The turning of the year is especially self announcing around the solstices as the shape of the day changes. The passing of a calendar year also makes us more alert to the progress of time, and the existence of so many winter festivals adds to all of that.
Festivals are often the focus for awareness of the wheel of the year. It’s often when we pause to celebrate a key point that the journey through the year becomes most apparent to us. I’ve seen this a lot in ritual spaces, where checking in with community and spiritual practice for festivals also brings people into relationship with the seasons. Back when I was regularly leading rituals, it was evident that for a lot of people, these key check in points formed the majority of their relationship with the seasons.
The wheel turns every day. We’re in a constant state of movement and as we pass through any season, the next one is also being made. A lamb born at Imbolc will be growing in the womb at this time of year.
Taken as a day by day process, the changes are hard to see – it’s the moments of drama that make it most apparent where we are in a season. First frosts. First flowers. And while the solar process of the year is entirely predictable, how any given season plays out is far less so. I’ve seen heavy snow in April when it should have been spring and I’ve been outside in just a t-shirt some years in December. Sometimes our festivals align well with what’s happening in the natural world, but not always.
When I started out on this path I spent quite a few years celebrating the seasons through the eight festivals. That was in no small part because at that time I had a community to celebrate with. I spent some years exploring alternatives to the regular wheel of the year story. There are many things in nature that do not fit neatly into the kinds of stories Pagans like to tell about the wheel of the year. I found spending time on that helped me deal with the ways in which I’m not reliably able to fit myself into those regular wheel of the year stories either.
In recent years I’ve become more interested in approaching the seasons on a more day to day basis, focused on what’s going on around my home. This is in part because I’ve not been able to walk so far, which has focused my attention on what’s closest to me. Exploring the day to day changes makes more sense when you’re looking at the same area of land most days.
Our relationships with the wheel of the year are, to a significant degree, shaped by our relationships with the landscape. How often we go out, where we go, how far we go and how often we go to any specific place will shape how we experience the year.
**By Nimue Brown