Season and Spirit: Magickal Adventures Around the Wheel of the Year

The Wheel of the Year is the engine that drives NeoPagan practice. Explore thw magick of the season beyond the Eight Great Sabbats.

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Leni Hester

Leni Hester

Leni Hester is a Witch and writer from Denver, Colorado. Her work appears in the Immanion anthologies "Pop Culture Grimoire," "Women's Voices in Magick" and "Manifesting Prosperity". She is a frequent contributor to Witches and Pagans and Sagewoman Magazines.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Driving past the reservoir the other day, I saw something on the surface of the water I have not seen in a while: sunshine. When the lake's frozen, as it has been since December's deep freeze, it's a somber picture of dull grey snow and slush, dotted with unhappy geese clustered along the shore. But it was a sunny day, and had followed a few other sunny days, and the ice had melted away in a large spot in the center. It was this unexpected ring of bright water that caught the light, and suddenly the turn toward Spring was revealed.

It was the light that caught my eye, because it's been so dark. Now that the lights and decorations of the Solstice have been taken down, nights are very dark indeed. The days are still short and freezing cold. And my body is not done hibernating. It's Winter, and we're still in repose, along with land. I look out in my snow-covered yard, and although I want to start plotting how I'm going to set up my garden this year, plotting is all I can do. Everything is still in the Underworld, the seeds, sleeping animals, my own thoughts, my energy. And even as much as that gleam of pale sunlight on dark water cheered me up, it still feels right to feel the dark of Winter all around, to linger in the dark even as we notice the returning light.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Years ago I read about the so-called Nameless Day, an intercalary day that marks between the last, darkest day of the dying Year and the first, brighter day of the newly born one. It's a movable feast. I usually mark it on the last night of the lunation after Winter Solstice, before the New Moon in Capricorn. This year, it fell on New Year's Eve, with the New Moon on New year's Day itself. It's not always that such delicious synchronicity brings such auspicious days together, the cultural and the magical aligned so beautifully. Such a purity of intention is rare. As an occasion of bidding farewell to a year that had taken such a toll on me, I was delighted to spend the cold sunny light of the Nameless Day in contemplation, reflection and release.

Everything about that day lent itself to letting go and wrapping things up. A brisk wind all morning felt bracing and clear, the clouds of the afternoon felt renewed, reassuring and gentle. I found I had come to the very last page of my to-do notebook, and had to literally decide which events and tasks to move into the new year, and which to just discard. Just that simple act compelled me to declare my priorities. I learned that two of my teachers were closing down or changing their classes. I decided that I wanted to pull my energy back from certain things, and put it towards other projects. It was a quiet, subdued day, followed by a sleepy evening. Just before bed, I cast circle and read cards for the year.

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A Light in the Dark: Celebrating the Solstice

Because the night is dark and full of terrors.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Going Deep

Last week we had the first true cold snap. We've had cold and snow so far this season, despite the warm weather that lingered long into November. But this was the first time we'd had a good hard freeze and as it does every year, this day caught me off-guard. It's really not that cold, compared to how cold it can get, how cold it will get soon. But this was first time, after months of warm weather, that the bite of Winter asserted itself. The wind was full of flying ice, and a lovely snow, dense but not very deep, seemed rather threatening.

The energy of Samhain and the darkening weeks that follow tells a simple message: shore up for Winter. The Sun's transit through Scorpio teaches us the paradox of “addition through subtraction.” Scorpio drives us to cut away whatever is non-essential, what no longer serves, what drains and does not replenish us. The call is to cut away the superfluous, the distracting, all the things that keep us from getting quiet and zoning into voices that do not echo the noise of our larger culture. These voices speak to us from our deepest selves, they carry the wisdom of our ancestors and Guides, they blossom with our imagination and visions. It takes incredible focus to hear these things above the din of the larger culture, especially now as we head into the end of the year holidays.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

The day before Samhain I went to the creek to pour libations. In the week since my last visit, a cold snap and windy weather had shaken many of the leaves from the trees, and had finally driven many plants and shrubs into dormancy. It was a wonderful warm sunny day, but I could see the descent very clearly. The sky between the branches was getting larger, as the vibrant green of the woods and fields faded into copper and brass, and then into taupe and gray.

The magick of October is undeniable. Nature's showiest, most voluptuous month is a 31

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This year September 1st was very hot, approaching 100 degrees, bright and sunny. I love how hot 9/1 is, because I know that 9/30 will be radically different. No matter how hot and sultry September begins, it will end looking and feeling different. The month may start in triple digits but could see a hard frost before it ends. The transition into Autumn doesn't happen in an instant, and certainly this September I had several hot days that felt like late Summer. But as we get closer to, and then pass, the Equinox, the days mellow and ripen as the Summer fades away.

The light becomes more golden, thicker somehow. We are startled to notice how early it gets dark. The trees begin to turn. There's a chill that wasn't present in the early morning, and in the late evening. There are several cultural cues to emphasize this feeling of transition, of change, of excitement as new adventures begin. The new school year, no matter how long it;s been since I was in a classroom, always brings with it a desire to make changes, to shift focus. I want to do more ritual, to deepen and formalize my practice. Everything starts to slow down but all our senses are sharper. The Wheel is turning, and moving us closer to the Descent into the Dark of the Year. We're not quite there yet, but we are moving steadily in that direction. And everything—the trees, the animals and birds and insects, the water, the sky—everything reflects back that turning.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Summer is the time of lived experience, rather than reflection. In the Summer's heat, we tend our gardens, we travel, we play, we party. The long days of light and the beautiful evenings encourage us to go out, to extend ourselves, to flirt, to drum and dance around campfires. We blaze like the Sun, with the ecstasy of living and experiencing this beautiful World. Our senses reel – the air is perfumed with flowers and filled with the songs of birds and insects. The Sun can be brutal on our skin, and the shock of cold water when we dive in can sting with delight. We revel in the taste of juicy peaches and sweet corn. In the Summer we come into a sharp awareness of the sensual World: our living planet as we experience it through our senses. It feels almost redundant to analyze any of this. What Summer teaches us is to live fully in the moment, to be present here and now. This is where we find joy, where our bodies and spirits are made whole in the healing caress of pleasure and play.

An unexpected death in my family at the beginning of the season added the trauma of grief and loss to a time of growth and excitement, but ironically it served to underline the in-your-face immediacy of Summer. Along with all the sensory pleasures was the sharp bite of grieving and sorrow. The demands of the garden and its labors balanced the sudden tasks and burdens that come with a loved one passing. And all of it brought home the fact that all we truly have is this moment, and this moment is fleeting. It will never come back, and once gone is gone forever.

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