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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Leni Hester

Leni Hester

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.
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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The Heart of Darkness

On the night of the Winter Solstice, the sun set at 4:37 pm.

                It had risen at 7:24 that morning, making for just over nine hours of daylight.

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Venus in Shadow: Venus Retrograde and Samhain

October is a time of transition. As we approach Samhain, the Veil becomes thin, and communication between the sunlit world of the living and the shadow world of the spirits becomes easier. This is the hinge of the year, a time when the movement of the Wheel accelerates. The Year at Samhain shifts radically, from the time of growth and light to the time of the Descent, into darkness and decline.

                This year the time of descent and introspection has been made harder by one of the most challenging astrological transits, Venus retrograde. As with any retrograde, Venus retrograde throws into shadow all things in its purview: partnerships, relationships, love and all matters of the heart. Because Venus rules all emotional matters, the usual challenges of a retrograde transit are made even more personal. We are compelled to revisit and re-evaluate some of the most painful and powerful moments of our past: betrayals, break ups, the loss of loved ones, all out regrets and missteps.  The shadow-time of Venus shines a harsh light on our past misconduct and brings forward out unresolved pain and insecurities.  We are not able to hide from those things we attempt to conceal even from ourselves, those repressed and degraded parts of our selves and our memories that we cannot bear to look at.

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The Turning Point

Autumn started in my neighborhood last Tuesday night in the wee hours.  The clock read 3:23 am when I rolled over to look at it, awakened suddenly by the loud plash of rain hitting my balcony, moments before the downpour started rattling the roof and windows. This was not a Summer rain, chilly but scented with pollen and flowers and smoke. This rain was the child of the snow that was falling on Longs Peak many miles away.  It lasted late into the day, soaking the lawn and swelling my apples, and sneaking into the corners of the house. The following day, sunny and warm, revealed yellow leaves on the cottonwoods.

                The days following have been very hot and dry, this whole week temps are reaching into the low 90s and there are still a few wild fires burning in the high country, driven by high, hot winds and fueled by bone-dry vegetation. It is hard to feel the approaching Autumn, even if the trees are starting to turn.

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Sacrifice means to Make Sacred

To get what you never had, you have to do what you have never done.

                The Harvest sabbats—Lammas, Mabon and Samhain—bring us deep understanding of balance and reciprocity. These are the moments of greatest abundance coming in, therefore they are the moments when we are called upon most, to be grateful, to give back, and to sacrifice.

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Balance and the Leap Into Spring

Balance is something so many of us strive for-- we talk about ‘work-life balance’ or a balanced diet or balancing the budget. We try to find that place where all things come to rest, where all the ends meet and there is nothing lacking, nothing superfluous. A place of moderation, of poise, where struggle ends and we simply land on our toes, and are suspended, as if in thin air. Many of us strive for this place of balance and call that perfection.

                But that moment is brief and elusive, because that balance is an illusion.  The moment passes and things are no longer in balance, things no longer hang perfectly between one extreme and the other. IT evaporates so fast as we tip, towards one side or the other, back towards one extreme or the other. At the Spring Equinox, night and day are of equal length. For one brief moment, it is said that one can stand an egg on one end and it will stay there perfectly balanced…for a moment.  We stand with one foot in the Winter that’s ending, and one foot in the Spring that’s blossoming in front of our eyes. And whatever late season storm may come, every moment in Spring beings us farther away from balance, farther away from that moment of repose before big changes come.

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The Hearth and The Well: Finding Our Way in the Dead of Winter

This is the story I like to tell at Imbolc:

            Months into the winter of her grief, Demeter, distraught and exhausted, rested by a well. When the king’s daughters discovered her, disguised as an old woman, they brought her back to the palace to feed her. She soon became nurse to their infant brother.  The king’s family grew to care for the old woman, who was often mournful for her lost daughter. To cheer her up, young Iambe offers her a glass of kykeon (an alcoholic and psychoactive brew), and when Demeter refuses, Iambe lifts her skirt up in an “irreverent manner” which surprises Demeter into laughter.

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