Spiritual Development

Page 90

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By Advent

Every 365.25 days or so, the Earth completes one full orbit around our star, the Sun. Every year
the seasons commence again, and repeat this process in a seemingly endless cycle that has been
going on for the duration of recorded history and man's knowledge. This cycle was observed by
very early man, and it was recognized from the earliest times as the cycle that governed much, if
not all, of their regular existence.

Recognition of the annual cycle, or the Wheel of the Year, was not limited to one specific
culture. In the old world of Europe it was recognized with specific seasonal events and
celebrations that are still recognized by many pagans today as the Sabats or holy days. On the
North American continent the native Americans recognized this annual cycle on a regular basis
reflecting the growth and development and specific moons that reoccurred throughout each year,
similar to the lunar esbats recognized by many modern Pagans. The eight-spoked wheel is also
the Buddhist symbol of the endless cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth that governs the
existence and transformation of all things.

Understanding the Wheel of the Year is important for us. It draws our attention to the natural
cycle that was emplaced by the Great One and that still governs the lives of virtually everything
that lives on the planet. We can encase ourselves in climate controlled buildings and cars, adjust
the amount of light we receive indoors, and surround ourselves with house plants that stay green
the year round; but the cycle continues nevertheless, and we feel it. Our bodies and souls attune
to it. We may work and live around it; but still it remains an essential part of us. By recognizing
it and understanding it, we reclaim or retain a part of our inherent nature as creatures of the Spirit.

The Wheel of the Year also symbolizes an inherent truth about our existence: that we never fully
"die" and cease to exist. Just as the trees and plants regrow or are reborn each spring after periods
of dormancy, and the baby animals leave nest and borough to greet the spring, so we to are
constantly in a cyclic state in the world of the Spirit. We are born, we live, we pass on into
another level of existence, and finally we are reborn into the cycle again. Our lives are cycles as
the Spirit intended. Physical death is not the end... it is the beginning: the beginning of a new
cycle of rebirth and life once again for us. The Wheel of the Year represents and recognizes this
cyclic existence on the path of the Great One.

The Old World/Celtic Wheel of the Year
As human society evolved from the nomadic hunter-gatherer culture to the agrarian and
husbandry culture in the Old World, the agricultural wheel of the year became increasingly
important. The first recognized divisions of the Wheel were probably the four that had the
greatest impact on society's agriculture and animal husbandry. These, correspondingly, had the
greatest impact on the food supply and the existence of the people. They are Imbolc, Beltane,
Lughnasadh, and Samhain. Later, as the societies observed specific solar activity that
corresponded to certain times in the Wheel of the Year, the solar Sabats were added and
observed. These are Ostara (the Vernal Equinox), Litha (the Summer Solstice), Mabon (the
Autumnal Equinox), and Yule (the Winter Solstice). Together these eight days comprise the
major Sabats or holy days of the year, and are recognized by almost all pagans who observe oldworld
customs. They mark eight major spokes in the Wheel of the year as follows:

Imbolc, on February 2nd, is the first beginning of the period of growth. The soil begins to warm
and soften for coming plant growth and ewes begin to lactate. In many Pagan traditions, this is
represented as the boyhood of the God and the recovery of the Goddess from the cold winter and
her birthing of the God child. It is a time of coming forth from the cold, dark confines of winter,
and a celebration of the return of the Sun after the long days of darkness that occurred over the
winter months.

Ostara, around March 21st, is the day of the Vernal Equinox and truly the first day of spring. On
this day the length of daylight and darkness are equal, and it can be seen that once again the
power of the Sun is growing to conquer the cold and darkness that has ruled the world during the
winter months. A time of great springtime celebration, many Pagans recognize this day as the
day that Goddess shares her fertility with all of the planet, and the process of new growth will
commence in earnest.

Beltane, on April 30 (May 1st), is primarily a day for celebrating the first green shoots of spring,
and to a lesser extent for recognizing the time when cattle were first driven to the fields to graze.
Many Pagan traditions recognize this Sabat as a day to celebrate the maturing of the young God
into puberty, and the first sexual urges of the God enticing him to impregnate the Goddess. It
was traditionally a fire festival where great fires were lit to welcome and coax back the returning Sun.

Litha, around June 21st, is the Summer Solstice and the heart of the summer when the greatest
fertility of the earth is demonstrated and the longest day of light occurs. Many pagan cultures
recognize this day as the day when the God and Goddess are at their strongest, and their gifts are
shared with the entire planet.

Lughnasadh, on August 1st, is the day of the first harvest. A day when bread was made from the
rich first harvests of grain, and a day of celebrating the taking in of the fruits of the years labor.
In many Pagan traditions, this represents the time of the year when the God, as the plants, begins
his slow descent into weakness and old age as winter and his death ultimately approach.

Mabon, around September 21st, is the Autumnal Equinox and a day when the periods of light
and dark are equal; but this time the strength of the light is waning. The days of winter approach,
and the harvest from the crops begins to reduce. The harvesting of crops that began at Lugnasadh
is completed. In many pagan traditions, the God is seen as dying at this time. His bright fire is
dimming, and the cold, longer nights of winter seem to approach all too fast.

Samhain, on October 31st, is a day of death and sacrifice. Originally celebrated for three days
from October 31st through November 2nd, the last gleanings of the fields are brought in and the
cattle are brought in from the field. Animals are killed and the meat preserved for winter, and the
death of the God is recognized as the Sun descends into the long cold winter that follows. This is
traditionally the start of the Celtic New Year and is a day of truly great celebration.

Yule, around December 21st, is the Winter Solstice and the shortest period of light of any day in
the year. It is a day of the start of renewal found in the darkest, coldest reaches of the winter's
realm. From this day forward the days again begin to lengthen, and the blessings of the sun begin
to return once again. Many pagan traditions recognize this day as the day of the God's rebirth; a
day when the people may look forward once again to receiving the blessings of the God as the
light of his sun slowly starts to regrow.

And thus does the Wheel of the Year constantly turn. Whether we celebrate the Sabats or not, we
all recognize the wheel. We feel it as it rotates annually through our lives, and as our lives follow
it in form as we ourselves cycle through the creation of the spirit.

The North American Wheel of the Year
Unlike the Old World Wheel of the Year, the native North Americans recognized the turning of
the wheel through the evolution of the 12 moons that occur each year. In addition, they
celebrated the changing of the seasons as the major events of the seasons occurred. With less
focus on an agricultural system of existence, the North American Indian moons represent an
even closer tracking with the heartbeat of the Earth Mother. They demonstrate a clear evolution
of not just eight seasonal nodes; but a monthly recognition of the changes in the Wheel's cycle
that governed, and still govern, the life of the people.

The Medicine Wheel is a uniquely native North American understanding of the turning of the
Wheel of the Year. At the center of the Medicine Wheel is the Creator, the One Great Spirit.
Toward the East (right) on the Medicine Wheel is the Earth Mother who gives birth to all things.
Proceeding clockwise around the Medicine Wheel from the Earth Mother one encounters
representations of the Father Sun, Grandmother Moon, the element of Water, the element of
Earth, the element of Fire, and the element of Air. Finally, around the circumference of the
medicine Wheel are representations of the twelve moons that occur in each solar year. The
lessons taught by each position of the Medicine Wheel are all of the lessons that one needs to
learn to become a complete person and to rightfully walk the path of the Spirit. The Medicine
Wheel teaches the fundamentals of successful and complete life. Once these lessons are fully
learned, and the moons of the year turn to complete an entire annual cycle, an individual is
prepared to pass over into the next cycle of existence in the world of the Spirit.

The 12 moons that were recognized by North American Natives represent specific locations on
the Medicine Wheel, which is a different, but similar, way of viewing the evolution of life in an
annual cyclical pattern that constantly renews itself. In addition to the significance that each
moon carries for defining features of the evolution of the year (as made apparent by the name of
each moon), each moon also carries with it lessons that assist one in growing on their path as the
wheel progresses. Eventually, the lessons taught by all of the moons (and the other positions of
the medicine Wheel) provide one with the sum total of information they require to be a full
person on the path of the Spirit, and prepare one to move on in the Spirit's cycle when called to do so.

The Earth Renewal Moon occurs between December 22nd and January 19th. The Earth Renewal
Moon is the first moon of the year, and begins around the winter solstice. It signifies the new
beginning of life and growth that commences as Grandfather Sun once again approaches his
people and brings toward them the blessings of a new annual period of growth. On the Medicine
Wheel, the Earth Renewal Moon indicates a position of great power, and teaches people to be
fluid, clear, adaptable, prudent and wise.

The Rest and Cleansing Moon occurs between January 20th and February 18th. It is a moon that
teaches the ability to like others and to be more caring in ones views and attitudes.

The Big Winds Moon occurs between February 19th and March 20th. This moon teaches the
meaning of value and protection, and helps to discover one's own medicine power and psychic abilities.

The Budding Trees Moon occurs between March 21st and April 19th. Occurring around the time
of the Vernal Equinox, this moon teaches one about energy, intensity, optimism, fearlessness and change.

The Frogs Return Moon occurs between April 20th and May 20th. This moon teaches lessons
about perseverance, patience, stability, and practicality.

The Corn Planting Moon occurs between May 21st and June 20th. It teaches lessons of beauty in
all people and in our environment, and about healing abilities.

The Strong Sun Moon occurs between June 21st and July 22nd. This moon teaches about
relationships and family, mothering, and nurturing.

The Ripe Berries Moon occurs between July 23rd and August 22nd. It teaches lessons about
working from the heart, demonstrating affection, facing fears, and leadership abilities.

The Harvest Moon occurs between August 23rd and September 22nd. It teaches lessons about
discrimination, fair decisions, good sense, perseverance, confidence, and analytical ability.

The Ducks Fly Moon occurs between September 23rd and October 23rd. This moon teaches
lessons about showing physical affection and how to be comfortable in the earth and the sky.

The Freeze Up Moon occurs between October 24th and November 21st. It teaches lessons of
traveling between different levels of creation and becoming a messenger for spiritual aspects of one's life.

The Long Snows Moon occurs between November 22nd and December 21st. The last moon of
the year, this moon teaches about mental strength, fear of emotions, relationships, teaching and communicating.

Whether one views the Wheel of the Year from the old world view of the seasonal progressions,
or the Medicine Wheel of the North American Indians, or the eight-spoked Wheel of Life
understood by Buddhists as representing the eternal cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth; the
Wheel of the Year is always around us. Regardless of one's background, your ancestors probably
knew of the Wheel in one form or another and used it effectively to govern their actions
throughout the year for centuries, to serve as a calendar, to record the growth and passing on of
all things, and to understand the nature of existence on the path of the Spirit. We all still benefit
from recognizing and using this centuries-old understanding that transcends any modern,
synthetic comprehension of life!

Libraries are on this row
INDEX Page 1
(Divination & Dreams, Guides & Spirit Helpers)
INDEX Page 2
INDEX Page 3
(Main Section, Medicine Wheel, Native Languages & Nations, Symbology)
INDEX Page 4
(Myth & Lore)
INDEX Page 5
(Sacred Feminine & Masculine, Stones & Minerals)
INDEX Page 6
(Spiritual Development)
INDEX Page 7
(Totem Animals)
INDEX Page 8
(Tools & Crafts. Copyrights)

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