Celebrating The Wheel of the Year
Articles in this section:
Articles in this section:
To celebrate the Earth's yearly solar cycle is to take part in an ancient tradition of Earth-awareness, handed down from our Celtic past. These Earth festivals help us re-establish and revive our lost sacred connection and partnership with the land. Celtic spirituality has its roots in a holistic perspective and stems from a time when the Earth was revered as a life-giving Goddess who embodied the five elements essential for life: Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and the interconnecting invisible web of Spirit. Honouring the five elements of life lies at the heart of how we celebrate the old Celtic Earth festivals today. Experiencing our deep heartfelt connections to each of the five essential elements of life sets off a chain of understanding that brings us closer to rediscovering ourselves and our love and respect for our unique and special planet and the gift of life. By celebrating these old Earth festivals in a way that has relevance for us today, we subtly re-align ourselves once again with the Earth, the source of life itself.
Holistic spirituality, and the rising tide of unity consciousness, is growing out of our own needs and the needs of the Earth at this time. It is a grassroots movement that is not being imposed on us, but feels like part of our evolutionary journey. We are embracing the holistic view that everything on Earth is part of a vast interconnected network of life, including ourselves. The realisation that we do nothing in isolation is the beginning of our shift from the old separation-consciousness into unity-consciousness. Embracing a holistic world-view changes how we live our lives; changes the way we think; and changes the way we consume the Earth's resources. We become more conscious of our impact on the Earth and this fills me with hope for the future.
Celebrating the Earth festivals is also a grassroots movement that has steadily been evolving and growing. The Earth festivals are our legacy from Celtic and pre-Celtic times but we celebrate them in a different way today than they did in the past. They are evolving to answer our present need to be part of the natural world again and to follow a path of the heart. There is no hierarchy of spiritual authority, and we are free to follow our own path, seek our own relationship with the sacred and develop our own authentic spirituality. We are each responsible for inspiring others to be guided by Love, respect for the Earth, compassion and simple loving-kindness.
The old Earth festivals fall at eight points during the solar year. The four seasonal heights form the quarter festivals - summer and winter at the two Solstices; spring and autumn at the two Equinoxes. The four transitional points in the seasonal cycle, when the energy is about to change, are the cross-quarter festivals of Imbolc, Beltane, Lammas and Samhain, and fall in-between each of the four seasonal heights. Celebrating the Wheel of the Year is not just a matter of changing from one season to the next. Beneath the outer manifestation of seasonal change there is also change within the subtle energies of the Earth that affect us all (consciously or unconsciously). It is an ebb and flow of outer growth and fertility, and of inner growth and regeneration. By aligning ourselves with the flow and direction of this energy, we can move with it as true inhabitants of our planet Earth. We are all influenced by the underlying energy of the Earth's seasonal cycle and in the many subtle ways this affects our own energy, and we can consciously work with this. For example, in the autumn we can let go of things that no longer serve us, like the trees let go of their leaves. In the winter we can withdraw from outer activity to explore our inner journey and strengthen our roots, giving ourselves time, like the Earth, for rest and renewal. In the spring we can plant our new seeds as the new beginnings that we wish to set in motion for the season ahead.
We can use the festivals as an opportunity to take some time out from our busy lives to be on our own, to reflect on our lives and our changing relationship with the Earth. They fall approximately every 6 weeks and this brings structure to our lives. By consciously creating connection to the passage of time, we are able to more fully observe our path within it. Each festival is an opportunity to anchor and observe ourselves in the moment, and to look back at what we have achieved in the six weeks since the last festival. We celebrate our inner journey, our heart journey, our growing emotional and subtle intelligence as well as our outer achievements. We then stand in sacred space and set our intentions for the next six weeks, until the next festival offers us another opportunity for reflection and review. At each festival we honour and celebrate the Earth, the five elements of life and the beauty of the season. By giving thanks and counting our blessings we set in motion a chain reaction of love and appreciation that has far-reaching and subtle effects on our relationship with all of life.
We can celebrate the Earth's cycles on our own, with others, or both! By celebrating the festivals with others, we affirm the basic human need for community and creating ceremony together. By sharing food and drink, singing and drumming together, reflecting and sharing our experiences and feelings, we forge lasting friendships and affirm our common spiritual bond. If you haven't got a local group, begin with yourself and a friend. Tell others about what you do, and see if any other friends are interested in joining you. Those who need to find you will find you.
The Earth festivals are also an opportunity to engage with our need to protect and defend the planet. We are at a critical time in the history of the Earth: a time of increasing climate chaos, mass extinctions, and the disruption of the Earth's equilibrium that has maintained life as we know it for millions of years. Through our growing holistic consciousness we are becoming more aware of our human impact on the planet and our influence on her delicately balanced eco systems. Increasingly, we are taking responsibility for our role as stewards and guardians of the Earth. The Earth festivals are a means by which we can anchor and explore these new understandings that are rising within us. When celebrating the Earth and her cycles, whether alone or with others, we become a community of like minds, a force for change, able to work at the subtle inner levels, as well as affirm our outer actions and willingness to serve the common good and protect the environment from further harm.
As we change ourselves, we become part of the change in the world. We become part of the solution, and our own healing and the healing of the Earth become one.
Glennie Kindred 2017
The Winter Solstice falls in the heart of the winter on the shortest day and the longest night of the year. This special festival is an opportunity in our busy lives to put aside some time to pause, to appreciate the stillness and rest that is the gift of midwinter, to reflect on the old year that is finishing and to look forward with hope for the new year about to begin. It is a time of coming together, of sharing, and appreciation of all we have. It is also a celebration of our connectedness - to our family and friends, and to the Earth and her cycles. Create your own family traditions as you explore the traditions from our ancient past.
* The eve of Winter Solstice is a special time for a dusk walk with the family - especially good if you see the sun go down in the South West (around 3.45pm). Experience the gathering dark, away from street lighting but make sure that as the light fades it is an easy route to return home or to your car.
* Alternatively get the family up before dawn on Solstice morning. Make it exciting and special, with special candles of their own to light at the breakfast table and a bowl of coloured ribbons. Each chooses three to take with them. Go somewhere that faces the South East to watch the Solstice sunrise, or the lightening of the sky if it is cloudy. (Sunrise is around 8am.) Tie your ribbons onto a tree - each one a new intention for the new year: one for the Earth; one for your family; and one for yourself.
* Invite everyone to gather for a Solstice celebration. All bring food to share, drums, instruments and percussion, and a story to tell. This brings an exciting sense of a tribal gathering as you all drum, entertain and eat together.
* Light a fire (inside or out) and pass round a basket of sticks, to represent something you wish to let go of from the old year. Saying this out loud gives it strength as each throws their stick in the fire.
* Lighting candles for the 'Return of the Sun' is an old tradition at this time, as is making resolutions to begin the new cycle. All sit around a single candle in a large bowl of sand, with all lights off. Each lights a candle and pushes it in the sand, and names their new intentions.
Traditionally evergreens are brought into the house at the Solstice. Garden bushes can be pruned, or sensitive guerilla pruning undertaken. Always remember to cut with respect for the plant and the land and to leave berries for the birds.
* The Solstice Bush
Having rejected the idea of bringing a cut tree into the house for decorating, our family has much enjoyment on Solstice morning, going out to gather greenery to make a Solstice bush. You will need a few sturdy branches (either evergreens or bare twigs) to give it form, anchoring them into a pot of wet soil or large jug of water and rocks. This creates a counter balance to the weight of the twigs. Wrapped homemade sweets and small natural decorations can be created and hung from it.
There is an old tradition of making wheels of evergreens, within which you anchor your hopes and dreams for the new cycle. It may take the form of a wreath to hang on the door, or it may be laid horizontally with places for candles. Add sparkly beads to catch the light and hold a wish.
As the season begins to change, and the year's outer growth cycle comes to an end, the autumn reveals many new possibilities. The festival of Samhain, at the end of October, marks the end of the old year's cycle and the beginning of the Celtic New Year. Traditionally it is a time to honour our interconnected world, especially the unseen world of spirit; to welcome a time of rest and renewal; and to remember those who have died.
* Samhain is a time to give thanks for the year that is now finishing. Name all the good things as well as the challenges, and look for the hidden blessings that may be found within them. Nurturing new directions brings hope and purpose to your winter months.
* Gather with friends and family for a Samhain celebration. Ask everyone to bring food and drinks to share, and a special stone. Each holds their stone as they contemplate and reviews the year that has ended. Each speaks from the heart and takes a wide overview as well as a personal perspective. Each names a new hope or new direction that has been revealed and embeds it in the stone, which can be decorated.
* A samhain tradition is to make a representation of the old year, using willow whips, ivy or old man's beard as a base, and weaving in plants and natural things from the old year, such as herbs, sprays of berries, dried grasses, the last flowers. Alternatively invite everyone to make a Samhain head-dress using similar materials, or to pick a seasonal posy, to honour the passing year.
* As the trees shed their leaves and bring their energy into their roots, ask yourself what do you wish to let go of from the old year? Let them go with thanks and appreciation of the lessons learnt. This makes space in your life for new things to begin. Ask yourself what will strengthen the roots of your being, and help you to grow strong on the inside? Write about this in your journal.
The Elder was once known as the country medicine chest because of its many medicinal uses. Our family would not be without Elderberry syrup, a highly effective boost to the immune system, that will clear chesty coughs and sore throats and when taken at the first sign of a cold can prevent it from happening altogether!
Gather bunches of ripe Elder berries and strip them into a large pan with your fingers. Add cinnamon stick, chopped lemon, a few star anise, cloves, some slices of ginger... Be intuitive with these! Stir it up and stand overnight.
The next day on a low heat, bring to the boil, letting the juices flow. When cool strain through muslin or a clean cotton pillowcase, squeezing all the juices out. Then measure the liquid. You need the same amount of clear honey to liquid.
Return to a clean pan. Heat gently and when hot but not boiling, stir in the honey. When it has completely dissolved, pour into sterilised dark bottles. Tighten the lids while hot. Label and date. Once opened it needs to be kept in the fridge.
The dose is a teaspoonful for adults or half a teaspoonful for children, three times a day NB: DO NOT GIVE TO CHILDREN UNDER 3.
Elder trees are easy to grow. Cut some lengths of twig and push into the ground or into a pot of compost. They will take root in the winter months and sprout in the spring. Next winter find somewhere to plant them out, ensuring your future supply of Elder flowers and Elder berries!
Glennie Kindred 2015
For lots more ideas about celebrating the Earth Festivals:
The Earth Pathways Diary can be ordered from www.earthpathwaysdiary.co.uk
Also my newly revised Sacred Earth Celebrations from www.glenniekindred.co.uk
Autumn Equinox, on the 23rd of September, is the harvest celebration of the year, and here we pause for a moment to appreciate all the abundance that the Earth has provided. It is also an opportunity to give thanks for your own harvest too and to look for the seeds within them. Day and night are equal in length, and at this point of balance, look for what might have become out of balance in your life and what you could do to help restore it?
* Plan a harvest party, asking everyone to bring seasonal home-cooked food and drinks to share, and something to add to a central shrine that will reflect harvest in all its many different ways.
* Ask everyone to bring things for a 'Basket of Abundance' - things they no longer want or need, or an abundance of produce. This may be an ongoing flow of putting in and taking out, or it might be part of a harvest ceremony, where each in turn lights a night-light with thanks for their harvest, as each puts something in, and takes something out.
* Ask everyone to bring beads, seeds, shells, sticks, feathers, grasses, dried seed heads, flowers, ribbons, threads, large-eyed-needles, scissors etc. Make a place for everyone to sit together to weave, thread, bind and create something that reflects the abundance of your harvest moment. It may be a necklace to wear, a head-dress, a posy to hang up, a special harvest wand or totem. As you make it, think positively about the things you are harvesting right now and count your blessings!
* Using your creation as an anchor, take it in turns to share with each other both your harvest and the seeds hidden within your harvest, and how you might take these gifts forwards for your greater good and the greater good of the Earth.
* Take the children into the woods to gather nuts and fruit. (Always remember to leave plenty for the birds and forest creatures whose lives will depend on them, and only gather from where there is a great abundance.) Plant native tree seeds such as acorns, hazelnuts, rowan berries, alder cones, haws from the Hawthorn. It is a good idea to tie some netting over the pot to stop mice from digging them up. Label the pots and leave them outside. Some will germinate in the spring, when they can be potted up into a larger pot. Eventually they will need permanent homes. Plant them in the ground when the leaves have fallen and root energy begins.
Hazel is a very useful tree to have in the garden. The many straight stems or 'rods' growing from its base can be cut and used to make dens, archways, bowers, screens and other creative structures. The more you cut them, the more will grow. (Only cut the straight rods as the other more twisty ones are nut bearing.)
Forked Hazel divining sticks have long been used to find hidden underground water. If you want to have a go, cut a fresh forked Hazel twig, and state your intention to use it to find water. Holding the two arms, pull them slightly apart to create tension and walk slowly. The tip of the twig will 'twitch', as it responds to water below the ground.
Hazel nuts or 'cobs' are a rich source of protein. Roast them in a heavy pan with a little olive oil, adding a little salt at the end. Alternatively grind them up, adding extra oil and cocoa for your very own chocolate hazelnut spread.
Glennie Kindred 2015
For lots more ideas about celebrating the Earth Festivals:
The Earth Pathways Diary can be ordered from www.earthpathwaysdiary.co.uk
Also my newly revised Sacred Earth Celebrations from www.glenniekindred.co.uk
The Summer Solstice marks the longest day and shortest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. From this point onwards the days will shorten and the nights will lengthen until we reach the Winter Solstice once again. This is a transition moment, a recognition that a new cycle is about to begin, a moment to pause, to look back and celebrate what we have actively achieved in the last six months, and envision the harvest to come. By marking the Solstices we acknowledge this beautiful flowing symmetry that brings balance to the natural world and into our lives.
Traditionally people would gather together on Solstice Eve for a candle-lit procession, and entertain each other with music, dancing and plays. They would gather around a 'bon' fire (a 'good' fire) of Oak wood and stay up all night until dawn (around 3.30 am), to watch the Sun of the new cycle rise in the extreme North East.
Is there a way you could gather with friends and family and experience this ancient tradition? Daybreak particularly feels very special. Being out so early in the half light, hearing the loudness of the dawn chorus and watching the sky lighten or the Sun break free of the horizon as the day begins, is thrilling and worth the adventure of being up so early. (or so late if you stay up!) Ask everyone to bring food and drink to share and some firewood for the fire and ways for the children to sleep comfortably. Make simple head-dresses from twisted and bound grasses and wild flowers. The sticky long stalks of Cleavers (Sticky Willy) make instant circlets that can be used as a basis for further weaving. Encourage everyone to look for a special 'Solstice Stone' along the way, and use it as a meditation stone to contemplate this great turning point in the year's cycle.
As the Sun rises or the sky lightens, holding your stone, each calls out 'I give thanks for......' Everyone cheers each other on. Let your heart expand with your love for life! Share breakfast together and go for a walk afterwards.
Alternatively gather with family and friends for a 'Bring and Share' Summer Solstice Supper. Have an evening walk to a place that faces the North West and watch the Sun go down. Light an outdoor fire or if indoors, light lots of candles in a bowl of sand, and sit round it to share and celebrate what each person has done since Midwinter. Reflect on new skills and insights gained, possible new directions and understandings that will help take you forwards. This close-sharing around firelight is very magical and offers opportunity for deepening our relationships with each other. Again, cheer each other on, make it celebratory! Raise glasses in a toast to each other.
The Oak is linked with the Summer Solstice in folklore and legend as the doorway into the inner realms and the new dark cycle of the year that is about to begin. Set out on a quest to find an Oak tree that you can regularly sit with. For generations people have sat beneath the mighty Oak to gain strength and spiritual renewal. It helps the inner world to slip back into perspective, allowing new understanding to grow and decisions to be made from a place of balance.
Thank the tree before you leave, as this helps build personal and heartfelt connection. Our appreciation keeps our hearts open and paves the way for that wonder of wild edge phenomena - of having true friendship and relationship with trees.
Glennie Kindred March 2015
For lots more ideas about celebrating the Earth Festivals:
The Earth Pathways Diary can be ordered from www.earthpathwaysdiary.co.uk
Also my newly revised Sacred Earth Celebrations from www.glenniekindred.co.uk
Beltain is one of the great fire festivals of our ancient past, when bonfires were lit on the hill tops and communities gathered together to feast, party, stay up all night and welcome in the dawn. Beltain, is a celebration of the beginning of summer and the power of the life force. At this fertile time of the year dare to reach out for your wildest dreams. What do you wish to grow in your life right now?
* Gather outside with friends and family on the eve of the first of May or at the nearest full Moon to this. Ask everyone to bring food and firewood to share. Eat and tell stories together round the fire and enjoy the sense of community this brings. Celebrate this opportunity for everyone to be outside and experience the rich moment of transition between dusk and nightfall.
* Make headdresses and crowns of flowers and greenery and celebrate your connection to your wild self and the Earth. Begin with a circle of ivy that fits the head comfortably and weave and tie the rest in with raffia. Tie ribbons from your headdress, counting your blessings with each one.
* Have a basket of sticks ready and ask everyone to take two sticks; one to represent something they wish to fire up and make fertile and the other something to let go of to help this to happen. Take it in turns to put them in the fire with ceremony. Saying out loud what they are strengthens your intention and resolve and anchors them in your heart.
* Pass round a basket of ribbons and each take three. Tie your three ribbons on a tree with three wishes: one for the Earth, one for yourself and one for your family or community.
The Hawthorn or May tree is associated with Beltain, with fertility and with faerie and nature spirits, and even when growing in towns they still retain the spirit of the wild places. Hawthorns are long lived and some may be over 400 years old. Groups of old Hawthorn trees, especially if they grew in threes, were considered to be potent places where time and reality could shift and were treated with great respect. Lone Hawthorns were used to mark and protect the site of a spring or underground water and other places of significance.
* It is a safe herbal remedy for children and the elderly alike, and will relieve tension and anxiety and bring a relaxing sleep.
* Another name for the Hawthorn is the 'Bread and Cheese Tree'. This refers to the young leaves and leaf buds which can be eaten straight from the tree or added to salads, helping to lower cholesterol. Chop the young leaves up finely and add honey and a dash of vinegar (and garlic to taste). Good with potatoes.
* The blossom can be drunk as a tonic tea, which also has a beneficial effect on the heart and circulation. Flower buds and petals can be sprinkled over salads at the last minute or used to decorate puddings, cakes and drinks. Use the petals straight away as they deteriorate quickly. Don't wash them, but shake out any insects first.
* Fill a jar with Hawthorn buds and cover with clear honey. Poke it well to release any air bubbles and let it stand for a week. Delicious on bread or over ice-cream or porridge.
* Pieces of Hawthorn are given as a protective charm, a talisman or a token of friendship and Love. It is a beautiful wood and sands up to a lovely tactile smooth finish.
By Glennie Kindred 2015
The Earth Pathways Diary can be ordered from www.earthpathwaysdiary.co.uk
Also my newly revised Sacred Earth Celebrations from www.glenniekindred.co.uk
Imbolc is a celebration of the Earth's re-awakening as the Sun's warmth and light begins to return. Here at Imbolc we ask ourselves what new potential lies in the new growth cycle to come? What do we wish to set in motion and begin? Here we consciously fire up our intentions for change, especially those that propel us forwards and transform us from the inside. This is a great opportunity to change old habits and patterns and work towards changing our relationship with the natural world; to see our selves as part of nature and the great web of life, not separated from it. Ask yourself how you will help initiate this understanding both in yourself and in your children? Seek new thinking patterns and new lifestyles that will create a more sustainable and integrated future for our children and for the Earth.
* Meet other families for an Imbolc walk and look for signs of new life stirring in nature. Gather fresh windblown twigs, Birch bark, feathers and seed heads along the way and after your walk, sit together to make an Imbolc doll or Earth Spirit. Push a large bead on a twig to make the head or use curled Birch bark stuffed with wool. Pipe cleaners can be used to make arms and wrapped with wool. Keep them simple. As you wrap wool around your Imbolc spirit, weave in all the new things you wish to set in motion this year. Afterwards have a 'Go-Round' and share these with each other.
* Gather together around a fire, indoor or out and share homemade food. If you can't have a fire then fill a bowl with soil or sand and have a bowl of candles. Light one candle at the centre with a blessing for Imbolc. Each lights a candle in turn and says what they are appreciating in their lives right now.
* Spend some time visioning the future you would like to live in. Visualise your own community and how it could improve with community projects and care for nature. Vision the very best, the most wonderful, and the most heartwarming. Share your visions with each other. Anything is possible. As we vision these things they begin to have life. What will you do to support your vision?
The Birch is the first tree of the Celtic Tree Ogham. It is a great pioneer tree and is associated with boldness to begin and a new start. The Birch has the ability to change and transform a landscape by being the first tree to colonise new ground. This brings association with vitality and the will to survive. Known as a nurse tree, it sheds it twigs, branches and leaves readily, creating a fertile soil for other trees to grow in. Sit with this beautiful energy to find a sense of clarity and restored direction.
* Pick a bunch of Birch twigs. (Say thank you to the tree!) and place in a vase of water. The buds will swell and the catkins spill out, bringing a sense of spring on its way!
* Birch bark can be peeled from fallen Birch trees. It is easy to cut into shapes with scissors and drawn or written on with felt tips. What do you wish to make manifest and celebrate this coming year? Choose 3 things - one for yourself, one for your community or family and one for the Earth and decorate your Birch shapes with words or pictures for each. A hole can be made with an awl or large nail and they can be threaded and hung in the window or from your Birch twigs.
By Glennie Kindred 2015
For lots more ideas about celebrating the Earth Festivals, my newly revised Sacred Earth Celebrations is available from my website.
Samhain is the end and the beginning of the Celtic New Year, a powerful and exciting time if you value the deep transitional alchemy of this part of the cycle. Samhain is an affirmation of rebirth in the midst of death and darkness,the end and death of the old year, bringing opportunity for renewal and new beginnings.
In the past Samhain (pronounced Sow-ein),was acknowledged, like Beltain, as a particularly potent time when the veil between the seen world of matter and the unseen world of spirit becomes thin. Traditionally it has always been seen as a time to explore the inner mysteries, a time for divination, omens, portents, for communication with the ancestors and the spirit realms. It is a time of reflection, resting, drifting, dreaming and connecting to the wisdom within ourselves.
Darkness was important to the Celts. To them it was as important as the light. Darkness and death had power which they did not fear. Here at Samhain, as the Earth is plunged into its darkest time of the year, they blessed the seeds whose germination in the dark would once again bring life, when the Sun returned. Ceremonies were held at the burial mounds, tumuli and long barrows. Womb and tomb were closely linked in the Celtic mind, and this explains why so many tombs of this period and earlier, had tunnel entrances leading to a dark inner chamber. Not only were they places where the important dead were buried, but they are also important centres of Earth energy which were, and can still be, used to enhance inner journeying. They communicated with their ancestors, believing deceased family members could visit their loved ones at this time of the year. Places were laid at the table during the feast so that the dead could be with their families and friends. Both the word ghost and the word guest have their roots in the German 'geist', originally a spirit of the dead invited to the Samhain feast.
Samhain became the Christian All Souls Night, All Hallows Eve (Halloween) of 31st October and All Souls Day of 1st November. Fear and superstitions replaced the potent power inherent in this celebration. It was thought that others could also slip through the gap in space-time: the faerie, the sidhe, hobgoblins, elves and other mischief makers. This is the root of Halloween's 'mischief night'. Only those in disguise could venture out. The emissaries of the devil were also feared along with evil ghosts and many 'horrors of hell' which were let loose on this night which all good Christian folk were led to fear.
Samhain is one of the four great Fire Festivals of our Celtic past. Bonfires called 'samhnagan' were lit on the hilltops - the tumuli and burial mounds of the communities past. All the other fires in the community were put out and were then rekindled from the samhnagan. The Church brought the people away from the burial mounds, but Samhain customs continued to thrive. Each village or household lit their own bonfires. (Note the proximity to our bonfire night). In Wales, omens were read from white stones which were thrown into the ashes of the fire and then interpreted the next morning by the marks found there. Halloween apple games grew out of the Celtic belief in the apple as a holy fruit, sacred and magical, a means to immortality, death and rebirth. In Celtic myth, the apples of the goddess, (sometimes called Hels apples, after the Underworld goddess Hellenes) signified a sacred marriage and a journey to the land of death and rebirth. Later, Hels apples became the poisoned apples of Christian folklore which the 'wicked witch' used to kill her victims. Cutting the apple transversely reveals the hidden five pointed star in the core, the magic pentacle, sign of the dark mysteries of the goddess and protection. Apples continue to be used at Samhain for games and divination.
Here the Grain Mother becomes the Crone, the wise woman, the death aspect of her trinity, until she is reborn as her virgin aspect with the rebirth of the Sun at the Winter Solstice. The Sun king is sacrificed back into the land having swelled the seeds which now lie in the dark of the Earth until the Sun's return. He too becomes a death god and shaman, able to travel the inner realms. These myths reflect the understanding of the year's cycle. Death and darkness were seen as a period of rest and regeneration before rebirth.
Hell was previously a Norse Queen of the Underworld, Hellenes, and 'Hel' a uterine shrine, a sacred cave of rebirth deep within the Earth. The dark regenerative power of the goddess was honoured throughout the Celtic and ancient world. Rhea-Kronia (the female counterpart to Cronos) devoured time itself, returning to the dark elemental formless chaos before time. Kali or Kali Ma, the Dark Mother of the Hindu Triple Goddess, devoured her own children. Rhiannon, also known as the Mother of Time, also devoured her own children and rode her horse through the regions of the dark. Morgan le Fey, Morgan the Fate, Morrigan, the Queen of Phantoms, a death goddess, reappeared in the Arthurian legends as Morgan. Cerridwen who kept the Cauldron of Rebirth and Regeneration, was known as the Grandmother of Memory and the Keeper of the ancestral gateway. Cailleach, the Black Mother, made the world. Scotland was once Caledonia, the land given by Cailleach or Cale. 'Scotland' came from Scotia, a Roman goddess known as the Dark Aphrodite, and known to the Celts as Satha or Scythia. To the Scandinavians, she was known as Skadi, personified as an old woman, hag or Veiled One. Mana and Mara were ancient Roman Goddesses whose ancestral spirits were called Manes, and ruled the Underworld. Maia was the Greek grandmother of Magic, mother of Hermes, the enlightened one, who conducted the souls of the dead to the Underworld. Hecate was one of the oldest Goddesses in her crone aspect, found in ancient Greece. She ruled Heaven, Earth, and the Underworld; she ruled magic, omens and prophecy and she was also known as Persephone, ruler of the Underworld of ancient myth. Other goddesses of the Underworld include Minerva, Athene, Sophia and Medusa. The word 'crone' may have come from Rhea Cronia, Old Mother Time, but may also be linked to 'corone', the carrion crow which was sacred to the death goddesses. Black was the colour she assumed before her re-emergence as her white virgin aspect at the Winter Solstice. Samhain can be seen as a psychic return to the dark womb, a time for regeneration and rest.
Samhain is named after an Aryan lord of death, Samana or Samavurt who, along with other pre-Christian male gods, was given the title the Grim Reaper, the Leveller, the Dark Lord, Leader of Ancestral Ghosts, the Judge of the Dead. Sata, the Great Serpent, was an underground aspect of the Sun found in ancient Egypt, the root of Satan, the Angel of Darkness. Pluto, Hades, Aidoneus, Saman, Sammael, Cronus, Saturn, Hermes, Samanik, were some of the old gods associated with death and the Underworld which the Church personified as the devil. The Underworld and darkness became a place to fear and the Celtic understanding of its regenerative aspect became lost. The Church created hell out of the Celtic Otherworld, and every sadistic cruel fantasy man could invent, was assigned to it.
Use this time for rest and renewal. Slip beyond the rational and the logical and go beyond the seen world, listen to your intuition and learn to value this as part of your whole self. Use this time for learning, for collecting, sorting and memorising information, so that when the time for action comes, you will have assimilated new knowledge which can be used when needed. Fear is one of our greatest teachers. Turn and look at what you fear and where the roots of this may lie. By being open to your intuition, new insights and realisations may be revealed. use this time of rest to seek out the old patterns of thought or behaviour which are not serving you well. Once revealed you can choose to think and live in a different way. Review and assimilate what you have learned in the active phase of the year's cycle. Out of difficult situations comes power, hope, rebirth, inner strength, wisdom and maturity. Nurture new visions, dreams, ideas and direction, so that they may incubate in the dark winter months ready to be named and birthed at the Winter Solstice.
The Nigredo and Putrefaction alchemical processes bring the same teaching as Samhain. The substance in the flask is broken down to its base components, becoming black decaying matter. Nigredo is the ending of one cycle, out of which new possibilities are revealed. It involves a descent into the darkness to find our Lead, which is also our Gold, the alchemists prime substance, base matter, the very essence of life. It is an opportunity to go deep inside ourselves to explore our Lead. What weighs you down and stops you moving forward? What dampens your fire? What blocks your joy? These things will eventually manifest as illness if not transformed. Once we have identified these things we can begin to transform them into our Gold.
I let go of all the 'should haves' and failures, my worries and insecurities, and all the hurts and fears I have been hanging on to that have limited and bound me. They fall away from me like leaves from my tree. They become my compost as they rot and decay. This is the alchemical experience of Putrefaction. It is the composting of all the matter in the flask, which comes from the release, the breaking down of all the separated parts and the letting go of stored negativity.
By letting go of the old I empty myself so that I can rest uncluttered, unhindered by baggage from the past. I lie back and enjoy the peace and the darkness, as I dream new dreams and see potential in new possibilities. My alchemist flask is now full of well rotted composts, ready to receive the new seeds that will take me into the next cycle.
Glennie Kindred September 2013
I believe that we are entering a new phase in the evolution of humankind. It is one that is spreading from a deep grass roots level, creating hope and healing and a clear direction to move in. The roots of this transition lie in a major shift of consciousness as we move from our old separatist way of 'us and them' thinking, to a new understanding of our place in the interconnected web of life.
This is not new. Our tribal ancestors understood the interconnectedness of life and the knowledge is still retained in ancient cultures around the world. Our own culture of separatist thinking was brought about by science picking everything apart, by religions which created a divided framework of earth, heaven and hell, and by suppression of the earth-based pagan religions which were naturally holistic. Industrialisation and consumerism have added further layers to our disconnection and isolation.
Now technology has given us world communication and with it the gift of 'overview'. Through this we are finding our reconnection to our common humanity and a recognition of the interconnectedness of all things. Science has also moved on and quantum physics, string theory, and the quantum vacuum, reconnect us to our common bond of unity. And we are stirred, and we are moving as individuals with an awareness of the whole.
We are learning to be part of the natural world again by finding ways to reconnect to the Earth, so that we feel ourselves to be part of creation and not somehow fragmented and separated from the whole. We are exploring ways to to connect to our feelings and our intuition, to help us to balance our inner sensitivity with our outer understanding.
Celebrating the yearly solar cycle is a means by which we can connect to the Earth's passing seasons and acknowledge the way this resonates within ourselves as part of the natural world. In the autumn, for example, we celebrate our own personal harvest as well as the Earth's harvest. We let go of anything that we have finished with or is not helpful to us. We then gather the seeds of our new ideas and future longings and take these into the dark of the year, letting them incubate and strengthen inside us until the time for action comes with the emergence of the outer growth cycle in the spring.
With this awareness we balance inner growth with outer growth. We see the value of the dark as a time to rest and day-dream. We wait to see what inspiration comes bubbling up from the depths of our inner wisdom and we learn to trust our intuition. We remember to value and nurture ourselves and to use our imagination to visualise and strengthen what we wish to bring into our lives and into the world. We gather our inner power and set our new intentions, ready for the rebirth of the outer growth cycle that begins at Winter Solstice.
To celebrate the solar cycle is to take part in an ancient tradition which has been handed down to us since before Celtic times, from a time when the people of Europe lived close to the land and were in harmony and balance with the spirit of the land. The ancient festivals of our ancestors fell at eight points during the solar year. These included the fixed points of Winter and Summer Solstices (the longest day and the longest night), the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes (day and night of equal length) and the four seasonal peaks of Spring, Summer Autumn and Winter.
In our pre-Christian past our ancestors would have met on the land at these eight points in the year. The Druids, men and women honoured for their wisdom, would have had an awareness of the influence of the Moon and the stars. They would have had knowledge of the Earth's energies and the places of power on the land where the energy converges and is strongest. The people would have walked the old energy routes, gathered in the stone circles or would have celebrated and lit community fires on the high places. Some would have gone into the barrows and journeyed with their ancestors to gain insight and wisdom and tap into the deepest parts of themselves.
The earth energy is still there for us to connect with. Each of the eight festivals is an opportunity for us to get out onto the land and experience its changing energy for ourselves. At these times we can extend our awareness and explore our true, personal and honest connection to the Earth and once we truly feel this connection and experience the intrinsic unity of life, a natural shift in our consciousness begins to evolve.
The way the Celtic festivals are celebrated is a matter of choice and experiment. What matters most is the experience of communicating with the outer world, bursting with created abundance and connecting to our inner levels and spiritual path. The changing year provides a wealth of experiences through the cyclic ebbs and flow of the Sun's energy. Interwoven with this, are the monthly cycles of the waxing and waning Moon, and the planetary influences.
Each festival is a chance to feel ourselves as part of the whole, and also to connect to the moment, the here and now. From this point of being we can look back on what we have been doing, feeling and thinking; on our health, and our spiritual journey. We can also look forward with an understanding of the Earth's (and our) inherent energy flow, to where we wish to go and how we may best use the oncoming energy for our greater good, the greater good of the Earth, and all those around us.
Each cycle of connection to the wheel of the year brings new awareness, direction and an understanding that healing ourselves and healing the Earth are the same, as all things are connected. There is no doubt in my mind that the Earth will continue with its own slow and evolving journey as it needs to. But the survival of the Earth as we know it is inextricably linked to our own survival. Our united healing depends on our ability to each take responsibility for our own 'separation patterns' that disconnect us from our inner wisdom, from each other and from the Earth. And at the same time we need to embrace a new and integrated perspective that will transform everything we do.
In this time of great transition and change, we find ourselves re-evaluating the customs and traditions we have grown up with. Many people are no longer comfortable with the religious or the commercial aspects of Christmas and there is a real need to reclaim this celebration in new ways that have true meaning for us and make the best use of our Midwinter energy. Nature is resting now and we too can use this time to slow down, rest and reflect on what we have learnt from the old year and what we wish to begin in the new.
There is nothing finer than taking some time out to make your own Midwinter decorations. Creative playing gives you time for reflection, helps you to rest your active achieving selves and makes space for your unconscious thoughts to come to the surface for review. We know that its good for our children and what's good for our children is good for us! So put on some good music, relax and enjoy getting in touch with your playful creative self!
For most people the Christmas tree is the main focus for their decorations. Personally. I could never buy a butchered dead tree and decorate it! I did buy a living tree in a pot one year, which was better, but it soon became pot-bound and it was tricky keeping it watered in the summer. It now lives happily in the ground at the bottom of the garden and is growing into a beautiful tree. But there is definitely a limit to how many Pine trees a town garden can sustain! One is enough for mine and I have to keep trimming it to keep it small enough for the space. I can use the trimmings to make my Solstice bush - a collection of pruned evergreen branches and twigs, which creates a wonderful alternative tree to decorate at Midwinter. Every year it's different according to what I find, where I go and what I add to it by way of other decorations.
It's called a Solstice bush because traditionally myself and my family would go out on the Winter Solstice and collect for it on our walk and create it when we came home. This has made it special to us on many levels.
I begin with a few sturdy larger branches first and push them into a large plant pot of earth and hold them in position with medium sized stones and some earth. Best to put the pot in it's final position first so that it does not have to be moved again. Place the pot in a large bowl or dish so that you can water it and keep everything fresh.
Smaller twigs are pushed in around the main branches until a satisfying shape is achieved. Solstice bushes can be created from a mixture of different evergreen branches, dried flowers, dried grasses, seed heads, anything that still has berries and represents the old year. Decorations can be made from other collected natural things. They can simply be painted with gold, copper or silver acrylic paint and hung in the tree. Lights can be hung from the branches in the usual way. Other natural things can be added to the arrangement to bring in colour, such as Chinese lanterns or dried everlasting flowers. Buy them when they are available in the Autumn, or even better grow them yourself. They need to be hung upside down to dry and the stems can be strengthened with thin garden wire.
Connecting to the natural world around us in this way helps us stay in touch with it and helps us live our lives in harmony with the prevailing energy of the Earth and her cycles. The custom of bringing evergreens into the home at Midwinter goes back to a time in our past when people were more intrinsically linked to the patterns and cycles of nature. Evergreens had special significance, and represented everlasting life in the dark time of the year. They were hung around doorways and windows and each European country and every county in the British Isles would have had their own customs, inclusions, and superstitions.
The main native evergreens are Holly, Ivy, Mistletoe, Pine and Yew, but of course there are many other evergreens you can use, depending what is available in your garden or in your locality.
I use the time spent collecting evergreens to slow down, to open my senses to their essential energy. I like to take time to connect to the tree or plant in any way that feels honest and real to me. The way they grow and where they like to grow provide clues to their essential energy, as well as their herbal properties and flower essence dynamic. I thank them in the cutting and afterwards use what wood I can for creative and healing projects and compost the rest back into the earth, or add to the outdoor bonfire to burn later.
Holly (Ilex aquifolium)
Holly is one of our most sacred native trees, a symbol of everlasting life, good luck, good will, and potent life energy. In folklore the red berries represent the red female blood of life. The berries are mildly poisonous and may cause vomiting and diarrhoea.
The flower essence is used to help the heart become open to Unconditional Love.
The beautiful hard white wood is wonderful to carve and is used energetically to restore clear direction and focus loving intentions.
Mistletoe (Viscum album)
The ancient people of Europe revered the Mistletoe as it grew in two of their most sacred trees, the Oak and the Apple, both of which are symbolic of doorways into the Otherworld or the internal realms of our unconscious and subconscious selves. In folklore the white berries represent the white semen drops of the life-giving male. Holly and Mistletoe were displayed together to represent the sacred marriage of the male and the female from which comes fertility and new life. (Hence kissing under Mistletoe.)
The berries are poisonous.
The flower essence is recommended for people experiencing rapid change in their lives. It encourages the energy of goodwill and Love.
Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris)
Pine symbolises immortality, the undying spirit, vitality and far-sighted vision. The cones were brought into the house to bring good luck, fertility and good fortune.
The flower essence encourages personal forgiveness and moving into new aspects of life. The wood is used energetically for developing our ability to see beyond the present, encouraging us to act from our own insights, from our inner wisdom and personal power.
Yew (Taxus baccata)
Yew represents everlasting life, transformation and rebirth. It has an unusual form of growth that enables the tree to regenerate from the decay of the same root bole. The Yew therefore symbolises fresh growth rising out of death of the old, such as our old selves, or old ways of thinking. Because it is such a long-lived tree, Yew represents contact with our past and our ancestors and connection to the ancient wisdom. The wood can be used for all transformation work and the power of the regenerative cycle of death, rest and rebirth.
The bark, leaves and seeds of the Yew are poisonous and obviously it should be kept out of reach of children and animals.
Ivy (Hedera helix) Ivy represents the search for the self and the freedom to choose our life's path. The berries are poisonous.
I am aware that all of these common winter evergreens have poisonous berries, but I believe we should be teaching our children about the natural world, not disconnecting them. Teaching children what they can and cannot put in their mouths is essential knowledge that connects them to their natural environment.
Another alternative tree idea is to cut large living twigs and arrange them in a very large vase or pot of water. They look stunning in their simplicity of colours and shapes and gradually during the next month or so they begin to sprout leaves and pale flowers! A reminder that spring is on its way!
I tend to use plants from my garden that need pruning anyway. Willow, Dogwood, Winter Jasmine, Beech, Birch, Lilac, Forsythia, Flowering Currant, are things I have found work well but I am sure there are many more bushes and trees which you can use depending on what you have available. Times when I've not had a garden I have done a bit of sensitive pruning in the woods, along canals or railway tracks, on waste ground, or along hedgerows. Long stemmed fresh flowers can be added.
One single cut dead branch, or several cut dead branches look wonderful painted with white, gold, copper or silver acrylic paint. Dab the paint on with bits of old cut up kitchen sponge. Glitter can be added when the paint is dry. Spread on PVA glue and sprinkling glitter on top. I save good branches from the Autumn garden prune or bring them back from the woods when I find them blown down in the wind. Old branches could be brittle and be home to various insects, so it is much better to use a recently cut or fallen branch.
The branches can be arranged in a sturdy pot or bucket, wedged in with stones. Again this is best done in or near it's final resting place. After the paint has dried, wrap up the pot with a coloured scarf and tie it round with ribbon. Place the whole thing on a beautiful piece of material or another scarf. Add lights and decorations.
A single painted branch can be hung from a couple of hooks from the ceiling. Again this looks stunning when it is kept simple, with a few decorations and lights added.
Again, when making decorations, keep the designs simple and easy to make so that it is relaxing and a pleasure to do. Choose one or two ideas only. Experiment and see what works. for you. Keep the colours simple too. Choose two or three colours that go well together, such as white, with purple and silver, or gold and deep blue and keep everything within that. Ultimately you want to create something that helps you to feel peaceful and delighted when you look at it.
Gather together all kinds of natural materials such as evergreens, pine cones, feathers, herbs and seed heads. Experiment with different ways to combine them, hang them, paint them. Thread beads onto the shafts of feathers and hang them in your tree. Small white feathers look particularly good. A sheet of holographic or sparkly wrapping paper can go a long way and can be glued to shapes cut from cardboard. Cereal packets are a good thickness. Tin foil can also be glued to cardboard shapes and look great when painted with glass paints. Try half rubbing the glass paint off with tissue when it is dry, to reveal the silver underneath.
Wire, needles and threads, ribbons, glittery threads and glittery wool, can all be used to tie things together, or simply hang long threads or trail them over the branches. Lengths of net, organza, other shiny materials and ribbons can be simply tied on and look stunning in their simplicity. Acrylic paint can be bought in handy small pots from craft shops. They come ready mixed and ready to use with a great range of colours, including gold, copper and silver.
Copydex glue is worth using for these projects. It dries fast and clear and it will bond many different materials together well. Dried fruits, nuts or marzipan can be dipped in melted organic fair-trade chocolate to make simple home made tree sweets. Wrap them in greaseproof paper with an outer layer of tissue paper or coloured foil. Hang them with thin ribbons or glittery threads.
Using a small plate as a template, cut out circles of tissue paper, net, or organza. Put a ball of cotton wool or sheep's wool into the middle of the circle and tie it off with coloured thread or ribbon to make the head. Wings can be added by tying a strip of tissue or material around the 'neck'. Use a needle and thread through the top of the head so that you can hang them from your tree or bush. Lots of small angels, using a cup as a template, also look wonderful.
Ultimately it doesn't matter what you do as long as you enjoy yourself doing it! Creative time also has the added bonus of helping you to become aware of where you are and what you want to bring into your life.
The old year has finished and the new year is about to begin. What we think and envision now will manifest in the future. Each of us has the choice to change and be part of the change. If we live with this possibility, we can make use of this time in the Earth's cycle to give our selves some quality time, to re-evaluate and set new possibilities
Our world is changing. We are embracing a new global consciousness. This is the new 'we' consciousness, transforming the old 'us and them' mentality that has, up until now, held our world in conflict, fear and separation. It is inspiring people to stand together, knowing that our strength lies in this togetherness.
The choices we make in our personal lives shape and change the bigger picture. With every loving response, with every choice of where we put our energy, our time, and our money and by every individual act that is life affirming, we make a difference in the world. We are free from the old outworn systems of hierarchy, duality and competition, and we are choosing to take the path of Love and positive action. We are aware of the power inherent in all our acts of goodwill and kindness. We are learning to follow our hearts as well as our heads, our intuition as well as our rational minds. We are uniting in a grass roots spirituality that grows from our own experiences and understanding and is integrated into our everyday lives, relationships & actions. This is our joyful voyage of discovery, our delightful rebellion and our profoundly exhilarating act of adaptation. It is a potent evolutionary shift, having as much survival value and significance as any physical transformation. We are creating change, and together we are changing the world.
We are increasingly inspired to follow our intuition, our own spiritual path, our creative solutions and other inspired act of genius. It is grounded in the wisdom of nature, and reclaims some of the old understandings from our distant past. I am interested in how these can be adapted and integrated into our present shift in consciousness, embracing the holistic understanding that all things are interconnected vital parts of a whole, that we are all equally important, and we all have the ability to change and to Love.
I explore my connection to the Earth through the natural energy of the seasonal flow and the energy inherent in the waxing and waning cycles of the Sun & the Moon. I work with the framework of the 8 Celtic festivals: the Winter and Summer Solstices, the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes and in between each of these, the 4 festivals of Imbolc, Beltain, Lammas and Samhain. By understanding this flow, we can move in harmony with it, as true inhabitants of our planet Earth: belonging and changing, knowing when is the best time to rest, when is the best time to incubate our dreams and visions, and when is the best time for action, to express ourselves out in the world. We can use the underlying energy of the Earth's cycles, to help us let go of the old and embrace the new, to transform and change in our own unique way.
I intuitively explore the underlying energy of each season and create ways to connect to this through simple ceremony, getting out into nature, spending meditative time alone and meeting up with others.
In my books I share the many ritual and ceremony ideas I have found to work well, including ideas for open family and community celebrations as well as for deeper levels of transformative ceremony, which come from working alone or in a small committed group. All the ideas have come from many years of working in this way. They encourage communication - with the Earth, with each other and with our-selves. They encourage our ability to change, to reach for what we want, to co-create, to celebrate the Earth and to be open to other levels of reality.
Each festival is an opportunity for positive actions and Earth based activities that are specific to, or enhanced by, the time of year. These help us to connect to the Earth on many different levels, to support loving, life-affirming initiatives and creative solutions, and to integrate our spirituality into our everyday lives.
Celebrating the Earth's cycles encourages us to become proactive in our relationship with the Earth and to become part of a growing global community prepared to bring positive change into the world. We are living in extraordinary times and I am open to the exciting possibility that a miracle is happening as we experience a collective shift in consciousness that is creating a more loving and caring world in which we can grow.
We are the change and together we are making a difference!
End January/beginning February in the Northern Hemisphere.
End July/ beginning august in the Southern Hemisphere.
This is the celebration of the returning Fire of the Sun and the beginning of the outer growth phase. We become aware that the Earth is stirring. It is still cold but the first buds are beginning to show on the trees and Spring bulbs are pushing up through the Earth. Our acceptance of Winter is giving way to an urge to move forward into Springtime energy.
We can use this time to prepare for the changes ahead. Now is the time to bring out the wisdom and insights we have gained on the inner journey. Now is the time to express our creativity through art, craft, poetry and songs. These were seen in the past as a way of accessing our ancestral memory.
This is the time for initiation and healing, for reclaiming what has been lost, and seeking new ways forwards. It is a time for working with our intuition, with inspired leaps of understanding, and for expressing our deepest wishes, beliefs and feelings. Be open to communication from within, heed the signs and omens when you notice them and follow what has significance and meaning to you.
Imbolc is sacred to Love, to the young fertile force in all of us, to the quickening of new life and new beginnings. Imbolc reflects the stirring of the life force and the potency of action that is fired from within.
*Gather with friends at the New Moon when the Moon energy is also fertile and rising. Ask everyone to bring a candle, food and drink to share and their own poems, songs, artwork, craftwork and any winter project they have been involved with, for all to share and celebrate each other's accomplishments and uniqueness. Bring drums, percussion and instruments to play.
*Ask those who can to bring fresh cuttings of stems that can be woven, such as Willow, Winter Jasmine, Honeysuckle, Forsythia, Dogwood, Flowering Currant, Almond and Cherry. Lay them on an old sheet or blanket for ease of clearing up at the end and sit around this to weave an 'Imbolc ring'. To begin, choose a long length and create a circle the size of a small dinner plate, with the thicker end of the stem. Use the thin end like a needle weaving in and out until it holds firm as a ring.ontinue weaving in different twigs, anchoring the thick end into the circle and weaving with the thin end until you build up a ring of different plants. As you work, focus on what you have learnt during the Winter months and where you wish to take this into the new active season.
* With focus, light a candle in a bowl of sand inside your ring and speak out your new intentions. The Imbolc rings can be taken home and placed in a shallow dish of water. Over the next few weeks they will flower, giving energy to your visions and new directions.
*Sit together and share your poems, craft and artwork, your achievements from the Winter months.
*Gather everyone together with a chant or song around a central large bowl of earth or compost piled high in celebration of the fertile force of the earth. Ask everyone to place their unlit candles around this, each in a small bowl of sand.
*Open the circle by bringing focus to each of the 5 Elements and their awakening energy at this time. Do this poetically, focusing on their power and beauty. Choose a sentence at each Element and weave this into a new co-created chant.
*Lead the circle into a spiral, circling round the unlit candles and bowl of Earth at the centre, singing the new elemental chant.
*At the centre gather round the bowl of Earth and unlit candles and focus silently on what you wish to grow within yourself, what seeds you have been nurturing and what you wish to plant into the fertile energy of this newly emerging season. Symbolically plant them in the bowl of Earth and as you do so, let out sounds and notes that resonate with these seed wishes and intentions. Let all the sounds resonate together sending them down into the Earth and then up and outwards in a cone of power and vibrant energy. Spiral back out again, reconnecting to the elemental chant
*Once everyone is back in the circle, each person goes to the centre and lights their candle as they name and celebrate their seed wishes.
*Close the circle by thanking each Element for the part it will play in the new growing season.
*Drum and dance together, releasing your inner Fire into the fertile power of the life force.
As the Earth's energy is activated, the elemental energy of the land and water reawaken. This is a traditional time for pilgrimages to healing wells, holy wells and springs. Set out in a sacred manner, with spring water, fruit and nuts, focusing on the earth and your intention to seek clarity and vision. Use it as a way of connecting to what you wish to bring out into the world, using the power of water to make fertile, bring healing and bless.
Some wells and springs have a special tree connected to them. In the past, a pilgrim seeking healing would soak a rag form their clothing and tie it to the tree. As the rag rotted away, they believed their illness would disappear. This practice could be revived using 'pledge' or 'prayer' ribbons. Take a piece of ribbon with you, dip it into the water as you state your pledge of intent, prayer or wish, and tie it to the tree. Here they will flutter in the wind, like prayer flags, carrying messages of hope and healing.
Use the water for baptism, as a rite of passage, to wash away the past, the winter, the old 'you', and to bless a new beginning, new hope, healing affirmations and heartfelt intentions, leave an offering to the spirit of the water and the spirit guardian of the well. This may be something made of clay or wood, a crystal, some fruit or nuts, or a pattern you make from the natural materials you find nearby. One of the best gifts you can make is to clear up any rubbish you find there and take it with you.
Make the most of the pale sunlight to get outside and reconnect tot the awakening Earth. There is still time to plant or move your young trees before the growing season gathers momentum. Plant a fruit tree and dedicate it to someone, or a project. There are many dwarf varieties that can even be grown in a large pot if space is short. Coppice willows and dogwoods, having enjoyed their bright coloured stems during the winter months. Save these for woven projects in the garden by storing them bundles together on a north hedgerow to keep them pliant. Or plant them immediately straight into the Earth to grow living woven fences or new trees.
Plan to create a Moon garden, a place to sit in quiet contemplation, and keep a connection to the watery flow of your unconscious mind, especially during the active half of the year. If you haven't a garden, create it in a large pot.
Choose silvery plants such as Lavenders, silvery Thymes and Sages, and plants that have white flowers that will grow in the moonlight. Bring in a bowl for water and crystals.
Day and night are of equal length all over the world. In the Northern Hemisphere we still celebrate it as the first day of Spring. The days are getting longer and warmer now and the nights are getting shorter. This is a festival of balance: the balance of light and dark, the balance of the Sun's active energy in the day and the Moon's receptive energy at night; the balance of the inner world and the outer world; the balance of the conscious Fire energy with the forces of the watery unconscious. Here at the Equinox we can look at and work towards this balance within ourselves. This will bring change and healing as we move into new understanding and new actions.
Oestre, the Goddess of Light, brings fertility with the Spring. This is the root of the word 'oestrus', the time in an animals sexual cycle when it is fertile and oestrogen, the hormone that stimulates ovulation, is produced. The Church overlaid this festival with Easter and its theme of rebirth and resurrection from death. It's timing is based on the old lunar calendar: the first Sunday after the first full Moon after the Spring Equinox, formerly the pregnant phase of Oestre passing into the fertile season.
The pagan tradition celebrates the spring maiden and the ardent young male at this time. Their union makes all of nature fertile. The sexually potent young woman of the spring equinox is balanced with the sexually potent young man. Here we can make contact with their archetypal energy within ourselves. We need to balance this energy within ourselves regardless of gender. It is the energy and power of the rational conscious mind when joined with the energy and power of the intuition and inner wisdom, which brings fertility and manifestation. This is the union, which brings forth new life on many levels
As we step into the active phase of the year, remember to balance the rational, logical mind with instinct and intuition. We have laid such importance on our logical minds, that we have become used to ignoring our intuition. Learn to listen, to trust, and to act on your inner wisdom and bring your whole self back into balance.
Everything in nature is coming alive and awakening. The Sun is gaining strength and the days are longer and warmer. Blossom and catkins are on the trees, buds are bursting, seeds are germinating, Spring flowers appear, eggs are hatching and all the animals are preparing to have their young. Everywhere is evidence of life's ability to regenerate.
The energy is turning from the dark depths of Winter and the inner world, to an outward manifestation of the conscious world. It is time to throw off the restraints of Winter and the cold, and reach out for what it is we want for ourselves and the world.
It is a time of rain and sunshine, the mingling of the Elements of Fire and Water, Spring gales, high tides, feelings of wildness and chaos.
Run wild in the wind and celebrate life's fertility. We are breaking out and moving forwards. We feel empowered to take risks, strike out on our own, make things happen. It is a time to begin new ventures, make plans and make journeys.
An egg can be balanced on its end today. The balance of the Earth's energy is now blended: Light with Dark, conscious with unconscious, Fire with Water. Here is the union of power, which brings fertility and manifestation. This is the spark of the life-force. This is the Dance of Life - interdependent complementary parts of one energy system, which we can embrace on our journey to become whole.
Be outside today, wrap up warm if it's cold, enjoy the Elements, the wind and the rain and the sunshine. Rejoice in them! Celebrate the end of Winter, be a Mad March hare, run wild and be expansive. Look for the arrival of Spring everywhere.
Whether you are celebrating with friends or on your own, choose a wild and powerful place to go today, somewhere where the Earth's energy runs strong, where serpent or dragon paths can be felt. Experiment with your ability to dowse these energies.
Share a special breakfast with friends before setting out to spend the day outside together.
Make a shrine to honour the awakening Earth. Place on it Spring flowers, bulbs growing in pots, blossom, catkins and pussy Willow. Represent the 5 Elements in ways that reflects the Equinox. Burn lavender to welcome the Spring, hang cloths of yellow and green.
Make time to meditate with the trees, especially if a particular tree draws you towards it. Put your back against its trunk, feel it's life-force energy and be open to receiving impressions and inner understanding from the tree. Greet the Dryad, the spirit of the tree.
Greet the nature spirits of flowers and herbs. Communication is greatly enhanced if you are open to their existence. Be open to communication from faerie and you may have a surprise. This ancient race far from the Victorian image of pretty winged nymphs, are a shape shifting people, rarely seen but sometimes felt, often near.
If you are gathered with a group begin by making a circle holding hands and then walk a spiral towards a centre, chanting an easy meditative walking chant. When you get to the centre and are tight together share with each other what the Spring Equinox means to you and each say "May the Spring Equinox bring..." when this has reached it's natural end and all has been said, take up each others hands and the chant and the person leading the spiral turns its direction outward again to bring the group back into a circle.
Seed meditation for renewal and self healing. Imagine you are a seed full of life. Plant the seed of yourself in the warm earth and water it gently until it begins to open. Feel your roots growing and reaching down into the earth, drinking all the nutrients. Feel the shoot unfold into the air, your leaves, unfold soaking up the Suns rays. All that you need is given - for growing, for your wellbeing. You are in radiant health.
Plant the seeds of yourself and look at where you're going now. Affirm your most positive wishes. Connect to your life-force. Ask your spirit guides and helpers for direction and remain open to receiving these messages.
Honour the Earth and the fertility of all life; the animals, the birds, the fish and the insect world, the great abundance of life and flowers, the herbs for medicine, and all the food growing for us to eat. Honour the balance of the Sun and the Moon, the male and the female and the power of their union.
Pass an egg or imaginary egg around the circle, each focusing on what they have been incubating since the autumn and wish to bring out into the world. This is the fertile time. Being aware of your direction will greatly enhance the outcome. Share your thoughts with each other if you want to, before passing the egg on to the next person. At the end place the egg or imaginary egg on the shrine.
Begin new ventures now, enhance your understanding of fertility and balance. Break away from old outworn ideas. If you are a man find ways to embrace your inner woman. If you are a woman find ways to embrace your inner man.
Positive affirmations are positive repetitive statements said in the present tense. They act like a meditative mantra and will break negative thought patterns that are no longer serving you. These may have been built up over the years and can actually begin to manifest as physical illnesses. Use the Equinox to look at areas of imbalance in yourself and use positive affirmations to help rebuild positive thought patterns for the future.
Decorate eggs, either hard-boiled or blown. Hard-boiled eggs can be rolled down a hill or eaten for breakfast. Special decorated eggs can be given as gifts to each other.
Plant seeds of herbs or flowers for medicine. Each bring a packet of seeds and a tray of compost. Share the seeds around so each has a variety of useful plants.
There is a tradition of decorating hats with ribbons and spring flowers at the spring Equinox (Easter bonnets).
Make all kinds of things to fly in the wind, using basket makers willow, streamers of crepe paper, wool and ribbons and run with them in the wind. Make prayer flags and prayer sticks, writing positive affirmations on to the material and ribbons and attaching them to sticks to stand in the wind, sending your prayers and messages out into the world. Fly dragon flags, dragon kites, make dragon masks, which can be attached to long sticks with streamers to fly from the mask.
Have a dragon procession with a dragon you have made.
Dance to celebrate the first day of Spring.
Begin by imagining yourself curled up inside an egg or seed. You are your egg or seed space. This is your world in the dark; growing life; incubating your plans; waiting. Feel the life force growing within you. Feel the new you who is waiting to be born into the light, into action, who will become manifest. As you begin to move outwards and break out of your shell or seed case, take with you your most positive intent. Breathe new life into yourself as you break through into a new phase of your life. Celebrate and dance this power and energy. Celebrate being alive. Celebrate the balance of the world within and the world without.