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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Seasonal sexy time

I know we traditionally associate Beltane with sexuality, but autumn is a lively time of year for many life forms. There are nuts dropping all over the place, the deer will be rutting soon, and the fungi are waving their genitals.

No, really.

Autumn is the season when fungi put their fruiting bodies up into the air, in order to shed spores and distribute themselves a bit further. Most of the life of a mushroom or toadstool actually happens below the surface, where their interactions with tree roots are key to the life of woodland, and they play a complex, vital role in the life of the soil. Mushrooms are (I like to think) very much like the protruding willies of giant, underground entities.

While this is in many ways the dying off part of the year, it is worth remembering how tightly connected sex and death are as facets of life. Without death, there would be no biological imperative for sex. Without sex, we would not create that which needs to be destroyed. It is the dynamic between the two that give us viable, shifting changing and sustainable life. Take away death, and nothing can really change much. Take away death and you take away the power that shapes evolution. Take away sex and you take away the scope to make new, to create new life and new forms.

It may not be a coincidence that in French, the term for orgasm is ‘little death’. For many, it is the desire to overcome mortality just a little bit that fuels the urge to reproduce.

We may celebrate our ancestors at this time of year, but without the necessary shagging, we would not have descended from them. Sex connects us to the dead, and while most people prefer not to contemplate the exact reproductive habits of the immediate predecessors, it is important not to lose sight of where we came from.

It’s also important in all of this to remember that there is more to the story than heterosexual, reproductive sex. As a species, we’ve evolved to do it for fun, for pair bonding and emotional reasons. For some, the urge towards sex can be very much an urge towards destruction, or self destruction. It’s not a universally benevolent force. You can kill people with it, by various means. But then, that’s life for you, and about the only thing you can rely on it to do, is ambush you with death at some unspecified point.

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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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