Urban Pagan in Somerset

Urban Pagan in Somerset

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

To Everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose.......

  1. To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
    There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
    And a time to every purpose, under Heaven                                                                               (The Byrds - Words adapted from The Bible, book of Ecclesiastes
The seasonal wheel of the year is an interesting way to work through the year. To appreciate the different seasons, weather patterns and to really connect with Earth spirituality and its magic. Over the years I have often celebrated various festivals, enjoyed the activities either arranged by my circles or open gatherings.

Recently I have seen articles and thoughts put forward criticising the use of the wheel of the year. Claims that it is an ancient system may be upsetting to purists but I for one love to use it to mark the times of the year. I suppose if one was to insist that the only way to celebrate it was to stick to the usual 8 festivals often mentioned then it would merit such critical discussion. I personally enjoy working with those 8 festivals myself although that doesn't discourage me from celebrating any other festival that seems to have an emotional or spiritual connection for me.

The wheel is a skeleton. It can have 8 festivals. It can have 4. It could have 27 - really it is up to the individual to choose what they wish to observe. Most public gatherings tend to follow the 8 that most people know about these days, but it really depends on what kind of spiritual path you are following, if any. Whether it is one that many people enjoy or one entirely created from your own experiences and ideas it really doesn't matter.

One of the interesting things that has been on my mind recently is how it was natural for me to just get on with it. To do it without analysing what it meant to me, how it was affecting me and how I changed and grew from it. As I got older, I took into account the way I felt, the fact that my body and feelings often mirrored the weather, the seasons and the natural ebb and flow of nature. I began to take more of an interest. To document my body's reactions to the summer and the winter changes. It may seem obvious now, but I was fascinated as I recognised the patterns in the same way as I had worked with the moon phases and noted their effect on me during a time of more formal magical training I had with a wiccan coven during the 1980s.

With the seasons of the year I began to look at the seasons of life. I have recently written a little on this in an article on menopause and croning for the Goddess Pages magazine so I don't want to repeat too much of what I said before.

However, it had occurred to me that the wheel of the year is part of a larger wheel of life and death - often mentioned in the mythical teachings of various cultures - the fates of Greece, Moirai, Sudice and Parcae spinning and cutting lives on the wheel of life. The cycle of the the day in Egypt - with Ra the God of the Sun, crossing the skies in his bark. Even time is described as a curve rather than a straight line. Many things repeat themselves in history. Life is so many circles within circles. Birth, life and death, seasons, years, cycles spinning on and on. To me the celebration of the wheel of the year is a comfort and a joy. An active participation and acknowledgement of my part in the nature of things.
And so I turn to the seasons now and how they mirror so much in my life. There are answers to questions here that I need to ask. And if I don't, then the experience rolls round again on the next cycle whether it is next year, in the next stage of my life or maybe even in another lifetime?

Then on to the actual yearly wheel and how it differs year to year in parallel to the similarities that bring a comforting familiarity to following this yearly map. Each year brings possibilities. Do I grasp them with both hands or as I get older do I hesitate, more worried at removing my comfort zones.

This last year in particular is on my mind considerably. My winter had felt like such a long one. I have experienced much self doubt and questioning.
The timing was interesting. I am at the early stage of my autumn years and questions of my mortality have surfaced once or twice in the last year or so. Particularly during the winter months. More time spent indoors keeping warm and looking out at the snow and rains. The spring and summer doesn’t seem to echo that introspective time within.

Now at last the sun has begun to show itself more regularly after such a long grey winter - I know the seasonal wheel has long been turning since the midwinter solstice, it has seemed to be a long climb back to the fresher, warmer days that are more regular now.

And with it comes the familiar sense of new beginnings, desires to de-clutter - surroundings and life itself. The anticipation of coming projects - planting in the garden and its hopeful harvests to come. Planning the fun and enjoyment of holidays, activities, events and celebrations through the year.

I love this time particularly as there is so much potential. So many plans and ideas and the realisation that there is still so much life left to live.

During the winter, I have been mulling over those thoughts and ideas often associated with that time of year. Of death and endings. Of settling into a dark cave of brooding thoughts and hibernating. It was a time of rest and conservation of reserves. It has given me lots of food for thought. As I am getting older do I think of these things more?

When I was in my 20s and 30s, even in my 40s, I don't remember thinking of my finality as much. Well can I remember my teens and 20s. I was immortal! No thoughts of illness or endings. Well, not enough to make me stop and think. None that would make me pause to wonder if my actions or ideas could be detrimental to my health! Eat less sugar, exercise and keep active! Life stretched out before me eternally. I made plans up to a point but expected to be able to change my life direction as and when I felt inclined. No idea of having a time limit. Go to college and become a performer and then change my mind and become a mother. I had time to do the college bit. I could travel later. But later becomes months and years.
I had commitments of course. I was married and had children so couldn't just jump into anything without taking them into consideration. But I had that bravado that comes with youth. That everything in my life would just fit into wherever I took it. And as long as my husband at the time was willing to be supportive, I would dive into new interests, take myself off to workshops and camps (quite often taking the children along too).

But as I have got older and reached what may be the peak of my life, I have found my thoughts and ideas often tempered with other ponderings. I sometimes catch myself thinking about my mortality. My health and occasional lack of it. I suppose it is inevitable that as we approach the autumn and winter of our own lives that we dwell more on what is to come. As some of our friends pass out of this life through illness or old age I suppose we are bound to think of our own final moments as these things are so fresh and directly in front of us. Being forced to acknowledge these. I have loved ones who have succumbed to cancer. And more sadly - friends and teachers that reached an age when they admitted that for them living had become more of a tiring hindrance and they were ready to move on.

But I’m not ready for that yet. I had a sobering realisation recently that things I had put off to do later were unlikely to come around again now. Not impossible but unlikely. And these things have spurred me on to make changes. To take hold of life again on this part of the cycle and change the dance steps. Maybe because of the time of the year, the place on the wheel. The spring has quickened my blood and once more I feel I am empowered to make those changes. Maybe that connected with my realisation that time is not so much on my side now and to do some of my dreams need urgent action. Get out there. Do it or put it down and leave aside any feelings of regret.

I remember as a teenager in the 70s my life was so focused and geared towards getting into drama college. I acted, took dancing classes and even chose my school subjects around secretarial lessons to enable me to have some kind of earning ability in between acting jobs I was sure I would get. Auditioning and gaining a place at drama school. And then I met someone. Everything changed and I married, had a family and took up amateur performing. Telling everyone I was content. Part of me was. I loved my children and found my way to other spiritual people with similar ideas and feelings. But I couldn’t admit even to myself that I often wondered....'what if?'.......

Jump to the here and now. Marriage long over and family almost grown. Just a few weeks ago browsing on face book and an old friend had joined a college reunion for a class back in 1979. My college. My year that I would have been part of. Looking at the pictures posted of events, friends, parties and performances of that time brought a lump to my throat and I think I even died a little inside. There was a ghost in these pictures. My ghost. I should have known these people. I should have been in these photos. What can hurt more than the memory of something that could have been, that I thought I had let go. I try to be objective. I have children that may not have been here had I gone down that road. I wouldn’t be without them for the world. I have experiences and events that make me who I am now. I like that person. Would I be that person had I stuck with the plan?
Who knows.

But I still have time. And so I am taking action. Not into performing, but into Art. My other love. Giving myself permission to do something that already has its critics although I don’t allow them to make a difference this time. Planning stages were quick - action and decisions were needed and had to be seized. Changing my life is scary when you are out of your comfort zone. But if I don’t, one day I will see those reunion photos again with the missing face and smile and maybe die a little more inside before my time.

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to build up,a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

To Everything (Turn, Turn, Turn)
There is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)
And a time to every purpose, under Heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it's not too late

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Feel the Fear?

I have realised I am going through some changes recently and its giving me a lot to think about. With all the negativity around us at the moment with cuts to public spending, cuts to the services needed by so many vulnerable people. The attacks on the poorer parts of our society and the gap between the rich and poor ever widening, it is easy to become cynical and worried about people, life and humanity.

Closer to home I can worry about my children. My older children's relationships, and my youngest childs' future.

I don't wish to become blinkered either. To pretend that everything is wonderful when there is so much hardship around is quite insulting to those who are suffering. And then there is the wider aspect. So many people in other countries starving, having their freedoms removed, being killed for daring to follow other spiritual paths or being controlled by their gender and religions.

But for a time I realised I had lost my optimism. My hope. My trust in something greater than what is so prevalent at the moment. Not necessarily something greater than humanity - I'm not talking  about God or Higher consciousness here. I'm talking about something buried deep in people. Something that isn't always obvious especially when you come up against a person who seems to be determined to make others suffer.

I'm thinking about that spark that sometimes I see when I read an article in a magazine or paper. Or see a video or news item that is celebrating an idea or human achievement. Or when I'm speaking to friends that are starting new paths or just happy with the one they are on. Or even just like today when I looked at a picture of someone in a facebook status who has started a therapy centre after many years of study in areas that are patently obviously meant to benefit people and help them find their inner joy and peace.

Its so easy to get bogged down in the sadness's around us. And I do realise that its necessary to be able to experience both sadness and happiness. Such is life.

But sometimes I find I have allowed myself to swim in the waters of worry and despair for too long. I start to find I am getting physical reactions. My gall stones flare up, my immune system begins to allow for bugs and illness. My digestive system goes haywire. My mind begins to allow itself to fear the future, my kids future. It can even cause a kind of paralysis. A fear of moving or doing something different in case it goes wrong.

But I cannot live this way. Fear is sly, it creeps in the door and whispers worries and concerns until I can stop trusting myself. I read a book many years ago called Feel the fear and do it anyway. I hold to that statement although I also realise that doesn't mean go off and do something stupid. Some 'fears' are useful as they give you a pause for thought before doing something too rash.

I'm talking about the fears that stop you from making changes in your life because it takes you out of your comfort zone. Leaving a job you hate to work for yourself even though your wages are cut. Moving from an area you grew up in to travel and find adventures even though you don't know anyone where you are going to or family dont approve. Starting a new path on a spiritual pathway that is different to the one you have been brought up in or your family considers to be the only authentic way.

So many things can halt people in their tracks and sometimes stop them from going any further. Of course you may not succeed in what your original plan was. I was going to say of course you might fail. But I don't think any experience is a failure. Its something to learn from. Its an experience. Its not always going to fit your idea of how its meant to be, but its still movement. Its still valuable.

Fear can keep you immobile. Stuck. Afraid of change.

Sometimes I know I have let fear stop me doing the things I planned. Dreams I had were wasted - not because they weren't achieved, but because I didn't allow myself to try. If I had changed my dreams that would have been ok. But some dreams I opted out of, because I was afraid. Because I took the easy road. I also try not to live with regrets. I try to remember that I am the person that has evolved from those experiences. Theres a fine balance here and sometimes I can walk it, and other times I fall on one side or the other.

I enjoyed a film a while ago called the Yes Man. Based on a book where it is advocated that we dont say yes enough to life and need to say yes more. The film was a comedy that had the main character saying yes to absolutely everything which caused a lot of chaos. But it also gave him experiences and relationships that he would have missed by saying no. It also came with a message that balance was important in this, but also, to take a chance was a good thing too.

Today I was wandering around facebook. I like to read the status' of my friends. What they are up to. Projects and ideas. And I realised I was reading an awful lot of the shared news articles about the terrible things going on in life and around us. Its a bit like rubbernecking on the internet.
I don't enjoy knowing these things are going on but there is something that draws us to reading bad news. Is it the idea that we are sharing the bad times as well as the good? Maybe we feel better knowing other people are having as bad a time as we are!

As I realised I was bringing up the shared articles that highlighted the negative side of humanity to look at I also saw one of the status that says someone has a new 'friend'. I'm always interested in reading about new people and assume that any of my friends who have made a new friend, that they will have interests and ideas similar to mine and my friends.

So I clicked on their page to read about them. It was a nice colourful page. Nice looking person with some interesting things she has done. The point about her therapeutic centre being opened was interesting as well as her background and training. But there was something else.
She beamed. Now I don't know if she is having hard times with her family, work or relationships. I don't know and I am making all kinds of assumptions.

But she beamed. She had a light about her and something that reminded me that actually Ive got that somewhere inside. I just lost it for a bit. What have I done with it? Where did I put it away? I want it back!

In a fragment of time, I realised what I have allowed my negative self to do for sometime. I have wallowed and swum for too long in this well of despair and fear. I want my authentic self back. I want to believe that in the end, or even sooner, that all things will be ok.

"All shall be well and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well".

(Julian of Norwich)

Now I just have to climb out of this well!