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Friday, December 21, 2012

An old tale and the wheel of the year

The Wheel of the Year
Our ancestors needed to be close to the seasons of the Earth in order to survive. It was essential for them to understand the times of sowing and of harvest, the migrations of animals and the unpredictability of weather. Wise men and women who were able to comprehend the movement of the seasons and the ways of wildlife gave their knowledge to the tribe. The question was how to preserve that knowledge? How do you teach those who cannot read or write? The answer lay in story, song and poetry. Easily remembered they were the tools our forefathers used to teach. This is one of those lessons teaching the cycle of the harvest known simply as, the "Wheel of the Year."
The tale and its message are relevant today. Our culture and society has lost touch with the Earth. We have become separated from the source of our wellbeing and humanity is suffering as a result. Today, we need to reconnect with the Earth. To keep us grounded in reality and, in a time when our technology is poised to do irreparable harm, celebrating the seasons as our ancestors did, will bring us back to the reality of the world we live on.
The Golden hair of Sif
 Sif the beautiful was the wife of Thor the god of Thunder. Her glory was her long blonde hair. Breathtaking in it's splendor. Loki, the trickster, put a spell on her and caused her head to be shaved. Embarrassed by what had happened, Sif remembered how she had looked before she was shaved and how beautiful her hair had been. So she put on her long white cloak and covered her head with the hood so none might see. When Thor discovered what had happened he was furious. He took Loki by the throat and shook him. He promised that terrible things would happen to him if he didn't restore Sif's hair.
So Loki went deep into the Earth and made a deal with the Dwarves. They spun fine threads of gold and, by Magic, the threads were woven onto Sif's head and her hair was now more glorious than
Celebrating the Wheel of the Year
“Sif the Beautiful was the wife of Thor;”
This is may 1st. Beltane or in Welsh, Gwyl Mai. This is the beginning of summer when the Earth begins to warm. Now is the time of courting, of the maypole. This is the time of the first crops appearing when the Earth is fresh and new.
Look forward to new beginnings. Renew your vows to your sweetheart. Go on a date. Plant something. Take long walks together with those you love. Connect.
“Her glory was her long blonde hair;”
June 21st, Midsummer, in Welsh, Alban Hefin.
Sif is the Earth and mother to us all. For thousands of years the staple diet for North West Europe was Corn. Not maize or corn on the cob but the long golden sheaves of barleycorn. The Golden sheaves shining in the sun were a promise of food for the long winter. When our ancestors saw the corn in the field they knew that their work had borne fruit and the tribe would have food for the year.
To celebrate Alban Hefin get in the sun. Do things outdoors. Move away from the computer and television for a while. This is a time to try something you have never done before. Go somewhere you have never been. Glory a little in your accomplishments. Appreciate your life. The things you have done and the things you are capable of doing.
“Loki, the trickster, put a spell on her and caused her head to be shaved;”
August 1st, Lughnasadh or, in Welsh, Gwyl Awst.
Now the scythe comes around and cuts down the corn. This is the harvest when the head of Sif is shaved. The corn is separated, the grain stored for food. To be turned into bread and used to make Ale. The stalks are food for the cattle and horses. The Earth is bare.
Just as Loki felt he had triumphed over Sif and Thor, so too may we feel a sense of completion at this time of year.
To celebrate, use your talents. Enter a contest, Sing at a Karaoke bar, write a poem, paint. Whatever you feel you can do or want to try to do now is the time to let your light shine.
“Embarrassed by what had happened.”
September 21st, Mabon or Alban Elfed.
This is an in-between time. The Earth is getting darker as the nights overtake the days in length. Sif tries to hide her embarrassment. At first with darkness but the Earth is changing. Since Midsummer the nights have gradually been getting longer. On this date day and night are in equal balance. From this day onwards the night will be longer than the day. Sif is beginning to conceal herself.
To celebrate this time; Begin a spiritual diary and record all the meaningful spiritual things that happen in your life. Try to attain balance in the things you have planned. Start a storage plan. Gather food and clothes. Things you might need in times of hardship. Buy a little thing extra here and there. It will soon add up to a storehouse.
“Sif remembered how she had looked before she was shaved and how beautiful her hair had been.”
October 31st, Samhuin or, in Welsh, Calan Gaeaf.
This is a time to remember and reflect. This is a time when the veil between the worlds is thin. It is said that the spirits of the departed visit us at this time. It is a time to remember those that have gone before and hold their memories close. In the knowledge that they are not gone forever and that we will see them again one day. It is also a time to remove the negative out of our lives and make way for positive influences.
To Celebrate; It’s Halloween. Have a party. Get your friends together and have fun. This is a time to put away the negative things in your life and remember those who have gone before with respect.
One idea for a Halloween party is to have the guests write on a piece of paper all the negative things in their life. Then, at an appointed time, someone dressed as death goes around and gathers up those pieces of paper and all the negative things in yours and your friends lives are cast into the flames.
“Sif wore her long white cloak and covered her head with the hood;
December 21st, Yule or Alban Arthfan.”
Now the snow falls. This is the white cloak and the hood that Sif uses to cover her shame. The Earth is covered in a mantle of white and nothing can grow. Its midwinter, the villagers now must share their food. Those who have a surplus will share with those less fortunate for, who knows, next year the roles could be reversed. This custom is the origin of gift giving in the middle of winter and has become a sacred custom throughout the world.
This is the time to share, to celebrate we give gifts. To those we hold dear and to those less fortunate than ourselves. For who knows when we may be the beggar at the door. Give cheer to all you meet. Help the world through the long dark night.
“Thor was furious. He took Loki by the throat and promised him terrible things would happen.”
February 1st, is Imbolc or Gwyl Ffair.
Now the rain and thunderstorms shake the Earth. The heavens cry in protest and we must get to work. This is the time of ploughing and sowing. If the Earth is to again produce it's bounty we cannot be idle. We have to buckle down and restore the glory of Sif.
To celebrate; make a decision to apologize to anyone you may have wronged. Plant something. Do something for a child. Renew your interest in your career. Look for ways to enhance your material well being. Make a commitment to the work ethic in your life.
“So Loki went deep into the Earth and made a deal with the Dwarves.”
March 21st. The Spring Equinox or, in Welsh, Alban Eilir.
From deep within the Earth magic is happening. The first flowers are showing themselves and the trees are budding. The Earth is coming back to life. There is a promise of harvest to come. The head of Sif will be returned to all its former glory.
To celebrate this time of year make a promise to yourself and keep that promise. Plant a flower and care for it as it grows. Read a book that you have never read before. Get your friends together and have a party for no other reason than that it is Spring.
“They spun fine threads of gold and, by Magic, the threads were woven onto Sif's head and her hair was now more glorious than ever.”
We have come full circle. Now Thor and Sif begin their courtship again and the wheel goes around. The wheel of the year and the wheel of our lives. It is all about living our lives in a certain way and living in harmony with the Earth and its seasons. As we do so, the magic of this world unfolds in us and around us.
And the magic never ends.

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