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.

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Dead of Winter: January 31, Hecate's Feast

Many years ago, from some long forgotten source, I read that the goddess Hecate's sacred festival was celebrated on January 31. Although I have never been able to find the source or corroborate this information (Stewart and Janet Farrar's classic “The Witches' Goddess” mentions August 13 for her annual festival as well as the night of the Full moon), I have celebrated this feast every year, in preparation for Imbolc and as an entry into the coldest (but not darkest) part of the Winter.

My experience of Hecate is as a seasonal Goddess. I sense her presence in October, as the frost bitten garden finally dies back, as the light deepens into honey and amber, in the first tantalizing days of Hallowstide, the first days of the thinning Veil. She is present in the Descent, and in the Underworld, and in the solemn, silent movements of our beloved dead. She is present in the rapidly darkening year, and she helps to midwife in the promise of the sacred Child, reborn as the Sun at the Winter Solstice.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Leisa Reynolds
    Leisa Reynolds says #
    My mother passed 21 years ago this Jan 31 and every year since her passing I have gotten up and taken a deep breath and thought to
  • Leni Hester
    Leni Hester says #
    Thanks for sharing this, Leisa! My mom and gramma have died in the past 2 years, and the loss is so present with me, at this time
  • Deborah Blake
    Deborah Blake says #
    I love this :-)
  • Leni Hester
    Leni Hester says #
    Thanks, Deborah! signed, squeeing fangirl of your work!
At home in the Dark: Winter and New Year magick

The moon has not come up yet, and my neighborhood is dark and cold. It strikes me how very dark it is tonight, compared with just a few weeks ago. The holiday lights are gone. The hills behind my house are dark as pitch, but less than a month ago I could have easily made out street after street in sharp detail, because the stringed lights were so bright and covered so many houses and trees. Tonight is very dark, but clear so the stars are very bright. It is biting cold out, with a sharp breeze out of the North. Nothing is stirring out there. The trees are bare and hard as wire, there is no hint of a bud anywhere. It is Winter, deep and austere.

Once the glitter of the holiday season all gets put away, and we settle into Winter's deep freeze and stillness, we might feeled challenged or distracted. For many of us, Winter means increased expense, work and worry. Snow is beautiful indeed, til the fifteenth time you've had to shovel inches of it off your driveway, and then join a white-knuckled, treacherous commute. It's wearying, carrying extra layers, taking cautious steps. Everything seems to take longer. We feel less vital, cooped up, perhaps depressed by the cold weather and dark skies. While there can be so much beauty and revelry in Winter, it is for many people the hardest, least joyful time of the year.

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The Magic of Christmas

In the weeks leading up to December 24, my 8-year-old kept asking the same question. She asked it in as many different ways as she could, trying to tease out the information she was convinced I was withholding. She asked it after her choir's holiday concert, she asked it when she and her sister came shopping with me for gifts. She asked it as we made cookies, as we planned menus, even as we drove up to Boulder for a children's Solstice celebration. However she put it, the question remained the same:

“Mom, is Santa Claus real?”

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First of the Season

Last weekend, the first pumpkins showed up at the farmer's market.

The first pumpkins, scarecrows and Halloween decorations appeared in the neighborhood.

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Mabon and the Search for Balance

As the Summer winds down towards the Autumnal Equinox, we are in between two seasons. In this time of transition, we stand at a crossroads, one foot in the Waxing Year, one in the Waning. Hot sunny days give way to cooler nights. The rains are more frequent and last all night, and out in the garden I am bringing in a harvest as well as getting ready to 'winterize.' Most trees are still vibrant and green, but here and there you can see a tinge of rusty red or a shock of yellow leaves. The light thickens like honey, and even as we are enjoy the last days of Summer's warmth and light, we already sense the slow steady pull downward, towards the Descent and the darkening days of the Waning Year. Right now we stand suspended between these two seasons, and for a brief moment we feel balance.

Balance is the law that governs all of nature, but it rarely shows itself as a static, tranquil point. The balance I'm talking about is a dance, a commotion of interconnected and interdependent parts that make up the living systems of our planet. The plants, animals, land and weather all interact and act upon each other, effecting the very shape of the landscape. Any change or disruption to one part of the web will be felt throughout it. Those changes can be for good or ill, but they are unpredictable and may take a long time to reveal themselves. At Mabon, we stand in a place of balance where many possibilities are open to us. We strive to come to a still point of balance, amidst change and potential, where we can take a moment and see where we are, in our lives and the Year, and the webs of connection that make up our own lives.

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August!

My apples turned red this week. One day they went from egg-sized and green to apple-sized and rosy-cheeked. This has coincided with the maples starting to look a little bit “rusty” and dried out. It is still hot, with bright blue skies and intense Sun, but the evenings are cooler, the rain is colder and the crickets rule the night. We moved into August, when Summer distills its last, sweetest moments of growth and beauty. It's still Summer, it even feels like Summer, but the season is winding down, and we are deep in the transition towards Autumn. August is when the slow but steady turning of the Wheel is most evident, both visually and emotionally.

In these last hot weeks of the Summer, there's a definite melancholy in the transition. The light becomes more golden, the plants begin to look droopy and tired. We feel nostalgia as go home after vacation, and are surrounded by back to school advertising. We see our gardens start to slow down and stop producing. We feel the need to get ready for the descent into the dark, at the same time that we cling to the light. I spent a few hours today in the Sun and water, and it felt marvelous, but next weekend the pool closes, my kids are already back in school, and the crush of Autumn's events and demands begins to loom, ending this time of relaxation and leisure and play. So there's always a little bit of sadness in saying goodbye to the Summer, even if we are excited about the coming Fall.

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Seeds Sown, Seeds Grown

The sunflowers bloomed this week. Overnight dozens of bright petals opened up to line the road along my drive to work. They are small now, but by the time Autumn arrives some of them will tower 6 feet high or more, and their button-sized faces will be the size of dinner plates. There are more of them every day, dark eyes lashed in bright yellow, nodding on their sticky tough stems. They always bloom in July, opening up when the Sun is still fierce but lower in the sky, and the monsoon rains have come. The apples on my trees are swelling and the tall grass along the back fence has turned from green to bright gold. The Wheel is turning.

Summer goes on, luxuriously. It's still hot, the days are still long. But there is a subtle shift, as we approach August, and the harvest of first fruits, known as Lughnasa or Lammas. We see it in the plants and trees, heavy with fruit and leaves, in the creeks choked with cattails and reeds. We see it in the gardens of our neighbors, and it's on display in every farmer's market. The Earth is abundant and full, and all of its abundance spills out, in the life going riotously around us, in the light and pleasures of the season.

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