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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Pagan Dharma 2: BioRegionalism and Pagan Consciousness

For many of us who were not raised in Pagan traditions, but who came into our Pagan identity later, there is often a catalyzing moment that births us onto our path. Perhaps it's a ritual we attended, or something we read, or maybe it grows out of environmental activism. For me it began in an ice storm.

I moved to North Carolina, to that central part known as the Piedmont, to attend graduate school. I rented an old Sears prefab house (“It was a shotgun shack and you know it, “ my mother's ghost chides me), tucked into the pine woods bordering dairy pastures. The house itself was so far below code the landlord couldn't advertise it. One side of the foundation was shored up with flooring tiles and a mallet; half the electric outlets did not work; there was not a right angle to be found in any corner. Wolf spiders the size of puppies would creep out of the shadows at night and even get in the bed. The well would freeze in the Winter and pump out weak ice tea colored water that reeked of iron in Summer. And I loved it.

I loved this place because it was mine, and because there, I was suddenly, finally living where humans were far outnumbered by the animals and trees. I could hear owl wings flapping by the windows at night. I heard coyotes yipping in the wee hours. The morning air was always sharp with pine, and for the first time, I saw how intense moonlight was, and how dark a moonless night could be, because there were no streetlights to diluting both light and dark. I had my garden, I took long walks, I watched the planets wink into view at twilight, with ease.

For as long as I could remember, since early childhood, I knew things, I saw things, that I had no words for. Witchcraft, the occult, fairies and Goddesses, fascinated me. I read the books I could find on Paganism. But something was still missing—I could not translate any of these impulses into a magickal or devotional practice, I had only the vaguest notion of a path, and I damn sure could not trace or follow this elusive thing the books called 'energy' in any way. I had done all kinds of reading and study and contemplation, I knew Paganism was where my values and my self-expression meshed—but I could not really call myself Pagan, yet.

There was a dog in my neighborhood, whose owner would frequently turn her out to fend for herself for a few days. She was a young shepherd who just appeared on my porch one hot afternoon. She would hang out til she heard her people's car approaching and she would take off in the direction of home. I called her Puppy.

Central North Carolina is more likely to get freezing rain than snow in late Winter, and one February, it poured ice out of the sky for 2 days. It began as rain, but soon froze and did not let up until a half-inch coat of rock hard, diamond-bright ice had candied every surface—the cars, the grass, the trees, the road. On the second morning, Puppy showed up, and after she warmed up by the wood stove, I sat with her, snuggled in an old blanket, on the porch, while I watched gobs of frizzle pelt down, hitting the grass with a hiss, making the pine boughs creak and snap from the weight. There was no hope of going anywhere, it was too cold, too hazardous. I felt grateful for the groceries I had bought, and hoped the power would stay on. I noticed a hole in the screen, a corner of the ancient porch screen has pulled away from the wood. And I remembered that last summer, the morning glories had sent a snaky tendril through that hole, into the porch, that I had sat in the summer twilight, drinking ice tea out of a Ball jar, and watching to see how long that morning glory would get, if it would blossom. I remembered how that tiny vine retreated and disappeared when cooler weather came. Right then, there was no sign of it at all. And I knew, in 12 weeks or so, it would be back.

This moment—the brittle air, the avalanche of slush, the warm puppy snuggling against my hip and sighing, the reek of pine sap from the broken trees—expanded, became prismatic and breathless. I stopped thinking about it—I saw the Wheel in its turning, and all the things I 'knew' landed into a deeper place of knowing, a place beyond words, beyond doubt. The seasons, the cycles of sun and moon and stars, the ebb and flow of life, arrayed themselves out, and I felt myself dissolve into that awareness. I stayed outside long enough for my nose to get numb, and when I got up to go inside, much of the spell was broken. But it had settled into me, and it has never left.

I count this as my Pagan awakening, and it didn’t happen on Sabbat or in ritual, but grew out of life, the life I actually had with its all pleasures and imperfections, out of the demands of the natural world, out of the bonds I had created. Since then, I've lived in South Florida and in Colorado, and in both places developing communication with the land is the first step in grounding my practice. Connection to the land, to the vital spirits present, the genus loci, is part of the foundation of Pagan consciousness, dharma and practice. It supported me through the darkest moments of my life.

In those days, I was in a violent, abusive relationship, from which I couldn't yet break free. These were the days leading up to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and there a sort of pressure behind the eyes all the time, as the saber-rattling in Congress got louder and the push towards war became more irresistible. As the Spring turned into Summer, the violence in my home reached its own peak, and just maintaining my day to day responsibilities—going to work, tending the garden, etc—was more than I could do. I was flipping burgers in a greasy spoon near my old campus, turning and burning with a gang of disrespectful, often malicious frat bros all night, while my days were spent trying to strike the right balance of presence and absence that my partner demanded in order to forestall an other violent outburst. This was my life. I was twenty-five.

I felt peace in my garden, peace walking the dark roads late after my shift was over, peace in the sparkling clarity of the stars wheeling around my head. But my magick, whatever that was, was insufficient to create a better outcome. There was nothing my Tarot cards could reveal, nothing my astrology could illuminate, that I didn’t already know. These measures could not push me out or keep me safe.

The only time I was truly alone was in my car driving to and from work. The road home ran due west, and on the way home I watched the moon setting right in front of me, slipping behind indigo hills, as I drove home, sore and burnt from the evening's service, dreading to return to the hostility of my home. It was late, the moon was full, it was setting and so low in the sky that I felt as if I were driving into it. Ivory colored, enormous, I could so clearly see the features of a face, Her face, benevolent and kind. The mimosas were blooming, the moonlight was caught in the pink tufts of their petals, and sparkled in the pine tops. The night was full of insect sounds and the rhthm of my wheels, offering me open vistas in which to see my life clearly, and shadowy wooded places in which to hide. My life had never been more fragmented, more untenable, more precarious and threatened, but breathing in the scent of early roses, I was ecstatic, I transcended my circumstances to see divinity, truly perceive in every way, the Beloved Divine, in everything around me. It was bliss and I was content. And that moment broke when I realized how close I was to home, and I said the first prater I had uttered since first grade. “Help me. Please help me.”


I didn’t know what to ask for, I didn’t how to imagine what could liberate me from my circumstances, so I said what I could, over and over. And I didn’t know to whom to address this plea, this was not ritual after all, this was me alone in the car. I offered this prayer to the crowds of lob-lolly pine and poplars, the buzz and whine of insects in the tall grass. I offered this plea to the golden moon who was dropping behind the frayed edges of the horizon. It was choked with need. Before the moon was new, tiny openings appeared in the wall of suck—a day's relief, an old friend reaching out, a new job. Most notably, I found my first teacher, and my first Pagan community, all of whom were deeply rooted in the land we lived on. I've never forgotten, that in my hardest moments, when there seems to be no place to turn, I can return to the natural world, to the sacred landscape I live in, and by connecting there, I can connect with all the guidance and assistance I need, and am led back into my life, back into engagement, renewed.

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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.


  • Megan Gypsy Minx
    Megan Gypsy Minx Tuesday, 06 September 2016

    I really appreciate this article because I'm getting ready to fly out to North Carolina to visit my Dad and I'm thinking about moving from CA. I'm going through a tough time because I feel like CA hasn't been good to me the past couple years, I feel a void in my heart for not having my Dad in my life enough and I feel like I don't belong here anymore. It's hard because I'm being pulled in many different directions, my moms side of the family isn't happy but I need to get away from toxic family members, and toxic memories, because I feel stuck in a mental rut here. Moving would be the hardest thing I've ever done in my life considering literally everything I know is in CA but I'm hoping I find the strength I need inside me to make this transformation.

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