The seasonal cycles create a framework of festivals that link us to the Earth and create opportunities for us to align our lives to its natural rhythm, writes Glennie Kindred
At its simplest, the warmer longer days of Summer bring us out to communicate with each other and all life. It is a time for growth, being on the land and action. The colder and shorter days of Winter take us indoors and more inside of ourselves. It is a time to rest and renew our energy, to generate new ideas.
At their extremes, Summer and Winter are marked by the Summer Solstice (the shortest night and the longest day) and Winter Solstice (the longest night and the shortest day). The exact time and date vary slightly each year.
Spring and Autumn are between these extremes of high Summer and deepest Winter. The Spring Equinox and Autumn Equinox fall in the middle of the seasons of Spring and Autumn. They are the balance points when day and night are equal in length, when things are beginning to move fast. They act as a reminder to balance ourselves and prepare for the extremes of the next part of the cycle, be it Summer (outer growth) or Winter (inner growth).
We can use the seasonal cycle and work with the prevailing energy of the Earth to consciously create meaningful change in our lives. In the Autumn we celebrate our harvest and achievements, let go of the things we no longer need and prepare for Winter. Winter is the time to rest, regenerate and incubate the seeds that will bring life to the future. Spring is the time to begin new projects. During the Summer months we bring everything into flower and get things moving. Each season brings us a new set of possibilities. The choice is always ours to set clear intentions, to ask ourselves what we wish to change and how we wish to change… Then changes come rapidly.
These four fixed points in the year’s cycle are known as the Quarter Points and they form an equilateral cross. In the past this was combined with the symbol for the Sun (a circle with a dot in the middle) to form the ancient symbol for the Earth, an equilateral cross with a circle around it.
In between the four fixed seasonal heights lie four other points, the Cross-quarter Festivals of our ancient past. These mark the beginning of the seasonal energy-shifts. They are edge places, where one season is about to change into another. In the past they were revered and recognised as highly fertile times, power points in the year’s cycle. They were the four great fire festivals of Samhain, Imbolc, Beltain and Lammas, and celebrations would often last for several days or weeks. Community bonfires were lit on the high points and people would come together from miles around. The Cross-quarter festivals are not fixed by dates on the calendar. They are celebrated with an awareness of the Earth’s energy and the Moon’s cycle. Some people prefer to fix them with a calendar date for community gatherings. But, for me, they will always be moments of the intuitive edge, a shift in my energy and the Earth’s energy. Each year I find I have a sense of when the moment comes and I respond at a purely instinctual level to when it ‘feels’ right.
Samhain is recognised as a time when the outer growth cycle is over and the dark of Winter begins. Historically it is known to be a time when the veil between the worlds is thin, a time when we can learn from the ancestors and go within ourselves to seek inner guidance. It was overlaid as All Souls’ Day by the Christian Church and popularised as Halloween on 31 October.
Opposite Samhain on the wheel is Beltain, another edge place recognised as a time of ‘thin’ energy between the planes of existence. Here the Nature spirits are awakening and the energy pathways of the land are once again becoming active. This was seen as a time of high fertility when all of Nature is responding to the call of the wild spirit. This festival was overlaid by the Christian Church as May Day and celebrated on the morning of 1 May, complete with a virginal May Queen and thus defusing the wild potency of sexuality rising.
The other ‘arm’ of the Cross-quarter axis is created by Imbolc and Lammas (or Lughnasadh). Imbolc is recognised as a time of great potency when the Earth’s energy is beginning to awaken and we can access our own inner wisdom, which is rising from within us. It is a prime time for receiving inspiration and flashes of insight from our higher consciousness. It became overlaid as Candlemas by the Christian Church, and celebrated on 2 February.
Opposite Imbolc is Lammas, another edge place of heightened awareness as we spend more time outside in touch with the land and the Earth. It is a natural time to gather outside with friends, sit around fires, share the wisdom and knowledge we have gained in the summer cycle and assess who we are and what we want from life. In the past this was a time of community gatherings and the grain harvest, a time of fairs and feasting, and this is still a time of festivals and gatherings on the land. The calendar date for Lammas is 2 August, but for me its underlying power is to be found around the time of the full Moon.
Glennie Kindred writes about finding simple, heartfelt ways for us to make connections to each other, the Earth, Nature, the Elements and Spirits. www.glenniekindred.co.uk
First published in Issue 27 (Spring 2012) of JUNO: