Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The Sacred Round

As a child, I was fascinated by the idea of saints days and festivals. I loved the notion that each day was sacred to a particular saint - be it those I had heard of like St John the Baptist or St Patrick, or someone a little more obscure and exotic, like St Willibald or St Gilbert of Sempringham. I also loved the folk customs attached to different times of year, such as cheese-rolling, well-dressing, maypole dancing and hobby 'osses. It made each day special in its own right, even if to most people it was just another Tuesday.

Later, when I recognised I was Pagan, a whole new calendar revealed itself to me. Rather than the year being broadly carved up into New Year-Easter-Birthday-Summer Holidays-Christmas (with the odd quirky diversion like Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday) or Hallowe'en thrown in), I now had a 'Wheel of the Year' with eight festivals to celebrate, spread evenly through the year. The option of adding in ancient (and modern) Goddess and God festivals, plus the lunar cycle of new, full and dark moons added yet another rich strand to the tapestry of 'special days'.
My favourite element to the Pagan calendar is that it is specifically linked in to the natural cycle of the Earth - at least here in the British Isles! From Yule, at the darkest point of midwinter when we celebrate the rebirth of the sun, round through the first inklings of spring at Imbolc, the tipping into the light half of the year at Eostre, the full on burst of green fecundity at Beltane, the longest, midsummer day at Litha, the start of the grain harvest at Lughnasadh, the completion of harvest and tipping into the dark half of the year at Mabon, the entry into winter and the apparent hibernation of life at Samhain, back to Yule again. I love the way the Wheel of the Year connects me to the Earth and Her cycles.
Latterly, I have been pondering a personal calendar, tied in to the changing seasons around me. Just as the Native Americans named their moons to denote these changes - Leaf Moon, Ice Moon, Blossom Moon etc - I want to mark a connectedness between events in my own little bioregion and my calendar.
I have already written on here about my love for making elderflower cordial in early summer. So that is one of my personal calendar events. There is also the harvesting of the blackcurrants, which seems to fall around my birthday and never fails to remind me of childhood summers in my grandparent's orchard. Then there are the sweetpea flowers which bloom at about the same time and remind me of the little bunch that Grandpa always brought me for my birthday. The opening of the first snowdrops - mid to late February here, Halfway Up A Hill - and the annual return of the swallows in April. And in the greyness of late winter the magical flocks of starlings. Buffy sitting on her clutch of eggs in spring. Making sloe gin in autumn. The village show in late summer. Witchcamp.
None of these events have the same date each year, each depending on the weather and other variables. But each has a season, seasons which melt into each other and transform as the Wheel turns, swinging around and away and then back again with reassuring familiarity. They mark my time and place in this world.
What's marked on your personal calendar?


Livia Indica said...

I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiments regarding the wheel of the year and the cycles of the moon; it just makes so much more sense than many of the arbitrarily placed holidays.

Personally, I always look forward to the return of the hummingbirds in the late spring/early summer. I also try to keep track of meteor showers like the Perseids going on now. I note the frogs singing in the spring and the cicadas singing in summer. The first lightning bug sighting of the year is also a joyful event.

Lovely post as always.

laoi gaul~williams said...

i love this post so much~it just encompasses everything for me. i always feel a great excitement as the wheel turns to autumn and winter~the time when i seem to flourish

Loraine said...

Beautifully written. I grew up in a dry desert with two seasons, hot & dry and humid. Now I live in a place with four seasons, and I love it. I especially love seeing the flowers and grasses poking through the snow at Imbolc.