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New World, New Wheel

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I’ve noticed a growing dissonance between the traditional Wheel of the Year, its eight festivals neatly spaced six weeks apart, and the actual turning of the seasons in my part of the world. Unlike the Wheel, which so neatly fits into our calendar, the seasons no longer feel entirely reliable or predictable. Nor does their path align with all the themes, stories and traditions assigned to them.

This could be a change in my personal perception: perhaps I am falling victim to nostalgia and remembering a false-stability in previous cycles? Or, as I grow older, do I become more aware of the nuance of each season, the very fact that I have walked it for most of my life sending me spiralling ever deeper into its complexities, revealing inconsistencies? The simplicity of the Wheel feels at odds with the unstable nature of our current reality.

© Michelle Shore from Walk The Wheel

Our world is in crisis. Irresponsible human activity has caused irrevocable shifts to our climate, that are set to escalate and grow in coming decades. It is the Global South and the poorest people on the planet that are currently paying the highest price for our folly. Forced to bear the devastation of intense weather events and the subsequent poverty, economic collapse and mass migration, alongside countless other human-made injustices. Here in the temperate North, living in a country of far greater economic status and with far more racial privilege, we are only just beginning to sense to subtle shift towards climate collapse. Hot summers, dry Springs, the exhausting tight-rope between fire, flood and drought. All more than capable of causing devestation and loss to the lives of inidivuals and communities. Last year, I marked the harvest of Autumn Equinox still dressed in my light, summer clothes and Beltane arrived long after the blossoms on our cherry tree had been burned and blown away. This incongruance is the tip of an iceberg which warns of far more sinsiter realities: biodiversity loss, species extinctions, coastal submersion and eventual disaster.

If I am to continue to walk the Wheel with integrity, not least with the release of my upcoming book, I must accept that the climate crisis will alter my relationship with the Wheel. I already find it awkward to justify some of the more traditional hallmarks of the festivals and their current place on the calendar. Can the themes rituals and correspondences I have learned over two decades of reading, ritualing and learning from pagan and folk traditions withstand the stretch of time and climate?

The dissonance between old patterns and new doesn’t mean that the Wheel is no longer useful. In fact, it could be interpreted as an opportunity to recommit oneself to one of the core reasons why I walk the wheel in the first place: to recognise and celebrate connection, kinship, relationship with beings beyond my self and my species. Relationships are work, they require us to be present, responsive and compassionate; all qualities that are in dire need if we are to surivive the challenges facing us as a planet.

© Althea De Carteret

For a start, I can be more instinctive with the shift between seasons. This an an oportunity to take notice and become more intentional in my awareness of changes in the world around me. Taking cues from the trees, the birds and other wise plant and animal beings, as to when the moment to acknowledge a transition. Trusting my senses. Tuning into sounds, scents and letting the soft animal of my body be the one to tell me the season has changed.

Equinoxes and Solstices fall on particular dates, being astronomical events, so these are an opportunity to trust in my own wisdom, to intuit my own meaning from the things I see and feel. What words, sounds, images and stories will stir inside me when each turning point arrives. Do they resonate or divert from the associations I have used in the past?

Of course, as a calendar, the Wheel is unlikely to change anytime soon, the festival rooted firmly in folk tradition as much (if not more so) than in the weather; and we humans are creatures of habit after all. But walking the wheel with an active awareness and a willingness to respond to what is, rather than what I think it should be, will allow my celebrations to become a true interaction with the present, and not a nostalgic (and deeply privileged) repetition of the past.

Walk The Wheel is the beginning of this. One of my core aims in writing this book was to bring new ideas and interpretations into the established canon of these festival, folk and fairy tales. I have been inspired by traditions and learned associations, absolutely, and I’ve even included a few. I have also tried to leave space within the tales to let each reader test the air, as it were, to atune their sense and ask the questions: How does this fit into my world? How is this relevant for me?

Too long our species has toiled to re-make itself in the image of an imagined or fabled past. Too long old ideas have driven us to make dangerous and damaging mistakes. Now, as humans and not-humans alike suffer the consequences, by which I am currently touched so gently, I owe it to them to walk onward with the wheel in honest and active presence. If I continue to spiral with it, deeper into the nuamces, the complexities and the inconsistencies, perhaps it will have more to teach about how to live through what is to come.

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