3 - The Sacred Cycles

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven a time to be born, a time to die a time to plant, and a time to reap, a time to kill, and a time to heal, a time to weep, and a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance, a time to keep, and a time to cast away, a time to keep silence, and a time to speak, a time to love, and a time to hate a time of war, and a time of peace

(Old Testament Ecclesiastes)

The land on which we live is subject to the cycles of the seasons. To our ancestors every part of the year had its tasks, its unrewarded efforts and its harvests, its times of dearth and glut, success and failure, plenty or famine. What happened to the crops or the fertility of the livestock was seen to be partly in the hands of the farmers with their inherited wisdom, and partly in the gift of the Earth Mother. It is for this reason that, from the earliest known religious activities of humankind upon Earth, offerings, rituals, celebrations and acts of propitiation seem to have been made in her name.

Most of the oldest identifiable religious objects appear to be in the form of fat women, usually described by archaeologists and others as primitive Earth Mother figures, or Mother Goddess statues.

As the understanding of the varied nature of the Goddess evolved these became more elaborate, showing not just the fat belly and ample breasts, but beautiful headdresses, armlets which are sometimes snakes, flounced skirts or elegant necklaces and breast ornaments. All over the world such ancient representations are to be found, echoing the most advanced art forms of their age. Some are painted on cave walls or roofs, some are carved from soft stone, moulded in clay, woven from reeds, cast from precious metals and decorated with jewels. Each individually expresses the artist's prayer, of thanksgiving or supplication, or worship of a specific aspect of the Great Goddess, as seen in his or her age.

Recent ideas about ancient structures, mounds, earthworks, 'burial mounds' and reshapings of the landscape seem to indicate that even on this vast scale, effigies of a Mother Goddess, Birth-Giver, Life-Taker, have been set out among the hills. Many of these artificial constructions seem to echo the shape of the womb, or the pregnant and fecund belly of she who brings forth young. Many of the shapes associated with the Goddess from earliest times include circles, holes, the 'vesica piscis', or the crescent of the moon's shifting outline. Serpents and many flowers appear as symbols of the life force of the First Mother, and many springs, wells and fountains are sacred to her power.

Similarly, there are many upright pillar stones, phallic totem poles, carvings of the sun, or windows in structures where the rising light of the sun can send its fertilising ray deep into the dark heart of the Goddess-shaped long barrow, symbolically uniting the sky with the Earth. Here the God as the sunlight and the Goddess as the earthwork, at a very precise moment in the turning year, come together, magically ensuring fertility and the return of the spring.

Many of the circles of standing stones have been found to align with specific sunrises or sunsets, or the appearance of the moon on the horizon. We have had to wait until computer graphics systems were developed before these ancient, mathematically accurate layouts of markers could be understood for what they teach us about the wisdom of our ancestors. Stones, ditches, mounds, cuts in the horizon, straight and curved trackways, canals and pools, all have been deliberately engineered by ancient priests or scientists, to act as accurate calendars or time markers.

Time's passage was always of importance to early people. Stone Age bone carvings track the pattern of the moon's face through the sky in its twenty-nine-day passage from new to new again. It is likely that first tall poles and then heavy stones were carefully set to show the relationship between the sun and the seasons. Even before the time when the sowing of seeds introduced the very beginnings of agriculture, the passing seasons provoked interest and perhaps wonder in the early peoples of Britain and Europe.

Much scientific research has been centred on the calendar-like circles of stones, ignoring the fact that farmers then, as now, sowed seed when their own fields were dry and warm enough to allow them to flourish. Crops are harvested when they are ripe, or in order to save them from rough weather, not because some great stone sundial has marked out a particular day. Even the breeding of livestock has to be left to their own inclinations, when the ewes, cows or mares are receptive. A sunbeam falling on a particular spot in a sacred courtyard will not make the rams, stallions and bulls more willing. It might work in reverse, however; the farmers saw when their livestock mated and noted the time against these calendar-clocks, or recorded in some simple way where the sun rose when the soil was ready for sowing, or how the moon shone at harvest time.

This need for the organisation and activities of the people to follow the phases of Nature is largely overlooked now. Just as the monks of the early Church invented clocks and set fixed dates for their saints' days, regulating the lives of all the people, so the modern witches often meet by the clock or the calendar instead of by the tides of the Earth Goddess and her Sky Lord. It is important to become aware of the actual phases of the moon, not by looking at a watch dial or printed poster on the wall, but by making the effort to go outside in the evening and look for the moon herself. It is worth rising early and seeing where and when the sun rises, for he too traces a different path along the horizon, from the north in summer to the south in winter.

If you are working alone, or with a friend or two, in the old manner, it will be easier for you to hold your celebration or meditation on the night of the new or full moon, at an equinox or solstice, or the first day after the snowdrops bloom in your winter garden.

Pre-Christian people in Europe worked out the passage of time in moon phases and because of this they probably had a moon-number of great festivals. The oldest seem to be the beginning of winter, the middle of winter and the end of winter. In summer they would probably be too busy to find time to gather and celebrate, working from dawn to dusk, hay making, weeding, tending livestock, shearing the sheep, then reaping the corn and stocking it, and carrying it into the barns and threshing out the grain. Then there would be the gathering of wild and cultivated fruits and vegetables and fungi to be stored for the 'hungry gap' of the winter.

In autumn, the beasts would be brought in from the hills and woods and some slaughtered and salted down for the winter. Fat would be rendered both for eating and to burn as lamp oil. At each change of occupation it would be Nature herself who would instruct the people what to do. Gradually several overlapping patterns began to emerge, and it is from the cycles of the life of the land and the farm stock, and the magical lives of the Goddess and the God, that some of the festivals which are celebrated by modern pagans began to develop.

I think that if some of the witches of today thought more about the actual workings of Nature and less of book-bound, set knowledge, they would gain more power in their magics, more joy in their celebrations, and a greater sense of unity with their ancestors and the ancient faith they aim to follow. It was, after all, the Church that fixed the dates of the old Festivals, and it is from that restrictive form of belief that most of them are trying to untangle themselves! This is especially true at the end of the twentieth century, when it seems that great changes are occurring in our weather systems; spring is coming earlier in the south of Britain, with more winter rain, high winds and overflowing waterways.

Nature marked out the turning seasons with a series of alternating White and Green harvests, and it was from these that the original nine feasts came to be established. You don't have to take my word for it, but look out of your window, observe and take note of those outdoor happenings which presage every change of season.

All over the world, the Goddess is seen or known as the White Goddess. White flowers, clothes or offerings have always been associated with her, from the snowy-white icefields of the north, to the white-hot burning deserts on the equator; to the southern lands, lying under the Long White Cloud. We see it today in the white dresses of brides at their marriage, when the young lady, for that day, represents the Goddess to her husband; in the white costumes, with their bells, ribbons and flowers, of the Morris Men, 'Mary's Men', dancing in honour of the White Goddess. Even in India, a land where white is a colour of mourning, it is into the hands of the Goddess of Death, with her white face, that the departed soul will travel.

The White harvests represent stages in the lives of the Goddess and the God, defined at a moment when a certain kind of power was to be felt, and perhaps shared with the people. The 'green' festivals are set around the solar agricultural dates of the Equinoxes and Solstices. The old rites were simple and largely intuitive affairs, when a whole village or community would come together to act out part of the Old Ones' story, to renew the bonds of dedication to the Lord and Lady, and those ties of kinship within the human relationships, or forge new ones.

There was no priest to intercede between the people and their deities, for even in the pre-Christian Celtic era when the Druids held sway, they seemed to have acted more as guides or masters of ceremonies than controllers of the ritual. Everyone in the community probably made a small offering, asked a boon, or offered prayers of thanksgiving, as appropriate to the season. If there was speech, it was from the heart and Goddess-given inspiration rather than set-piece sermons or regulated supplications.

As most such celebrations were carried out in fields or woods or sacred circles of standing stones, it is likely that much of the action was mime, just as today's mumming plays enact the story of Life and Death, Summer and Winter, with a variety of local characters depicted. Song and dance too would have played a part in such gatherings, with music, drumming and probably the playing of games like those country children still play. Often those who acted out the characters of the story of the Old Ones would be chosen by lot, with symbols baked into a cake, or hidden in a bag.

This allowed the God or Goddess to cast his or her part without the intervention of human will. When this method of choosing the parts for a ritual or celebration is used, those so chosen play their parts far better than might be imagined, even if they do not exactly fit the archetype they portray.

Starting at the beginning of the Celtic year, around the end of October in the modern calendar, when the first hard frost whitened the grass, shrivelled any green stuff and iced over a shallow puddle, the community began their preparations for winter. Cattle and pigs and sheep which had roamed the unfenced fells, moors or woodland would be brought back to the farmyards or perhaps one of the great earthworks which dot the southern hilltops. It would be a great round-up and time for sorting out the stock.

Some would be selected to be killed as, before the times of extensive haymaking and the production of winter feed, not all could be expected to survive through the winter months. Pigs would be salted into ham and bacon, but a great feast of those parts which could not be preserved would be eaten. The White harvest of this time would be fat and hides and fleeces, all vital to see the people through the winter.

Next, as the nights grew longer and the air colder, the people, less sure than we are today that the warmth of spring actually would return, made many spells and enchantments to call back the sun from his long journey into night. On the darkest night, at what is now called the Winter Solstice, when the whole community huddled round the blazing yule log, the mysterious Star Child, Son of the Goddess, the Mabon, was born; As Sun God, he stood for the return of the Light but there was doubt until, by a few minutes a day, the nights began to shorten.

It is for this reason that the births of the Christ Child and his predecessor, Mithras, both sacrificial gods born in a cave or stable, are celebrated on 25th December. That was the day when the Wise Ones could announce that the magic had worked, that the bonfires on the hilltops, the offerings of greenery and red berries, the decking of the houses and the giving of gifts, especially to children, had brought a return of the Light.

There would then be a period of real rejoicing with the best of the stored foods being brought out, the fatted goose prepared for the table, the last sweet apples, dried fruits and nuts brought out in celebration. This was a time of great hardship in many communities, if the grain harvests had been poor or the livestock sickly, yet once the promise of the Star Child, the Child of Hope as he was known in some old villages, had been seen, the entire community would do what they could to celebrate.

There were round dances, called originally 'carols', performed in barns or out of doors if it was dry enough, and special songs, some fragments of which are still sung these days, with the words changed to greet a newer Lord. It was the greenery, the holly and the ivy, branches of fir sweet-smelling in the smoky houses, and the magical mistletoe, sacred to the Druids, which enriched this dark time. Those customs are still with us, as well as the dressing of the sacred tree with lights and tinsel. All have pagan roots.

All celebrations have to end and the Yuletide feast was concluded with another day of special activities, called in the Christian calendar Epiphany or Twelfth Night. In that tradition, it is the time when the Wise Men from the East arrived, astrologers following a star and bringing gifts of the Frankincense of Royalty, the Gold of Material Power, and the bitter Myrrh of the Sacrifice to come.

This also echoes a Celtic tradition whereby the young man or woman, at about the age of twelve to fourteen years, gained their adult name and status. In the Old Religion it is when the Young God is initiated into the wisdom of the Clan, and receives his name, his magical weapons and instructions for his life. Although this particular festival has been overlooked by witches whose rituals use the eightfold contemporary cycle, instead of the ninefold lunar pagan one, various country customs and village celebrations do recall this end to the midwinter feasts.

Even in ordinary houses, it is Twelfth Night when the dried-up remains of the Christmas greenery is thrown on the fire, and the last decorations in homes and churches are taken down and stored away. Out of doors, in places where cider orchards flourish, there is the ritual of Wassailing the trees, by pouring libations and sticking bread or toast soaked in cider in the branches of the apple trees. Shotguns are fired to drive away harm, and songs are sung, 'Here's to thee, Old Apple Tree, much mayst thou bear, Hats full, caps full and great bushel baskets full. Hurrah!'

In some villages other rituals are to be found at about the middle of January, acknowledging the end of the hardest part of winter, and expressing a hope for the future spring. In Shetland there is a Fire Festival at about this time when a replica Viking ship, surrounded by the islanders in home-made Viking costumes carrying flaming torches, is set afire and allowed to drift out to sea. Both a sacrifice of a ship and an offering for calm weather and full fish nets is accomplished at this winter festival of Up-Helly-Aa. The name is supposed to mean 'the days of the holiday are up'.

When the might of winter loosens its grip upon the land and the first white flowers of the snowdrops nod their pale heads above the melting snow and the first royal purple crocuses thrust their elegant cups into the winter air, many pagans celebrate the Festival of the White Goddess as Brigid, Bride or even Lucy, the Light Bringer.

The Church has adopted this feast as Candlemas, when Mary was returned to her people, cleansed after the ritual period after the birth of Jesus. The Celtic name for this celebration is Oimelc, literally 'ewes' milk', for now, in the warmer parts of the land, the first lambs are born, and a new harvest of ewes' milk is available for them and the people, to whom this was a valuable foodstuff.

To celebrate this feast there is a traditional drink called 'lambswool', made from hot wine or cider and water in which the flesh of several roasted or baked apples are heartily mixed. The resulting frothy white drink resembles lambs' wool. Shakespeare writes of 'the roasted crabs hiss in the bowl' and it is the pink-fleshed crab apples rather than the crustacean he is talking about, 'As nightly sings the staring owl, toowhit toowhoo'. Another good old Goddess symbol, sacred from Britain to Athens.

In the villages this Candlemas feast has two aspects. One is the secret womens' Mystery of how the Goddess renews her youth, and all the women deck with their brightest scarves, their most precious ribbons, a chair beside the hearth to welcome the return of the Goddess. Then in darkness, when the men have been allowed to creep into the room, a small figure in a dark cloak arrives.

Wreathed in ivy and warmly wrapped, a young maid from the community brings in the first flowers and the new flame. Under her cloak, which one of the older ladies removes, she is dressed in white and green, and carries a dish of early flowers, snowdrops, violets, jasmine or the earliest daffodils. Among the blossoms is a small candle, and from that a candle for every member of the community is lit, set out on the floor. The Goddess, in the guise of this little girl, is welcomed in a blaze of light and grants her blessing on all. Each of the men and women kneel before her, silently asking a gift or practical help in the coming year, and each pledges the work of their hands to the benefit of the people.

As soon as the soil began to warm up and be workable, roughly at the time of the Spring Equinox (about March 21st), seed corn and barley would have been laboriously sown by hand. Among it would be the special ears of corn saved as the corn dolly or kern king, symbol of the potency of the Sun God, sacrificed at harvest-tide.

The Church's calendar has Easter at about this time, too. Easter, again named after a Saxon goddess of spring, Eostre, is the only one of the Christian festivals which is decided by the phases of the moon, which is why it moves about. Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the full moon on or after the Vernal Equinox, which is when the sun enters the sign of Aries. It is the same time as the Jewish Feast of Pesach, or 'Passing Over', when a lamb is slaughtered and eaten in haste, with bitter herbs and cups of red wine. Many of the other European countries derive their names for this festival from 'Pasques' in French, 'Pask' in Dutch or 'Pasche' in Latin, most of these being taken to mean 'Passion', and relate to the Crucifixion.

Once again the symbols linked with the Easter festival contain many pre-Christian ones. The decorated eggs, found all over Europe, stand in for the rebirth of Nature; the chocolate rabbit is the Goddess's sacred hare in disguise. The Easter bonnets worn at the Easter Parades represent the new sets of clothes worn for the first time as spring unfurls her golden daffodils, and the tufts of pussy willow fur the branches in the hedges. It is a great time of renewal and new beginnings, when life rises refreshed from its sleep through winter's dark. As day and night are seen to be equal, at the Equinox, the whole energy of the sun helps the Earth to dress in her new green gown.

The next sacred flower to mark the passage of time to the country folk is the hawthorn, sweet-scented may blossom. 'Cast not a clout 'til May be out!' the grandparents advised us not so long ago. The May in question is not necessarily the month, but the quickthorn used as a hedge plant until mechanised farming grubbed up these old corridors of natural life. The first green leaves of hawthorn used to be eaten as a spring tonic and are rich in vitamins, so vital after a boring winter diet of salted meat, hard cheese and rough bread.

At May Day, the flowering of the hawthorn signals Beltane, the God's Fire, when the animals were set free from their winter quarters. By may-blooming time there would be more grass, and all the people would be ready to celebrate the advancing warmth and outdoor life. The maypole, a phallic symbol, would be raised on many a village green, and the young children would deck it out with flowers and lace it with ribbons, binding together the fertilising sun power from above with the nourishing earth power below. Bonfires would smoulder and the cattle would be cleansed of ticks by being driven through a thick medicinal smoke of burning herbs.

The days continue to lengthen until midsummer, when the hay would be harvested, and long hours of work would be needed to weed and hoe all the crops. Sheep would be sheared, usually between May Day and midsummer, and the womenfolk would set about the long task of spinning the wool. To us urban folk, the summer is a holiday, but to workers in the fields it was the time of greatest effort, for it was vital to ensure that the crops produced as much food as possible. Charms and spells and songs would be sung as the farming community slogged their way through all the heavy, boring yet essential tasks. In some places peat would be cut from the sticky, insect-ridden bogs, allowed to dry and carted back to the villages or farm houses.

At last the days of the corn harvest would begin with all sorts of customs, which even in the days of combine harvesters are still carried out as the last run of grain in each field is gathered in. Harvest Suppers, garlanded heavy horses parading the golden sheaves through the villages, dances and songs recall the much simpler days when the arduous work of the year was brought to fruition. Then the corn dollies were made from the finest ears of corn, woven to the local design, bound with red ribbons. John Barleycorn was dead, long live John Barleycorn.

Michaelmas and the Autumnal Equinox bring the garnering of the fruits of wood and orchard, the saving of pumpkins and all root vegetables - the final Harvest Home, when all the produce is displayed in churches or village halls, demonstrating the success or failure of the year's work. Geese used to be fattened and with their feet dipped in tar and sand to make 'boots' for the journey, marched to markets in the towns to grace the supper tables at Michaelmas.

Once all is again gathered in, the flocks sorted out, and the first winter frosts whiten the ground, the old feast of Hallowe'en comes round again. It is traditionally a time of disguises, games of chance and those which foretell the future with apple peel or by candle light, in dark mirrors. The Goddess is seen here in her wisdom aspect, and it is a time of consulting the First Parents, inviting them to the Great Feast, telling them of the births and deaths, hopes and fears of the year, in the times of speech and of silence.

The God's Story

Within this pattern of harvests and gifts from Mother Nature there runs the story of the God, Son of the Goddess, Great Mother. Born at midwinter, nameless in a lowly place, he grows, each day as a year in his life, until at the hidden feast of Twelfth Night, he becomes a man. In the Old Religion this is the special time, when the young man who stands in for the God at the enactment of the ritual, asks the questions about his heritage, claims his name, his magical tools and receives initiation from his Mother/Grandmother. As he is set free on his own path the Goddess, using her magic of change, becomes the young maiden again.

At the Spring Equinox the God has become the warrior, the Champion of the Goddess, and like such heroes as Hercules or our own King Arthur, he has twelve tasks to perform, each linked with one of the signs of the Zodiac. Dancing around the circle he shows off, in the person of the local hero, or a lad chosen by lot to play the part. He is armed with the Spear of the Sun and the Arrows of Passion, and when he has played his part, wooed the Goddess and, with her permission, bedded her, he fires arrows into the setting sun and departs on his great journey. This is Lady Day, when the Angel Gabriel came to Mary, Goddess in her own right, announcing her pregnancy, for it is nine moons to Yule.

When the white blossoms of hawthorn foam along the lanes, the God as Hunter, Guardian of Animals, Horned One, seeks his love in the forest, where she, Goddess of Change, is now hiding as a white doe. When he finds her he brings her to the forest clearing, and in the company of the whole community, leaps over the bonfire, wedding in the gypsy way.

The cycle continues; the pregnant Goddess ripens as the corn in the fields swells in the ear. Now the God is the Corn King, swathed in scarlet poppies, symbols so often of sacrifice, and blood upon the fields. Now, as the harvesters sweep across the golden land cutting swathes through the standing grain, the Corn King is ready to lay down his life for the benefit of the people.

Garlanded in cornflowers blue as death, poppies red as blood, and corncockle golden as the setting sun, he who at this festival stands in for the God is cast down and laid on a bier or into a shallow grave in the field. Now his widow/mother mourns over his still form. She knows that the seed he sowed in her lives on, to be the new God in the dark of the year, but now she is all alone. In the North, Wakes Week, in Early August at Lammastide or Lughnassadh, recalls this traditional mourning for the sacrificed God. His spirit lives on and is preserved in the Corn Dollies, woven into traditional patterns, and samples of these are found in ancient Egypt, in Greece and all over the grain-growing lands.

Now the other fruits are gathered in, day and night are equal again, but darkness is winning, and the sun is fading in the sky. It is a time of reflection, gathering in those completed projects, sorting the good from the outworn, choosing the seeds for the new year's planting, be it crops for the land, ideas for the mind or inspirations of the heart. The flowers fade, but harvests are gathered of magical hazel nuts, instillers of wisdom when they feed the sacred salmon in his mysterious pool.

Fungi are collected, for food and healing, and invoking dreams and visions in those whose sight was awakened by long training. St Michael, whose festival is on 29th September, is another Christianised form of the Sun God, and many of his churches are on high, pagan hill-tops. He balances the Dark Force, especially now, just after the Autumn Equinox, as summer balances winter, neither overcoming the other, in an eternal interchanging dance.

The Celtic Year draws to an end at Samhain, 'Summer's End', time of the Great Gathering, when all come home. It is a time of celebration and of remembering those who have parted from their earthly forms. The ghosts that enter the open doors and manifest in the sacred bonfire's smoke are kindly ones, old friends, grandparents, kindred from many ages, all thronging round with their wisdom, their accrued knowledge of the community and its needs. Now is the time of oracles, to see what will happen in the year to come.

It is a time to bid farewell to those who have died, and welcome the new babies, and even the spirits of children scarcely conceived, or as yet unborn. All the Family come in and share the feasting, of the best and fattest of the beasts, the whitest bread, the sweetest honey and the lushest fruits at this short season of plenty, before the cruel winter's dearth.

Here the Goddess is both pregnant and the Old One, the Wise Hag, in this dark time when the Veil between the Worlds is thinnest, and knowledge and spiritual powers of magic can pass back and forth. She is always a changeable deity, paradoxical in her appearance, able to shape-shift in human and animal form, yet always being herself, in whichever guise best suits her purpose. She is the Ruler of the Otherworld, wherein her God/Lover rests, between his evolving incarnations. She is Persephone, Queen of the Dead and the Unborn, Bringer through the Veil of Life those to be born, carrying across the dark, still waters of the River of Night those who have passed from the world of flesh. She is All-Knowing, All-Seeing and All-Revealing to those who dare to ask her the right questions.

Like the Mystery Plays, based on the stories of the Old Testament, the story of the Goddess and her Son/Lover/Sacrificed God was acted out by members of the community, in fields or barns, in small cottages and the squire's hall, as mimed or mumming plays, some of which endure. Parts were cast by drawing a lot, or finding a bean in a cake, so that the Old Ones made their own choices for their changing forms. Without set words, each actor was allowed to be inspired directly from the Goddess/God they were playing. Actions, songs, music, mime or words told each year a new version of the eternal story. Little of this was recorded in writing, but it is written on the waters, patterned in the branches of trees, and sung by the birds in the dawn chorus.

If you decide to set out upon the Old Road you will come to understand something of the simplicity of the traditional festivals for, whoever you are, you will discover the deities within you. They are your magical ancestors, their feasts are part of your own unfolding pattern. In winter you may rest, reviewing your last cycle of work and achievement, failure and loss.

In, you will sleep the child of your evolving self, born in the darkest night at Yule — soul-son of the Sun of Life. Cleansed and refreshed, when the first flowers show in your garden, go forth, Goddess renewed, or as her Champion, initiated into the New Year. Set forth your own list of the Twelve Tasks to be performed from March to March. Seek out your partner; within, as the secret other half of your own being, true Soul-Mate, or examine your relationships with those around you. How does your beloved benefit from your relationship?

By midsummer you should have a greater understanding of what you are going to achieve, and the 'crops' that you have sown, at home or at work, in dreams or in creativity will be flourishing in whichever field of life they are planted. As Lammas arrives, old Saxon Loaf-mass when the new flour was ground, you might be able to take a breather. Look at your opposite God/Goddess within. How has that Great Being strengthened you, brought you light or courage, love or understanding? What will you be able to lay before the altar of offering when the harvest is examined in the autumn days?

As winter approaches you will need to look within. What part of you has died, or been cast off? What part of you has an understanding of the Otherworld, gained through regular meditation or long, quiet chats with the God or Goddess in Nature? Learn to listen, to be still and hear with that inner ear the voices of the Old Ones. Watch your dreams for wisdom, and your intuition for awoken senses. Begin a new year with a new vision, realistically aimed at what you can achieve. Feel the ebbs and flows of the yearly tides, which bring forth and which sweep away certain aspects of your life, and learn to flow with them.

Exercises

After two moons of considering the Old Ways you ought to be seeing changes in your world view and your attitudes to things. If you have been able to spend a few minutes every day thinking about or meditating on the pagan gods or the old feasts, or the meaning of the religious life, you may be discovering new depths to your character.

Here are a few more matters to consider during the third moon.

Look at ancient sacred sites, on the ground if you can, or in books, and consider what mighty motives encouraged the ancient peoples to construct such enormous circles of stones, causeways or hillforts. How much effort, time and meditation are you willing to give over to your own rediscovery of the Old Ways and making contact with the First Parents? Are you actually doing anything, researching into local customs building up lists of God and Goddess attributes, the kinds of trees in your area? Or are you still just thinking about it?

Consider the times of the old feasts, add these to your Calendar Circle, as well as the Green and White Harvests of each. What colour is the Harvest of Twelfth Night, do you imagine? Why do you think most modern witches ignore this date? Decide what symbols, like an Easter egg, you could have on open display in your home for each of the festivals, and draw these into your Calendar Circle.

What did Rites of Passage celebrate? Have you gone through any? What do you think the pagan ones are, and when would they happen? How do mumming plays fit into the ongoing record of the Old Ones?

Go out and look at the moon, watch her face among the clouds and see how you feel. Draw her light into your awareness and feel it waking up your psychic powers. See how the patterns of your dreams reflect the phases of the moon. Record what you find in your Book.

Discover some seasonal songs, folk tales or local myths.

Where do you think you could make friends who have interests in folklore, the Old Ways or pagan religion? Have you tried to get in touch with other people? You could leave messages in library books as bookmarks so that other readers of the same subjects could contact you. At least such folk would be nearby and perhaps on the same quest.

Here are some more books to sample:

Joseph Campbell, Hero With A Thousand Faces (Princeton University Press)
Vivianne Crowley, Wicca; The Old Religion in the New Age (Aquarian)
George Ewart Evans, The Horse, Power and Magic (Faber)
Sir James Frazer, The Golden Bough (Century)
Dr Anne Ross, Life and Death of a Druid Prince (Century)

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