The Eight Seasons

The seasons are endlessly turning, offering constant opportunities to begin again. We can enrich our lives greatly by observing the turn of nature's wheel and by sharing our lives with those we love. These days, so much of our lives are lived without regard to the changes in weather and season. And yet, the Earth exercises her pull on us, whether or not we pay attention. When we do notice where the sun is in the skies and what is coming into bud or slowly dying back, each day becomes filled with possibility and wonder. Too many of us live without that possibility and wonder, and it is sitting right under our noses. Noticing that life is interesting and cyclical is a first step to a very important human endeavor -- gratitude. If we share our gratitude and wonder with another human being we can slowly awaken to the glorious abundance of life. Every day can be an amazing day. If we understand the work that the earth is about in each season, we can use the season as a model to guide our own work into regular cycles of sowing, tending, harvest, thanksgiving, and lying fallow. Our life will be a steady progression forward on the spiral to fulfillment. Every day will lead us to an amazing life!

Because the ancient Europeans were agricultural, they spent a lot of time studying the weather and how it changed from season to season. As a result, they divided up the year into both smaller and larger chunks. The Norse people really celebrated two seasons: summer, which began on May first and winter, which began November first. But even they celebrated what have come to be known in English as the quarters and the cross quarters. The seasons that we celebrate as the beginning of a season: spring and autumn equinoxes, winter and summer solstices are really the mid-point of the season. The solstice is really the high point of summer, not the beginning. Light grows steadily during the day until the solstice and then slowly diminishes. Lammas on August first was seen as the end of summer and the beginning of the harvest -- the movement toward the equinox.

We are no longer agricultural people and most of us live distant from the land and the pull the seasons exercise upon it. But the seasons work on us whether or not we notice. Therefore, it makes sense to notice them and to make a place for them in our lives. The trick becomes then to translate the meaning of the sun's movement into the lives we lead today. What emphasis in our lives can we draw from these ancient celebrations? There are revivals of ancient traditions that celebrate these turnings. Paganism and Wicca are among them and have interesting things to offer their followers. But these ancient celebrations offer people of many traditions a way to celebrate with their communities the richness of our lives, regardless of race or creed or culture.

For no matter where we come from or what we believe the seasons turn. To take a moment to reflect, to pray together, to promise to live more closely with our values, all within a circle of trusted intimates will always be worthwhile. This is a time to share with one another what is important in our lives, what troubles us, what are the secret dreams that motivate and enliven us. This is a time to pray together, to laugh together, to cry together, to eat together -- across cultures and across generations. It is also a wonderful time to explore our talents among those who love us best. Do we sing or dance or draw? What can we share that will encourage others to open up?

The seasons are a wheel. Begin anyplace! Life becomes deeper and more meaningful as we repeat the cycles in the company of friends.

Candlemas: February 1 Quickening & Initiation: The sap rises once again in the trees. Allow the sap to stir in you. What is coming back to life? This is the ancient time of initiation. What is your role for the coming year -- what is your work? Come through the tunnel of initiation and be reborn.

Spring: March 21 Spring Planting: The ground is prepared and fertile. Welcome your overwhelming fecundity. What will bear fruit in your life this year? Where will you flourish? How will you nurture your growth? Plant a symbol of your determination in a place you would like to flourish. (Many people have snuck into a garden in front of an institution where they wished to flourish and planted and tended a bulb! As a result, people have gotten jobs, changed careers and gone in new directions. The wild flower, carefully planted, has resulted in a beautiful note in the landscaping. So when you see a flower growing out of place in a garden, take heart! It could be a mistake, or it could be a courageous declaration of purpose.)

Beltane: May 1 Jumping the Flame: The first green shoots burst through to the light. Move your projects from concept to reality. Will you shake off your dormancy and your constant preparation? Are you ready to burst forth from the inhibitions that hold you back? The ancients used to burn off the fields as the plants were ready to sprout. Now's the time for you to jump through the fire and burn off the bracken which kept your dreams safely hidden. Come out into the light and make your dreams manifest in the world.

Mid-Summer: June 21 First Fruits: The world is lush and sweet and so are you. Celebrate that! Are you ready to share your sweetness with the world? What project have you brought to fruition in this new year? What piece of your personality are you making public in a way you never have before? Dance the Maypole with deliberation and joy. Let the dance lead you out of yourself. Dance until you are dizzy. Share sweet berries and let the juice melt on your tongue. Linger in the light that takes so long to die.

Lammas: August 1 Meditation on a ripe Peach: Life is rich and full. Take a bite and enjoy it! Are you ready to celebrate your fullness? Are you ready to love yourself completely? Let yourself be successful and aware of the bounty. There is no time to waste. Life is too rich to sit on the sidelines and long! You have all you need. Laze under a tree with good food and good friends and enjoy yourself.

Fall: September 21 Harvest & Forgiveness: All that you have worked for is ready to be gleaned. Give thanks for the work you have done and the rewards you are reaping. Decide what will you put aside for the winter. For what are you grateful? What bitterness can you sort out from your life that does not need to be stored through the coming time of quiet? Count your blessings, seek forgiveness, share the harvest and get back to work!

Hallowmas: November 1 Casting out the demons: Now you see through the mirror dimly and even occasionally face to face. Let go of whatever holds you back. Rout it out and chase it away forever. What is your shadow? What is your future? What wisdom do your ancestors offer you? What did they teach you that you would better to release? What might you profit from? Accept the truths that history has taught you and relinquish the demons of the past that hold you prisoner. It is time to reflect and then move on.

Mid-Winter: December 21 Burning: Ah, the sweet solitude of the dark. Let go of projects you have finished and dreams that have served their purpose. Fall into reverie about what is yet to be. What will your heart ponder in the dreamtime? What stories will soothe you into slumber? How will you settle into quiet? Celebrate what you have received from your life, release that which is no longer useful to you and call in the dreams you will cradle in the quiet.

Ann Keeler Evans has written seasonal celebrations, chants and meditations for communities of women and for mixed communities every where. These rituals have deepened in meaning as they are celebrated by communities, season after season, year after year. Communities have grown up around the celebration of time's passing. Open to the possibilities, my friends, and let us celebrate together.

  1998-2003 Ann Keeler Evans. All Rights Reserved.