Coming home last night along winding country lanes, as the blood-sun was sinking behind leafy trees, mist swirled between the high Devon hedges. The grass heavy with cold dew and my skin felt the cold that was creeping in along with the darkness. The cycle of seasons is tangibly changing this week, the long hot days of summer, that have seen me languishing in rivers and woods, is drawing to a close. The hedgerows are now dripping with bountiful harvest; blackberries and elderberries hang where once the sweet white blooms of elderflowers and bramble flowers reflected the beginning of a season now turning in another direction.
I must confess here that the weather is one of my passions; I love it, all of it. I love the heat of cloudless, blue skies and full sun. I love cool drizzle that settles on my eyelashes and creates a visual rainbow kaleidoscope. I love the passion of storms: wild winds, lightning and crashing of thunder. I love the grey skies that wrap the world in a soft blanket, gently muting bright colours. I love clouds as the expression of the sky’s soul. I love weather and how it reflects the ever-changing cycle of season, reminding me of my internal cycle of life, death and rebirth.
The wisdom of my womb links me with the moon as its closest cycle. The lunation cycle of moon phase is 29.5 days, mine a little less. I’ve heard said that to ovulate on the full moon is called the cycle of the Goddess, and more common among women of child-bearing age with the full moon being the most fertile time to conceive. And women who ovulate on the new, or dark, moon and bleed on the full moon are in the crone cycle and not as likely to conceive. But maybe that is just lay wisdom, I have never heard of studies into this, the cycles of menstruation and how it correlates with lunar cycles and fertility.
The cycle of the sun, its daily rotation of twenty-four hours and the larger cycle of Earth seasons ~ a year being 365 days, is the same as the vegetation cycles, all tie together like an intricate tapestry. At two points throughout the year, the tilt of the Earth’s axis reaches its maximum angle compared to the Sun, and begins to move back the other direction. This usually happens around June 21st and December 21st. These days are the solstices and celebrated throughout the ages. Their ancient names, still in use today are Litha and Yule but more commonly known as the summer and winter solstices. They are the longest and shortest days of the year. As the Earth continues to move around its orbit, it reaches two other points during the year where the tilt of its axis causes it to be straight relative to the Sun. These days are known as the equinoxes. During these equinoxes the rays of the Sun shine directly on the equator. These happen on approximately March 20th and September 22nd, and are called the spring/Eoster and autumn equinox respectively. In between these dates are other Pagan festivals of Celtic origin which split the year into four. February 2nd (or Imbolc) is possibly a more fitting New Year celebration that our currently celebrated New Year at the beginning of January as more life is seen beginning to grow in February. May 1st (or Beltane) is spring in full bloom and symbolizes the mystery of the sacred marriage of Goddess and God. August 1st (Lammas) is the time of the harvest festival. Finally 31st October (or Samhain) is probably the most widely marked festival around the world, which traditionally marked the Feast of the Dead as is mostly celebrated this way in Latin American countries to this day.
These six festivals act like markers in my year and remind me of the sacredness underneath the daily and monthly rhythms of life. Living in England I am blessed to appreciate the passing of four distinct seasons; the blossoming tenderness and the birth of spring, then full growth as we move into the bloom of summer, which is celebrated with the harvest of abundance. After this the natural cycle turns to decay and death, as leaves fall from trees and the rampant foliage dies back. This time of rest is needed so the cycle can begin again with rebirth, when life stirs and begins again to continue the cycle. This yearly cycle of the sun, plants and animals is a larger container that within it hold the monthly lunar and fertility cycles. It holds me, as I navigate the currents of life and shares its wisdom to enable swimming with the current rather that attempting to struggle against the tide. The seasons of my life as a woman are a larger container still; from girl child, to maiden, to mother, to crone. All human beings are subject to cycles in their lives as we grow from babies to adulthood, more like spirals as each phase builds on the previous one. These phases are the biology that is behind my psychology and spirituality, interconnected loops that affect my physical body, emotions and mental facilities. If you doubt that try asking me a rational question just before my moon time and hear my emotional response! I feel that understanding these containers offers us the opportunity to align ourselves within the larger cycles to maximize health and well-being.