"There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to move through the year, as long as it feeds you." -- Dianne Sylvan
The main homework 'assignment' for week four of the Spiritual Nomads e-course was to examine your annual holidays & celebrations by starting with a blank slate (or blank circle, rather) & filling it in from scratch. I loved this exercise. Loved it.
I had been meaning to reexamine the "Wheel of the Year" anyway, especially after my whole existential meltdown around Samhain. More importantly, as a gypsy snowbird with an eye towards bioregionalism, I find that the "traditional" wheel does not always work very well, particularly in the climes I inhabit. I worked on it with my husband, our effort comprised of part instinct, part reflection. This is the culmination of our work so far:
|One Animist's Wheel of the Year.|
The simplest way to discuss this will be to move from the centre outwards, moving clockwise around each circle, when appropriate.
I. The Core: The centre of the wheel shows our bioregions & the approximate portions of the year during which we reside in each. I never noticed this before, but this pictorial exercise reveals that our year is split very nearly by the Solstices; the waning half of the year in a boreal forests/coastal region of Alaska (I think it should be noted that this area is also urban), the waxing half of the year in a high desert region of Utah (this area is very isolated & rural). These two disparate sets of conditions shape our lives & are the building blocks for the most of the events on the outer wheels.
II. The Moon: (Esbats) The full moons are perhaps the most important for me, or maybe they are simply the most personal. My relationship with Lady Moon goes way back -- back to my childhood. So recognizing the ebb & flow of Her cycles remains a basic observance. However, do I have difficulty with the Esbats that fall after Midsummer in Alaska when the Sun remains in the sky most of the night. Recently, I have been considering using the window between the Summer Solstice & the Autumnal Equinox as a time to focus on Solar observances.
III. Seasonal Events: These are the major, astronomical events that create the quarters. I stopped to consider if they were really actually important to me, to us as a family, or if maybe I was just clinging to the old wheel, but frankly, as an Earthling, they just make sense. We have been observing all of them as a family in one way or another, all along & for the most part, they played a part in my "days of yore" as well. For the Winter Solstice & Vernal Equinox we have well-developed family traditions. The Summer Solstice & Autumnal Equinox we prefer to share with our community in Alaska. (Especially the Summer Solstice which is an ever-developing, ever-growing weekend-long festival.)
*Season Names, (between the Esbat wheel & the Seasonal wheel) will be discussed in section V. Bioregional Influences/Events.
**The symbols for the Solstices & Equinoxes come from A Save The Universe Club (ASTUC), creators of this: A Bioregional Calendar (ABC). The purpose of the "ABC" is to provide "humanity with the ability to organize while encouraging autonomous cultural expression." Although I find the nomenclature of the calendar confusing, I am very attracted to its premise.
IV. Calendar Events: There are a handful of observances which are tied to the Gregorian calendar that we felt were important: birthdays, Thanksgiving & Lughnassadh. (Only our immediate family's birthdays are on this version. We did not include all the important birthdays because space was limited.) Lughnassadh is not exactly a carry-over from the "days of yore" because it has evolved & holds additional meanings for us. It is certainly remains a time to reflect on our harvest, but over the years of sharing this holiday together, it has come to represent the winding-down of Hubby's epic work season. It is a time when we celebrate the onset of a new part of the cycle, a time when he can slow down & we can spend time together as a family again. Lughnassadh is about creating a beautiful meal together & actually sharing it, or going to a park with a great ale & just enjoying the togetherness.
V. Bioregional Influences/Events: The outer wheel. This is the rich & complex part where the natural world co-mingles with life & we find ourselves in a dance with the seasons. I begin at the Migration South which is followed by a brief rebalancing & the onset of our Season of Creativity & Production. During this window, little work is done outside the home except for volunteering, so there is much time for creativity, home improvement & preparedness. As time moves toward the Vernal Equinox, familiar signs of Spring emerge; my mother's hens resume laying, the cattle begin birthing, sleeping desert creatures begin to stir, etc. Passing the Equinox, signs of the waking Earth continue. Hubby must leave & the time for Planting & Preparing begins. During this time, the children & I tend to plants & prepare ourselves & our home for our departure.
After the Migration North, we have another period of rebalancing, coupled with the Summer Solstice which, in Alaska, is most decidedly a significant bioregional event. (All hail the Midnight Sun & then some!) The First Bolete is our symbol for the commencement of the Foraging Season. During this phase, we take our cues from the land & it's creatures most keenly. Fungi reign supreme in our hearts & minds while wild berries & salmon follow, a close second. Shortly after the Autumnal Equinox (typically) the arrival of the Termination Dust signals the beginning of a rapid shift into cold, darkness. This is a period of waiting, a time to Pause & Rest before gathering ourselves up & returning to our southern climes.
Final Considerations: I have been thinking about other celebrations & festivals that might be meaningful additions, but when I consider that Esbats alone make up thirteen events every year, it seems as though our year might already be adequately filled with revelry. However, I am attracted to the Chinese tradition of having a festival during the largest full moon of the year, I have a personal attachment to World Refugee Day (there is an explanation, but I don't want to elaborate here), I intend to look more carefully at the formal observances for specific deities & I have some interest in tracking astronomical events more closely. In the end, I believe there is room for adaptations & possibly further additions, but I will wait & take my cues from my Family, Community, Spirits & the Land.