Ancient practices for a modern world
Seasons and Cycles
Life is full of cycles and change. So often we are too busy to be in tune wth them.
The seasons are the most obvious to think of and they really can affect how we feel. We are creatures of nature with the same response to seasons as animals and in winter we slow down and feel like being in more (hibernating) and in spring our energy changes and we want to be out more and doing things.
Some really feel the difference in their mood and energy levels but often try to work through and fight our natural cycles rather than work with them. For some, summer can bring out their best, whilst others may not adapt to heat well and they feel drained by it.
Do you push yourself through the change of seasons and their effects on our rhythms and systems by trying to do too much or do you allow yourself to have a lazy afternoon reading a book? You may read that and think, 'well I have no choice, I have to work!' Of course, but when we start to recogise which is our best season, we can allow ourselves a little more forgiveness in the slower, darker months and go with the flow and really optimise the ones where we feel our best.
Acknowledging the seasonal wheel and changes offers you the chance to pause, reflect and renew at key times during the year, to take stock and give thanks – something we don’t often do in our busy lives.
The Wheel of The Year
A modern take on ancient wisdom.
A lot of what we see now on Celtic, pagan or seasonal yoga websites will cite the Celtic Tree Calendar or Wheel of The Year as being ancient. It is and isn't! Historical and archeological evidence suggest ancient pagan people varied in their cultural observations; Anglo-Saxon celebrated the solstices and equinoxes, while Celts celebrated seasonal divisions with various fire festivals.
The phrase Wheel of the Year was being used by the 1960's to describe the annual cycle of these eight holidays being brought together as a wheel or calender. The solstices and equinoxes were also later given anglo-saxon names and celtic names to tie in with the other fire festivals. Even though The Wheel of the year is a modern take and combination of ancient holdiays/festivals. I think it offers a great insight, intrigue and inspiration for our practice and to be in tune wth nature a little more in our ever increasing detachment from it in favour of technology based activities.
The Wheel of the Year is a mandala (A mandala is a geometric configuration of symbols that represents the spiritual journey, starting from outside to the inner core, through layers). within this circle is sunshine and shadow; light and dark; calm and storm; new life and decay.
Our lives too are mandalas and within the circle of our life are to be found sunshine and shadow; highs and lows; happiness and sadness; gains and losses; birth and death. As we develop and hone our seasonal awareness we learn to be open and present to the wisdom that is contained within every aspect of each season.
We have the Solar Festivals – Winter Solstice, Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox – that mark seasonal changes caused by the sun when significant shifts happen in terms of cyclical change.
Then we have the Fire Festivals – Imbolc, Beltane, Lammas and Samhain – which represent turning points that were celebrated as agricultural festivals by our ancestors.
The Festivals of the Wheel of the Year represent the more active and the dormant phases of nature.
The practices we do during each season reflect the inner expression of the outward season. By practicing Yoga in this way, we can connect more deeply to the natural ebbs and flows of energy we experience both personally through seasonal shifts and collectively through nature.
There are 8 points to the wheel of the year (some variations will show 9 as New year being a separate point) as follows: The dates shown are for the Northern Hemisphere.
Imbolc - 1st February (fire festival. Goddess Brigid - Celtic): the world is waking up from its winter sleep. New life is stirring. Light half of the year. Midpoint between winter solstice and spring equinox.
The Spring Equinox - 21st March: (Solar Festival. Goddess Ostara - Germanic) is when day and night are of equal length and then we enter into the lighter phase of the year.
Beltane - 1st May (Fire festival - Celtic. May Day): marks the transition from spring to summer. It's a time of blossoming and a celebration of fertility. Midpoint between spring equinox and summer solstice.
The Summer Solstice - 21st June: (Solar festival - Germanic. Litha - Celtic) : is the longest day.
Lammas - 1st August - (Lammas - Germanic. Lugnasadh (pronouced lunasa) - Celtic) celebrates first harvest and the ripeness of the earth. Dark half of the year. Midpoint between summer solstice and winter equinox
The Autumn Equinox - 21st September (Solar festival. Germanic. Mabon - Celtic) is when day and night are of equal length and then we enter into the darker phase of the year.
Samhain (pronounced 'sowane') / Celtic New Year - 31st October/1st November (fire festival - Celtic) marks the transition from autumn to winter, as we enter the darkest phase of the year. Midpoint between autumn equinox and winter solstice.
The Winter Solstice / Yule - 21st December (Solar festival - Germanic) : is the shortest day.
These Celtic and Anglo-Saxon inspired calendar dates give us an opportunity to take a pause every six weeks, to take the time to tune into the energy of the Earth's cycles. More information on each at the links menu to the left (if viewing on a desktop, or at the main menu on a mobile)
On this page are two examples of wheels, one with the Ogham tree connections.
Intro | Ogham | Wheel of the Year | Spring | Summer | Autumn | Winter | Divination