At times I feel as if I am spread out over the landscape and inside things, and am myself living in every tree, in the splashing of the waves, in the clouds and the animals that come and go, in the process of the seasons. —Carl Jung
This has been a tough winter for me. It’s been colder than usual, more rainy, and we’ve even had more snow than normal where I live. And, well, politics. I’m normally rather quiet and reflective in winter but this year I’ve been more somber and depressed…
So now, just like the groundhog, I’m trying to crawl out of my hole here.
Yesterday was Imbolc. And just like every festival day for the last couple of years, since we started our Bardic studies, we planned to do something and I always bail out. I never want to do anything special on these festival days, and I think I’ve finally put my finger on two reasons why.
The first reason is childhood. Mine was tumultuous, like many peoples, and I honestly have few memories of traditional holidays like Christmas. I have a few of Thanksgivings, mostly because we spent them with a family who were close friends of our family. Good or bad there was nothing special to remember. I think it would be safe to say that one of the reasons I stopped making a big fuss over ANY holiday a long time ago is that they never meet expectations. The stress of buying and making, cooking and decorating, and then, family, take any joy out of the event for me. And that’s OK. It’s just not my thing anymore. I’m OK with that.
So when we started our Bardic course and began to learn in earnest about the rituals associated with the Fire or Cross Quarter festivals, and about the Solstice and Equinoxes, I thought, “Ah this is my thing! This will be different!” But it’s not. And yesterday I had to admit that just like Christmas and Thanksgiving, Easter and Birthdays…count me out. I’m not interested. If I’m being snarky I would say “I don’t want to pause my day to day life to put on special clothes, say special words and do a special dance. Nope. I’ve got stuff to do.”
To me while it is a great way to learn about Druid and pagan traditions, now that I have learned, it becomes just another thing to do-another thing to decorate for, to plan and cook for and to distract. So I sat with this feeling-really tried to stick with this line of thinking…why do I find it a mere “distraction”?
And then I got it. For the last 12 years my partner and I have lived mostly off-grid, and always very close to the land, and seasons. Some part of it even in a tent, which will put you in touch with the seasons in a hurry, for sure! We grow our own food, raise our own meat and eggs, and we are retired so we are home all the time.
I think a lot of people must think we sit on our butts and watch TV all day or something, but we don’t. In one word, what we do all day is FOOD. We do an incredible amount of cooking. No pre-made, packaged, prepared and expensive “heat and eat” meals around here. We cook three meals a day. From ingredients, not mixes and not packages. And it’s a lot of work. We also can, which makes for some convenience later (like with spaghetti sauce or salsa) but still, at certain times of the year, it’s an incredible amount of work.
Then there’s the garden. And the animals. We turn down events frequently because we can’t leave small plants-when it’s too cold or too hot, when they need water twice a day… We also don’t like to leave the animals for too long either. Our closest neighbors are coyotes, and they know when we are gone. They’re constantly scouting our borders. We have tight fencing and many safeguards so we’ve had few incidents, but all of that takes observation, diligence and hard work.
Imbolc means “ewe’s milk”, and while others stop to do a ritual, I noted three days ago that our ewe is starting to show her pregnancy and will very likely have two babies in a month or so. It’s little things like that-all day every day-just observing, noting, marking, acknowledging tiny blessings.
We’re OK with all of this. We chose this, and would not want it otherwise, make no mistake. But what all of this means is that every single day, seamlessly, we are IN our system. We are a part of this living, breathing system of animals, plants, humans, sun, wind, soil and water. We interact daily with Earth, Air, Fire and Water, with Spirits of Place, Spirits of Tradition, the gods and goddesses and the ancestors. We do a ritual dance 18 hours a day, every day.
We know before Imbolc that the trees and roses have tiny buds-that the Narcissus are blooming and the Daffodils are on their way up. We know when it’s time to harvest, and when it’s time to keep the hearth fires burning. Equinoxes are measured in what time it is when we close up the chickens on a winter afternoon, or what time the sunlight will hit the quail in the morning in June. I mark the longest day of the year by the fact that during the week of Dec. 21, the sun sets to the right of the electric pole in our driveway, not the left. Or that the sun hits me in the face to wake me up from March to June and then again in the Fall.
We LIVE the wheel of the year. We ARE the festivals, equinoxes and solstices. We ARE the ritual. We dance the dance daily in every single thing we do, and every single thing we eat… When we are tied to land, long term and deeply like this, we simply just feel that BEING the ritual every day means there is utterly no need to stop and make a big production out of a day. Our spiritual and daily lives are one and the same. They are seamless.
And yes, I recognize that not a lot of people can or would choose to live this way. So for many people that wake up at the same time every day of the year, get in their car and drive to work 50 out of 52 weeks a year if they’re lucky, who sleep and wake to electric lights and electric noises and other people’s schedules it might be a great thing to take a special time out and do some kind of celebration. If they live in a city, getting out to a park might be the only connection to Nature they have.
That’s what most modern Druids and pagans do. And it’s beautiful. To see someone create a work of living art by embodying a High Ritual in a sacred special place is amazing! But it’s not who I am. It is not the rhythm I live by.
Some people celebrate in a special fireworks kind of event on 8 days of the year. I celebrate every waking moment of every day that I am fully connected to the Earth…I acknowledge tiny blessings one hundred times a day rather than saving them up for a big blow out 8 times a year. No, they way I do a festival or ritual is not the way most Druids do it, but then again, I’m not most Druids, for sure. 😉 /|\