The Central Myth of The Wheel of the Year
Humans encapsulate core truths and find meaning and place in the world through stories. The human person is a story-telling, metaphor-loving, symbol-making being for whom myth encapsulates information regarding fundamental, existential meaning. The human person relates on a psychological-spiritual level to stories, narratives, icons, and parables.
Myth provides a culture with its central narrative(s), thus establishing the framework for wisdom – a collective sense of purpose, place, identity, and set of shared values. Therefore, the language of spirituality is that of myth, metaphor, and symbol.
We live in the age when the Judeo-Christian mythos that sustained Western culture is decaying, most likely beyond the ability to revive and invigorate the culture. As our once central myths erode, the West, as a result, suffers from an increasing anarchy of meaning and value, pushing us toward nihilism.
Shatter the shared mythic narratives and symbols that provide a culture with its basis for collective thought and action, and you’re left with a society in fragments, where biological drives and idiosyncratic personal agendas are the only motives left, and communication between divergent subcultures becomes impossible because there aren’t enough common meanings left to make that an option.
To avert the slide into nihilism’s abyss, we must reassemble around a new religious-cultural myth.
Evolution – the epic of cosmogenesis – offers itself as a possible new, unifying myth by which we may reorient ourselves in the universe. The narrative of evolution explains our common origins, emphasizes the dignity and value of life, and reminds us of our universal responsibilities to each other and the environment which supports our life.
From an evolutionary-mythic perspective, nature is considered sacred in that it is considered worthy of our ultimate concern – it is our source of origin and sustains us – its beauty, value, and awe inspiring qualities are worthy of spiritual respect. Nature unfolds on an ever-turning wheel that spirals through time – and our lives are woven in these patterns that shape all life – birth, growth, decline, death, and rebirth.
As theologian Thomas Berry explains, the entire order of the universe can be experienced in the seasonal turnings and renewals. Seasonal patterns contain a fundamental dynamics of human life – desire, fulfillment, loss, change, growth, decline, and much more.
Sanctifying & Celebrating Time
Attuning to the natural rhythms of nature can reconnect us to our place in the ecosystem and be a powerful tool for personal and spiritual transformation and growth. We must re-root ourselves in traditional celebrations corresponding to harvest cycles, solstices, equinoxes, sun cycles, and phases of the moon.
The seasons provide opportunity for reflection, personal accounting, and marking off significant times and events in our life. We live each day with the symbolism and metaphor of the constant progression/changing of the seasons.
Nature spirituality offers a way of life – seek the truth in all things; recognize the interconnectedness of reality and your place in the world by attuning yourself to the seasons and rhythms of the natural world.
At start of the twenty-first century, most of us are no longer sensitive to the seasonal timing of these festivals and their natural meaning. The festivals remain in different forms – Christmas, Halloween, Easter – but gone is the direct sense of participation in the cyclic energies of the earth. This sense of participation in nature must be restored.
Winter Solstice (December 21)
In December, we celebrate the return of the light and lengthening days in the midst of darkness and cold.
Christmas is the dominant holiday of the season. Many of the traditions and trappings of Christmas have roots in, and common ground with, ancient pre-Christian celebrations of the Winter Solstice.
In the midst of the dark, we reflect on the metaphor of light, we reflect on the meaning of darkness and it’s value. It is a slow, inward time of year, ushering in a season of reflection and recharging, but also of hope for the year ahead.
Midwinter Fallow (February 2)
The end of the Winter Solstice celebrations usher in a fallow period that lasts nearly three months for many regions. January through March is a quiet time – no growth, dull browns and grays, the hushed stillness of snow and ice.
In the depths of winter, many contemplate simplicity. This season has traditionally meant preparation for spring and clearing away winter debris for many ancient cultures. In modern times, it can be used to rid our lives of that which hinders our progress and health. After, it is an occasion to reflect and rest in nature’s stillness.
February 2 is a traditional holiday in Celtic cultures – the celebration of the growing light, a chance to reflect on simplicity and fallowness.
Winter Waning (March 21)
Nature stirs with awakening energy. As farmers begin prepping the soil for planting, so we too should begin putting our goals for the year into action. As we shake off winter, meditate on the new life emerging, on health, and on questions of balance.
Summer Rising/Beltane (May 1)
Early summer marks the start of the bright, warmer half of the year. It’s time to celebrate nature’s first fruits and begin implementing our main projects and plans for the year. Fertility is also a theme of this holiday – the beauty and sensual regenerative power of life and nature is abundant now.
Midsummer (June 21)
The sun is at its high point for the year and things are coming into full bloom. With energy running high, it’s a great time to tackle projects and throw ourselves into making progress on our plans and goals. It’s also a great time to throw a festive dinner outside in the sun.
First Fruits (August 15)
At the start of August, the earth is alive in full splendor, bearing fruit and with crops tall and robust. Preparation for the first harvest is underway and it’s an ideal time for examining our own efforts for the year thus far. Take time to appreciate nature’s abundance and to celebrate the remaining days of summer with friends and family as the season wanes.
Harvest Home (September 23)
The start of autumn and the celebration of the turning of the year, as the shadows lengthen, we sense the slowly fading energies of summer, but also rejoice in the soon to emerge splendid colors. It is a time for giving thanks, taking stock of our lives, and cultivating gratitude. We reflect on the harvest of our own lives and reassess our personal projects and goals – what have we accomplished as the year begins to close? Now is a time for reflection on life’s direction and the opportunity to change course and turn again on a path of life and love.
All Hallows (October 31)
Many Northern European cultures celebrated harvest time near the end of October as the New Year – the closing of the agricultural year taking precedence over the coming end of the calendar year. The Harvest is over and winter is quickly approaching. Contemplate themes of life and death and weigh the results of the year gone by as winter approaches. As the autumn season ends, we (in North America) celebrate Thanksgiving and collectively give thanks, expressing gratitude for our lives.