I wrote a little while ago about an idea that had been percolating in my mind, born of a weird dissonant feeling of being psychologically and spiritually out of alignment with the flow of the seasons. In my own spiritual practice, I'm really craving more mindfulness and connection to the natural world, and so I'm learning more about the Wheel of the Year and its attendant festivals and observances.
If you're a regular visitor to this blog, you're probably aware that I reside in the Southern Hemisphere - in temperate Sydney, Australia, to be more specific, and that's where I often run into trouble! I get the majority of my media, information, and spiritual community time from the internet, and I shouldn't be surprised to discover that the majority of the citizens of the internet reside in the Northern Hemisphere. When it comes to celebrating the seasons, if you're an Australian on Instagram or Pinterest, things are bound to feel a little upside down! Right now, all my social media feeds are saturated with Samhain altars and ghoulishly awesome Halloween decorations (which, by the way, I am totally in favour of - Australia doesn't really have a tradition of Halloween, and whether we do it at the right time of the year or not, I really wish we could get our creepiness on more often!). If I look up from my computer and out the window, I'd notice that the sun is shining, the days are getting longer, the cicadas are hatching and singing and Summer is definitely in the post. Bit of a disconnect!
So, what to do about this? I don't identify with any particular earth-based tradition (or indeed, any particular tradition - I'd say I'm an eclectic, whim-based spiritual practitioner!), so the more pagan aspects of this are foreign to me. Add that to everything feeling a bit upside down and back to front, and you have me feeling really stumped! I certainly don't feel like I have the knowledge or authority to write a blog series about seasonal observances when I'm hardly familiar with them myself. Thank goodness, then, for the helpful comment of SJ from Witchling in Flight on my previous post, with the suggestion to turn to intuition. Feel your way through it, and see what comes up. Thus, this series is not intended to be instructional or authoritative, so much as a document of my personal experimenting. If you happen to reside on the bottom half of the earth, I hope some of this resonates with you!
So, I'm beginning where I am, and fumbling my way through. I thought about waiting until the new year, or at least until the Solstice, but why put it off? The 1st of November is practically now! In the Northern parts of the world, this is Samhain, the season of Halloween and All Soul's Day, the thinning of the veil and the coming of the darkness. We knew that already! Down here in the South, though, the 1st of November is Beltane, the festival of fire, fertility, abundance, the midpoint between the Spring Equinox and Midsummer. I had to ask myself, "Ok, what does that actually feel like?" To be perfectly honest, I don't feel any particular, personal resonance with what I've learned about Beltane in my brief research - maybe that's because it is a traditionally Gaelic festival? Although there is Irish and Scottish in my ancestry, it's not something I feel particularly connected to.
But, what is the purpose of this if not nurturing personal connections with the world around me? I don't have to call it Beltane to feel it. So, in the spirit of investigation, I'm writing this post from my front step, feeling the cool breeze meet the warm air, listening to my neighbourhood birds sing and squawk and argue with each other. A small ginger cat just strolled across the gateway, which reminds me - it's kitten season! If that's not the perfect Beltane signifier, I don't know what is! (Fellow Southern Hemispherans, consider donating to your local animal rescue, because they'll be swamped! Here's one I like). I can see blooming bougainvilleas, and the jasmine plant I did my best to kill with winter neglect showing its resilience again. Abundance is definitely in the air!
The most obvious way to mark any seasonal festival is to make an altar which captures symbolic objects, images, ideas, and energies relevant to the time of year (or indeed, to anything you want to focus on). A cursory glance at google images will give you plenty of ideas for a green, leafy Beltane altar. I must admit, I'm not sure if I'm at the altar-making stage with this yet! I do maintain a couple of altar spaces, but in the spirit of being an eclectic-whimsical-spiritual practitioner, they're deliciously ad hoc, and I don't know if I want to mess with them. One way I will mark November 1st, though, is by spending some time in the garden, giving my plants (especially that resilient jasmine!) some love. That seems appropriately symbolic and Southern Hemisphere to me!
All that said, I am still going to a late night screening of Evil Dead II on October 30th, because it's Halloween somewhere! And YAY, the Jezebel annual scary story thread rides again! Wherever you are in the world, I hope you're enjoying the season!
How do you feel about all this seasonal observance? Do you mark any seasonal festivals? Are you in the Northern Hemisphere, or the Southern? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!