Posts Tagged ‘winter solstice’
I’m always at a loss as to what to do for Yule. Not being a sun-aligned person I just don’t get with the whole “welcome in the sun” thing. However, this year I was given the notion that I needed to be more welcoming of the sun, so for the first time I found a suitable place to welcome the sun back at Yule – Castlerigg stone circle.
When I had been trying to find a suitable location I had first considered some of the sites listed on the Aenigmatis.com we site:-
- Crick Barrow
- Harold’s Stones
- Long Meg and Her Daughters
For various reasons these were not suitable on this Yule day, either due to the distance I would need to travel. The only one that seemed a likely candidate was Long Meg in Cumbria. I made note of the useful information about the Winter Solstice at the excellent TimeandDate.com web site. Here are the sunrise times for the Winter Solstice as taken from the west of England:
Dec 20, 2012
Dec 21, 2012
Dec 22, 2012
Dec 23, 2012
Just before I left, though, I found out that Long Meg’s Solstice alignment is with the setting sun! Oh no! A quick change of place, then. Same area, but now I would go to Castlerigg – a circle that held particular resonance for me this year, being the site at which I had freed and merged with a Merlin energy. With a time and place set I now began to consider what this particular Yule sunrise signifies for me this year.
In the second part of my Winter Solstice expedition I hereby present the story of Thor’s Cave. You may remember that I was directed to seek the sanctuary and sanctity of a cave atmosphere as a suitable space within which to see out the end of what has been a very interesting year. I think there are several reason why a cave would be a suitable space. Firstly, because I was visiting at the Winter Solstice, this time of year is all about closure. It is about letting go of any tensions built up in the year, of concentrating all of the information learned in that yearly cycle, and then of closing down to wait for the energies to re-appear at Imbolc in February. With a cave’s aura-shaping capability, it made sense to me that seeking a dark enclosed space within which to agglomerate all of the year’s teachings would be the ideal choice. Kal and I learned about the aura-shaping aspects of caves earlier in September from our visit to South Wales.
Thor’s Cave is probably quite easy to get to if you approach it from the road below, but you would be presented with a very steep climb. Instead, Mike and I approached from the footpath just at the edge of Wetton village and there was very little climbing involved, but the ground was wet, muddy and slippery in many parts so we had some amusing episodes both there and back as we struggled for grip. One you reach the front of the cave, however, the entrance is awe-inspiring in size.
It may not be obvious from the pictures but you can’t walk into the cave – you have to climb. For us at this time of year this meant scrambling over wet smooth rocks and all hands and feet were needed to get into the cave without sliding back out. I would recommend you visit on a dry warm day. For some reason I was totally unprepared this day and hadn’t brought a torch! Luckily, Mike had – this was a complete role-reversal that amused us both for ages.
Shafts of remaining sunlight filtered into the cave from the huge entrance and the tall slit in the rocks at the side of the cave, letting in enough light for us to make our way slowly and carefully to the back of the cave. There, the ground rose slightly and split into several hollows arranged around a central protrusion of rock. We tried to make ourselves comfortable to begin a meditation, but the intense slope of the ground and the dampness of the rocks made it difficult to find a comfortable position. We rapidly decided that a standing meditation would be sufficient today. “Adopt, adapt and overcome“!
When I dowsed to find which sites I should visit for the Winter Solstice this year I was surprised that only two types were signified: a circle and a cave. Well, it didn’t take me long to work out which stone circle I should visit. Top of my list was Nine Ladies, and it remained the favourite because all the others failed the suitability test when dowsed. Next I had to find a suitable cave. This task was much harder. With my first site being in Derbyshire I reckoned that finding a cave in the area would be simple .Far from it! It took me several days to find and dowse the suitability of a natural cave that was not a tourist attraction closed for the Winter. The result was Thor’s Cave, which was just inside the Staffordshire border, but close to Leek and south Derbyshire. Perfect! I deliberately didn’t read up anything about it so that the experience would be fresh and exciting. I will blog about the cave visit soon, but first, here’s my account of my Winter Solstice visit to Nine Ladies stone circle.
Solstice morning arrived and I began to tedious journey across to mid-Cheshire to meet my friend Mike. At each step of the journey I was delayed – firstly by a huge lorry trundling along the back roads, then by a tractor pulling a huge payload of hay bales, and then, just as I had cleared that obstacle and was wondering whether I could possibly get behind anything that would be slower – out pulled a funeral cortege and I was down to 20mph for the next few miles of reverent driving. I had to laugh! When I arrived at Mike’s I fold him that I had arrived at exactly the right time – 15 minutes late, but just as I had completely chilled out due to the slow pace. Perfect timing!
Nine Ladies Dancing
As we approach the stone circle from below, following a track that is probably only visible in the Winter months, I stop to register the edge of the stone circle’s nemeton – I can feel an energy change and I turn to look at Mike, but Mike has a puzzled look on his face. Is he sensing something, I wonder? He says that he can see lots of “little people” all around us, gathering to usher us on towards the stone circle, and dancing around our feet. He wonders if I can see them. I can’t, but I can feel their presence, like being brushed past by lots of invisible mice. He searched his mind for the correct word, and returns with “Pixies”. I haven’t heard that word in years – how quaint!
We continue to the small gathering of sandstone rocks that are heavily carved. Now that the undergrowth is completely gone they are all exposed, and I can see one facing me with a very clear message…
The world has changed.
Sacred calendars tell us of the seasons and festivals. The next one that is approaching is the winter solstice. It is at times such as these that people of old would gather in the fire-lit halls and celebrate or await the reawakening of the world.
These festivals mark the energy of the world as it traverses the sun, astral energies in there truest sense. But what the equation forgets is personal energies.
As Gwas and I have found over the last couple of years is that Earth days are not exact for us, rather what we often find is that alignment occurs for us on days that are out of the sacred calendar.
We put this down to the following reasons:
- Sometimes we are more aligned with lunar energies and so that becomes the “best” time for us.
- Also we feel that the sacred dates are on a sliding scale and so it’s “ok” for us to go about our work on days that are close to the sacred ones.
Both of these are excellent and valid explanations. In this post I would like to offer, not an alternative, but a complementary notion.
Personal Sacred Festivals
My idea is this. Sacred days are days that have to take into account the energetic state of the person celebrating them.
The energetic state of a person is holistic. It should take into account the current energy of the person, there astrological (birth time and place) energy and the energy of their current location i.e. where they are (intend) to celebrate the sacred day.
Given these criteria a sacred date becomes altogether personal doesn’t it? We can see how it got usurped by having a general date for the festival, right? After all such a date would have tremendous social value (protection, social conformity, news gathering and of course collation of energy)
But let’s go back to, what I’m going to call, personal sacred festivals.
First of all, if we examine the equation we note that the most powerful of these components is the Worlds Energy i.e. the sacred date as we know it. So it would make sense that our personal sacred date would be close to these. Second is the power of social energy. With every other Wiccan giving of celebrating energy on the calendrical sacred date, this would draw us to that date too.
- Earth date 60%
- Location 17%
- Birth date 10%
- Current energy 10%
- Social 3%
Why did I begin this investigation? Well, looking back to last year I felt that the turning point of the year was a couple of weeks earlier than the calendrical (Winter Solstice) date. This year it feels the same too. In fact it feels like today – the 5th of December is pretty close to it. Perhaps another couple of days.
Indeed, now that the Full Moon is upon us, I have complete confidence that today is the day. Time to journey the next rung of the spiral.
See you on the other side
ps – would love to hear if you guys have had similar experiences or do you feel that the sacred days are the points of change for you?
You may have noticed the lack of podcasts this year on Hedge Druid? There’s a reason for that. In the first half of the year the reason could be put down to a mounting pressure of “work”. Mostly this was spiritual work, and with all the good weather we have had in England this year then the Great Outdoors claimed a large part of my time, and this was reflected in the amount of time-consuming podcast work that I could do. Right, that’s my pathetic excuse out of the way. Now, what about the recent months? I did intend to re-establish the podcast once the weather got worse. It has worsened, but still I don’t feel inclined to get back into the studio to record and edit an hour’s worth of audio. Why not? I think there’s a deeper and wider reason.
I have been noticing that other pagan blogs have also begun to falter in their regularity and their commitment. Could it be that we all expanded too quickly, and pushed ourselves too hard to produce content? Possibly, but I think the real reason is due to a difficulty in maintaining momentum when this year has been out of synchronisation with itself. Let me explain.
The Moon, The Sun and The Earth sources
Last year our blogs flourished. Mostly these are blogs that are talking about magickal work, mystical happenings and spiritual progress. What general effect has happened that could account for the difference between last year’s ease and this year’s difficulty? Simple. It is the synchronisation of the phase of the Moon with the Celtic Festival dates. Last year the high points in the solar cycle were matched by high points in the lunar cycle. In other words, at the major lunar festival dates the Moon was also usually in its Full Moon phase.
The Celtic Wheel of the Year is a cycle that records the high points of the year’s energies. It tells the pagan watcher when the Earth itself is producing the most energy in its co-operative cycle with The Sun. In my experience, and I speak only for myself here, I do not use The Sun as my primary magickal power source. For me it is The Moon. Last year was therefore a “bumper year” in terms of the number of coincidences between the Solar and Lunar high points. Magick was abundant and easy. Motivation was plentiful, and so a great deal of work flowed, and many posts got produced. Blogs flourished that dealt with these subjects.
This year the story has been completely reversed, and how dispiriting must that have been to many of our pagan friends whose magickal sources are Moon-dependent? This year the Full Moon phases NEVER coincide with any of the Solar Festival dates in the Celtic Year. Only Spring Equinox came close. The result of this, goes my tenuous hypothesis, is that motivation has taken a battering. Magickal people must have found themselves either doing Sun OR Moon work, but never being able to being the two together.
Due to the “freak” weather in England (we had a slight bit of snow – the kind that Canadians laugh at) I was unable to get back from Canada as planned. My plan was to return before the Winter Solstice so that I could spend that day going out to a sacred site, communing with my favourite ancient yew tree, and getting some guidance on the activities for the next part of the Wheel of the Year. All that was scuppered by a few inches of snow at the major European airports and so I was delayed by several days. I could have been far worse, and apparently was for many people, so I accepted our lot and bunkered into the Calgary airport hotel at the expense of the Dutch airline KLM. Thanks KLM – you did a great job.
This opened an opportunity up for me that I hadn’t realised, though. It was widely reported in the Canadian media that there would be a lunar eclipse on the night of the 20th December, going into the 21st. This was an opportunity not the be missed, and despite the fact that I would be flying for 11 hours the next morning at 4:30am I decided I could sleep on the plane instead of miss this great celestial display.
Whilst my wife slept (sensibly) I stood alone outside the Delta Hotel at Calgary Airport at 11:30pm waiting for something to happen. As I stood there several things came to mind in that quiet (quiet? aircraft were taking off left, right and centre!) space as I waited…
- It was the first total lunar eclipse on a Winter Solstice for over 450 years
- It was the Winter Solstice when the eclipse would occur – a special day in my calendar and a day of special energies
- The moon would be full when the eclipse occurred – a prefect time for a magickal encounter
I began to take pictures at ten minute intervals in order to capture the event in a sequence. Here are the pictures from that night:-
Click here for a time-lapse video of the event.
As the eclipse unfolded, one of the chefs from the hotel came out occasionally to join me. He introduced himself as Davide, a French ex-patriot who now lived in Canada and we chatted in the minus 20 degree night air. I explained the significance of the phenomenon to Davide, and he began to get increasingly excited as I explained the trinity of alignments: date, full moon, and eclipse.
When he couldn’t stand the coldness any longer (I was dressed for it – he was in his kitchen whites) I was once again alone to ponder the event as it reached its dark climax. I called upon my spirit guide to see whether anything could be revealed about what actions I should take in the next part of the year, fully expecting a message along the lines of “Take a rest now, consolidate the year’s work, and don’t do anything until Imbolc.” That wasn’t the message I got!
In my head I heard the phrase “Celebrate Death“. Perhaps this was in response to the “death” of Winter and the moon that night? On my return home this message would be hammered home in two significant ways. Firstly there was a note form my father-in-law who had been minding our house during our absence: our dear old neighbour Dolly had passed away a few days before the solstice. I also noticed that the old beech tree that had been standing at the end of our neighbour’s drive and which gave us such resplendent view through the seasons had been cut down! Nothing now remained but a stump. I’ll tell you more about how that came about soon in another post, but needless to say, although we knew it might happen it was as shocking as any human death to me.
So I can see now how this Winter Solstice event was symbolic of Death – the death of The Moon and the death of the Year 2010. I was being asked not to mourn for the deaths that had occurred, but instead to celebrate them. This is what I did on my next visit to a sacred site, but I also found out that my quest was not what I thought it was, and that the celebration was to be a one-off, not part of the Wheel of the Year after all. More on that soon.
This post is the second half of a post I did after the Summer Solstice. My purpose was to record the eight points in the year because at each of these artificial stages which were roughly aligned to the Celtic or Neo-Pagan calendar I would be seeking a task by communing with Nature. The task would be a guiding principle that I could use in order to develop spiritually along my chosen path of being a hedge druid.
You can read about the first four “folds” of the year in my previous post, here. However, I will briefly recap the first four, before going on to describe the final four:-
- Yule to Imbolc – to be still, and to cleanse myself in preparation for the unfolding year. Accordingly I did nothing at all!
- Imbolc to Spring Equinox – to awaken the energies of sacred sites; to contact spirits of place and prepare myself and sacred sites for the work ahead. I spent time communing with Spirits of Place and walking circles to awaken them.
- Spring Equinox to Beltane – to connect to the earth’s energy grid; understand the nature of Neutral earth energy forms and to extract and utilise Neutral energy. I began to link to various sites, and connected myself to the earth grid. I investigated neutral energy and found something that I later called Primal Energy.
- Beltane to Summer Solstice- to learn how to diffract, dissociate and extract the different frequencies that my energy field can generate. Then to learn how to bring those frequencies together again to form a pure white energy form. I learned how to extract a single energy colour from my whole field, and how to combine them all into a white light energy.
All of this work seemed like a preparation for something. Little did I know! Now I present the final four folds of the year, and their increasingly complex task assignments:-
SUMMER SOLSTICE to LAMMAS
The Summer Solstice is the easiest point in the year for us to define. Being sun-based this day is fixed upon the rise of the sun on the longest day of the year. As has become our custom this year would see Kal and I in Glastonbury for the Solstice, working on our heart chakra and finding out what the next part of the year was about.
- To wake The Dragon and let it fly.
I firstly had to ensure that my heart chakra was well balanced and filled with the energies of the sun and the solstice. With the sun at its peak the perfect place to be for the Solstice always seems to be Glastonbury with its reputation for being the heart chakra of these islands, and Glastonbury Tor has a reputation within that reputation for being the heart of the Glastonbury. Well, yet again, we were not disappointed, either with the copious amounts of heart energy available in this town, or with the wonderful energies of this time of the year.
My task to waking the dragon would take me eventually to Cadair Idris where I would walk along the back of the dragon to its head. There I did a walking meditation, collecting dragon’s teeth and using them to act as acupuncture points to release the spirit of the dragon. All this was done surrounded by the dragon’s breath – the mist.
Since doing that act I have been able to feel energy much better than before. My dowsing response is also much stronger, and I often don’t need the rods to feel auras or to follow energy lines. I have also taken on a new appreciation for the power of the mountains.
LAMMAS to AUTUMN EQUINOX
As the summer ripens the crops so the year’s quest began to get more juicy. Rather than receiving some kind of prophetic vision instead I was given three little words, and from that phrase I had to extrapolate my own tasks. This was beginning to make me more independent.
- To make magic manifest
- To bring magic into daily use
I began to find meditation spaces in nature that I could retire to in order to do more work regularly. This worked while the weather stayed good and I got out often and did an almost daily meditation in nature. I began to work with my navel chakra and learned how to draw out invisible threads of energy that could be used to perform magic with. I incorporated several methods of connecting and drawing energy from nature to form energetic shapes around me for different purposes.
At the end of this phase of the year I was much more familiar with, and happy to use, natural magick on a daily basis. It had become a part of my routine and was now woven into the fabric of what I was trying to do to progress. Incense and crystals were valuable tools in this work, and I was using them often.
AUTUMN EQUINOX to SAMHAIN
As the leaves turned brown and fell I found myself enveloped in a long-term quest to re-energise particular sacred sites. The first one was local to me, but the second was in the town of Llangollen in North Wales. I found myself going to the hill of Dinas Bran a few times at all hours of the day and night after I received a curious riddle concerning Merlin.
- To journey into the Underworld and wake the Spirit of Merlin from his sleep
The instruction was accompanied by a riddle that gave me directions to follow in order to fulfil the quest to meet the spirit of Merlin. This quest involved the preparation of a wand of rowan, the location of a special stone church surrounded by ancient yew trees, and a deep meditation into the Underworld. This journey required me to learn new skills such as how to protect my energy body and make myself invisible to shades.
When the quest was completed I had new stronger keener abilities, and I had performed a sort of alchemical wedding by combining within myself the forces of male and female energy.
SAMHAIN to WINTER SOLSTICE
A time of the year associated with the veil between worlds, with death and the Underworld, with spirits and ghosts. It came as little surprise then that my new quest would be revealed at the tree most symbolic of this threshold – the yew.
So many of this year’s quests have involved the ancient yew tree at Llangernyw that I have lost count. It seems to be our natural starting point because of its incredible energies, and its association with the concept of shamanic journeying. It is truly a gateway between worlds. The Samhain quest began with the tree too. As with many of the quests it sounded simple, but was actually the most complex and dangerous yet.
- To free spirits.
Such a simple statement, but when unpacked, so complex to deliver. For this task I have had to do a lot of background reading about the concept of spirit rescue or release.
I have also had to confront a great deal of my own inner philosophical prejudices concerning the way that the world is constructed, and what it means to venture beyond the veil of death. This feels like a natural extension of my journey into the Underworld, which at the time I took to be a metaphorical journey until the seriousness was impressed upon me. It was a real journey, and failure to prepare could result in actual physical repercussions.
This quest also has a serious side. Whilst I am tasked with learning new skills, and understand that performing spirit rescue is a question of choice, nevertheless there could and no doubt will be some hairy and scary moments along this path, for which I have to prepare properly.
The first half of the year was concerned with me locking myself into the rhythm of the seasons. It involved tasks that were mainly preparatory – at the start of the year I was idle, resting, recuperating my energy levels and winding myself up to race headlong at the year. Then I was gently re-introduced to the energies of the land as they returned, and was given the task to co-operate in the re-introduction of energy back into the sacred sites that I love.
The turning point was the Summer Solstice. From then on the quests became very personal and very challenging. They began to involve me having to learn new skills. The quests sometimes included riddles for me to solve, clues to information that would help me to achieve the results. I worked hard to embrace each new quest, and tried my utmost to meet the requirements in the timescales laid out by the passing of the year. I was rewarded at each stage with new powers, new skills and new insights into the world of Natural Magick, subtle energies, and the world beyond the senses.
I know that each of the quests that I undertook was but an introduction to the breadth and depth of the skills that a hedge druid could be required to master. I now look forward to repeating this process next year, and once I have a second year to compare this year to, I will look to see whether there are any obvious correspondences and patterns which will allow me to be even better prepared in the following years.
The Wheel of the Year has rolled forward and I have moved with it. Now I feel the wind rushing through my hair and it is exhilarating!
Related post: My Eight Fold Year – the first four folds