Friday, May 3, 2013

A Year of Two Life Cycles

I often wondered about the traditional Pagan story of the wheel of the year, where the God dies and is reborn in the winter, grows in the spring, matures in summer and becomes and elder in the autumn, to die and be reborn again in winter. I wondered whether it could fit into the wheel of the year I have created for my own area in Sydney, but have generally fallen short as to whether the death and rebirth time would happen in the winter or the summer. Should it come with the death of the darkness and the rebirth of the sun as it begins to wax through the spring as in the traditional story? Or should it sit in the fire season, a time of so much death, rebirth, cleansing and renewal, making way for a new kind of life cycle story? How could it work? I thought about it many times and no matter which one I decided on, I always felt that the other was somehow being neglected. There are quite clearly two times of death and rebirth in our wheel, so how could it work as a story? I wondered whether there could be an intertwining of stories somehow – two deaths; two life cycles in the year. Would they both last a full year, with overlapping stories to tell, or might there be another way?

This is the conclusion that my fellow druids and I, at one of our ritual workshops once discovered. It was Peace festival and the autumn equinox and we were thinking about the meaning of the changeover from the light, active, external half of the year to the dark, passive, internal half. We felt a shift in moving from one to the other, but, thankfully, not like another death to make things even more difficult: it was more of an initiation and maturing; a coming into an emotional adulthood, where now, in the dark time, we would begin to work on our internal lives. Noticing this time as a kind of adulthood, conveniently halfway between our two rebirth points on the wheel, we realised that the year could indeed be split into two lifecycles, though each would only last six months, with an active summer child, born in the fire season and an introspective dark child, born at midwinter. The light child would come into adulthood by realising their dark self at the autumn equinox, while the dark child would realise adulthood in coming to light and action at the spring equinox.

The idea of the two lifecycles made us more aware of the split of the year into a light/active half, and a dark/introspective half with counterpoints at the equinoxes and the different energies of these times. The light/active part, from spring equinox to autumn equinox, is where the focus is on taking action and dealing with the external world. Through this period what we have learned in the introspective, dark part of the year comes to take form in the physical and we are called on to put our ideals and values into practice. It is a time to walk your talk and explore physical connections with the Earth, the trees, and other beings. The dark/introspective part of the year, from autumn equinox to spring equinox, is a time when we look into the self and to the spirit realms for guidance and reflection. We work on our internal selves, with our own emotional and spiritual development being at the focus of our activity. We work on improving ourselves, planning and studying in preparation for the more active time. Of course this is only a focus of our spiritual activity, and not a suggestion that they be exclusive to one another. It would of course be impractical and boring to limit ourselves to one or the other. It’s not a limitation, just a guide for what the energies of the time are guiding us towards, particularly in ritual and group work.

Since that Peace festival gathering, we have seen that this idea falls quite naturally into the Sydney Wheel of the Year we have been using, and also enriched it, particularly as it brought greater meaning to the Peace and Wind Change Festivals at the equinoxes, where the initiation into the light and dark mysteries occurs. There is a great deal of potential for further development in the idea too I believe. I feels really right and we will be exploring it more in coming years. Feel free to explore the idea for yourself.

Here is a summary of the way that the lifecycles develop through our Sydney Wheel festivals through the year. I will give a brief description of the festival’s ideas so that you can feel what is going on at that time and see how it works with the life cycle stages. It will also be useful, I hope if you’re not familiar with the Sydney Wheel of the year. I hope this helps you to get a better picture of how it all works.

FIRE – The height of summer’s heat, the dry fire time. Often overlaps significantly with Storm festival. Celebrate rebirth and renewal, cleansing and waymaking. The active elder dies and the active child is born.

STORM – The active child has a frenetic energy of fertility and life, though often also flood. At this time we can often refer to it as the Tempest Child of flying emotions that need to be set free and released. Celebrate coming to life, growth, fertility and creativity. Set the tempest child free through dance, song and movement.

PEACE – The intensity of summer passes. The active child initiates into the dark, introspective adult of inner wisdom. Celebrate peace, comfort, meditation, reflection, the inner worlds and the inner self.

MOON – The skies clear of humidity and the moon shines brightly in the crisp, fresh air. You can see for long distances and the stars are bright. The dark adult matures into the dark elder,  keeper of the dark mysteries. Celebrate divination, the otherworlds, ancestors, psychic abilities, healing and magic.

HARDENING – The bark on the trees shelters them from the winter cold. The sun is reborn, and so, the dark elder is reborn as the dark child. A time for indoor activities and the celebration of home and hearth, study, feasting, friendship and storytelling.

FLOWER – Flowers in the bush bloom like words on the poet’s lips. The dark child is intuitive and wise, and represents a connection to our own inner child who is full of inspiration and innate wisdom. They are the Flower Child of freedom. Celebrate inspiration, youth, beauty, art, poetry and love.

WINDCHANGE – A time of warm weather before the rains come. Sunny days, cool waters and blustery winds – the winds of change. The dark child initiates at this time into the active adult. It is a time to put what we have learned in the dark time into action to make a difference in the world.

BARKFALL – The bark breaks and begins to fall away in preparation for the times of fire and burning. A time to release and let go of what is no longer needed. The active adult becomes the active elder, keeper of the light mysteries – practical knowledge, skill, craft and action. This is a time of much movement, purpose and activity.

The wheel of the year may work for your area even if you’re not in Sydney. Many people over the country have told me it works in their areas, whether they are from Queensland or Victoria, there seem to be at least a few overlaps and maybe just a slight adjustment on timing. By exploring your own area you are sure to work out a unique wheel of the year and then the life cycle stories will have something special to add to it, no matter where you are.

For our group, bringing this idea of two life cycles into our wheel of the year has helped us to reconcile the traditional story of the lifecycle and has made it easier for us to understand our own personal progress through the year. The energies of the seasons reflect the life stages of the two stories and it brings greater meaning to each one of the festivals as it is a deeper layer onto the way we understand them: the storm season for example not just being a time of fertility, growth and emotions, but of the tantrum-like emotions and flowing hormonal floods of a growing youth blooming into their true self. It has helped us to add extra nuance to each season in this way, and to see how we can relate to it in richer, more meaningful ways bringing balance to our psyches as we explore the different parts of ourselves as child, youth, adult and elder.

As with most of my articles, I’ll stress that this idea is a work in progress, and always will be. We do our best to understand the energies of the world around us and hope to find guidance through learning to understand the messages it has for us. I’ll also stress that this is my own and my friends’ experience and you will have your own which might be different. It all adds to the rich tapestry of our spirituality. I humbly hope, however, that it might help you on your journey through this incredible sacred landscape. Awen /|\


  1. Wow I love this imagery _ I am so excited to find you and the blog_ you have done the work that I have always intended to do-I have been photographing the bush in campbelltown for several years now - documenting the flowers and the changes! I was wondering if i could us your gorgeous artwork _ do you have it as a poster? I would love to display it in my home and The Meditation Space in Campbelltown- I so relate to this. thank you so much. susanne

  2. I wonder about having the two cycles at 12 months long, and overlapping but half a cycle out of phase like the yin and yang. So the child of light dies and is reborn to the dark mother in winter, and in summer gives birth in turn to the child of dark. So coming into adulthood would happen a quarter of the way through the lifecycle instead of halfway. I think it maps well to human lifecycles too - at autumn equinox the child of dark reaches adulthood and looks after the ageing mother of light until her death and rebirth in winter.

    They could even be of different genders - yin (dark) being traditionally female and yang (light) being traditionally male.