Chapter 5

PC bookThe Seasonal Moments – a PaGaian Wheel of the Year

The eight Sabbats/holy days in the traditional pre-Celtic Wheel of the Year are as follows: two Solstices – Winter and Summer, two Equinoxes – Autumn and Spring, and four cross-quarter days, that is, meridian points of each quarter of the year. There is a simple division into a light half during which the light is waxing – Winter through Spring to Summer, and a dark half during which the dark is waxing – Summer through Autumn to Winter. There is another division of the year into one half when the hours of light in a day are longer than the hours of dark – Spring Equinox through the Summer to Autumn Equinox, and the other half being when the hours of dark in a day are longer than the hours of light – Autumn Equinox through Winter to Spring Equinox. (See Figures 1 and 1b1). On its simplest level, the light that is “born” at the Winter Solstice waxes through the Spring – at first being young and tender, before coming into balance with the dark at Equinox, then waxing into the strength and passion of High Spring (Beltane) and Summer. At the Summer Solstice, the dark that is “born” waxes through the Autumn – at first being a remembering of letting go or “harvest”, before coming into balance with the light at Equinox, then waxing on into the dark transformation of Deep Autumn (Samhain) and Winter.

Wheel of Year S.H. PaGaian

Figure 1. Southern Hemisphere Wheel: See footnote1.

Wheel of Year N.H. PaGaian

Figure 1b. Northern Hemisphere Wheel

I commonly think of the light part of the cycle as acknowledging and celebrating the “manifest” reality, and the dark part of the cycle as acknowledging and celebrating the “unmanifest” or “manifesting” reality. I take these terms from David Abram’s explanation of Benjamin Lee Whorf’s work in analyzing the Hopi language:

While Whorf did not find separable notions of space and time among the Hopi, he did discern, in the Hopi language, a distinction between two basic modalities of existence, which he terms the ‘manifested’ and the ‘manifesting2’.

Abram summarizes the meaning of these terms with:

The ‘manifested’, … is that aspect of phenomena already evident to our senses, while the ‘manifesting’ is that which is not yet explicit, not yet present to the senses, but which is assumed to be psychologically gathering itself toward manifestation within the depths of all sensible phenomena3.

It is easy enough for the average modern Western mind to associate light with manifestation; the birth of light at the point of Winter Solstice and its waxing through to the fullness of Summer Solstice, is fairly easily taken on as cause for celebration. However, the celebration of the dark is quite another thing; the average modern Western mind finds it very hard to comprehend, having metaphorized the dark as a dead-end, bad, even sordid. Within a linear time frame, where it is disconnected from the cycle, the dark is no longer a space for transformation, for “manifesting”. Participation in the Wheel of the Year process, re-enables the “sense” of the dark. With experience of the Wheel’s cycle, one comes to always be aware of the polar opposite Sabbat, in the midst of a seasonal celebration; that is, to be aware of the presence of the “manifested” in the “manifesting”/“unmanifest”, and vice versa4. For example, at Lammas (Early Autumn), where individual self is given over to the dark, there is a memory of Imbolc (Early Spring), when the differentiation of individual self was celebrated; at Lammas, one may become aware that “I” am simply returning the “manifested” to the Source or the “heart … behind and within all the forms and appearances of nature5”. I have adopted the terms because it seems from Abram’s interpretation of Whorf’s work that the Hopi had a sense of space and time that was similar to that invoked by practice of the Seasonal Wheel of the Year, wherein

one’s own feeling, thinking, desiring are a part of, and hence participant with, this collective desiring and preparing implicit in all things – from the emergence and fruition of corn, to the formation of clouds and the bestowal of rain. Indeed, human intention, especially when concentrated by communal ceremony and prayer, contributes directly to the becoming manifested of such phenomena6.

Participation in the Wheel process, particularly when practised as a whole year-long experience and over the period of years, re-identifies one’s small self with the Larger Gaia-Self. It is the experience of many indigenous cultures that their communal ceremony and prayer, along with their daily activities, participate “in acts that evoke the ongoing creation of the cosmos7.” Increasingly, as I practice this Wheel of the Year process, I come to understand how we create the Cosmos, whether conscious or not. I did not know this when I began; this awareness has grown in the practice of identifying with the Creativity of Gaia Herself, through the cycle of the “manifest” and the “manifesting”, the light and the dark, the differentiation and the transformation. Gradually I come to understand how these seasonal ceremonies are a response to awakened relationship with Cosmos – thus in some sense, the celebrations become a

responsibility to the cosmos … to know grace, to know as intimately as possible the mysterious interrelatedness and spiritual powers that infuse being and to live our lives accordingly8.”

Perhaps the central/essential significance of the Sabbats is that they are points of expression of relationship with Gaia, who is a Phenomena of storied events. These “events” are not accomplished and “located in some finished past”, but are “the very depth of the experiential present”, as Abram describes this sense when describing his understanding of the Aboriginal Australian notion of Dreamtime9. Abram understands the “Dreamtime” – as the indigenous term has been commonly translated10 – to refer to the “implicit life” of a place, the storied events that “crouch within” a place, that the human may rejuvenate with “en-chant-ment” and action11. The human is thus enchanted and rejuvenated simultaneously – human and Habitat know relationship, intimacy. This seems resonant with what I have called the “sacred awareness” of the Universe we live in, that may be conjured by the ceremonies of the Wheel of the Year. After celebrating the seasonal ceremonies for a period of time, I came to have a clear sense, at each Sabbat, as I/we prepared to celebrate the ritual, of the uniqueness and depth of this space-time moment in the history of the Universe; I understand this as “sacred awareness”. It is a sense of the deep time and space of the moment, and that it is significant Cosmically12. The moment becomes a Moment, as actually all moments are; this sense then was often carried over into my life at other moments.

Each Sabbat has its roots in relationship of Earth with Sun primarily, then in how this has affected Earth’s response, and our response – in the growing of our food and in the tending of animals (both pre and post-domestication); then in how it has affected human understanding of the Mystery at the Heart of existence – how we have storied it, metaphorized it, how we have come to understand Life and Death through “observing” it, in a participatory sense. This then expresses how humans have come to understand personal stories – the search for the Harmony within our stories’ pain and ecstasy. All these layers of story over time, and even varying within a place, and a culture, are intermingled, making a web that is complex, and ever more so; but each Sabbat does retain a particular moment of relationship, a particular “slice” of the Whole Creative cycle of Light and Dark essentially – of “manifest” and “manifesting” – that invites celebration. And gradually, the place in which one celebrates this Great Story … the place which is local-particular and cosmic at the same time, becomes the sacred site that author Caitlin Matthews, speaks of when she describes the experience of consciously joining Earth in Her circumambulation of Sun13. The ritual celebration of each Sabbat – the moment in time, the particular “slice” of the Whole Creative cycle of Light and Dark, may embed one in a growing sense – felt knowledge – of being at the Centre and Origins of All.

Some of the words/poetry in the rituals as I have celebrated them are taken directly from the traditional expressions/stories that Starhawk articulates. I have also added much of my own understanding, and storied in the particular emphasis of the Triple Goddess/Triple Spiral/Cosmogenesis. Starhawk has always invited adaptation of the rituals as need, place and circumstance predicated. Her version includes a much stronger presence of the God, which is a later (Celtic) adaptation of a story originally based in the phases of the Triple Goddess14. There is no right and wrong way to tell this story of the Wheel of the Year; there seems to be as many interpretations as there are groups of people. These Sabbats/festivals have taken different names in different ethnic groups over the centuries, and their significance altered slightly according to the culture. As one example, Emma Restall Orr gives various names of the festivals and some of the different emphases15; and from a reading of Shirley Toulson’s explanation of the Celtic Year16 it seems that the ancestors moved dates around to suit their perceptions of the light and dark, and the stories they wanted to tell. Starhawk points out that the story will be different for specific places and climates, and that “the way we celebrate the seasonal festivals also changes over time17.” She explains the celebrations as described in The Spiral Dance:

Some of these rituals – or some aspects of them – we still do very much as is described here. For some festivals, new traditions have evolved that are repeated year after year. For others, each year’s ritual is different. Some festivals have specific children’s rituals involved; others don’t as yet. The opening invocations reflect the old imagery based on heterosexual polarity. Please feel free to change or adapt them. I may rewrite them someday, after a few more turns around the wheel18.

Caitlin and John Matthews, scholars and practitioners of the Western Way, point out that the seasonal festivals have much deeper significance than the exoteric celebration of them makes apparent19. They note how the forms and names of the festivals have changed, but declare that “the inner protective energy remains the same”, and that “they are the times when the way to the Otherworld stands open20.” The festivals, they say, can become “hidden doorways in your life” for vital inner energy and “fostering sensitivity to the important psychic tides which energize the world21.” It has been so, in my experience, and also in the experience of the participants who spoke of it.

I have adapted the Wheel as a way of celebrating the Female Metaphor – Cosmogenesis, the Creativity that is present really/actually in every moment, but for which the Sabbats provide a pattern/Poetry over the period of a year – in time and place. The pattern that I unfold is a way in which the three different phases/characteristics interplay. In fact, the way in which they interplay seems infinite, the way they inter-relate is deeply complex. I think it is possible to find many ways to celebrate them. There is nothing concrete about the chosen story/Poetry, nor about each of the scripts presented here, just as there is nothing concrete about the Place of Being – it (She) is always relational, a Dynamic Interchange. Whilst being grounded in the “Real”, the Poetry chosen for expression is therefore at the same time, a potentially infinite expression, according to the heart and mind of the storyteller.

Swimme and Berry call for “a more symbolic language … to enter into the subjective depth of things, to understand both the qualitative differences and the multivalent aspects of every reality22.” The Wheel of the Year is such a multivalent language, I believe. It can speak any number and layers of experiences in the dynamic of the waxing into fullness and the waning into emptiness – in our individual lives, in the life of a group, in the life of Earth, in the evolution of the Universe. It happens in time, it is an objective event, but its interpretation is multivalent. I use the Wheel of the Year, and its traditional base, to spell out a cosmology as I perceive it. In the following description of the Wheel, as one Sabbat kaleidoscopes into the next, I will place a relevant moment of the Universe’s Story as perceived by Swimme and Berry, and quoted from their book23. This is for the purpose of poetically aligning Cosmogenesis with the Wheel of the Year. This alignment is drawn into the Poetry of the rituals, as later described in chapter 6. The diagram – Figure 1 in this chapter – has a summary of each Sabbat’s associations. The dates given below are for the Southern Hemisphere (designated “S.H.”), and as noted earlier the actual dates anywhere on the globe do vary from year to year24.

Samhain/Halloween – April 30th (S.H.):

Samhain marks the New Year in this tradition because it is the meridian point of the darkest phase of the year, wherein the new is understood to be conceived. Much like any New Year, when “re-solutions” are made, there is particular magic felt in this moment; all is possible, one could decide anything and will it to be – so, it is. This is of course true of every moment, and this celebration can remind one of that, if its significance is not rigidified.
Traditionally, as Starhawk tells it,

This is the night when the veil is thin that divides the worlds. It is the New Year in the time of the year’s death, when the harvest is gathered and the fields lie fallow. For tonight the King of the Waning Year has sailed over the sunless sea that is the Womb of the Mother, and steps ashore on the luminous world egg, becoming the seed of his own rebirth. The gates of life and death are opened; the Sun Child is conceived; the dead walk, and to the living is revealed the Mystery: that every ending is a new beginning. We meet in time out of time, everywhere and nowhere, here and there, to greet the Lord of Death who is Lord of Life and the Triple Goddess who is the circle of rebirth25.

I have adapted it in the following way:

This is the time when we recognize that the veil is thin that divides the worlds. It is the New Year in the time of the year’s death – the passing of old growth. The leaves are turning and falling, the dark continues to grow, the days are getting shorter and colder. Earth’s tilt continues to move us away from the Sun.
The story of Old tells us that on this night, between the dead and the born, between the old and the new, all is possible; that we travel in the Womb of the Mother, the Dark Shining One within, from which all pours forth, and that we are the seed of our own rebirth. The gates of life and death are opened: the dead are remembered, the Not-Yet26 is conceived. We meet in time out of time, everywhere and nowhere, here and there … to transform the old into the new in our own bodyminds

Samhain is a profound celebration of the Void – the Void before time, the Space between one exhalation and the next inhalation, the All-Nourishing Abyss, the Sea of Generosity27 from which all pours forth, the quantum vacuum. It is regarded as the time for remembering the ancestors – those who have gone before us. From the point of view of Gaia/All-That-Is, death is a transformation; Samhain is a time for remembering this, and being done with the old and conceiving the new. It is a time for recalling the many changes each participant has come through in their particular lives. It can recall the many cultural changes of our human story, the many evolutionary changes – Gaia’s transformations, which are also ours – anywhere in the spectrum of thirteen point seven billion years. We can remember how old we really are, and we can remember that we are yet “much More”, as is stated in the ritual – personally and collectively. We may articulate some of these conceptions. This is the autopoiesis of the Cosmos.

Samhain is a celebration of the Crone’s process of the transformation of Death. She is the Old One who remembers, and from whose Sentient Depths the new is drawn forth. The imagined conceptions will continue to gestate in the Fertility of the Old One’s growing Dark. At Samhain, Her face has begun to move into Mother – the Womb of Winter Solstice.

A billion years after the birth of the universe, when the galaxies have just emerged, great regions of hydrogen and helium drift about the centre of the Milky Way. In the collapse of our galactic cloud, the spinning of the matter flattens out, disclike, as the angular rotation carries the clouds into the gentle movement of the twirling spiral galaxy. After another hundred million years the invisible density arm sweeps through the cloud and shocks it into collapsing upon itself. No further energy from the galaxy is now required. The cloud that has drifted undisturbed for eons suddenly undergoes a profound transformation that destroys its basic form but gives birth to a cluster of ten thousand diamond lights in a sea of dark night28.

Winter Solstice/Yule – June 20–23 (S.H.):

This is one of the easiest of Earth’s holy days for people of our time in general to relate to, particularly in Christianized cultures, where it has been celebrated as “Christmas” since the Middle Ages. The Winter Solstice marks the stillpoint in the depths of Winter, when Earth’s tilt and orbit cause the Sun to begin its return. It may have been the first Earth-Sun event that the ancients noticed, it is the most obvious and dramatic, and it has been especially marked cross-culturally. It is this Sabbat for which the ancients in Ireland built New Grange, thought until recently to be a burial mound or “temple-tomb29”, but which may in fact be specifically a celebration of Earth-Sun creativity. The inner chamber wall is carved with the Triple Spiral, which at this Seasonal Moment is briefly illuminated by the rising sun; thus expressing the significance of the Winter Solstice.

In this tradition since Celtic times, and in many other cultural traditions, this Moment has been celebrated as the birth of the God (of the Sun). Yet for most of humanity’s history, the Sun was understood as Mother, not as a male principle30, so the story may vary accordingly. I vary the story as Starhawk tells it, only slightly, to emphasize that what is born, is within each one – the “Divine” is not “out there”, we are each Created and Creator:

This is the time of Winter Solstice in our Southern Hemisphere. Earth’s tilt leans us away from the Sun to the furthest point at this time in our annual orbit. This is for us, the time when the dark part of the day is longest – darkness reaches Her fullness, She spreads her cloak, and yet gives way, and moves back into light. The breath of nature in our part of the world is suspended. She rests. We wait … within the Cauldron, the Dark Space, for the transformation.
The stories of Old tell of the Great Mother giving birth to the Divine Child on this night. This Divine Child is the new being in you, in me … is the bringer of hope, the light in the darkness, the evergreen tree, the centre which is also the circumference – All of Manifestation. The Divine Child being born is the Miracle of Being, and the Unimaginable More that we are becoming31

Winter Solstice is the time for rejoicing in the awesome miracle of Manifestation – at the beginning of time, and in every moment. It is a celebration of the Primeval Fireball – the Original Big Birth, as well as the actual birth of our Sun from the “Grandmother” supernova, and the birth of the first cell, and our own personal manifestation, and it is the time for the lighting of candles, and expressing what we will birth in ourselves in the coming year. It can be a moment for recalling the Great Turning of these times, as Joanna Macy calls it32 – the hope we might hold for the future.

Winter Solstice is a celebration of the Mother aspect of Creativity, the ripening of Her Darkness into the awesome act of creation of form, the Web of Life, the Field of Being. It is a celebration of Communion, a point of interchange from the “manifesting” into the “manifest”; it is a time for feasting, and experiencing this essence of existence. At this point in the Wheel She is the Alpha, and at the Summer Solstice She will be the Omega – both Gateways, points of interchange, when dark and light turn. At this Winter Gateway, the Crone’s face passes through the Mother to the Virgin. The process of the three Sabbats of Samhain, Winter Solstice and Imbolc, as a group, may be felt as the three faces of Cosmogenesis in the movement towards form.

… the first living cell …. emerged from the cybernetic storms of the primeval oceans… . Life here was born in a lightning flash. …(the first cells – prokaryotes) were the most fragile autopoietic structures yet to appear … and yet they were essential for the next advance… . For four billion years the prokaryotic organisms have been remembering the composition from the beginning. … Though fragile, though liable to destruction and change in an infinity of ways, they could nevertheless perform an aboriginal magic that would enable them to pervade the world: they could swallow a drop of seawater and spit out a living version of themselves. … Besides these new powers of autopoiesis, cells exhibited a new depth of differentiation as well. Once every million births, a cell was created that was new33.

Imbolc/Early Spring – August 2nd (S.H.):

Imbolc, the meridian point of the new quarter, is quintessentially the celebration of the new. It is the first celebration proper, of the light part of the cycle, and as such, it recognizes the vulnerability, the fragility of that new light or being, of those first tendrils of green, that new self34. It is especially dedicated to the Virgin, inviolable in Her commitment to Being; She is traditionally invoked as Brigid, who is the tender of the Flame of Life.

Using Starhawk’s words35, in combination with my own emphasis, I state the seasonal purpose thus:

This is the season of the waxing light. Earth’s tilt is taking us back towards the Sun. The seed of light born at the Winter Solstice begins to manifest, and we who were midwives to this Flame now see the Light grow strong as the light part of the day grows visibly longer. This is the time when we celebrate individuation: how we each light our own light, and become uniquely ourselves. It is the time of beginning, when the tendrils of green emerge tentatively from the seed. We meet to share the light of inspiration and creative intentions, which will grow with the growing year.
This is the Feast of the Virgin – Brigid, She who tends the Flame of Being; Artemis, She who midwifes body and soul. She is deeply committed to the Creative Urge, to manifestation, deeply committed to Self. She is uncompromised, unswerving, noble, true, a warrior of spirit. She will protect the stirrings of Life

For women particularly, the Imbolc process/ritual can be an important integrating expression and movement, used as many women frequently are, to fragmentation in relationship – giving themselves away too easily. This seasonal celebration of movement into form, individuation/differentiation, yet with integrity/wholeness, especially invoking She-who-is-unto-Herself, can be a significant dedication. It is a “Bridal” commitment to Being, in the original Brigid-ine sense36. Yet men too may find this celebration of Brigid within themselves to be an integrating invocation – at last an opportunity to identify with “Her”. For any being – female or male – it may be a statement of taking up courage to be and a celebration of the individual quest.

The lighting of candles and a central flame is again a big part of this Sabbat as it was at Winter Solstice, this time recognizing that each self is a Promise of Life. Each individual Promise is identified with Gaia Herself, with “the beauty of the green earth and the white moon among the stars and the mystery of the waters37”. It is a time for purification, that is, for recognizing what it is in you that inhibits the Spark, the growth, the Power to Be, and what enhances it; then for making a commitment to the tending of this Self. This Earth holy day celebrates differentiation, diversity, the multiform beauty of Gaia, all of which is indeed brought to us through the many challenges that Gaia Herself has encountered as She has developed – our individual lives are no different. The challenges we have encountered and midwifed ourselves through, may add to our complexity, strength and beauty. The Virgin is that aspect that finds the “yes” to being – beyond the complete awesomeness of it both personally and collectively. This aspect finds the “yes” to loving the self/Self beyond all failings, and is able to step into the Power of Life – so She moves into the balance of Eostar/Spring Equinox.

A cloud of elements hovered, floated … far from the centre of the Milky Way galaxy. …In our universe, the originating powers permeating every drop of existence drew forth ten thousand stars from this quiescent cloud. To varying degrees, these stellar beings manifested the universe’s urge toward differentiation, autopoiesis, and communion. And at least one of these, the Sun, managed to enter the deeper reaches of the universe creativity, a realm where the complexity, self-manifestation, and reciprocity at the very heart of the universe revealed themselves in a way transcending anything that had occurred for ten billion years – as an extravagant, magical, and living Earth burst into a new epoch of the universe story38.

Eostar/Spring Equinox – September 20–23 (S.H.):

As the light continues to grow, it comes into balance with the dark. Eostar, or Spring Equinox, is one of two points in the year when the Sun is equidistant between North and South, creating this light and dark balance. Yet the trend at this Equinox is toward increasing light – longer hours of light. Earth in this region is still tilting further toward the Sun. Traditionally it is the joyful celebration of Persephone’s return from the underworld; this is when the balance tips – the certainty of the return of light is assured, the darkness has been navigated successfully. As is said in the seasonal celebrational statement, rewording Starhawk slightly:

Life bursts forth with new strength. The story of Old tells us that Persephone, beloved Daughter, returns from Her journey to the Underworld – Demeter stretches out Her arms – to receive and rejoice. The Beloved One, the Lost One, returns with new Wisdom from the depths.
We may step into a new harmony. Where we step, wild flowers may appear; where we dance, despair may turn to hope, sorrow to joy, want to abundance. May our hearts open with the Spring39

The patriarchal version of Persephone’s story is that She is abducted and raped by Hades. I think it is particularly important that this myth be re-storied. As it has been known in patriarchal times, it is an account of what did happen historically; that is, in the human story. However, in the oldest tale, Persephone voluntarily descends to the underworld – she is not forced40. She has the Wisdom of Goddess, who understands the fertility of the Dark terrain, who understands the Mystery of life and death. In this old account, Persephone journeys seeking Self-knowledge and Compassion, retaining Her integrity and sovereignty41: She is thus restored to Her former grace, and to the gaining of a sense of Her full participation in the mystery and adventure of Life.

Persephone’s return is the certain return of manifest Creativity. She brings with Her, knowledge of the Depths (autopoiesis), from whence springs all Creativity. Persephone’s journey is about becoming familiar with the inner realms in herself, falling in Love with these depths. In the Creation story of the Faery tradition, all manifestation springs forth from Goddess falling in Love with Her reflection in the curved mirror of black space42. The ancients understood that the essence of Creative Power springs from Self-Love, known and seen only completely in the Dark.

I story this celebration as a “Stepping into Power”, identifying ourselves as Heras, rejoicing in how we have made it through, having faced our fears, the chthonic, and our demise (in its various forms). It is a time to welcome back that which was lost, and step forward into the light, to fly. Eostar is the time for enjoying the fruits of the descent, of the journey taken into the darkness. It is a point of balance of the three faces of Goddess – Persephone representing both the Wise One from the depths and the newly Emerged, being embraced by the Mother, rejoicing and affirming the harmony of All. It is the three aspects of Cosmogenesis in “a fecund balance of tensions43”.

Earth is perfectly poised in this balance for a moment, before She tips into the increasing fertility of Spring. The freedom of empowerment, the exhilaration of the full flight of Being, brings with it increasing passion for Life. Allurement awakens, desire reaches for “More” (promised at Samhain), for fullness; it is the wild, untamed nature of the Virgin who would give Herself to the ecstatic Dance of Life. This is the energy of Beltane.

Love begins as allurement – as attraction. Think of the entire cosmos, all one hundred billion galaxies rushing through space: At this cosmic scale the basic dynamism of the universe is the attraction each galaxy has for every other galaxy. … Gravity is the word used by scientists and the rest of us in the modern era to point to this primary attraction. …(but) the mystery remains no matter how intelligently we theorize. … The attracting activity is a stupendous and mysterious fact of existence. Primal. … this alluring activity permeates the cosmos on all levels of being. … By pursuing your allurements, you help bind the universe together. The unity of the world rests on the pursuit of passion44.

Beltane/High Spring – October 31st (S.H.):

Earth’s holy day of Beltane marks the meridian point of the lightest phase in the cycle – some name it High Spring; the time when the light part of the day is longer and continuing to grow longer than the dark part of the day. Beltane is polar opposite Samhain on the Wheel of the Year, when the dark was still climaxing.

Based on Starhawk’s telling of it45, but mostly in my own composition, I express the seasonal celebrational purpose thus:

This is the time of Beltane, when the light part of the day is longer and continues to grow longer than the dark part of the day. In our region of the world, Earth continues to tilt us further toward the Sun – the Source of Her pleasure, life and ecstasy. This is the time when sweet Desire for Life weds wild delight – it is met; when the Promise of Spring – which you are, weds the Passion of Summer – fulfillment is nigh. The fruiting begins. It is the celebration of allurement … Holy Lust … that which holds all things in form and allows the dance of life.
The ancients called this Holy Lust, this primordial essence ‘Aphrodite’ … they sang of Her

For all things are from you.
Who unites the cosmos.
You will the three-fold fates.
You bring forth all things.
Whatever is in the Heavens.
And in the much fruitful earth
And in the deep sea

Let us celebrate our erotic nature, that brings forth all things.

Beltane is an opportunity to recognize and ritualize our desire for Life, which we feel in so many ways; and to recognize that it is a Holy Desire. On an elemental level, there is our desire for Air, Water, the warmth of Fire, and to be of use to Earth. There is an essential longing, sometimes nameless, sometimes constellated, experienced physically, that may be recognized as the Desire of the Universe Herself – desiring in us46. We may remember that we are united in this desire with each other, with all who have gone before us, and with all who come after us – all who dance the Dance of Life. Beltane is a time for dancing and weaving into our lives, our heart’s desires; traditionally the dance is done with participants holding ribbons attached to a pole47. There is also the exhilarating tradition of leaping the flames, exclaiming what one wills to leave behind – it may be understood as letting the Flame of Love burn away the perceived blocks to one’s desires. Beltane is a time for assenting to the frenzy of the Dance of Life, with only Passion as the guide for where to place one’s feet; much like the dancing Goddesses and Gods of many spiritual traditions. It is being with Life and its intense fertility, in the moment.

One of the shaping powers of life is a wild energy, that Swimme and Berry associate with the causal factor of genetic mutation; and “Genetic mutation refers to spontaneous differentiations taking place at life’s root48.” Wild energy is also associated with Artemis in Her Virgin aspect49; She and many other Goddesses were named as “Lady of the Beasts”. Swimme and Berry describe wildness as “a face ultimacy wears”, “a primal act within the life process50”. They say:

A wild animal, … alert and free, moves with a beauty … far beyond the lock-step process of a rationally derived conclusion. The wild is a great beauty that seethes with intelligence, that is ever surprising and refreshing … The discovery of mutations is the discovery of an untamed and untameable energy at the organic centre of life. … For without this wild energy, life’s journey would have ended long ago51.

At Beltane the Virgin’s Passion moves Her more deeply into engagement with the Other – Her face is noticeably changing into the Mother. Her desire for complete fullness continues to wax. Her movement, Her Lust, is to open completely into the Omega of Summer Solstice.

In the primeval fireball, which quickly billowed in every direction, we see a metaphor for the infinite striving of the sentient being. An unbridled playing out of this cosmic tendency would lead to ultimate dispersion. But the fireball discovered a basic obstacle to its movements, the gravitational attraction. Only because expansion met the obstacle of gravitation did the galaxies come forth. In a similar way the wings of birds and the musculature of the elephants arose out of the careful embrace of the negative or obstructing aspects of the gravitational attraction. Any life forms that might awake in a world without gravity’s hindrances to motion would be incapable of inventing the anatomy of the cheetah52.

Summer Solstice/Litha – December 20-23 (S.H.):

The “moment of grace” that is Summer Solstice, marks the stillpoint in the height of Summer, when Earth’s tilt and orbit cause the Sun to begin its decline – its movement back to the North. This Sabbat is polar opposite Winter Solstice when it is light that is “born”. At the peak of Summer, in the bliss of expansion, it is the dark that is “born53”. It is a celebration of profound mystical significance, that in a culture where the dark is not valued for its creative telios, may be confronting. This is the Sabbat for which Stonehenge was apparently built54.

The purpose for the seasonal gathering is stated thus, in my own adaptation of Starhawk’s version55:

This is the time of Summer Solstice – the time when the light part of the day is longest. In our part of the world, light is in Her fullness. She spreads Her radiance, Her fruits ripen, Her greenery is everywhere, the cicadas sing. Yet as Light reaches Her peak, our closest contact with the Sun, She opens completely, and the seed of darkness is born.
As it says in the tradition, this is the time of the rose, blossom and thorn, fragrance and blood. The story of Old tells that on this day Goddess and God embrace, in a love so complete, that all dissolves, into the single Song of ecstasy that moves the worlds. Our bliss, fully matured, given over, feeds the Universe and turns the wheel. We join the Beloved and Lover in the Great Give-Away of our Creativity, our Fullness of Being

Summer is a time for celebrating our realized Creativity, whose birth we celebrated at Winter, whose tenderness we dedicated ourselves to at Imbolc, whose certain presence and power we rejoiced in at Eostar, whose fertile passion we danced with at Beltane. Now, at this seasonal point, as we celebrate Light’s fullness, we celebrate our own ripening – like that of the wheat, and the fruit. And like the wheat and the fruit, it is the Sun that is in us, that has ripened – the Sun is the Source of our every thought and action. The analogy is complete in that our everyday Creativity and we ourselves are ultimately also Food for the Universe56. Like the Sun and the wheat and the fruit, we find the purpose of our Creativity in the releasing of it; just as our breath must be released for its purpose of Life. The symbolism used to express this is the giving of a full rose or flower of choice to the flames57. We, and our everyday Creativity are given over. In this way we each are the Bread of Life; just as many other indigenous traditions recognize everyday acts as evoking “the ongoing creation of the cosmos58”, so in this tradition, Summer is the time for particularly celebrating that. Our everyday lives, moment to moment, are built on the fabric of the work/creativity of the ancestors and ancient creatures that went before us. So the future is built on ours. We celebrate the blossoming of Creativity then, and the bliss of it, at a time when Earth is pouring forth Her abundance, giving it away. We aspire to follow Her example. In this cosmology, what is given is the self fully realized and celebrated, not a self that is abnegated – just as the fruit gives its full self: as Starhawk says, “Oneness is attained not through losing the self, but through realizing it fully59.”

Summer Solstice is a celebration of the Fullness of the Mother – in ourselves, in Earth, in the Cosmos. It is the ripening of Her Manifestation, which fulfills itself in the awesome act of dissolution. It is a celebration of Communion, the Feast of Life – which is for the enjoying, not for the holding onto. I represent this Sabbat on my Wheel of the Year with a horseshoe, because its yonic shape is symbolic of Goddess’ “Great Gate”: “Greeks assigned the yonic shape to the last letter of their sacred alphabet, Omega, literally, ‘Great Om’, the Word of Creation, beginning the next cycle of becoming60.” Summer Solstice is such a Gateway. At this interchange, the Virgin’s face has passed through the Mother into the Crone. The process of the three Sabbats of Beltane, Summer Solstice and Lammas, as a group, may be felt as the three faces of Cosmogenesis in the movement towards entropy.

Eventually, in a million years or in several billion years, a star’s resources against the collapse are all used up. If the mass of a star at this point is large enough, its gravitational pressures will destroy the star. The remaining materials will rush toward each other. Nothing in the universe can now stop them. … This stellar being that burned brightly for billions of years, that may have showered sentient creatures with radiant energy that they transformed into their living bodies and into cathedrals that rose in wheat fields, has gone, only a black cinder left61.

Lammas/Early Autumn – February 2nd (S.H.):

Lammas is the meridian point of the first dark quarter of the year, after the light phase is complete, and as such, it is a special celebration of the Crone. Within the Celtic tradition, it is the wake of Lugh, the Sun King, and it is the Crone that reaps him. But within earlier Goddess traditions, all the transformations were Hers62; and

the community reflected on the reality that the Mother aspect of the Goddess, having come to fruition, from Lammas on would enter the Earth and slowly become transformed into the Old Woman-Hecate-Cailleach aspect63 …

I dedicate Lammas to the face of the Old One, just as Imbolc, its polar opposite on the Wheel, is dedicated to the Virgin face. The Old One, the Dark and Shining One, has been much maligned, so to celebrate Her can be more of a challenge in our present cultural context. Lammas may be an opportunity to re-aquaint ourselves with the Crone in her purity, to fall in love with Her again.

I state the purpose of the seasonal gathering thus:

This is the season of the waxing dark. The seed of darkness born at the Summer Solstice now grows … the dark part of the days grows visibly longer. Earth’s tilt is taking us back away from the Sun. This is the time when we celebrate dissolution; each unique self lets go, to the Darkness. It is the time of ending, when the grain, the fruit, is harvested. We meet to remember the Dark Sentience, the All-Nourishing Abyss, She from whom we arise, in whom we are immersed, and to whom we return.
This is the time of the Crone, the Wise Dark One, who accepts and receives our harvest, who grinds the grain, who dismantles what has gone before. She is Hecate, Lillith, Medusa, Kali, Erishkagel – Divine Compassionate One. We meet to accept Her transformative embrace, trusting Her knowing, which is beyond all knowledge

Lammas is the seasonal moment for recognizing that we dissolve into the “night” of the Larger Organism that we are part of – Gaia. It is She who is immortal, from whom we arise, and into whom we dissolve. This celebration is a development of what was born in the transition of Summer Solstice; the Dark Sentient Source of Creativity is honoured. The autopoietic space in us recognizes Her, is comforted by Her, desires Her self-transcendence and self-dissolution; Lammas is an opportunity to be with our organism’s love of Larger Self – this Native Place. We have been taught to fear Her, but at this Sabbat, we may remember that She is the Compassionate One, deeply committed to Transformation, which is actually innate to us.

Whereas at Imbolc, we shone forth as individual, multiforms of Her; at Lammas, we small individual selves remember that we are She and dissolve back into Her. We are the Promise of Life as we affirmed at Imbolc, but we are the Promise of Her – it is not ours to hold. We become the Harvest at Lammas; our individual harvest is Her Harvest. We are the process itself – we are Gaia’s Process. We do not breathe (though of course we do), we borrow the breath, for a while. It is like a relay: we pick the breath up, create what we do during our time with it, and pass it on. The harvest we reap in our individual lives is important, and it is for us only short term; it belongs to the Cosmos in the long term. Lammas is a time for “making sacred” – as “sacrifice” may be understood; we may “make sacred” ourselves. As Imbolc was a time for dedication, so is Lammas. This is the Wisdom of the phase of the Old One. She is the aspect that finds the “yes” to letting go, to loving the Larger Self, beyond all knowledge, and steps into the Power of the Abyss, encouraged and nourished by the harvest – so She moves into the balance of Mabon/Autumn Equinox.

If the atoms in the prestellar cloud had been given language and the power to reflect upon inner experience, so that they could ponder the significance of the density waves sweeping through them and the rush of atoms ramming up against them, they would even then not have been able to speak in clear terms about the star they were destined to become. … The beauty of the star gripped the atoms in some primordial manner; the beauty of the new flowering of Earth’s realities likewise grips us and is in many ways the central significance of all our experiences of obstacle, disappointment, dismay, and despair. … We cannot know with certainty … what is required of us now. We will find our way only with a deep and prolonged process of groping – considering with care a great variety of interpretations, weighing evidence from a spectrum of perspectives, attending with great patience to the inchoate, barely discernable glimmers that visit us in our more contemplative moments64.

Mabon/Autumn Equinox – March 20-23 (S.H.):

Mabon is a time of thanksgiving for the harvest – for its empowerment and nourishment, and it is also a time of leavetaking and sorrow, as Life declines65. As the dark continues to grow, it comes into balance with the light; Mabon/Autumn Equinox is that point of balance. Sun is equidistant between North and South, as it was at Spring Equinox, but in this phase of the cycle, the trend is toward increasing dark. For millennia, in Greece, this Sabbat has been the holy celebration of Persephone’s descent to the Underworld, and as mentioned earlier, in the earliest Goddess tradition, Her descent is voluntary – She simply understands the necessity of the Journey.

As I say in the statement of purpose for the seasonal ritual,

Feel the balance in this moment – Earth as She is poised in relationship with the Sun. Feel for your own balance of light and dark within. Breathe into it. Breathe in the light, swell with it, let your breath go into the dark, stay with it. Feel for your centre, shift on your feet, from left to right, right to left.
In our part of Earth, the balance is about to tip into the dark. Feel the shift within you, see in your mind’s eye the descent ahead, the darkness growing, remember the coolness of it. This is the time when we give thanks for our harvests – the abundance we have reaped. Yet we remember too the losses. The story of Old tells us that Persephone is given the wheat – the Mystery, knowledge of life and death – for this she gives thanks. But she sets forth into the darkness – both Mother and Daughter grieve that it is so

Like its Spring counterpoint, Autumn Equinox is also a “stepping into power”, but it is not necessarily perceived as such; it is usually felt as loss. Autumn Equinox is a time for grieving our many losses, as individuals, as a culture, as Earth-Gaia, as Universe-Gaia. At this time we may join Demeter – and any other Mother Goddess from around the globe – in Her weeping for all that has been lost. The Mother weeps and rages, the Daughter leaves courageously, the Old One beckons with Her Wisdom and Promise of Transformation; yet all three know Each Other deeply, and share the unfathomable Grief. But Persephone as Seed represents the thread of Life that never fades away. The revelation of the Seed, central to this seasonal celebration, is that:

Everything lost is found again,
In a new form, In a new way.
She changes everything She touches, and
everything She touches changes66

And so it will be. In this way Persephone as Seed, tends the sorrows, “wholes” the heart.

All at once, the three faces of Cosmogenesis are present. As Seed, She is Queen of the Underworld – Old Wise One, and the irrepressible Urge to Be; and She is the Mother, Source of Life. This is a blessed Moment of Harmony/Balance that streams through the grief and the ecstasy of Life.

This point of balance tips further into the dark, as Earth’s tilt and Sun continue their relational dynamic. The dark of night keeps growing, the seed is in the Earth, the grub is in the chrysalis, the Abyss is accepted – the metamorphosis of the dark Sentience is awaited, the fertile Emptiness of the Crone is the moment of Samhain.

… after billions of years of striving … Tiamat found herself pressed to the wall, exhausted by the effort, helpless to do anything more to balance the titanic powers in which she had found her way. When her core had been transformed into iron, she sighed a last time as collapse became inevitable. In a cosmological twinkling, her gravitational potential energy was transformed into a searing explosion, … But when the brilliance was over, when Tiamat’s journey was finished, the deeper meaning of her existence was just beginning to show through67.

With Samhain, the annual cycle – the Wheel of the Year – is complete. It is the time of Death, and the beginning of the New Year.

In Summary – Contemplating How Creativity Proceeds

There are two celebrations of the Virgin/Young One/Differentiation – they are the meridian points of the waxing light phase. At Imbolc, the first in the light phase, we identify with She, who is Shining and New – as we take her form; at Beltane, we participate in Her process of the Dance of Life. This light part of the cycle is about coming into Being – nurturing it (the midwifing of Imbolc), stepping into the power of it (the return of Eostar), the fertility (of Beltane), the peaking of it (at Summer).

There are two celebrations of the Old One/Crone/Autopoiesis – they are the meridian points of the waxing dark phase. At Lammas, the first in the dark phase, we identify with the Dark and Ancient Wise One – dissolve into Her; at Samhain, we participate in Her process of the Transformation of Death. This dark part of the cycle is about dissolving/dying/letting go – nurturing it (the midwifing of Lammas), stepping into the power of it (the departure of Mabon), the fertility (of Samhain), the peaking of it (at Winter).

There are two celebrations of the Mother/Communion – the Solstices. If one images the light part of the cycle as a celebration of the Productions of Time, and the dark part of the cycle as a celebration of Eternity, the Solstices then are meeting points, and are celebrations of the communion/relational field of Eternity with the Productions of Time. This is a relationship which does happen in this Place, in this Web. This Place, this Web, is a Communion – it is the Mother; the Solstices mark Her Birthings.

There are two celebrations wherein the balance of all three Faces are particularly present – the Equinoxes, that are also special celebrations of Demeter and Persephone – the Mystery and Awesomeness of the continuity of life, its Creative Tension/Balance. Both are celebrations and contemplations of empowerment through deep Wisdom – one contemplation during the dark phase and one during the light phase. The Autumn Equinox is a descent to it, the Spring Equinox is an emergence with it. I like to think of the Equinoxes, and of the ancient icons of Demeter and Persephone, as celebrations of the delicate “curvature of space-time”, the fertile balance of tensions which enables it all.

The Mother aspect then may be understood to be particularly present at four of the Sabbats, which are also regarded traditionally as the Solar festivals. I recognize them as points of interchange. At the Autumn Equinox, Mother is present as Giver – She is letting Persephone go. At Spring Equinox, She is present as Receiver – welcoming the Daughter back. At Winter Solstice the Mother gives birth, creates form. At Summer Solstice, She opens again/further, dissolves form. The Mother is Agent/Actor at the Solstices. She is Participant/Witness at the Equinoxes, where it is then really Persephone who is Agent/Actor, embodying an inseparable Young One and Old One.

Another possible way to visual it, or to tell the story, is this:
The Mother – Demeter – is always there, at the Centre if you like. Persephone cycles around. She is the Daughter who returns in the Spring as flower, who will become fruit/grain of the Summer, who at Lammas assents to the dissolution – the consumption. At Autumn Equinox She returns to the underworld as seed – Her harvest is rejoiced in, Her loss is grieved, as She becomes Queen of the Underworld – the Dark One, Crone. In the light part of the cycle She is Virgin. Persephone is that part of Demeter that can be all three aspects – can move through the complete cycle. The Mother and Daughter are really One, and embody the immortal process of creation and destruction. Demeter hands Persephone the wheat, the Mystery, and the thread of life is unbroken – it goes on forever. It is immortal, it is eternal. Even though it is true that all will be lost, and all is lost – Being always arises again. This is what is revealed in the ubiquitous three faces. The Seed of Life – She never fades away, She is always present; even though it may not be apparent. As Swimme and Berry note, galactic clouds may drift for eons before undergoing transformation68, but the fertility/potency seethes there.

As one participates in this year long process of ritual and celebration the complexity of the three aspects does become more apparent. Indeed all three aspects/faces/energies do occur simultaneously – sometimes obviously so, as mentioned, sometimes perceived only at deeper levels; and at deeper levels, one can perceive how the three are features of each other. Usually it is fairly clear that the Virgin and Crone aspects are inseparable, and this is true also of the cosmogenetic characteristics of differentiation and autopoiesis. For example, differentiation/diversity/uniqueness has been enhanced by the advent of death in the biological story69; and the autopoietic dynamic is ambivalently self and not-self, it is Self who is larger Self at the same time. This inseparability is congruent also with the ancient perception that the day begins with the evening. The severance comes first – is it birth or is it death? It is not always clear where something ends and where it begins.

There is a symmetry or reciprocity between the polar opposites on the Wheel, some of which I have already noted. One begins to feel these, as one’s familiarity with the Metaphor and the celebrations grows. I have noticed the connection of Samhain-Winter Solstice-Imbolc as the movement through the three faces towards form, from Dark One to Birth to Light; and the connection of Beltane-Summer Solstice-Lammas as the movement through the three faces towards entropy, from Light/Passion of Being to Birth to Dark One. This is a useful contemplation as it teaches how Creativity proceeds. When it is practised as a whole, it becomes a Gestalt, one may begin to Know.

There is also a pattern of the Star of Aphrodite that emerged as I contemplated the Wheel Diagram when I first mapped it out70 – the Crone of Samhain with the Virgin of Imbolc and the Mother of Summer as the upward pointing triangle; and the Virgin of Beltane with the Crone of Lammas with the Mother of Winter as the downward pointing triangle. I like this emergent pattern because it speaks of the essential Desire which is at the centre of the Wheel, which turns the Wheel; something I came to understand ever more deeply as I practised the rituals. I speak more of this in the concluding chapter. The connection of these particular Sabbats, and their creative impetus, is worth further contemplation: they may be contemplated also in connection with the balance points of Spring and Autumn Equinoxes where all three are celebrated.

There may be many other patterns and relationships between the Sabbats that individuals and groups may notice and learn from, and draw into the Story and their ritual celebrations.

(c) Glenys Livingstone 2005

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1 The actual date of the Seasonal Moment varies from year to year. A good site to check for the details of global time and place is: The dates on my diagram are traditional and for the Southern Hemisphere. Annabelle Solomon notes that the South should really be at the top of the page for the Southern Hemisphere perspective. She does this in her diagram of the Wheel of the Year, The Wheel of the Year: Seasons of the Soul in Quilts, p.105 – see APPENDIX E.

2 David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous, p. 191. I came to using the terms “manifest” and “unmanifest”, which does alter the sense slightly, but it has seemed clearer to me given my cultural context of lack of familiarity with the unseen. I now prefer to use the terms “manifested” and “manifesting” if the meaning to others is clear, but it usually requires qualifying.

3 David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous, p.192.

4 This awareness/memory of the polar opposite Sabbat being within the one being celebrated is also enhanced by awareness of the other Hemisphere’s polar opposite inclination/Moment; that is, by a global/PaGaian perspective.

5 David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous, p.192, quoting Whorf in Dennis Tedlock, and Barbara Tedlock, (eds). Teachings from the American Earth, p.122.

6 David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous, p.192.

7 Charlene Spretnak, States of Grace: The Recovery of Meaning in the Postmodern Age, p.95.

8 Charlene Spretnak, States of Grace: The Recovery of Meaning in the Postmodern Age, p.100.

9 David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous, p.193.

10 Some Aboriginal groups are dissatisfied with this translation insofar as it may imply something “not real”.

11 David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous, p.193.

12 Even though the actual Cosmic significance does lie well beyond anyone’s comprehension.

13 Caitlin Mattews, The Celtic Spirit, p.339.

14 Susan Gray, The Woman’s Book of Runes, p. 17-18. Adam McLean, The Four Fire Festivals, and Lawrence Durdin-Robertson, The Year of the Goddess, also note this earlier (pre-Celtic) Goddess version of the Wheel of the Year, and detail its celebration to some extent.

15 Emma Restall Orr, Spirits of the Sacred Grove, p.234-235.

16 Shirley Toulson, The Celtic Year.

17 Starhawk, The Spiral Dance, p.245.

18 Starhawk, The Spiral Dance, p.245.

19 Caitlin and John Matthews, The Western Way, p. 47.

20 Caitlin and John Matthews, The Western Way, p. 47-48.

21 Caitlin and John Matthews, The Western Way, p. 48.

22 Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.258.

23 Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story.

24 See footnote 1, this chapter. Also of note, Vivianne Crowley ( Celtic Wisdom: Seasonal Rituals and Festivals, p.104) points out that prior to reliance on calendar and clock time, some seasonal festival dates were not fixed, but were timed according to harvest and weather and locality. Caitlin and John Matthews, The Western Way, p.47, say that: “In inner terms, the right time is more important than the right date. Those living in the Southern Hemisphere are already well aware of this.”

25 Starhawk, The Spiral Dance, p.193-194.

26 A term used by Brian Swimme, The Earth’s Imagination, video 8.

27 William C. Chittick and Peter Lamborn Wilson (trans), Fakhruddin ‘Iraqi: Divine Flashes, p.76. Brian Swimme also speaks of how “all being has gushed forth because Ultimate Generosity retains no thing”, The Universe is a Green Dragon, p.146.

28 Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.47.

29 Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, The Myth of the Goddess, p.98.

30 See Patricia Monaghan, O Mother Sun! A New View of the Cosmic Feminine.

31 Starhawk The Spiral Dance, p.182, blended with my words from Winter Solstice 2004.

32 Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown, Coming Back to Life, p.17.

33 Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.86-88.

34 The Light has just been “born” at the Winter Solstice, and the cold has usually been increasing since then, so the inhabitant has the experience of wanting to “rug up” and seek the warmth and nourishment of the Light.

35 Starhawk, The Spiral Dance, p.186.

36 “Bride” is another name for Brigid – Great Celtic Goddess – from pre-Christian times. See Vivianne Crowley, Celtic Wisdom: Seasonal Rituals and Festivals, p.57.

37 Starhawk, The Spiral Dance, p.90-91, quoting Doreen Valiente’s “The Charge of the Goddess”.

38 Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.78-79.

39 Starhawk, The Spiral Dance, p.187.

40 Charlene Spretnak, Lost Goddesses of Early Greece, p.105-118.

41 As explained also in Ch.2. This retention of Her integrity does not mean that She does not really lose Herself as the Hera/Hero must in the Descent to the Underworld. It simply means that She remains a Wisdom figure – the Hera, just as for instance, Inanna of Sumeria retains Her identity as Queen (sovereign) in Her Journey to the Great Below where She becomes a rotten piece of meat.

42 Starhawk, The Spiral Dance, p.31.

43 Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.54.

44 Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.43-48.

45 Starhawk, The Spiral Dance, p.188.

46 Brian Swimme, Canticle to the Cosmos, (Video series), video 2 and 10.

47 I have named this a “Novapole”, for our Southern Hemisphere, whereas in the Northern Hemisphere it is known as a “Maypole”.

48 Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.125.

49 Charlene Spretnak, Lost Goddesses of Early Greece, p.75.

50 Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.125.

51 Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.127.

52 Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.55.

53 And in Australia the heat usually increases after Summer Solstice, so the inhabitant frequently has the experience of wanting to close out the heat and light and enter the relief of the Dark.

54 Ken Osborne (ed), Stonehenge and Neighbouring Monuments. p.2.

55 Starhawk, The Spiral Dance, p.189, with additions from p.219 where she describes Summer Solstice as “the Give-Away time of the Sun.”

56 This is a metaphor I learnt from Brian Swimme, Canticle to the Cosmos, video 5.

57 This also resonates with Summer being the season of fires, and something can be made of that in the ritual.

58 Charlene Spretnak, States of Grace: The Recovery of Meaning in the Postmodern Age, p.95.

59 Starhawk, The Spiral Dance, p. 27

60 Barbara Walker, The Woman’s Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets, p.414.

61 Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.48.

62 Susan Gray, The Woman’s Book of Runes, p. 18. This is also to say that the transformations are within each being, not elsewhere, that is the “sacrifice” is not carried out by another external to the self, as could be and have been interpreted from stories of Lugh or Jesus.

63 Lawrence Durdin-Robertson, The Year of the Goddess, p.143, quoting Adam McLean, The Fire Festivals, p.20-22. Another indication of the earlier tradition beneath “Lughnasad” is the other name for it in Ireland of “Tailltean Games”. Taillte was said to be Lugh’s foster-mother, and it was her death that was being commemmorated (Mike Nichols, “The First Harvest”, Pagan Alliance Newsletter NSW Australia).

64 Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.58.

65 Starhawk, The Spiral Dance, p.192.

66 Starhawk, The Spiral Dance, p.103.

67 Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.60-61.

68 Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry, The Universe Story, p.47.

69 See Elisabet Sahtouris, Earthdance, p.134-135 and Ursula Goodenough, The Sacred Depths of Nature, p.143-149.

70 See Appendix D. This is the six-pointed star that is commonly thought of as the Star of David but which was only adopted by Jewish mysticism in the 12th century due to its association with sex and Eastern Goddess religious practice. See Barbara Walker, The Woman’s Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets, p.400-403. I have named it the Star of Aphrodite, as 666 was Her number, though it could equally be known as the Star of Ishtar for similar reasons.


  1. […] The Seasonal Moments – a PaGaian Wheel of the Year by Glenys Livingstone (Note: The section on the summer solstice was the primary inspiration for this essay.) […]

  2. […] The Seasonal Moments – a PaGaian Wheel of the Year by Glenys Livingstone (Note: The section on the summer solstice was the primary inspiration for this essay.) […]

  3. […] The Seasonal Moments – a PaGaian Wheel of the Year […]

  4. […] spiritual. I want to give my own thanks always to Glenys Livingston, a woman I’ve never met, but whose writings have inspired me deeply. She writes that this seasonal moment of Imbolc is quintessentially the celebration of the new, the […]

  5. […] She writes that “Beltane is an opportunity to recognize and ritualize our desire for Life, which we feel in so many ways; and to recognize that it is a Holy Desire. On an elemental level, there is our desire for Air, Water, the warmth of Fire, and to be of use to Earth. There is an essential longing, sometimes nameless, sometimes constellated, experienced physically, that may be recognized as the Desire of the Universe Herself – desiring in us. We may remember that we are united in this desire with each other, with all who have gone before us, and with all who come after us – all who dance the Dance of Life.” Thank you. […]

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