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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Butterflies on Radar

The Autumn started early here, with a sudden snap of cold, rainy, foggy weather hovering right on top of us for a few weeks.  It was an abrupt shift away from the warm, sunny weather we usually get. After the weather warmed back up, flocks of painted lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui) began their fall migrations. These small brown spotted butterflies migrate through the West just as the Summer fades into the Fall. Because of elevated temperatures, the breeding season was extended, resulting in huge swarms of butterflies, thousands and thousands more than usual, flitting through the remnants of the gardens, tiny clouds of them hosting in the crowns of trees.

                Clouds of painted ladies so dense, they could be seen on weather radar.

                All of this unexpected beauty came by as the trees exploded in color. It also served to remind me that I have not seen Monarch butterfly, a common sight during my childhood, in years. It reminded me that change and balance, the movement from one state to the next, is constantly happening, in ways both subtle and explosive.  Five painted ladies in the marigolds looks lovely; thirty looks like an invasion. The sudden drop into cold fog and clammy winds felt brutal, in three months, that same day will feel balmy and springlike.

                Driving through the canyons this morning, the rising sun illuminated the cottonwoods, set them ablaze, brilliant gold against the dim blue-black granite of the mountain in shadow.

                The image of Virgo, of the Earth Mother holding her sheaf of grain, holds the key to Virgo’s power arising at the end of Summer. Virgo, rooted strongly in Earth but ruled by agile, inquisitive Mercury, compels us to separate the wheat from the chaff, the nourishing kernel from the hay and the straw.  The harvest rolls in, and Virgo assesses what we have accomplished, what needs still to be done. When the fall season kicks off with the Autumnal Equinox, and the Sun’s transit into the cardinal sign of Libra, we were loaded down in abundance and beauty, the painted ladies reminding us of the beauty of the waning year.


                Today most of the painted ladies have gone, only a few stragglers flutter out as I rake leaves. The New Moon brings us a step closer to Samhain, a step closer to final, most solemn harvest of all.  The Sun’s move into Scorpio, the sign of intensity and depth, is accompanied by Jupiter’s move there as well, shining its bright, expansive light on the shadow realms of our psyche. All that we fear or mourn, all that we are able to share of ourselves and all we keep hidden—it is part of the flight of butterflies, the beauty of season when loss, release, and letting go create the palette.

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Tagged in: autumn equinox
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.


  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Wednesday, 25 October 2017

    I've been seeing a lot of Painted Ladies here in southern Nevada.

  • Leni Hester
    Leni Hester Sunday, 19 November 2017

    I love them!

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