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 the first frosts

Here in the UK, the first frosts can turn up any time in the autumn, but represent a significant shift towards the winter. In terms of being something to celebrate, I admit to mixed feelings. The coming of the frost is an important part of the wheel of the year, but it means moving into cold and hardship.

 Frost is of course beautiful. It sparkles on grasses, leaves and spiderwebs, creating delicate beauty and catching the first light of the day. Today, with the first frost in my little corner of the world, the fields were iced at first light, giving them a sheen of mystery and otherworldliness.

However, as someone who isn’t as firm on their feet as they want to be, the slipping, sliding, falling hazard of frost, and the ice that may follow it, fills me with dread. If I slip, I am likely to fall (weak ankles) and falls mean injury, and panic, and things I could really do without. There are a lot of people who share these problems, and for whom the pretty surface is treacherous. It’s not easy to enjoy celebrating something that can do you real harm.

Winter can be beautiful. It can be wild, intense. It is always worthy of our respect. Frost comes after a clear night, usually heralding a bright, crisp morning full of amazing light. But, a clear night is a cold night, and for people obliged to chose between heating and eating, for people who are ill, or homeless, or otherwise vulnerable, those very cold nights just pile on the misery. Sometimes, they kill.

If you are in a position to enjoy and celebrate first frosts, please remember that others around you may not be. Winter is a time for warmth and hospitality, and if you enjoy abundance, see what you can do to share a little of that bounty with others. If you enjoy celebrating this time of year, please avoid criticising or shaming those who don’t – people in poverty or suffering physical ailments aren’t always visible at a glance, nor are people whose mental health suffers in the shorter days. I’ve lived through years when the winters were simply a nightmare, no one should have to have that made worse by feeling like a Pagan-fail for not being able to get out there and joyfully dance with the spirits of the season.



Photo c. Tom  Brown shows Nimue Brown and James Colvin at Nympsfield barrow one Christmas morning.

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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.


  • Sue
    Sue Tuesday, 08 November 2016

    What a refreshing change to see another viewpoint! I sympathise very much with your thoughts on the first frost. I have an elderly mother and an outdoors lifestyle 'enjoyed' by all the family, and the first frosts are always a mixed blessing, mind you the 'first mud' is worse for us (clay ground, deep mud, not fun in freezing-but-not-enough-to-freeze-it-all-the-way-down conditions) Between worrying about Mum making it up and down the yard, our horses who don't 'enjoy' the mud or the frosts much either, winter can be a real trial. I hope you can stay safe and warm this season and over the following months. Loving your blog!

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