Tag Archives: cycles

The Season of Faith

No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” ~ Hal Borland

This has been a long winter. Though the snow did not really arrive until mid December, I have found the cold months colder than I have in many years. Snow still covers everything as far as the eye can see, and I am restless from too much time spent inside. A good friend of mine from Arkansas has been teasing me with photographs of spring gardens. Where he lives, the leaves are still falling from some trees while others are just beginning to bud, and what little snow they got this year, lasted only a few weeks. While we are shoveling, he is raking. While we are purchasing seed for our gardens, he is watching bulbs sprout beautiful flowers. It seems unfair.

This is a magical and meaningful time of year in many faith communities. There are calendars, such as the Baha’i and Iranian which begin on the spring equinox each year. Jewish Passover and the Christian holy day Easter, are also celebrated at this time. In Japan they celebrate a national holiday, Vernal Equinox Day. This day and season have been recognized by many cultures for thousands of years, with feasts, stories, local traditions and spiritual celebrations.

The vernal equinox takes place in March of each year, opposite the autumnal equinox which occurs in September. It is the date when day and night are believed to be equal in length, midway between Yule and the summer solstice. In fact, whether day and night are of equal length really depends on where you are. If you are in the far North, the vernal equinox is the beginning of approximately six months of light, but in the far South it is the beginning of an equal time of darkness. For us, here in New Brunswick, this is the time when the days, which have been lengthening since Yule, reach the midway point and begin to grow longer than the night. At this time the sun is directly over the equator. The Earth is not tilting toward or away from the sun.

This year in the Northern hemisphere, the vernal equinox fell on the 20th of March. Ironically, the sun rose on this day to reveal more than a foot of fresh fallen snow, in spite of nearly two weeks of warm temperatures. It appears, for all intents and purposes as though Mother Nature has decided to extend the deep freeze a little longer.

March can be a terrible month for snowstorms at a time when we are all craving spring and fresh air and green blooming things. After two weeks of feeling hot sun on our skin, smelling the thawing earth and hearing melting water, this seems especially harsh.

Pagans celebrate the vernal equinox with the sabbat of Ostara, dedicated to the turning of the wheel and the welcoming of spring. The themes at this time are those of fertility, rebirth, spring and resurrection. There are stories and myths from many cultures that involve the resurrection of prominent figures such as Jesus Christ, the Roman god Mithras and the Egyptian god Osiris. These individuals rise from the dead, at a time when the season is changing and plants and flowers are also rising. Soon the world will awaken, and the snow will melt. Our rivers will rise and spring flowers will begin to poke their heads upward from the frozen ground in search of sunlight.

This year, my family celebrated the equinox with a snow day. There was much shoveling to be done, supper to prepare, and no sign of the sun through heavy grey clouds. We are all gardeners and outdoor lovers. We are spring fanatics in this house, and we could not have felt further from spring. Since our families are a mix of Pagan and Christian backgrounds, we tend to double up on holidays. We celebrate our own days and also celebrate other holidays with family members. This means a lot of chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs.

Eggs are a common part of celebrations at this time, from egg rolling contests to Easter egg hunts. There is an old urban legend which states that at the exact moment of the equinox, an egg can be balanced on its end and will remain upright. This is mostly fiction however, as the right egg can be balanced, ANY day of the year. It has nothing to do with gravitational effects in relation to the equinox.

Some people dye eggs in beautiful colors, or tell tales of the Easter bunny, who in some versions of the tale lays eggs. The nocturnal hare was considered by some cultures to be connected with the moon, as its gestational cycle consists of 28 days, the same as a lunar cycle. In the wild these hares create nests. Sometimes when they abandon the nest Plovers move in and use it to lay eggs. The myth about the Easter bunny laying eggs may actually come from some confusion that arose when eggs were found in what was clearly a rabbit’s nest.

Our Ostara celebration is generally a simple observation. We have supper together and, well, this year, shovel snow. We save the chocolate and candy for Easter Sunday. On the equinox we are more concerned with frost charts, which varieties of beans to plant, and how to head off problems that arose in last year’s gardens. We are talking about things like drumming by the river and swimming in the lake.

It is hard to believe that such change is so close at hand, while the world is still blanketed in white, but this is the season of faith.

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kp

Katie P is writer, reader, drummer and certifiable nature nut. She lives rural New Brunswick, where she spends far too much time frolicking in the bulrushes. She also blogs at Wyldwomyn.ca

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The Wheel

Life is full of changes and transitions.  In fact, it’s said that the only constant in life is change.  We each handle change in our own ways – some of us try not to deal with it at all – but as things never stay the same, we all move on in some manner or another.

ImageOne of the things that has helped me deal with change is the concept of the Wheel of the Year.  A common image in modern paganism, the Wheel of the year represents all fours seasons with each of the eight Celtic solar holidays positions around the wheel.  Think of it as a simple calendar on which you can see, in general terms, where you are along the course of the year, and where you are in relation to everything else.

Unlike a “regular” calendar, the Wheel is, well, a wheel – circular in shape, so that one transitions to the next phase of the year in a continuous loop.  The course is laid out for us, always changing, but showing us the path forward.  It also shows us the constant patterns of life – dark will come after light, light will come after dark – and that we can count on these changes as cycles to be repeated.  So even as change is inevitable, so are is the cycle of the year.  We always know what is coming up next.

These days, I think most of us are familiar with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or S.A.D., a condition that affects people in the dark half of the year due to the lack of light as their area of the globe moves farther away from the Sun.  People with S.A.D. can be depressed, tired all the time, have a hard time concentrating, and generally find the dark half of the year very difficult.  I used to suffer from this quite a bit, and still experience the symptoms from time to time.

Yet when I discovered the image and concept of the Wheel of the Year, I began to look at the dark half of the year in a different way.  I could see it was just a time of the year that we all had to pass through, and that the light was inevitably on its way.  Yule became a holiday of triumph for me: the longest night and shortest day were at hand, and now the light would return.  Slowly, perhaps, but the light would indeed return.

In most of North America, tomorrow is the beginning of Daylight Savings Time (I always think of it as the end, but that’s not actually correct).  We “Spring ahead” and set our clocks forward one hour.  This is the day of the year that I celebrate as the “we survived the Winter darkness!” day.  As promised by the Wheel, the light has officially returned, and we are now full-swing into the light half of the year.

So remember to set those clocks one hour ahead tonight, and enjoy the full hour of extra daylight we now have in the evenings!  Blessed Be.

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ang

Angela has been following her pagan path for over 17 years. When she is not blogging or promoting Treewise, Angela knits, runs her own business, and falls a lot while trying to play roller derby.

 

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A New Beginning

I have never been one for resolutions.

I usually choose a theme word to sum up my coming year. Some years the word has been health, adventure, creativity or independence. The word is generally accompanied by a vague idea of how I will accomplish this intent. Perhaps I will eat more vegetables, take more trips, or decorate my space with more colours and textures. The path is never clear, but I choose my theme each year and put my best foot forward.

Today a brand new year calendar year is beginning.

By some accounts it is the year that was not meant to happen. By others, it is the dawning of a new age for humankind. The only thing that experts seem to agree on is that this year will bring a shift in consciousness. The great minds of our time predict all kinds of things for this next phase in our existence – and all roads lead to massive change and renewal.

We see this theme constantly in earth based spirituality, and it’s only right. A belief system that is based on cycles that revolve around constant renewal should naturally pattern itself similarly. There is a plethora of new beginnings in paganism. We see this in the turning of the wheel, the phases of the moon, the seasons and the path of the sun and moon across the sky.

If our spirituality has taught us anything, it has told us to be patient. We have witnessed periods of change, great and small. We know that these things take time. We celebrate these changes and have learned to treat each ending as a new beginning.

With the recent publicity surrounding the end of the Mayan calendar there has been a lot of hype, mass hysteria even. For months we have been told that something is coming. Predictions ranged from natural disasters to global mass destruction in the form of an apocalypse.

I remember the year 2000 – yet another date associated, at least in some minds, with disaster and monumental change. It was preceded by weeks of media coverage and dire predictions about global catastrophe. The computers will all crash, they told us, there will be chaos and the world will be plunged into darkness.

Now here we stand, on the very edge of 2013.

There was no great explosion. We are all still here, and life has continued. This seems to be the most constant part of our faith. Life does go on, no matter what happens. The sun will rise, whether we are here to appreciate it or not, and it will make its way across the sky.

I propose that this year, our theme is a new beginning.

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kp

Katie P is writer, reader, drummer and certifiable nature nut. She lives rural New Brunswick, where she spends far too much time frolicking in the bulrushes. She also blogs at http://wyldwomyn.ca

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Hope on Solstice Night

Imagine it’s a cold and clear Winter’s night on Canada’s East Coast, and two friends are walking down a dimly lit and snow covered street. A biting wind pushes down the lane and steals their breath, carrying the sound of a mournful howl. Looking up to the heavens, they watch a falling star burn slowly across the sky. One of the friends buries his face in the scarf around his neck while he trudges along, the experience already forgotten. The other stops in his tracks and stares up at the night sky. Years later he remembers the night vividly, including the something it stirred inside him.

Neither of these friends have to follow a specific spiritual path. It isn’t as though these inspirations are only intended for one religion or culture. Sacred or magical events simply happen, and hopefully our spirituality has given us a vocabulary and a set of tools to do something with them. Even a person that wouldn’t call themselves spiritual might be moved by a falling star. In the above story, what really separates these two friends is that one of them was open to the experience.

There has been a lot of media attention concerning the end of the Mayan calendar on the 2012 Winter Solstice. Even if most of the hype is misinformation and propaganda, it may be giving the world an opportunity. If people have it in their mind that things could change, then that improves the chances that things might change. With no cataclysmic event, some will reflect on what it all could have been leading up to…and hopefully it shows them something personal and spiritual.

From tarot cards to Ragnarok, our symbolism reminds us that when a cycle ends it is not the end of everything. It’s letting one thing go, to allow another to begin. Most pagans are familiar with the cycles of days, weeks, and years. These aren’t just measurements of time, but times of awakening and growth followed by decay eventually leading again to awakening. What if everything around the 2012 hype is just one more cycle, thousands of years in the making? What if the spiritual challenges of our recent past are a necessary decline, to allow for the opportunity for something greater to grow? Whatever may come, will we bury our faces in our scarves and trudge on…or do we raise our eyes to the sky made clearer for the cold and dare to hope?

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Mike C Mike C. is a geeky Pagan, living a quieter life with his loving wife in Riverview, NB

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