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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Embracing the Spring

There is no set date, no temperature, nor is there a light level at which nature in the Northern hemisphere agrees on spring having arrived. It doesn’t help that freak storms and late frosts are always an option. Do you start early and hope to get ahead or hang on a bit longer in the hopes your precious eggs and shoots aren’t frosted to death?

Tree by tree, bird by bird, each individual makes their own choice about when to push forward into this new cycle of living. The choice to live is the risk of death and failure. At this time of year, there is nothing else. Living is a risky business, but wait too long and the opportunity passes, it is summer already and you have nothing to hatch.

We might try and harmonise our lives with the solar wheel, but for humans it’s not this simple. The time to egg lay may not be now. The time for green shoots could be later. The decision about when to hatch and when to wait is always pertinent. It’s not just us, though. Not all creatures are bound in their life cycles to the turning of the year.

It takes an otter more than a year to raise her cubs. There’s a lot to know about how to survive as an otter. Feeding patterns change through the year, requiring an array of skills and knowledge. An otter cub needs to study a full turn of the wheel, and they can’t do that properly until they’ve had a bit of growing time. In really complicated settings, up to two years may be required. As a consequence, otters breed when it makes sense to them, with no reference to the cycle of the seasons. A pregnant otter can put the pregnancy on hold, as well, and wait to start it when the situation agrees with her.

Some seeds have to be planted in the spring. If you want certain crops, you have to know what you are planting and what it requires. If you were aiming for delicate salad leaves, now is not the time for seeds. If you wanted a fruit harvest, your trees should have gone in during the winter and you’d have to wait a few years anyway. For those hoping for otters, it’s a whole other business again. The trick lies in figuring out what sort of creature you are to begin with.


(There’s no particular relevance in the choice of art this time, it’s a book cover for one of mine. These are, I could argue, little eggs that only hatch randomly and unexpectedly whenever a person decides to take one of them home.)

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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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