalance at the solstices.


In truth, all life is an interplay between order and chaos, balance and the unbalanced, the predictable and the unpredictable. The wheel of the year can be guilty of focusing on all the tidy, reliable bits at the expense of all the messy stuff. We need both, and so we should honour both.

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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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