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.
The new Atlantis
It’s storm season. Storms have hit the UK this last week or so, and we’ve seen nightmarish weather conditions, high winds and flooding. People have died. Last year the lanes around Slimbridge, where I then lived, flooded such that some of them were impassable. We’ve been seeing a lot more of this, lately, especially in the winter months.
The winters of my childhood were nothing like this. They were usually wet, and you might get a few days of snow, but not flooding. There would be frosts, some dips below freezing, but nothing difficult. Not like the winter three years ago when we dropped down to minus 15c. Ten years ago, high winds were a rare occurrence, but now we seem to get them every winter.
Climates have always changed. When the Romans were in Britain, it was warm enough to grow grapes for wine here. During Henry the Eighth’s reign, we had a mini-ice age, cold enough to freeze the Thames so that fairs could be held upon it. Even in the very cold winter of three years ago, that would have been unthinkable. The ancient Egyptians wrote of a papyrus swamp in what is now a desert. Often there is a direct relationship between human activity and dramatic shifts like these. Deforestation affects climates. The great dust bowl disaster in America was very much shaped by farming. There’s reason to think the Nazca lines were a response to a failing eco-system, probably caused by humans, and that the Mayans with their cities made their own living arrangements untenable and created the end of their civilization.
Atlantis is one of the widespread and popular Pagan myths. One of the thoughts that tends to go with said myth, is that the Atlantians were somehow responsible for the sinking of their island. How or why varies across the many versions of this story, but the tale seldom depicts them as blameless victims of natural disaster. They messed up. Big time. You don’t need to believe in Atlantis as a literal truth to recognise something important in this story. We know that the hubris of our species and our over-enthusiasm for consumption and technology can be dangerous. Our futuristic fiction seldom depicts a cleaner, greener, happier earth. More likely it’s the smog and pollution of Blade Runner, the total meltdown of an apocalypse, the dystopia society of The Time Machine, Logan’s Run, Hunger Games. When we look to the future, we see all too easily how we’re going to cast ourselves as the next Atlanteans.
And yet we do so little about it.
Right now, its flood season in the UK. The storms seem to have abated this morning, I can no longer hear the wind. We could sink a lot of this island beneath the waves. When the polar ice melts, and when global warming causes the seas to expand, many parts of Britain are going to be vulnerable.
Perhaps in some future earth, in a new New Age, people will tell imaginative tales of the lost island of the British, and how we refused to save ourselves from a destruction of our own making.
Art for this blog post by Tom Brown, www.copperage.deviantart.com
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