Living the Wheel: Seasonal Musings of the Pagan Year

Thoughts and musings of the wheel of the Pagan Year.

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Gifts from Decay


     Imbolc has recently passed, a festival of warm candlelight and plans and intentions; it is the festival at which we sow our goals for the year to watch as they sprout and grow, and lead us to the change we wish to see.


            I got my seed catalogues in the mail some weeks ago, and have been sorting through my box of last year's seed packets trying to remember what grew, what had a good yield, what we didn't much care for, and what spent the growing season as a bare raised bed of dirt. Part of our annual Imbolc ritual is a seed blessing, asking the Goddess' grace for a successful harvest. We also each select a seed to focus on hope or goal for the year on. We hold it in our hands, visualizing our goal as a glow of light surrounding the seed and being absorbed by the seed. We then plant the seeds in a pot to be kept indoors until it can safely go outside. (We live in western Massachusetts--it's 23 degrees as I write this. No planting for us at Imbolc. I have in the past tried to start my seeds at Imbolc, but it's too early, even inside.)


            I realized that with all of the promise of growth and change that Imbolc brings, I consistently overlook a valuable piece of life's cycle: decay. Growth is not possible without decay. Take a walk through the woods--what do you see on the ground beneath your feet? A layer of loam, rich with nutrients, created by the leaves that have died and dropped. The forest is literally carpeted with decay that promises new growth. Think about your garden: everyone knows plants grow better with fertilizer. When the ground is finally thawed enough for us to turn over the soil in our garden plot, my husband and I will enrich the sandy soil with compost made from our decaying kitchen scraps: vegetable parings, egg shells, tea bags and coffee grounds. They have spent fall and winter covered in a five gallon pickle bucket on our back steps. (One of the advantages to living above a restaurant: giant buckets for the taking. All of my back step container gardens are housed in the same buckets.)


            When we think of decay it often has negative connotations. Decay is associated with death, with illness and decline. But decay can often create newness as well. Within nature, new life always springs from decay.


            If we associate decay with loss, though not necessarily death, we can see that new life in the form of new opportunity, can come from decay as well. In December I wrote of the loss of my job, and the various ill-happenings that followed it. We have still had more bad luck come our way: my husband's grandfather passed away; his grandmother is in intensive care, and my father has recently been diagnosed with leukemia. Out of the recognizably minor loss of my job has come the inner focus to build the strength to face all of these very real concerns head-on. In light of all of this, my loss in November seems so trivial, and I am almost ashamed by how much I allowed it to affect me. As well, new opportunity has arisen from this loss, at a facility owned by the same company I worked for, but much closer to home.


            There is so much life that comes from decay, much more than we realize. Not all of the time, and perhaps not always as we want it, but we cannot overlook the value to be found in something so quiet and touched with shadow as decay. Indeed, it is within that very darkness that decay gains its power, and from that darkness light and hope are born.


Image: 'Decay' by Tracy Calder




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I am a writer and poet living in western Massachusetts. I have a degree in English Lit, with a focus on the nineteenth century, and am working toward a degree in Women's Studies as well. My work has previously appeared in The Pagan Activist, The Pagan Review, GrannyMoon's Morning Feast, and The Montague Reporter. I am currently working on a series of children's books, a novel trilogy, and a poetry manuscript (I simply can't do one thing at a time!). I also have several random fantasy-based short story projects that I attack once in a while.   I am a Dianic Pagan and practice Kitchen Wicca, and am also a Reiki Master. For a glimpse into my own little corner of reality, you can stop in and visit me at Ellie.


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