Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Wheel of the Year

The Earth and Feminine Spirituality
            Another way we acknowledge the importance of the land comes through the Women's Spirituality Movement.  As women leave the Father’s House, we often return to an ancient way of relating to the Earth by celebrating the old seasonal holidays.  These are times when the energies of the cosmos rejuvenate the Earth's energy grid, and when people participate in these rituals, they too share in the renewed energies.  By honoring these seasonal gateways, we can consciously integrate these energies, learning to age gracefully as we are renewed and supported by the Earth and the Cosmos.  Women find great comfort in connecting to the Earth’s seasons as well as our Moon cycle, so connected as it is to our menstrual cycles.
That is another reason for re-connecting to the natural laws here on Earth, for our young women are being seduced by the pharmaceutical companies into using contraceptives that disrupt the natural internal rhythms of their menstrual cycles so their feminine biology won’t get in the way of their very hectic, work life.  But what price does the body pay, especially when later on, these young women find they are not fertile enough to have children without expensive medical procedures? 

The Wheel of the Year
            The Wheel of the Year is the cycle of seasonal gateways which celebrate the changing relationship between the light and the dark, markers of the year.   On December 20-22, Winter Solstice is the celebration of the rebirth of the Light in the time of greatest darkness.  We know that the Sun is at its extreme southern declination, so in the Northern hemisphere we experience the shortest time of daylight and the longest night. We feel the weight of the darkness and long for the return of longer, lighter days. (Of course, it is Summer Solstice in the Southern hemisphere.)   So we create religious holidays to welcome the Divine Child of Light once again into the world.  The planetary energies work to unite with the physical and emotional energies of humanity, awakening the feminine energies of love and birthing.   It is a time to go within ourselves, so we can give birth to the light within our inner darkness.  We seek to awaken passion and curiosity and Spirit's gift of new life and love.  This is the time to set the stage for the New Year to come.  While the feminine spirit births the Light, it is the Light that grows now, and so this is the Yang or masculine part of the cycle.
Six weeks later, we celebrate the festival of Imbolc, also called by the Catholic Church Candlemas, or St. Brigid's Day.  It is the festival of Quickening, the time when seeds split open, the light grows stronger and creativity stirs in our depths.  Celebrated on February 2nd, Ground Hog’s Day, we look to predict the return of Spring through the strength of the returning sunlight.  And we look within for signs of new life and new creativity for the coming year.  We might be called to learn a language, take up a musical instrument, start to write, learn to cook or crochet, learn a new sport.  Something within us tells us that yes! Life is still with us.  All is not dead, even if the snow and cold have frozen everything around us.
The next gateway is Spring Equinox (March 20-22), when life bursts out from the seemingly barren Earth, and the chains of darkness and winter are broken for another year. There is a balance of light and darkness, and we breathe in the knowledge that the light is growing and the days are getting longer and warmer.  The Sun has reached the equator and will begin its travel north.  It is at Spring Equinox that we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ as well as the Jewish holiday of Passover.  The symbolism of death and resurrection is played out at this balance of light and dark, life and death.  Now we begin to express the masculine energy of life as we assert our creativity more dynamically and bring our creative talents to bear on new projects.  The masculine force of Will is released in the Spring.  This force wants to have greater external expression in our lives to balance the internal feminine energies of Winter.  
At this time, the fertility of the Easter bunny, named for the great fertility goddess of northern Europe, Oester, captures our imaginations. There is a story about Oester that exemplifies this balance of feminine being and masculine doing.  A bird came to her one day, and told her that she had fallen in love with a land animal, a rabbit, and wanted to be changed into a rabbit to be with her beloved.  So Oester blessed her and changed the bird into a rabbit, and in gratitude the rabbit laid eggs for the goddess for the rest of her life.  The ancients knew that the great Goddess of Life grants our wishes for life and love and happiness in Spring. And that the correct response is to offer our respect back to her through our actions.  We feel the truth of this story that something divine is behind the gift of life. And that respect is due this mystery.  At Spring Equinox, we move out of our winter hibernation into action.
On May 1st, we celebrate the Feast of Beltane, when 'sweet desire weds wild delight' (Starhawk)  as the colors return to nature and flowers' perfumes intoxicate our senses.  This is when we experience, each time as if for the first time, how awesome Earth’s beauty is, seeing and feeling the gift of life that we have been blessed with; a time to know joy and hope and desire and passion, for these are the gifts of life that we remember as the Round of the Year circles on. Beltane marks a time when we celebrate the gift of life's possibilities.  We have come from birth into youth and flowering.   On Beltane, we dance around the May Pole, joining the masculine and feminine energies to create the passion that sparks new inventions, new creativity and new life in partnership with each other.
            Now the Wheel of the Year turns to its second half and the cycle of maturity and fulfillment open up, followed by the slow decay and death of autumn and winter. This begins the Yin or feminine part of the cycle.  First comes the Summer Solstice (June 20-22), the time of the longest day and the shortest night, the marriage feast of Heaven and Earth when we feel the fullest potentials of life. At the time, the four planes of life – spiritual, mental, emotional and etheric – are aligned with the physical to promote greater spiritual awareness and growth.  This is a time of spiritual opening when we can blend the feminine and masculine energies within as well as without.  All of Nature is open to us, assisting in this new integration.   This is the time when we know what our purpose is and are fully engaged in it.  The Sun is at its most northern declination and the northern hemisphere is bathed in light and life.  It’s ‘Summertime and the living is easy’!  (Of course, in the Southern hemisphere, they are celebrating the Winter Solstice.) This is the moment when we celebrate the power of Light.  This Light brings new consciousness, new illumination, new beauty and vision as we consummate our life.   But in the very moment of this longest day of light we know that now the cycle is turning and imperceptibly the darkness begins to grow and the light lessen.
            On August 1st comes the Festival of Lammas, or Lughnasadh, which marks the ending of summer and the coming of autumn.  Now we begin to notice that the days are shorter, giving way to cooler days and longer nights.  This festival highlights the fading power of the Sun as well as a celebration of the first fruits of the year’s harvest.  It is the time of year when the abundance of the harvest is apparent and we begin to see the first fulfillment of our creativity and hard work.  It is a time to give thanks for our lives and the good things in it.   This is the time to dedicate the first fruits of the harvest to Mother Earth, an offering that reminds us that all things come from this Divine source.  Our masculine, doing energy begins to take the back seat as we prepare ourselves for the Fall when the feminine being energy takes over once again.
            Next comes the Fall Equinox (September 20-22), when once again we hang in the balance between the energies of the light and the darkness, but a very different balance than we experience in Spring, for we are moving out of the light and into the darkness.  As we accept the decline of the light, we also accept the gifts of the harvest. These gifts often entail healing, balancing and greater strength of body, soul and spirit.  This harvest is not only of the foods that sustain our bodies, but the harvest of another creative year of our lives. Hopefully, we have grown and matured through the year and have something new in our lives to show for it.  This time of harvest is a time of celebration, but also of purification and preparation.  We have to look at our values and determine which ones center us in our lives.  We have to consider how our harvest went and what new goals we might want to pursue in the coming year.  We are preparing for the death of the year, for without death there can be no new life.  This time of year teaches us how to let go of what no longer serves our life.   Now life demands that we recognize that we are growing older and that we must learn how to accept the inevitable death of our youth, of our middle age and ultimately of our lives.
This death is celebrated on Samhain, our Halloween night, on October 31-November 1.  It is not a time of evil forces, but rather the night when the veils between the worlds are thin, and the spirits of the dead may once more walk among the living, so that we remember and honor what has gone before us.  This night celebrates the opening of the gate between life and death; when in accepting the fact of death, we allow ourselves to open to the birth that will come once again on Winter Solstice.  This is the time to let go of our fears, our failures and our unfulfilled goals so that they can go back into the darkness for rebirth at Winter Solstice.  As we experience the withdrawal of life force into the depths of the Earth for renewal, we learn that we too can let go of those parts of ourselves which no longer serve us, because as Earth’s children, we are assured of new  life to come.
So the Wheel of Life continues its round.  In celebrating these sacred times, women and men are once again acknowledging that ancient wisdom which the Earth offers to Her children: first, that human beings live in cyclical time as well as linear time; second, that our human lives are regulated by the cycles of birth, growth, decay and death that the Earth Herself is subject to, and third, that we have an opportunity at these times to direct and influence how we use and store this energy of life to use for our spiritual growth.
Because of our one-sided emphasis on directed, masculine consciousness and the rejection and repression of the feminine in all its manifestations, the problem of really internalizing the Earth as Mother and Divinity needs to be met on many levels.  At the same time as we reconnect with the outer Earth, we must also make contact with the inner earth, or foundation, of our being.  Since our psychic life is based on primordial images, we have to listen to those images just as we have to listen to our bodies and to the Earth to find the wisdom to make the right choices about our lives.  Just as the Earth was a divinity to ancient peoples, She must become a psychic reality for us, for both our bodies and our souls need her nourishment.  We need to be grounded in the reality of the Earth’s laws to balance out the superficial reality of our modern culture.  If our society is ever to connect to the Earth in a new way, it will be through the gift of feminine consciousness. 

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