I’m frustrated. I just experienced another public Imbolc celebration which included an explanation of how, in Britain in the time of the Celts, February was springtime. Meanwhile, I’m looking at a forecast for the next two weeks and the temperature will be hovering just above freezing. This is typical for this time of the year where I live (at the bottom tip of Lake Michigan where Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan meet).
Why are we talking about spring in the literal middle of winter? Why are we talking about Celts and Romans did hundreds of years ago? And why are we ritually honoring the bodies of water like the Ganges and the Nile, when there’s a lake within walking distance and one of the Great Lakes not far off?
Imbolc is definitely the worst of the contemporary Pagan holidays for this kind of anachronistic and anatopic (like anachronistic, but for place) observances. But contemporary Pagan practice is plagued by it.
We need a no-nonsense paganism–or rather no-nonsense paganisms (plural). Paganisms which are grounded in and arise out of the specific circumstances of our lives. As Steven Posch has written, “the only pagans that we can honestly be is the pagans for our own time and place.”
Since it’s the beginning of the year, I thought now would be a good time to share my own working pagan calendar for this year. I say it’s “my own”, because it’s what is working for me, and I don’t prescribe it for anyone else. Your own pagan practice should be specific to your our place and time and personality–or else it’s not really “pagan” as I understand that word. But I offer mine here by way of an example.
And I say it’s “working” and “for this year” because I change it all the time–definitely from year to year, and sometimes over the course of the year. There’s spaces at the end of my calendar to indicate that it may expand. Yours should probably change too over time, because you are changing over time.
You’ll notice right away that there’s way more than eight observances. There’s nineteen as of now. I really don’t think “eight is enough” to sustain a spiritual practice. And, in addition to these these seasonal events, I have a daily practice, which I’ve written about before here.
Some of the observances are fixed dates based on solar events, like the solstices and equinoxes. Some are seasonal events, which are moveable, meaning they can happen on any day over a span of time. When exactly I will observe the event depends on when I observe certain seasonal changes, like the first buds on the trees in the spring or the first fall of leaves in the autumn. This forces me to pay attention to the world around me and to take time out of my day-to-day when I notice certain changes.
Some of the observances correspond to the traditional “Wheel of the Year”, but others do not. I’ve kept what makes sense to me and tossed the rest. Some of those I’ve kept, I’ve change the meanings to correspond to the time and place I live. No pretending it’s spring in Imbolc. And, if the winter solstice is celebrating the light in the dark, it make sense that the summer solstice should be about the dark in the light.
Some of the events are based on popular events, like Halloween and Thanksgiving, because I believe there is a lot of social-psychological potentiality that builds up around these dates, which we can turn to our own uses. Some of the events happen on a single day, and others, like the Yule season observance I did last month, last several days. And some of the observances are planned for specific times of day, like the winter solstice at midnight or the summer solstice at noon.
|Early February (before sunrise)||Coldest time/Mid-winter thermistice||Seasonal/moveable||Fire in the cold dark|
|Between February & March||First melt (of snow)||Seasonal/moveable||Purification|
|March 13-March 20 [7 days] (sunrise)||Spring equinox & daylight savings||Solar/fixed||Return of light, ascent|
|Between March & April||First signs of spring: first buds, returning geese||Seasonal/moveable||New life/hope|
|April 22/25||Earth Day/Arbor Day||Popular/fixed||Trees|
|May 1 (morning)||Mid-spring, May Day||Popular/fixed||Union/sex|
|Early May||Planting garden||Seasonal/moveable||Sowing|
|Between April & May||First summer storm||Seasonal/moveable||Wild Hunt I|
|June 21 (noon)||Summer solstice||Solar/fixed||Dark in the light|
|Between June & July||First significant garden harvest||Seasonal/movavble||Harvest|
|Early August (afternoon)||Hottest time/Mid-summer thermistice||Seasonal/moveable||Fire of passion/fire of destruction|
|September 22 (sunset)||Autumn equinox||Solar/fixed||Sacrifice|
|Between September & October||First signs of autumn: turning leaves, fall of leaves, geese flying south||Seasonal/moveable||Lamentation, loss|
|October 31||All Hallows/Halloween||Popular/fixed||Wild Hunt II|
|November 1-7 [7 days] (after sunset)||Mid-autumn & daylight savings||Solar/fixed||Death, descent|
|Between November 22-28||Thanksgiving/last harvest||Popular/fixed||Gratitude|
|Between November & December)||First signs of winter: first cold snap||Seasonal/moveable||Impermanence|
|December||First (heavy) snow||Seasonal/moveable||Fresh start|
|December 21 to January 1 [11 days] (midnight)||Winter solstice/Yule season||Solar/popular/fixed||Light in the dark|
I love this! It’s far more celebrations than I need, but crafting a practice that works for you individually is exactly the point of a land-based, personalized Paganism.
Thank you for sharing this.
Being in the Southern Hemisphere, marking the Wheel of the Year can be challenging: some people flip it, some people don’t, then there are the questions of elemental alignments as well. I flip it personally, but I also observe the First Nations calendar (as best we understand it) for the land in which I live. In the case of Naarm (Melbourne), that means acknowledging 8 seasons. I also use the astrological dates as opposed to the traditional dates of the traditional 8 festivals.
It’s taken me decades to work out what works for me and feels appropriately aligned with where I am living; and if I left Naarn, I’d have to do it all again!