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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Signs of Spring

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

It’s December, and here in the UK that means grey skies, dampness, cold conditions, bare branches... it would seem like madness to be talking about signs of spring.

Except that I can see them.

One of the major problems with how we think about the wheel of the year in Paganism, is that it encourages us to think about seasons as events, not processes. The shape of the season to come is always forming around us. Nature is in constant process.

Right now, the hazel trees have tight, green catkins on them, all ready for next year. This is normal. As soon as the leaves are off the trees, if you get up close to them, you’ll see the buds forming for next year’s leaves. In the dark depths of winter, there are signs of spring.

New life is not the exclusive property of spring, and it’s good to remember this. Every season brings hope and possibility. I’ve seen a number of shrubs with blossom on lately – not natives, but still, part of my landscape.

Bats get pregnant before they hibernate, and then just put that on hold until the conditions are right for them in the spring. We can’t see those future bats, or any sign of them, but there they are already, waiting to happen.

If you don’t look closely at the winter, it’s easy to accept the standard narrative of everything dying away, sleeping, dreaming, returning to the Earth.... Look closer. Look more widely. There’s a lot more going on.

The photo I’ve used with this blog comes from The Woodland Trust, and shows tight hazel catkins, typical of what’s out there. The photo was taken by Shaun Nixon and is used with permission. If you want to learn about tree identification – and the greater challenge of identifying trees in winter, The Woodland Trust has some excellent resources...

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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.


  • Meredith Everwhite
    Meredith Everwhite Tuesday, 11 December 2018

    Very well put, Nimue...thank you for so beautifully sharing a technically obvious but very frequently overlooked and unconsidered truth. It's a great consolation at this time, especially at the end of a very heavy, challenging and painfully transformative year. Our lives are constant processes just like Nature, and remembering this can hopefully make it easier for us to get through times that it can feel like will never end.

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