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.

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Elder and harebell

Lammas, Lugnasadh, the celebration of the grain harvest is a few days behind us. However, not all plant life corresponds with the grain, there are many things out there in the UK at different points in their life cycles right now so I thought I’d talk about those to offer some alternative takes on the wheel of the year for this month.

Lammas rituals often encourage us to focus on personal harvests and bounty, but there’s nothing in nature that says it is natural to be at the harvest stage at specifically this point in the year. If your life is not aligning you to the grain harvest, look around to see what you do connect with.

On the grasslands of the Cotswold edge, there are flowers that appear at this time of the year. Scabious, bird’s foot trefoil, and harebell, particularly. On lower ground, the ragwort is blooming, and playing host/food source to the cinnabar moth caterpillars. They’re none of them in harvest mode right now. I’ve chosen a harebell photo for this post. They look a lot like bluebells, which can cause confusion, but bluebells flower in woodland at Beltain, and harebells flower in grassland at Lugnasadh.

Around me, trees and other fruit-bearing plants are all at different stages. The rowan berries are ripe and falling. The elderberries are just starting to turn – which is early. The blackberries are also ripe early this year. Low to the ground soft fruits – gooseberries, currants, strawberries and the like have long since finished fruiting, and the first of the soft fruits on trees are coming in. I have already eaten my first wild plum of the season.

I’m not personally at any kind of harvest stage – a large project should come to fruition at the end of August, other projects are in various states of progress and one of those won’t complete until November. There’s nothing out of kilter with nature in having a project that won’t end until much later in the year. It will come in alongside the sloes and the parsnips. It’s the traditional time for ‘harvesting’ your livestock, as well.


Whatever is going on in your life, the odds are that other things in the world around you will be at similar stages. If conventional wheel of the year narratives leave you feeling out of touch, look around, there are always other things going on, and you will find resonance and feelings of connection.

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Nimue Brown is the author of Druidry and Meditation, Druidry and the Ancestors. Pagan Dreaming, When a Pagan Prays and Spirituality without Structure. She also writes the graphic novel series Hopeless Maine, and other speculative fiction. OBOD trained, but a tad feral, she is particularly interested in Bardic Druidry and green living.


  • Laura Perry
    Laura Perry Tuesday, 15 August 2017

    I live in the American South, and we've always done our own twist on Lammas. Early August is indeed harvest season here, but not for grain. Instead, we have truckloads of watermelons! And all the other over-abundance of warm weather gardening (green beans, tomatoes, zucchini...). But watermelons somehow symbolize the abundance of harvest best, the sweetness and celebration of the season. It's hard to eat really ripe watermelon without it turning into a "total body experience" and it's just so luscious, it's hard not to feel gratitude with that sweet juice dripping down my chin. In fact, watermelon represents the bounty of the season so strongly around here that for several years, we did Lammas rituals in which we sacrificed the Watermelon King in all seriousness in an incredibly powerful rite. I totally understand not wanting to feel boxed in to a wheel of the year that was created to look tidy and balanced rather than growing out of traditional use. But I also like to look around me at those eight points of the year and just see what's going on, like you do, and sometimes something strikes me as fitting for the focus of some kind of sacred practice that reflects the seasons where I am. (As an aside, I'd love to see harebells blooming one day.

  • Nimue Brown
    Nimue Brown Wednesday, 16 August 2017

    watermelons are a bit of an expensive treat here, I am imagining what an abundance would be like... :-)

  • Laura Perry
    Laura Perry Wednesday, 16 August 2017

    Watermelon is one of the few garden crops that I don't get tired of, even when everyone has too many and is giving them away. Other fruits and veg, well, there are only so many cucumbers I can eat! LOL But somehow watermelon feels like a luxury, even here where it's plentiful. Something about its energy.

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