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'... it is not just meaning we seek ...but the
rapture of being alive.'
-- Joseph Campbell.
The wind is howling, gusting wildly
and bending the boughs of the
trees to almost breaking point.
The final leaves that have clung
tenaciously are prized loose leaving the
branches totally bare. Clouds are scudding
through the sky making the moon seem
as if she's racing for her very life. Squalls of
icy rain come and go periodically.
But no one is out this night. It is
Samhain. It is the night of the dead when
the veils between the worlds are at their
thinnest. Departed ancestors who haven't
found their path to the stars, pookas
(demonic entities), and the Sidhe (visitors
from the faerie world) have stepped
through the veils between our world and
In common parlance, all hell has
broken loose. The only place to be is safely
indoors. God forbid you have to go out, but
if you do, make sure you go in disguise to
frustrate the hungry ghosts.
The darkness always comes before the
light. For now though there is only the
dull blackness and the raging elements.
There is no option but to trust and wrestle
with the demons.
Night extends itself, easily resisting the
weak and distant sun. The winter solstice
marks a turning point. This is winter's
lowest point when life, sunshine and
abundance seem just a distant memory.
Indoors, where there is protection from
the harshness of the elements, is the only
place to be.
As we approach the autumn equinox on March 21, the
Celtic Medicine Wheel holds healing lessons for us all, says
astrologer and Celtic shaman Jasmin O'Hara.
Gradually, when all seems lost, light
begins to return to the world. The winter
has done its worst. Buds begin to sprout
on bare trees while still the severe east
winds blow. A sense of trust begins to take
hold with the return of life and light. The
sun, though weak, gives a little warmth and
is more generous now with his time, casting
shorter shadows. Nature has a renewed
sense of purpose and the quickening
commences. The darkness fades gently
into the background. Winter is over for
now. It is Imbolc (pronounced im'olk or
im'bolk), the time of birth.
Birth is renewing to the spirit. Making
it through the darkness and into the light
is cause for celebration. It is also time to
lay plans and prepare the ground and
sow new seeds. Daily, there is evidence of
the abundant fertile earth in the shape of
green shoots that we know will provide
enough food for the year to come.
The spring equinox symbolises hope.
No longer can the hurricanes, the snow
and unyielding mist limit and confine
as they have lost their power. The work
of spring, of preparing the ground and
sowing the seed, of tending the young
animals and shepherding the lambs no
longer calls for constant vigilance.
Danu's children are of the earth and
the rich lushness of early summer is theirs,
too. Beltaine (pronounced 'bell, tane),
the fertility festival, has arrived. The fires
are lit and the cleansing smoke is used
for both man and beast. As mothers take
their children to bed and the elders tell
their stories, the young couples dance two
by two round and round the fire and on
into the woodlands. It will be some days
before they return and the whole tribe gets
back to their daily grind.
Living is what matters. Life affirming
experiences are sought out as the
eagerness to leave behind the winter chills
Time moves on and the sun reaches its
zenith. The sun rises early and unhurriedly
works its way across the sky. Lazily, it casts
its long shadows illuminating the earth
and banishing all darkness. The summer
solstice is a time to worship Dagda, the sun,
the sky father. His triumph is celebrated.
Yet even this time is transitory. The
permanence of impermanence is repeated
as the seasons turn. After a brief time of
glory, the sun starts its slow withdrawal
from the land. Lughnasagh (pronounced:
'loo, na, sa') is the traditional time for
fairs. Produce from the land and artefacts
can be bartered. It is time to make deals
and to trade. Musicians liven up the village
centres. Dancing and singing can be heard
in every tribal centre.
The Beltaine couplings that have
resulted in pregnancies will be formalised
in betrothals. The unattached will make
pilgrimages to the sacred mountain to
thank the gods for smiling on the land
and its people.
The sun moves towards the equator
and the autumn equinox arrives.
Arbitrations, village governance and
commitments made or reneged upon
come under the spotlight. The judges and
elders of the villages will mete out justice.
Those who understand the cyclical
nature of life know that existence is not
an eternal summer. In time, the leaves will
fall, wither and die. Darkness will come
again. The glorious sun, Dagda, balms our
wounds so that we can be ready to take
on the next lesson. We are of nature,
after all. What happens to the land is our
journey, too. This is the mystery.
The Celtic Medicine Wheel is based on
the round of the year. It teaches us how to
heal and that all things are cyclical. Death,
birth and abundant aliveness are part of
Living in consciousness with the
seasons of the land stimulates personal
maturation. Most healers will readily
recognise the seasons of the year, as
represented on the medicine wheel, as
typical stages of the healing process. The
darkness of Samhain, when the inner
demons rise up, is akin to a Saturn transit.
The process of life has forced itself upon
the consciousness and must be addressed
in some way. This season of life which,
of course, is cyclical could come in the
form of economic setback, relationship
or parenting difficulties, or as depression.
The phase will pass as the great turning of
the wheel shows us.
The teaching of the wheel is to learn
and mature in the process.
Most people are unconscious of the
phases of life. They expect continuous
summer and are baffled at the turning
wheel. When nature appears to withdraw
her favours and all our efforts come to
naught, many people panic. Success is
often defined by continuous high points
or lush summers. Few lives follow this
pattern and those that do may have a soul
destiny or duty we do not understand.
Most of us have to live with the rotation
of seasons in our lives. One time we are
riding high and see no need to attend to
our healing. When the troughs of Samhain
come, many see it as a personal failure
and not the great learning opportunity that
it is.The wheel and the changing seasons
also represent the life cycle. Imbolc
represents birth and the child, while youth
is celebrated at Beltaine. At Lughnasagh,
the commitments of adult life are taken
on. Finally, like nature, we all wither and
die. We prepare to step back through
the veil into the Otherworld at Samhain.
Engaging consciously with the Celtic
Medicine Wheel gives meaning and
purpose. It frees the spirit and allows
us to embrace the rapture of life we are
In the northern hemisphere, the seasons are the
mirror image of the above wheel -- Winter Solstice
is 21 December, Summer Solstice is 21 June.
Samhain is 31 October.
CELTIC MEDICAL WHEEL
FOR THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE
'Engaging consciously with the Celtic Medicine Wheel gives
meaning and purpose.'
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