Alternative Wheel: Other seasonal cycle stories

When this column started, it was all about 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. It's still very much an alternative wheel, but there's a developing emphasis on what we can celebrate as the seasons turn. Faced with environmental crisis, and an uncertain future, celebration is a powerful soul restoring antidote that will help us all keep going, stay hopeful and dream up better ways of being.

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Celebrating Sloth

In truth, it wasn’t sloth that has me posting this late in the month. It was over-work, and tiredness and being too hot, and forgetting. But here we are, and what I crave more than anything else right now, is rest. Resting is what mammals do, given the chance. In humans, we celebrate activity and achievement, but the way we work is profoundly unnatural and terrible for mental health.

Here in the UK, it has been very hot for some weeks now. We’re not good at heat or snow, or high winds or any other kind of serious weather. We’re good at being damp, grey and temperate! Still we try to carry on with business as usual, busily doing all the things even as the heat melts our brains and saps our bodies. Too much heat can make you ill. It can kill you. Other mammals, faced with uncomfortable high temperatures, get into the shade and flop out.

We encourage ourselves to be ants, or bees, but it’s worth noting that they don’t live very long and have totally different bodies to us. We are not designed to live like worker ants or busy bees. But we treat sloth as a sin, and busyness as a virtue. I like sloths. I don’t think they’re a personification of laziness, they’re just naturally slow moving and gentle creatures who hang upside down a lot and whose faces look more than a little like pain au chocolate.

Laziness doesn’t consume. It doesn’t use up resources, it has a very small carbon footprint. Resting doesn’t cost anything much. It does our mental health a lot of good and allows our bodies to heal and recover. It also doesn’t make money for anyone, and when humans live in hierarchical structures, making money for someone becomes the aim. Most of us don’t really benefit from the wealth we generate. Those with money do not sweat and toil, it must be noted, and if working hard was genuinely good for you, you can bet the richest people in the world would want the biggest share of the labour.

Don’t be ashamed to rest. Celebrate your sloth. Take naps. Put your feet up. Grab whole days off and do very little with them. Rest, dream, do only the jobs that you really have to do, and the things that give you most ease and pleasure. Do not be shamed into working harder. Remember what kind of mammal you are and stop asking your mammal body to work like a short-lived insect.


(The image with this blog is mine, and is a sloth drawing a comic, because I work for Sloth Comics.)

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Nimue Brown is the author of Druidry and Meditation, Druidry and the Ancestors. Pagan Dreaming, When a Pagan Prays and Spirituality without Structure. She also writes the graphic novel series Hopeless Maine, and other speculative fiction. OBOD trained, but a tad feral, she is particularly interested in Bardic Druidry and green living.


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