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.
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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The Winter of Our Discontent

A long December, and there’s reason to believe

Maybe this year will be better than the last

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New Moon in Scorpio: Monsters and Ghosts

Samhain calls us to honor our Dead, to confront our Shadow, all those things that scare and shame us, to face our choices. We can, then, shore ourselves up to descend into the dark time of the year. Halloween, when the collective total of our cultural boogiemen get put on gory graphic display, is long over, but the fears have not left, because the monsters are still around.

                Halloween is over but the monsters still come out, in daylight or not, to the school or the church or the theatre. The monsters are armed, and hav a long string of victims, often family, often women or children. They come with frightening regularity now, and everyone seems paralyzed by them. There are new names to say, more silent moments for thoughts and prayers, quickly followed by another spate of names.

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