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.

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Born to Be Wild: Lupercalia, the Rising Spring and the Sacred Wild

Come away, O human child!
                                                                                                                          To the waters and the wild…
                                                                                                                          For the world’s more full of weeping 
                                                                                                                          than you can understand.
                    As part of my devotion to the God Pan, I usually make special offerings to Him in mid February, when the Lupercalia would have been celebrated in ancient Rome. On this holy day of misrule, youths dressed in goatskins would run through the city, carrying leather straps they would use to whip married women, thereby increasing their fertility. While I don’t get that ‘authentic’ in my own devotional practice, I was thinking about the wild revel as the beer, honey cakes and barley were laid out on his plinth.  Shivering in the cold, with snow threatening in the white air, it was sometimes possible to sniff out the pulse of the coming Spring.
                    This year that whiff of the changing season took a while to make itself known.
                    This year, as the Winter lingered, I felt the wildness in me shrivel up.  Nature-deprived—no camping or hiking for over a year, limited time outside of inhabited places—I was limping around half-starved without realizing it.  Spring’s slow arrival—only now are the trees getting knobbly with buds, only now are the first bulbs pushing forward, and the willows fanning out their catkins—has reminded me how much my wildness has eroded. Cooped up for the Winter, the flame of the wild in my soul was flickering low.
                    Worse, I was watching a wholesale war on the wild parts of the planet unfolding in front of me.  The state of the world’s oceans, with elevated salinization levels and the infiltration of plastic into every level of the marine environment; the collapse of insect populations; the extinction of species after species; the eradication of wild places and indigenous people by newly emerging right-wing governments (such as Bolsonaro in Brazil)—all of these are individual calamities that compound the effects of climate change, and chip away bit by bit at the fragile state of our planet’s health.
                    The loss of habitat and species, the despoiling of shared resources such as water, air,and food ,and the ideology that excuses that kind of degradation as ‘progress’ are threats to our collective survival. They have the additional distinction of being as harmful to the human soul as to our physical health. We may feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of calamities, and feel unable to effect any positive change, but there is good news as well.  There are spots where the coral reef is recovering. There are species thought to be extinct that are suddenly re-appearing for the first time in decades. There are new species we never dreamed of finding, being discovered in some of the harshest environments on earth. All of these point to a struggle to bring the planet and its living systems back into balance.
                    And for us, the longing for the wild doesn’t really go away, no matter how much we may bury or repress that longing, no matter how much we may try to sublimate our urges, or talk ourselves out of what we want. There is a violence we do to ourselves when we deny our wild nature, when we refuse to indulge the joyful, messy, scary pleasures of our essential selves. 
                    As the Spring advances, and the whole world comes to life, tap into that soft, wild, inarticulate piece of your soul. In the rising light of Spring, allow that soft animal self to run into the meadow and sniff out the blessings of this season, holy and wild.


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Leni Hester is a Witch and writer from Denver, Colorado. Her work appears in the Immanion anthologies "Pop Culture Grimoire," "Women's Voices in Magick" and "Manifesting Prosperity". She is a frequent contributor to Witches and Pagans and Sagewoman Magazines.


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