Readers, please enjoy this guest blog post by Jane Meredith, author of Rituals of Celebration.
Many of the most powerful times I’ve had in ritual have been during celebrations for one of the eight festivals of the Wheel of the Year. Moments of powerful community; of ecstatic spiritual revelation; of deep self-knowledge and of pure embodied joy as I saw, felt, touched, and lived the divine as it shone through myself, my son, my friends, or even complete strangers. Yet there’s an awkwardness about sharing these things, or about deliberately journeying into the depths of these festivals. They often remain as simple gatherings while the work of personal transformation, political action, and developing our relationship with divine happens on other stages, separate from this cycle.
The Wheel of the Year on the surface looks simple. It’s often depicted with playful and child-like images of coloured eggs, Maypoles, and harvest altars. Ritual outlines proposed in books or articles are often correspondingly simple, with chants; craft activities; and associated colours, plants, and animals. But we all know the Wheel is much more than this. It encodes our deepest understandings of the natural cycles, of the balance of light and dark and serves as a continual link to this sacred earth of which we’re a part.
Particularly at times of crisis, grief, depression, and despair, I think the Wheel of the Year offers not just solace, in the endless turning of the seasons and the continual return to spring and light, but also in its depiction of what happens in those darkest times. Samhain is not just a time for dressing up, conducting journeys through to the spirit realms, and honouring our beloved dead. It’s also the time of the deepest mystery intrinsic to the Wheel. Between Samhain and the Winter Solstice something happens—something unobservable—that allows the Wheel to spin around into rebirth and new growth, where all had been death, decay, and release.
This also happens in our lives. It is common to go through times of profound loss, despair, and utter doubt, which may last many years. There are three major times I can think of where this has happened to me. At the time it can seem that there is no way out and that things will never change. Yet, inevitably, they do change. And although we experience them as so individual, so particular to ourselves, in fact everyone has these experiences. The Wheel of the Year shows us—every year—that this inward time of release followed by nothingness and prior to a new beginning is an essential part of the living cycle; a cycle that as Pagans we celebrate and honour. This level of understanding, of how the Wheel relates to contemporary life and how deeply it holds us and teaches us, is what I feel calling to me when I stand in sacred circle, ready to engage in ritual with one of the eight festivals.
Our thanks to Jane for her guest post! For more from Jane Meredith, read her article “Traveling Deeper with the Wheel of the Year.”