Alternative Wheel: Other seasonal cycle stories

Exploring different ways of thinking about the wheel of the year, reflecting on aspects of the natural world to provide Pagans alternatives to the usual solar stories.

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Nimue Brown

Nimue Brown

Nimue Brown is the author of Druidry and Meditation and Druidry and the ancestors. She also writes the graphic novel series Hopeless Maine, and other speculative fiction. OBOD trained, but a tad ferral, she is particularly interested in Bardic Druidry and green living.

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Seasonal sexy time

I know we traditionally associate Beltane with sexuality, but autumn is a lively time of year for many life forms. There are nuts dropping all over the place, the deer will be rutting soon, and the fungi are waving their genitals.

No, really.

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A harvest of hats

I’m late with this post. I normally aim to blog in the first two days of the month, and in truth this time I nearly forgot. The 1st brought me a handfasting, the 2nd a political launch and as I swapped hastily between celebrant and press officer hats, the Druid blogger hat didn’t get a look in. I wear a lot of hats, so this kind of thing happens now and then.

When you have one identity defined by one thing you are doing, it’s much easier to steer the course of your life and pace yourself in line with the year. The more hats you have, the harder it is to keep an overview. I frequently end up running from one kind of job to another, so busy trying to be in the right headspace for the task in hand that I don’t pay as much attention as I might to the bigger picture. So here I am wondering how it got to be September already, and nearly missing a post.

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  • Lynda Ryder
    Lynda Ryder says #
    You've got me thinking now about how many hats I find myself wearing during a typical day/week/month... And you're so right about

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The grain harvest

Lugnasadh, or Lammas, marks the end of the grain harvest, the time for celebration as all the crops are in. Yesterday, I walked in the Cotswolds, and I saw a great many ripe but un-harvested fields. In other years, I’ve seen it all come in well before Lugnasadh, and I’ve also seen the harvest fall much later. In wet summers, the crops can fail, and there is nothing of the grain to celebrate.

For me, this highlights an issue of Pagan disconnection from the Wheel of the Year. We celebrate the grain harvest at Lammas (the name means ‘loaf mass’) but most of us will not have been involved with the harvest, or even have an inkling as to when it happened in our locality. Not all areas are grain growing either. Does it even make sense to celebrate this festival if you live in an upland area that grows sheep, not corn?

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  • Caity
    Caity says #
    I live in a very warm climate, so there's literal harvesting going on here throughout the year, and I don't think grain is harvest
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    Like that, thanks. You articulate an important issue that I like to think about too.

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No longer a lamb

When they first appeared in the fields, the lambs were small and sprightly, curious about everything. They ran and leapt about, little bundles of wild enthusiasm. There comes a point in the year – and we’re about there now – when lambs stop being little bouncy things, and start noticing that they are in fact, sheep. They fill out, getting that barrel body. They eat grass rather than relying on milk, run less, get sensible, because this is what sheep do.

Some years ago I met a guy at a badger hide, who was talking about the badger group and how one of the young badgers was totally bonkers. He hadn’t figured out what being a badger was all about, and was still running round like a mad thing. It was speculated that eventually he would get this sorted out, and grow up, and become like a regular badger.

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Crazy season

This time of year is always a bit mad for me. My sleep patterns are light-affected, so as we race towards midsummer, I stay awake later into the evening, and surface earlier. That might not sound too insane, but I have the kind of mind that hallucinates once it gets sufficiently sleep deprived, so if around midsummer I’m exceedingly wakeful for a few days – as if often the case – my whole experience of reality gets rather interesting.

Knowing that I tend to do this, I approach the lightest days of the year with a degree of caution. Madness is really a measure of dysfunction. If you can take what you’ve got and turn it into something productive, you aren’t deranged. You’re probably an artist, an author or the like. Going out to the edges of human experience and bringing back useful and beautiful things is part of what many creative folk do.

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Naked for Beltain

I’ve read it so many times in books and blogs – now is the season for making love out of doors, jumping naked over Bel fires and generally doing your Paganism in a carefree, unclad sort of way. It is warm enough to be barefoot outside, I grant you, but far, far too cold for nudity. A traditional British summer brings more rain than it does cavorting options. The naked dancing Pagans are either far tougher than me, or don’t actually do as much of the cavorting out of doors as they imply.

As a species we obviously didn’t start out wearing clothes, but have got into the habit over thousands of years. It’s allowed us to extend our habitat far beyond the balmy zones our hairless and not that blubbery bodies could otherwise tolerate. So the trouble with viewing nudity as natural, and thus desirable, is that you aren’t budgeting in what we’ve been doing for a long time purely because we can and do wrap up.

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  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Thank you! Lovely and practical. I am one of those people who has gone barefoot enough to have "Hobbit soles" so I usually do mo
  • Christopher Blackwell
    Christopher Blackwell says #
    Much like here in Southern New Mexico. [Grin]
  • Travis Crockett
    Travis Crockett says #
    In Texas, the weather is typically warm enough for this, but the mesquite thorns and rattlesnakes make skyclad ritual a sort of "a
  • Sable Aradia
    Sable Aradia says #
    I like to try to get naked for Beltane if I can. But I live in Canada, so often I can't. I also light my candles with a Bic. I
  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ says #
    If Gerald Gardner had not been a nudist, would nudism be part of contemporary paganism? I don't think we have to feel being nude

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How straight is your wheel?

Our usual solar stories about the turning of the year focus on the birth, maturing and death of a sun god who might fight his rival at midsummer and will probably father himself. Imbolc is all about pregnancy and birth. Beltain is all about impregnating. It’s a very heterosexual narrative, when you get down to it.

Nature is not exclusively about heterosexual reproduction. What we would understand as homosexual behaviour crops up in all creatures. If you’re part of a wolf pack or a bee hive, it’s about the group, not about spreading your own genes directly. Many plants have both male and female sex organs – if you insist on understanding them in those terms! On top of this, plants will also reproduce through suckers, bulbs and other ways of doing it for themselves without any need for pollination. Some creatures change gender. Oysters have all the kit, and effectively change gender every few years. Other life forms – fungi particularly, are asexual, and reproduce without any input from anyone else.

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  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale says #
    That's one of the reasons I'm glad I'm a heathen, specifically an Asatruar, because our ritual structure doesn't have heterosexual
  • Nimue Brown
    Nimue Brown says #
    If we have three kinds of ancestors (blood, land and tradition) then we must also have three kinds of descendants. While that cann
  • Anna Belle LaFae
    Anna Belle LaFae says #
    Thank you for this article! After my child was stillborn and then subsequent infertility the reproductive emphasis of so many pag
  • Finn McGowan
    Finn McGowan says #
    I think the mythic foundations of the pagan paths are bigger than an individual's gender, sexuality or lifestyle. They are extreme
  • Susan Harper
    Susan Harper says #
    Yes! Thank you so much for this blog. As a queer Pagan, I often find the experiences of people like me left out of the traditional

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