Our Mabon and Samhain discussions have prompted this post. Wicca’s roots are in northwestern Europe, a land of strong
seasons like those in much of the US.
It was easy to integrate the agricultural cycle in the British Isles, and the solar cycle
with the symbolism of birth, growth, adulthood, old age, death, and rebirth,
that characterizes our own existence.
Further, they all harmonized with the phases of the moon.
The fit is not so good when we move to the West coast of
North America, especially California. The rainless summer and scorching fall is
followed by the cold but hardly frozen rain of winter, and everything starts
turning green again. By Beltane
there are often hints of summer’s golden brown in the meadows.
the far north or higher elevations, where May Day is hardly a day of
flowers. When I taught in far
upstate New York, north of the Adirondacks, it could snow into late May. Less than a day’s drive further north,
in Canada’s “Near North” somewhere up above Ottawa, maple trees disappeared for
good, and winter became the overwhelmingly dominant season. Where I was in New York, it was only
the dominant season, with snow falling as early as Samhain.
But in the West and North the Solstices and Equinoxes are still anchors
of more than abstract importance.
We experience the lengthening and shortening of day and night in a
syjmbol fitting easily into the shorter rhythms of the waxing and waning
moon. These rhythms are
universal. Or are they?
of us have joked about Australian and Kiwi Wiccans and other NeoPagans
celebrating the Sabbats upside down. There the
seasons are reversed, with our Samhain falling in their Spring. But the temperate Southern hemisphere
has it fairly easy. You just
invert the wheel and things still fit.
What about the greater part of Australia that is tropical or subtropical? Not so many Wiccans there (yet?), but
hopefully its future has a strong NeoPagan component. (I do not mean just
Wiccans, as I hope is clear.) And Hawaii?
Or the seasons as experienced by the Gardnerian community in Nigeria?
In the tropics and near tropics the days are mostly the same
length. Solstices and Equinoxes
are not particularly noticeable.
The growing season is year long, unless there are cycles of rain and
drought. These different seasonal
rhythms, are not in clear synch with those of the temperate zones. The dance of seasons is polyrhythmic.
Wicca’s ritual symbolism is a wonderful fit with temperate places with
four strong seasons, and nowhere else.
Until then our celebrations will be rooted in abstract symbols rather
than concrete energies. Anyone who
reads this blog knows I have no problems being abstract – but Spirit does not
manifest abstractly in my experience.
It is extremely concrete.
connect with the spirit of where we live, I think we need to try and connect
with its concrete manifestations.
Here on the southern end of the North Pacific coast, and farther on up,
the salmon is the totem animal of the region. Native tribes long had their “First Salmon” ceremonies, when
these wonderful fish returned from the ocean, to mate, spawn, and die,
enriching the land with their deaths.
Here in Sonoma County we
also have wonderful vineyards, with abundant grapes and wine, and the best
apple juice anywhere from our Gravenstein apples. Grapes and apples are plants with venerable Pagan symbolisms in the West. Hopefully the day will come when our
Sabbats incorporate these plant and animals of place and similar elements. And when the elements do not
fit easily into our Sabbats, hopefully we will have additional celebrations and
were sensitive to the rhythms of their place as well as to the universal rhythms of life
and death. I think we will not
have truly made our path a grounded path until we have done the same. We cannot
have too many days where we are reminded of the Sacredness of our home.