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.
Times of balance
The spring equinox is only a few weeks away. It is part of the modern festival wheel, not because there’s any real evidence for it being celebrated historically, but because it balances things up nicely. It being the time when days and nights are the same length, we tend to talk a lot about balance around these two festivals. However, every lunar month offers two rounds of balance between light and dark in the shape of the moon, so there are other times we might feel directed to consider balance, too.
Are equinoxes really a time of balance? I do not feel that point of day and night in equilibrium especially. What I do notice a lot at this time of year, is the racing change in day length. Around the equinoxes, we have the greatest pace on the balance between night and day changing. Every day right now is a little longer than the one before it, and I’m intensely conscious not of balance, but of a sudden feeling of hurtling towards summer.
I’m waking earlier as the first light comes a lot sooner, and I’m seeing shades of blue in the sky into the evening. My living patterns shift with the changing light. I have more energy in the light half of the year. My days are longer, and soon I will be able to go back to waking in the evenings – something I love to do but which just doesn’t work in the middle of winter. So on a personal level I’m not feeling balance, I’m feeling change, and that shifting from the hibernating part of the year when I don’t want to go out much, into the better weather and more light, when I have more energy and feel more inclined to be out and about.
What is balance? It can be stasis. It can be peace. Often what balance means, is that all the forces at play are precisely matched. Balance may not be a place of calm at all, but a stillness created by incredible tensions. Consider the balance of a suspension bridge. Physical balance is not a passive thing, often, but requires attention, effort, skill. When that balance fails, or some other thing shifts, the many forces at play can result in a sudden, explosive shift in an unpredictable direction. That which seemed balanced, can become very unsettlingly chaotic at great speed, thanks to the smallest changes. As a consequence, perfect balance is not something I am keen to cultivate. It is too easily snapped and shattered.
Trees have a balance created by the relationship of roots to branches. They are also capable of flexing, and by leaning a bit with the wind, they are able to carry on being mostly upright. Trees on windswept hillsides don’t always bother with being straight, but adopt the shape the wind suggests. Not balanced, but workable. Sometimes it is better to lean. Sometimes the off-balance thing is more viable. Stability can be misleading, and stillness is not always dependable.
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