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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Wake up calls for spring

In Pagan traditions, we tend to associate the winter with letting go of the old, and the spring with the coming of the new – it’s a tree based way of viewing things. Leaves fall off in the autumn, so we let go. New buds emerge in the spring, sap rises, catkins flower – we can make new plans.

However, there’s a longstanding tradition of spring cleaning, and it’s not just humans who do it. The return of the light shows up grime and cobwebs accumulated over the winter. With spring, it may at last be warm enough to open windows and air rooms. Other mammals will be clearing out the winter bedding to make fresh nests for new litters of young as well. New nests are built and old ones carefully refurbished.

Warmer, lighter, brighter days give us more options. There’s a big practical aspect around getting things dry. Modern technology does the drying for many of us, but if (as I do) you hand wash, and depend on wind and sun for the drying of fabrics, then patterns emerge. You don’t wash anything you don’t have to, over the winter. Now the drying conditions are better, everything that can be washed and hung out to air, will be. Living closer to the seasons tends to reduce energy use and makes us more sustainable.

The person whose laundry involves the weather has a more involved relationship with the wheel of the year. Anything that makes you go outside and engage has the same effect – walking, gardening, working with animals, foraging for food or wood and so forth. To our ancestors, the wheel of the year was a lived reality shaping daily life. Not a thing to celebrate in a desperate bid to stay connected to nature when largely insulated from it. If you want to feel a deep connection with the seasons, doing your laundry the old fashioned way, week after week, will give you something more real, intense and educational than any amount of seasonal celebration. A dry wind, a bit of sun – these things become important. Walking has the same effect.

I can’t say I’m a great fan of domestic cleaning, seasonal or otherwise, but it has to be done, and doing it creates the feeling of a fresh start. However, the letting go of a big sort out need not be seasonal at all. Most of us own too much. Most of us would benefit from some scaling down, and letting go. It’s always a good time of year to simplify life, remove things of no use or value, and let go of what’s being kept for the sake of keeping it.


Too often, we want all the comforts and ease promised by modern lifestyles, while also wanting to be people of the earth with a deep spiritual connection to nature. We can’t have it both ways. Everything we let a machine do for us changes our relationship with the planet. Every living thing seeks to protect itself from the harsher aspects of climate and season, but if we go too far in that, we lose our involvement. That urge for ease is destructive of the planet we claim to honour and hold sacred. Spring is a good time for waking up to things.

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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.


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