‘The cycle of light and dark, of planting and harvest, of leaves budding, opening and falling, is an ever-turning wheel that has no beginning and no end. It rolls through the seasons, changing the landscape, and influencing the things that we do and the way that we feel. Each time of the year is special, with its own particular feelings, smells and atmospheres – and, if we allow it, it’s effect on our lives……’ From the introduction of – Gail Duff’s book – The Wheel of the Wiccan Year.
The winter tradition of ice skating at Hampton Court Palace.
I enjoyed a very special and lovely holiday season. I spent it with my friends, Gail and Mick in their home in Kent. A home set in the middle of countryside in a place where one can still believe that life hasn’t changed too much.
We have known one another since starting school together at five years old….Mick and Gail married and have just celebrated their 50th anniversary.
We are all artists. Gail a writer, singer, song-writer – to name a few of her attributes and Mick a photographer, musician.
Gail Duff – WatercolourMick Duff – photographer, musician
I was invited to their annual Yule celebration on the 21st December – celebrating the winter solstice. A lovely event, considered to be one of the most joyful celebrations of the year.
In the evening, friends arrived bearing food and gifts. In their sitting room with the Christmas tree sparkling and candles ablaze there was a wonderfully festive feeling.
From Gail’s book – The Wheel of the Wican Year, we learn that Yule is the festival most rich in remembered tradition and ritual. In the early days of Christianity people were reluctant to give up their Pagan path and the Midwinter celebrations. It was therefore decided that the birth of Christ should be celebrated at the same time. This enabled the ritual dramas, songs and decorations to be be continued with Christian meaning.
rapid watercolour of their daughter Lucy with violin. For the first time in many years, I enjoyed carol singing. We went from house to house in one of the local villages and it was wonderful. I had forgotten how joyful an experience it is.
For Christmas day we enjoyed a Goose with all the trimmings – plus of course plum pudding and Christmas Cake – and it seems to me numerous mince pies and chocolate……This was followed by games and much laughter.
On Boxing Day (for the uninitiated the day after Christmas) we went to Leeds Castle, where we walked, communed with the swans, ducks and other birds, and enjoyed the beautiful Christmas trees throughout the castle.
Ducks in the moat diving for the seeds. Leeds Castle – during the Solstice – The mid winter atmosphere was perfect. Geese in a row – Leeds Castle KentDuring this period, I realised that in so many ways we have lost touch with the rhythms and magic of each season.
From a commercial stand point, the large corporations remind us constantly of the next holiday – prompting us to purchase all sorts of unnecessary stuff – which brings me to the big question. Our we still in touch with the emotional and physical effects on our lives that the different seasons bring?
A musical celebration in a local pub. A lovely way to spend a mid winter’s afternoon. Given the way we shop and live, we have come to believe that all fruits and vegetables are available at any time during the year.
In out techno charged world, there are many who have lost touch with the rhythms of our 24 hour day, let alone the seasons.
Our cities are flooded with artificial light, which disturbs our body clocks causing for many a lack of sleep and feelings of well being.
How different a place the world would have been for the people in this photograph which was hanging in the pub – and it wasn’t that long ago! All of this has brought to mind, the rapid and dramatic changes that have occurred for all of us during recent years.
For anyone interested in learning more about the natural rhythms and seasons of the year, I highly recommend Gail’s book ‘The Wheel of the Wiccan’. Through the book we can learn about the ancient traditions that brought us to the holidays we have today…..
There are some that might say ancient traditions are gone – and that we need to focus on the future.
These ancient traditions were put in place to protect our natural world and how we live in it and relate to it. I think it is of vital importance that we respect them.
Of course, I must close with magical hummingbirds…..a little bird that adheres to the ever changing seasons.