So it’s that weird time of year when everything feels like it’s in transition. Things are coming to an end, the earth is dying to be reborn in the spring, some of us (me) are having birthdays and having new beginnings. It’s a pivotal time for a lot of us, spiritually if not physically
whether we acknowledge this transition on a conscious level or not.
And I love it. I love the fuzzy feeling of wanting family and friends around to wait out the rebirth of the earth together. I’m also a big fan of cottage-core, faerie-core and dark academia aesthetics (call me weird all you want) and this time of year taps into all of these, soul pleasing, nostalgic visuals which remind us that there was, and is still, life beyond social media, rush hour, nine to fives and smart phones. What also draws me to this time of year are the season’s two turning points that are observed: the winter equinox and the turn of the year. I feel it’s important that as humans we remain mindful of the spiritual significance of the changing of seasons and as a result, I have always been drawn to religions like Wicca, not as a belief system but as a way of experiencing life and the world
Wicca is a mixture of old and the new. Being free to follow your chosen deity while observing the Wheel of the year, the Rede, respecting the earth, being in tune with auras, energies, the power of words and will, are all ways of living that I have always been attracted to, because of how natural and instinctive they are.
Islam/Christianity may say that for one of their followers to be drawn to Earth religions is shirk (believing in other deities alongside the one true god), but I think it’s only shirk if you believe that placating these forces will change your fate. Personally, that’s not in my belief system, but I do admire and understand those for whom it is, because worshipping and believing in manifestations of world, in that way and observing the power of the world to heal itself and do our bidding is a natural thing for us as humans in a way that standardised religion isn’t.
But some of us don’t care to try and acknowledge our own nature, the liminal periods in the year or the power of nature and thought. We weren’t always as high tech as we are now and I think we believe that because we’re now so high tech, that we are the smartest generations that have ever lived. If you listen to historical programs and podcast, historians are always so amazed at medieval people’s understanding of the body and the world. The line that is always thrown out is: they were surprisingly so advanced for their time. And I would think: what’s so surprising about the fact that people knew what herbs to use for sickness, or how to harness time to map out days and harvests. Their methods weren’t perfect, and we have come along and perfected many of those methods. But not all of them were obsolete, their
way of communicating and using the world is the bases on which we have built our pharmaceutical and energy companies. Even seemingly primitive methods of curing illness, such as leeching, were based on some, basic, but sound, understanding of how the body works. Now we use cupping, which, though not the same, works with the same knowledge that at times our blood carries toxins which need to be flushed out. It’s absurd to think that understanding energies, plant power, thought-power and the preservation of personal energy is some modern phenomenon. It’s not. It’s in us the same way it is in animals. All
creatures of the earth have these urges, these feelings and connections to the world and to other people, we’ve just grown to think that we can bypass our nature with technology and that somehow makes us more civilised. Even if you are not pagan and you’re not celebrating Samhain, Beltane, Candlemass, Yule or Lammas, it would be ridiculous of you to look sideways at them. It is a very natural thing to want to mark out equinox’s and the changes of season, to harness the power of the earth and feel connected to it.
Prior to all the high-rise buildings and fossil fuel-powered living, that was how we measured
our time on earth, our livelihood and existence. It’s a natural thing, you don’t have to have an alter (though I prefer that idea) to make your offerings or send your prayers. You may have a safe or sacred space, and that functions in the same way. But don’t assume that because you don’t, or can’t, have a designated ‘alter’, that that means that you can’t, or shouldn’t honour this time of year.
Taking time to go for walks in nature (wearing a thick coat); clearing a space or making a space that is solely dedicated to mindfulness, whether that is books, candles or herbs; burning incense, speaking your prayers out into the earth, either by praying or just wishing out loud; nurturing plants and watching them grow, allowing them to teach you that patience yields plenty; cooking special dishes for family, reading and watching media
that only puts you in a good space, and taking time to be quiet and reflect, are all ways in which you can observe the turning of the year.
Personally, I find Wicca to be beautiful even though I’m not a part of it because I think it tries to get back to those ideals, with all of the ritual and pageantry that I feel lifts the soul. And whether I am part of that belief system or not, I can recognise that there’s some instinctive part of us that draws us to that sort of existence. And that’s not a pagan fabrication, it’s merely tapping into a piece of ourselves that our current lifestyle doesn’t make space for. And our current lifestyle has convinced us that those who don’t adhere to it are worlds apart from us.
The core Wiccan ethos is: “and it harm none, do what you will”, and I think that that’s a message that all of us, atheist or otherwise, can, and should, live by. If we did, climate change wouldn’t be such an issue, and there would be less crime. It’s a simplified excuse, but the general principle is true. And I continue to find solace and beauty in systems
of earth religions because we all have the same aims and beliefs in common, just because one person is called something else doesn’t make us any more different. So even if you don’t usually observe natures turning points and pay attention to energies, maybe it’s time you try.
And after the year we’ve all had, now, when the earth itself is trying to heal, would be the best time to look inwards and reflect on those things, those simple things and bits of knowledge, that over the centuries we’ve taken for granted, (like being able to walk in the sun), or disregarded as pagan superstition, hippie, or out dated thinking. And maybe a little ritualistic remembrance might just be the meditation that your body and spirit need to help get you through to the new year.