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Author Topic: solar ritual cycle?  (Read 15104 times)
fiamma
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« Topic Start: August 30, 2007, 01:30:23 am »

I'm curious, does anyone here celebrate the solstices and equinoxes- not as part of the neopagan wheel of the year, but as a ritual cycle in their own right (in the same way as I know that many folks celebrate the lunar cycle or parts of it).

What about the perihelion and aphelion?

Looking past my ADF and Hellenic polytheist practices, for a long time, I've felt this very base-line connection of sorts to the sun- when I first started looking at pagan religions, I wondered what the big deal with the moon was and why no one seemed to celebrate the sun in similar fashion.

Hellenic polytheist that I am, a large part of me wants to consider this as a possible creation of some modern festivals in honor of Helios, but I'm not sure.
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« Reply #1: December 05, 2007, 06:01:35 pm »

I'm curious, does anyone here celebrate the solstices and equinoxes- not as part of the neopagan wheel of the year, but as a ritual cycle in their own right (in the same way as I know that many folks celebrate the lunar cycle or parts of it).

I observe the solar cycle, but my celebrations are based on the Wheel of the Year, although modified. (As I understand it, for Wiccans the cross-quarter days are more important; for me, it's more closely tied to the solar, and thus the solstices and equinoxes are more important.)

I've yet to come up with celebrations that mark the equinoxes adequately, however.
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« Reply #2: December 05, 2007, 07:08:26 pm »

I've yet to come up with celebrations that mark the equinoxes adequately, however.
I had a lot of trouble getting a real handle on the equinoxes.  Planting/harvest?  Yah, yah... though March is really not planting season in these parts.  Balance, sure, but so what?

Then I realized that, though the "balance" of the equinoxes seems very static, because the change from "more hours of light" to "more hours of dark" (or vice-versa) takes weeks to be noticeable, it's not.  Dynamic balance, balance not just despite constant motion and change but because of it (like riding a bicycle), is every bit as relevant to the "between light and dark" of the equinoxes as it is to the "between light and dark" of dusk and gloaming.

That may have nothing at all to do with why you haven't come up with adequate celebrations, but if it sparks any ideas at all, great.

Sunflower
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« Reply #3: December 05, 2007, 09:00:10 pm »

I had a lot of trouble getting a real handle on the equinoxes.

I've been a practicing Gwyddon since 1991, and I still have trouble with the equinoxes. I found out after a period of study that they were added onto our traditional practices in the late 1800s.  I wonder sometimes if I incarnated as a Gwyddon in the 1800s prior to the addition. ROFL
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« Reply #4: December 05, 2007, 09:11:12 pm »

I observe the solar cycle, but my celebrations are based on the Wheel of the Year, although modified. (As I understand it, for Wiccans the cross-quarter days are more important; for me, it's more closely tied to the solar, and thus the solstices and equinoxes are more important.)

I've yet to come up with celebrations that mark the equinoxes adequately, however.

Much like altair, I really only celebrate the equinoxes and solstices. Both as the beginning of the season (so to me winter begins on dec 21st/22nd. Although I really haven't figured out just how to celebrate either one of them adequately. I'm currently just trying ideas, to see which feels right.

-Tj
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« Reply #5: December 06, 2007, 07:15:53 am »

I'm curious, does anyone here celebrate the solstices and equinoxes- not as part of the neopagan wheel of the year, but as a ritual cycle in their own right (in the same way as I know that many folks celebrate the lunar cycle or parts of it).

From my perspective, the wheel of the year is a solar based system. The lunar cycle doesn't match up with the seasonal cycle, so it is its own system. If one celebrates the lunar cycle, one has to do it separately from the wheel of the year cycle or somehow modify it into compliance (eg the Harvest Moon is the closest full moon to the autumnal equinox).

The equinoxes mark the midpoints of the three fertility festivals and three harvest festivals. The autumnal equinox also marks the end of the camping "season" hereabouts and is one of my neo-Pagan communities big camp-out festivals. I think this has more to do with our local climate than any over-riding religious connection. Beltane marks the beginning of our camping "season" and is our other major camping festival. It also has the religious theme of human sexuality attached and lends itself to celebration by naked Pagans in the woods. Of course, we also have naked Pagans in the woods at the autumn equinox event without benefit of religious excuse. (So sue us for hypocrites!)
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« Reply #6: December 06, 2007, 10:00:47 am »

Dynamic balance, balance not just despite constant motion and change but because of it (like riding a bicycle), is every bit as relevant to the "between light and dark" of the equinoxes as it is to the "between light and dark" of dusk and gloaming.

That may have nothing at all to do with why you haven't come up with adequate celebrations, but if it sparks any ideas at all, great.

Sunflower

Thanks, Sunflower. I frequently overlook the dynamism of the balance, so that's actually helpful. I have to figure out a way to translate that into a meaningful celebration.

Much like altair, I really only celebrate the equinoxes and solstices. Both as the beginning of the season (so to me winter begins on dec 21st/22nd. Although I really haven't figured out just how to celebrate either one of them adequately. I'm currently just trying ideas, to see which feels right.

-Tj

Well, astronomically, winter begins on Dec. 21, and being a science-oriented guy, that's the way I look at it too.

Here's what works for me for solstice celebrations: Winter--stay up all night. Summer--stay outdoors all day. (With summer solstice, I can move the celebration a day or so in either direction, in deference to the predicted weather.) What I particularly like is that observing the solstices in these ways links up directly with their most salient apect: the utmost point of dark (winter) or light (summer).
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« Reply #7: December 06, 2007, 10:07:58 am »

Well, astronomically, winter begins on Dec. 21, and being a science-oriented guy, that's the way I look at it too.

I've never been quite able to see the solstice as the beginning of winter, personally.  It's not unusual for us to have snow in late October, and really odd that this year it took until the beginning of December to get really cold.  By the solstice, winter's half over, for me.  (Which is maybe one reason why the solar cycle doesn't do as much for me as it might.)
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« Reply #8: December 06, 2007, 10:13:46 am »

I had a lot of trouble getting a real handle on the equinoxes.  Planting/harvest?  Yah, yah... though March is really not planting season in these parts.  Balance, sure, but so what?


Sunflower

As you say, for me, the Equinoxes seemed to sort of 'hang' out there.  And I still don't make them big ritual events...no fire in the pit, etc.  But I observe them quietly....making ritual offerings at points around my property, especially at the autumnal equinox.  They tend to be loosely referred to as 'working sabbats'....because in spring we are preparing for planting and in fall, we are cleaning up after harvest.  To be honest, had we not at first attempted the "wiccan eight" sabbats (since dropped to a Family Five Sabbats), I am not sure we would have really made any ritual nod at these days.  They still have that odd 'fairy hill' feel I used to get about places with only two seasons, for some reason.  I can't put a finger on them for whatever reason.

Solstices are far easier for me.  I don't celebrate either as the "beginning" of the season they get named for...both seem "mid" to me and are celebrated as such.  Both get fires and revelry, more so in winter, since even in our pre-pagan days, the winter holiday was the focus of family merrymaking and an extended period of joy, food and partying.  Our other fire-fests are Beltane and Samhain, but both of these have a more solemn mode with us. 
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« Reply #9: December 06, 2007, 11:06:51 am »

I've never been quite able to see the solstice as the beginning of winter, personally.  It's not unusual for us to have snow in late October, and really odd that this year it took until the beginning of December to get really cold.  By the solstice, winter's half over, for me.  (Which is maybe one reason why the solar cycle doesn't do as much for me as it might.)

I go by the same idea: there's a reason (to my thinking) that there are traditional references to the solstices as 'midsummer' and 'midwinter'.

'Summer' for me runs from Beltane to Lammas, 'Fall' from Lammas to Samhain, 'Winter' from Samhain to Imbolc, and 'Spring' from Imbolc to Beltane. Which, not so incidentally, ties in the fire festivals nicely: they're the start push for the next season, while the solstices and equinoxes are the pin about which the season pivots.

Ok, it does take a little mental stretching in a few places: Minnesota doesn't look terribly springlike until sometime in late March or April, and there are reasons people advise not planting until Memorial Day (i.e. we get overnight frosts through May.) But it largely works.

I see the solstices as the longest day and longest night, respectively, and the spring and fall as times of balancing, looking at the ways things interconnect, and what the potential that comes from dynamic balance might be.
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« Reply #10: December 06, 2007, 01:59:23 pm »

I've never been quite able to see the solstice as the beginning of winter, personally.  It's not unusual for us to have snow in late October, and really odd that this year it took until the beginning of December to get really cold.  By the solstice, winter's half over, for me.  (Which is maybe one reason why the solar cycle doesn't do as much for me as it might.)

Me either. To me, the solstices mark the middle of the cycle. There is a reason, therefore, that Midsummer is called Midsummer and Midwinter is called Midwinter. Wink
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« Reply #11: December 06, 2007, 04:40:44 pm »

Thanks, Sunflower. I frequently overlook the dynamism of the balance, so that's actually helpful. I have to figure out a way to translate that into a meaningful celebration.
That, I don't think I have anything to offer to - my ideas for reflecting it are "ritual acts", things that take only a few minutes (and were designed to be done in the cast-circle-yadda-yadda frame; taking them out of that frame might work or it might lessen their impact), whereas your style is to incorporate the "spirit" of the celebration in your whole day.

<half-joking, half-serious> If you have a bicycle, I suppose you could go bike-riding.

Sunflower
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« Reply #12: December 06, 2007, 04:57:34 pm »

'Summer' for me runs from Beltane to Lammas, 'Fall' from Lammas to Samhain, 'Winter' from Samhain to Imbolc, and 'Spring' from Imbolc to Beltane. Which, not so incidentally, ties in the fire festivals nicely: they're the start push for the next season, while the solstices and equinoxes are the pin about which the season pivots.

Ok, it does take a little mental stretching in a few places: Minnesota doesn't look terribly springlike until sometime in late March or April, and there are reasons people advise not planting until Memorial Day (i.e. we get overnight frosts through May.) But it largely works.
Likewise - the cross-quarters/fire festivals are the beginnings of the seasons, the solstices/equinoxes are the fruitions of that beginning.

Calgary weather cycles are somewhat similar to Minnesota's, except that for us spring isn't "looking springlike", it's almost not even a thing in itself.  It's what we get when winter has left, but summer hasn't arrived yet - that could be anywhere from 3-4 months starting in Feb, to a couple of weeks in which winter and summer coexist/take turns.  (Calgary doesn't have climate, it has weather Cheesy.)  So when I'm helping students to understand the pattern, I first have them reconsider the "seasons start at solstices/equinoxes" idea in light of observable local conditions (an obvious poor fit - students are split about 50/50 between those who've already noticed it and those who hadn't really thought about it), and then I provide alternate seasonal names - stirring, growing, harvesting, sleeping - for those who can't get past the non-local associations absorbed from books, movies, TV.

Sunflower
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« Reply #13: December 06, 2007, 06:12:30 pm »

I've never been quite able to see the solstice as the beginning of winter, personally. 

I go by the same idea: there's a reason (to my thinking) that there are traditional references to the solstices as 'midsummer' and 'midwinter'.

Likewise - the cross-quarters/fire festivals are the beginnings of the seasons, the solstices/equinoxes are the fruitions of that beginning.

Me either. To me, the solstices mark the middle of the cycle. There is a reason, therefore, that Midsummer is called Midsummer and Midwinter is called Midwinter. Wink

Among some Wiccans and according to some traditions. But not by all!

TJ and I may be the minority here on this. I find the whole "start date" thing rather arbitrary when it comes to the seasons, considering winter is in full swing in NY in early February (the very first glimmers of spring won't come for another month), the spring songbird migration doesn't peak here until mid-May (and the shorebirds continue their spring migration well into June!), the cicadas--the sound of "high summer" in my book--don't start "singing" until mid-July, the fall migration starts as early as August, the weather here is often quite comfortable through October (and, increasingly with global warming, in November and December)....

I find I grow more comfortable with a continuum of change as the years pass. So the start dates being so arbitrary, I just stick to the science dates.
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« Reply #14: December 06, 2007, 07:01:48 pm »

then I provide alternate seasonal names - stirring, growing, harvesting, sleeping - for those who can't get past the non-local associations absorbed from books, movies, TV.

I really like this approach a lot - and it's simple and clearly phrased.

One of the reasons I'm a little wary of "Seasons happen in their own time" as in Altair's comments (while I do get the concept, and see a lot of merit to it) is that it strikes me as very possible to end up with a whole lot of one of those four, and not so much of others - which means you get an oddly shaped wheel that wobbles a lot, and I'm not sure I like that symbology much.

I'm not fixedly rigid in ritual text, incidentally. If it's snowing on Beltane - and it has - I will not be sitting there saying "And now that it is summer, and all the trees are green, and we are picnicking in the sun outside." But I would go for "As we enter the summer season." or "The growing season" or whatever which are all quite true.
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