When I first stumbled my way into Witch Craft, as a starry eyed fifteen year old, inspired by tripe such as the TV show Charmed, I was fortunate enough to have the guidance of amazing women in my community who directed me to writing that would be a gift to my future practises. The internet was only very new and I didn’t really know what to do with it. But my mum’s friend owned the only new age store for miles and she always made sure the ‘right’ books were on the shelf.
There were a few of us who were interested. We probably thought we were going to be the girls from The Craft right? All spells and incense filled rooms. But as I worked my way through the books I found something that the TV shows had never covered : the story of the God and Goddess who moved with the Seasons.
The story of the Wheel of the Year, as it is most often called in WitchCraft and Wicca books, opened a whole new space for me. It was a space that finally made sense – about how the world was created and how the world changed and how everything is in flow. Suddenly I could see a rhythm in the year that had never been explained by a calendar on the wall and a new season every few months. I started to see the connections between commonly celebrated religious festivals (like Xmas and Easter) and the distant past where these things actually mattered to the changing of the Earth. The Wheel’s metaphor spoke to the sacred lust in us all, the celebration of birth and the grief of death, and everything in between.
Here finally was a story that connected me to my spirituality, without a dogma or confusing rules. The story wasn’t irrational – there were both men and women in the story and both were as important as the other… No body was evil. In fact, bodies were sacred and we could use our bodies to honour the Earth!
So I began to attend to the celebrations, or Sabbats as witches call them, and although sometimes the metaphor was confusing – I stuck it out, attempting to memorise the story of the Goddess and Her journey throughout the year. The more I payed attention, the more I understood. I saw the baby bunnies behind the bus stop as I waited to go to school in Spring. I felt the ice of winter that forced us to seek shelter inside. I relished in the long summer nights and celebrated the fruits in season.
As time went on, it became clear that no memorising was necessary to understand the story of the Wheel. Careful attention to nature and an intention to connect was all that I needed to travel the depths of clarity with the seasons.
As you probably know, the stories of Goddess and Mother Nature became my work. I read and studied everything I could get my hands on. I made friends with witches, shamans and theological academics. I held ceremonies, circles and made temple offerings. Magick and Goddess became my life. Everything I understood from that, and my attention to nature merged into my own understanding of the Wheel. This was my spiritual practise.
When I was asked to hold a Wheel of the Year workshops, I was terrified. How could I tell everyone that most of what I knew was not out of any book. I didn’t have a tradition to teach. My Wheel was a combination of so many things, taken from so many places, relevant to my own life experience and ancestry and choices. And the biggest thing of all? My Wheel was not the same each year. My celebrations changed as my understanding developed further, as my knowledge deepened…. this was not a simple journey that could be fit into an hour long workshop!
Somewhere in this process, while still trying to make reason out of my ramble, I came upon the idea of the Wheel never having been a wheel at all. A wheel suggests it turns and turns, always the same and never changing. But a Spiral! That’s something that turns and turns but can journey inward or outward, flowing ever deeper with each turn. My Spiral of the Sabbats was born.
It was like permission was granted for me to share all the things that were relevant to me, in a way that connected the dots, but left a whole lot of room for other individuals to make it their own. We each travel a Spiral of the year, whether we know it or not. Everyday we understand a little more. It’s when we pay attention that that understanding becomes meaningful in ways that can speak to the rest of our lives.
So why do I celebrate the seasons? They give me a peg on which to hang my moments of the year. They help me to remember to turn within, to reflect on all that has been and all that will come. The seasons are a practise in gratitude and awareness for me. The more I celebrate them the more I am aware of the world that is all around – of nature and her gifts, of my community and my own needs.
It’s also been important for me to create a space where my children can learn to celebrate the Seasons in meaningful ways, without feeling like crazy weirdos because it’s not the mainstream way. The stars know that these poor kids have already got enough to contend with, with their dreadlocked, home schooling witch mama in the kind of town populated with seventh generation beef and lamb farmers. From the very first women’s circle I called when I was pregnant with my son in 2003, I’ve always had an intention of having a community of nature loving, meaning seeking families around me. It’s what led me into this work publicly, and in different ways it still drives me now.
Over the past couple of years I have been inviting friends to celebrate the seasons with us at our property, Freyja’s Rest. We come together for each Solstice and Equinox and we spend a day mixing old traditions and new to create a moment of togetherness. This village community has become so utterly important to me that I cannot imagine living without it.
It’s not only the festival itself, but everything that happens on the peripheral – the community of different aged children who play so awesomely, the bonfire talks with other Mamas into the deep night, the sharing of local produce and individual recipes, and the love that I know is possible when we have a meaningful reason to support one another.
Also, I’ve found a place to come together with others, regardless of our religious/spiritual faith and beliefs. We use the Goddess metaphor that you will come to understand throughout this book, but we are not all Goddess followers. Our community includes taoists, atheists and scientists, and a bunch of people who don’t call themselves anything. The metaphor of the seasons is told by me through stories of goddess, but we always say, there are plenty of other ways to tell this story too. These are simply the words I choose to use.
The seasonal solstices and equinoxes have become such an important and exciting time for our family. Once the weekend starts, we don’t want it to end! Some people stay past the event for days just because our connection is so fabulous and we want more and more of each other. But when it finally ends, I’m content in the knowing that even though these amazing weekends have to end, we will spiral soon into another together in only a few months. No matter how busy life becomes, the spiral will return us all together for this important time of reflection and planning for the future.