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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Shades of Winter: the Magick of Imbolc

I was driving to an Imbolc circle this weekend, through frozen drizzle. Imbolc, the Celtic fire festival, falls halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. As such, the day was perfect for celebrating it. It was very cold, and there was a stiff, icy wind out of the northeast, as the leading edge of a huge snow storm was just blowing in. The force of Winter, its power, was on full display in the roiling ocean of clouds above my head, socking us in a dense, icy fog. The mountains are obscured, the horizon is lost, and color has faded from everything. The landscape is white, the bare trees are jet black, the clouds above every shade of gray—granite, ink, mist, oyster, pewter, pearl. This is deep Winter, Winter at its starkest.

And yet—there would be a break in the wind, and the air felt soft. There was a break in the clouds and a tiny shred of pale blue sky peaked out, Springlike and bright. The gap would close, and the wind would start up again, and that brief glimpse into the coming Spring would disappear.

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Birch Moon Meditation : for the January Full Moon

This is the guided meditation I always do on the first full moon of the year:

Close your eyes, sink into your body, breathe.

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New Moon in Capricorn: Treasure in the Dark Earth

The Sun's transit through fiery, jovial Sagittarius occurs as we are preparing to celebrate the Winter Solstice. Ruled by Jupiter, the Great Benefic, Sagittarius embodies the Jovian qualities of generosity and festivity that are so present during the holidays. We spend too much, eat too much, go out and party too much. It is a time of festivity and merry-making, and all of us are encouraged to join in, sometimes even pressured or ridiculed for not getting into the spirit.

At the Winter Solstice, the Sun moves into Capricorn. Ruled by Saturn, Capricorn is the contraction that happens after the rapid expansion of Sagittarius Once the merry-making of the holiday season winds down, after the elation of the Solstice and New Years, Capricorn can feel like a return to grim reality. During Sagittarius we charge things up on the credit card, we overindulge in food and drinks. During Capricorn, the bills come due, we might have to tighten our belts to accommodate the holiday's excess, we start diets to get rid of the weight we gained.

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Moon of Compassion: Full Moon in Cancer on Christmas Day

Christmas has its own unique magick, and this year the light of the Full Moon shines upon Christmas Day. This unusual synchronicity brings forward the many sacred qualities of this season.

The Sun entered the sign of Capricorn on the Winter Solstice. Ruled by Saturn, Capricorn embodies the qualities of discipline, structure, and reason. Protective, cautious, resourceful and prudent, Capricorn represents the Father of the Zodiac. Capricorn sits opposite Cancer, ruled by the Moon, represents the divine feminine's magickal qualities of nurturance, dreams and psychic mastery. The Full Moon in Cancer shines down the Great Mother's divine love, ever-renewing and unconditional, at a moment when much of the world is trying to hold a vision of peace, compassion and generosity that is at the heart of Christmas.

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  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Lovely, thank you.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Mother Night, Child Of Light

I have had more elegant Yules than this, when there were more decorations up: more evergreen swag, a larger altar covered in small candles and mistletoe, a Yule log burning in a hearth. There have been years when I marked the Solstice with Yule feasts, parties, festivals, days and nights full of reveling, gluttony and socializing.

Across town, across my networks of family and friends, tonight, this whole week really, is full of these things. There are vigils around sacred fires, out on the prairie, at the edge of forests. There are hearths alight with sacred flames, and altars set up in warm homes and under chilly starlight. Tables loaded with venison, or pork, roasted root veggies mashed in butter. I think about my beloveds, far and wide, and send them love, as they vigil the night through, or call upon the Old God in his passing, or libate the Divine Mother. So many magickal, magickal things happening.

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New Moon in Sagittarius

Last night, as I was preparing the altar for New Moon circle, there was a fretful energy in the house as my oldest kid retired to her room to study for her finals. It’s her first year in high school, and the sheer amount of material she'll be tested on next week, feels overwhelming to her. She took a break to go to her sister's holiday choir concert, and to hand me her wish list. But until her last paper is turned in next Thursday, the happy holiday season is deferred.

The altar is dressed in royal blue silk, with a deep blue candle and cobalt glass stars to symbolize the night sky, and also to honor Jupiter, ruler of Sagittarius, the generous God. As I listen to my kid groan over my computer, I am reminded that Sagittarius is a sign of learning and teaching, of professorship and the love of knowledge. I know that the joy of the upcoming Winter holiday season has so much to do with that Salutatorian optimism and joviality. I also know that that last push of school work, the ratcheting up of pressure to get all the work in on time, is not limited to my kids.

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Tales Told In November: Grief and the Perpetual Samhain

In her novel Possession, A.S. Byatt writes about the Celtic roots of Breton folklore, in a series of macabre tales that are only told in the few darkening weeks between All Hallow's Eve and Advent. These collected tales, Tales Told in November, are mysterious and disquieting tales, full of violence, monsters, and shadowy, threatening sexuality. The Dark Goddess is invoked as Melusine, the double-tailed mermaid. October is a time of harvest and revelry as the last of the harvest is brought in. It is a time of great bounty and joy. It's not until after the Wheel has shifted and the Descent has begun, that things become truly frightening. Halloween is the beginning, not the end, of the dark seasons of the shadow, the chthonian, and the Dark Gods below the Earth and Sea.

This transition, this Hinge that comes at Samhain and we in the Northern hemisphere begin our Descent, is marked by so many cultural celebrations. These are occasions of great joy as well as reverence and solemnity. Samhain, Dia de Muertos, Samhuinn, Winter Nights, All Hallows—of these have more than a little joy mixed in with the darker aspects of contact beyond the Veil, and engagement with grief and mourning. For years, the Samhain season was my happiest time of the Year, full of rituals, fun and festivity. It was during this time that I often fell in love, or began new friendships or projects that proved to be important and transformational. Samhain brought so much abundance and pleasure that it was easy to forget the whole death part.

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