Things have to die before they can be reborn.

Right now, as I sit here in my comfortable house, there’s a killin’ cold outside. We got six inches of snow yesterday, and last night the cold came down like a hammer. It’s a terrifying beauty, this kind of weather. I have to confess, I am beyond grateful that I don’t have to be out in it for any reason. And being of the Druish persuasion, I relish the deep quiet, and welcome the solitude of the Powerful Dark. Wild horses couldn’t drag me into a room full of people right now.

One of the reasons we celebrate so earnestly at this time of the year is because it is an ending time, a dying time, we know that we’re dancing on one of the edges. What we are actually celebrating is the return of the Light at the End of the Tunnel. We have to make it through the Land of the Dead to get to Spring.

Things have to die before they can be reborn.

The great cycles of Death and Rebirth are crystal clear during the Midwinter holidays. We celebrate Death at Samhain, but the Birth of the Sun God at Solstice immediately plunges us into the killing cold of the Long Dark, until Imbolc arrives with a little relief. The Sun God may be born on the Solstice, but he’s got one hell of a journey ahead of him before he has any kind of a life. Imbolc is the true start of the rebirth of things.

Here’s how the Wheel of the Year turns in my head. If it makes sense to you, feel free to adopt it. The old year begins its descent into winter at Samhain, and it’s a long, slow spiral that takes until the Solstice to really complete. The Longest Night is the vigil when the Old Year dies. We sit up with it, seeing the soul of it into the Next World, and when the Sun rises on the next morning, I celebrate not the birth of the new, but the transition of the last. The Old Year is birthed into the Next World, and we enter the Long Dark, the Dead Time. At Imbolc the ice eases up and we can smell life under it. We actually feel like the days are getting longer, and there is a quickening of the pace of life. The Vernal Equinox brings the green back. Beltane is the beginning of Summer, which takes us to Midsummer Solstice, which is a celebration of High Summer – but that’s when the Sun begins it’s long, slow decline back toward Winter again. Lughnassadh is the celebration of the First Harvest, and the start of the decaying time, the true beginning of Autumn, when the growing cycle is pretty much over. Autumnal Equinox is the Second Harvest, and the death of John Barleycorn, the first death of the dark half of the year.

Things have to die before they can be reborn.

John Barleycorn dies at the Autumnal Equinox, but is born as the new shoots spring up and life returns around the Vernal Equinox. Samhain is a meditation upon and celebration of the Dead, Beltane is a celebration of Life now, and Life to Come (generally around Imbolc, I’ll let you do the math). Midwinter Solstice is a celebration of the Return of the Light at the End of the Tunnel, and Midsummer Solstice is a celebration of the zenith of that Light, but the Darkness is born on that same day – and like the Sun God has a long journey ahead into Life, the Lord of Misrule bides his time until Autumnal Equinox when he marries the Lady and approaches the throne. Imbolc celebrates the birth of lambs (and babies conceived at Beltane) and the great abundance of milk, and we see the Darkness pulling back and giving way ever so slowly to Light, while¬†Lughnassadh is a celebration of the First Harvest, and the first level of pulling back to the Hearth as preparations for the Dying time and the Long Dark get underway.

It’s a beautiful symmetry, which is why it continues to resonate so strongly through so many cultures. These cycles are powerful, and true–at least in the Northern Hemisphere. They keep us in touch with Nature, and remind us that we are part of Nature, not apart from Her. The Earth is our Mother; we are born of Her, we depend on Her for everything, including the air we breathe. But when our life cycle ends, She turns to us the face of our Destroyer–but there is nothing to fear from that. Our bodies get transmuted into energy and our souls leap into whatever is next like grateful salmon returning home to spin their own Wheel of Life again.

Things have to die before they can be reborn.

May your journey through the Long Dark be safe, comfortable, and may you be blessed with time to turn within and commune with your Highest Self for your Highest Good. Bright blessings in the Dark.


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