All who work with or on the land understand intuitively the natural flow of the seasons, and the changes in light, the seasonal winds, the humidity and cold that accompany them. If modern life tries to take us into an environment where life is lived 7/7 and 24/24, nature offers us an entirely different experience of flow. The flow of the “old seasons” is as old as time itself, and the gradual changes from one to another are engendered by the movement of our Earth on its orbit around our Sun. The process takes time. And working with the seasons means just that — taking the time.
The old year begins at the Winter Solstice — the Midwinter — when the sun in the Nothern hemisphere is lowest in the sky, and at its zenith in the Southern Hemisphere. In the North, the light is low and this is a time for resting. In Shamanic language, this corresponds to the Direction of the North. In Europe, the Midwinter comes close to the Festive period. We, as unseasonally as we can ever be, devote this time to parties and celebrations, whilst nature is robbed of its energy and lies low. This is a time for hibernation, of going deep down into self to recuperate. Working with the season means resting, it means taking time to replenish. It is in this way that we prepare ourselves for the light which gradually grows longer each day. In the Northern hemisphere, we then celebrate Imbolc (pronounced Imolc) in February, the time of the lambing. This is an agrarian celebration — who has not noticed the lambs as they arrive in the fields, so heralding the arrival of Spring?
Imbolc is followed by the Spring Equinox in March. At this time when the Sun enters Aries, the length of day and night is now equal. The plants are waking up and first blossoms appear. This is a period of huge energetic shift as life feels as if it is accelerating from within. This acceleration takes us into the month of May, and the Festival of Beltane. This corresponds to the First of May or May-day in most countries. This period in shamanism corresponds to the Direction of the East, a firm setting of intention and a setting of seed too!
Midsummer arrives in June when the Sun reaches its zenith and enters the sign of Cancer. This corresponds in Shamanism to the Direction of the South. As the sun warms us, so this period invokes the nurturing of both projects and of our spiritual work: intention now set comes to growth. Here we are focusing our energy and involved in the process of creation, possible with the longest days, and the greatest presence of the light.
The summer season is naturally followed by the harvest which will be celebrated in three separate festivals which will prepare us for the months of Winter. The first of these festivals will celebrate the reaping of the harvest, gather the fruit of the work we have carried throughout the year and is called Lughnasadh (pronounced Lunasa), and is celebrated on the first of August
Then follows the Autumn Equinox in September. This takes us firmly into the autumn, corresponding to the Direction of the West. At the Autumn equinox, as the Sun enters the sign of Libra, the light is once more balanced with darkness and the season is said to see a thinning of the veils, which brings us to, Samhain in October (pronounced Sawain), or All Hallows. Here the two worlds cross over. This time will lead us into the depths of winter, only to begin the cycle once again at Midwinter with the Winter Solstice.
Whilst Solstice and Equinox are well known to all, Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain derive their names from Celtic culture.
The seasons are inherently linked to the land, to agriculture, to the animals and plants. They are linked to the battle of the Oak King and Holly King, who have vied for supremacy in the forest since the forest began. The Oak King rules from the Spring Equinox to the Autumn Equinox when he finally sheds his leaves and it is then that the Holly King succeeds him. This, of course, is both the battle between the evergreens and the deciduous trees but also signifies the greater movement and passage of the year.
By working with the land I mean several things. One is the feeling of our belonging, a sense of profound unity with the land. The other is awareness of the cycles and the passage from one season to the next on a symbolic level. Taking the absence of light for example, in the Midwinter, is to express our individual need for rest, for recovery, hibernation, recuperation, preparation, before the light returns in the Spring.
It is obvious to all that changes do take place over the year. To tune into these changes and work with them, acknowledge them and gain strength is however quite another thing.
In each of our eight Guides to the Season, I enter into more detail on the history, customs, symbolism of the different seasons. In this way, we can put our roots down a bit deeper as it were.
To explore this is precisely the calling of the Shamanic Healing Circle.
Dates for The Fourth Healing Circle Year are :
• Midwinter – 21/22 December 2018
• Imbolc – 1/2 February 2019
• The Spring Equinox – 20/21 March 2019
• Beltane – 1 May 2019
• Midsummer – 20/21 June 2019
• Lughnasadh – 1/2 August 2019
• The Autumn Equinox – 22 September 2019
• Samhain – 31 October 2019