These posts offer suggestions for using the old energies of the ancient year to plan and stimulate your creativity according to the seasons. They also provide explanations of the themes of each of the eight seasonal festivals or sabbats and how creativity can be affected at these times. Click on the title links to read the full posts.
‘At Halloween, the wheel of the year turned. The energies of the old year waned, to clear the way for a new year with a fresh tide of energy. There’s no need to wait until 1st January to make new year resolutions. Instead, you might want to begin now, using the rhythms of the ancient year to plan and complete your creative projects.’
This post describes the cycle of the year and how its energies can be used as a framework for creativity.
‘Time is fluid at Halloween. It is the old Celtic new year, when past, present and future merge. On this night, all borders dissolve and we can commune with our ancestors or see our future. Summer has ended and the sun will slumber until spring. It is the time of Hecate, the crone goddess who both guides us to the land of the dead and is ready to act as midwife to the rebirth of the sun at the winter solstice. This is the gateway between the old and the new year, when the wheel turns and the cycle begins again.’
This post explores the themes of Halloween or Samhain, the ancient new year and how its energies can be used to consider your creativity for the year to come.
‘As the year turns, the earth calls me, summoning me towards the land. I feel a need to seek out ancient stones and imprints in the landscape. The ancestors cajole me. Outwards, to the wild places. To the land of bracken-choked moors and wind-scoured hills, to witness their leavings on the earth.’
This post invites you to join me on a Halloween pilgrimage to some ancient sacred sites.
The end of October is wind and half-light and a carnival of leaves. The gale roars in and fallen leaves come to life once more. They gambol over the grass, leaping and swirling like spring lambs. When the wind gusts, they are swept into a rowdy gang, sprinting across the ground. Lone leaves float against the sky, bobbing and flickering as they twirl.
This post explores the last dance of the leaves at Halloween.
In the dark of the year, the landscape glows. I struggle through mornings that seem deeper and darker than last year, into luminous dawns of pastel pink and baby blue. The sun is low molten gold, infusing stones and leaves with honey.
This post is about an autumn walk through the cemetery.
The shift from autumn to winter is sometimes imperceptible. I will suddenly notice that all the trees are bare. The ground will become muddy with rotting leaves and the cold will creep up on me. There is no consensus about when winter begins. Meteorologists package the year up into neat quarters, with 1st December designated as the first day of winter. For astronomers, it is the winter solstice.
This post is about experiencing what feels like the first day of winter.
‘Though we’re not yet in the depths of winter, I can already feel the encroaching darkness. I walk the dog in deep blue mornings, lit by the just-waning moon. It’s already dark when I get home from work. Even at the zenith of the day, the light is weaker, less distinct. And yet the trees are now in full blaze, as though attempting to ward off the darkness with their colours for as long as possible. The path is a mulch of luminous sycamore leaves. It rains leaves as we walk.’
This post describes the dark period between Halloween and the winter solstice and how the darkness can be used as a time of deep creativity.
‘I can hear the soft voice of the Hermit telling me it’s time. Time to pull away from the world a little to gain some insight from the lantern that burns inside. Time to strip away distractions and focus only on what I need to sustain me through the darkest months. To prepare for the rebirth of the sun and creativity when the long night of the winter solstice is over.’
This post explores the need to retreat from the world to explore the creativity that lies within.
‘The autumn show is over and at the midwinter solstice we move into the true darkness of winter. The trees appear barren. Only the ash provides a sense of colour, its clusters of seed pods like bronze parcels amid the branches. The fallen leaves are still plentiful in patches on the ground, but they are no longer crispy, forming instead a damp, rotting mulch.’
This post explores the themes of the midwinter solstice, or Yule, and its promise of the rebirth of light and the creative spirit.
Even on these deep black mornings, there is light. A luminous moon and burning Venus side by side as blackbirds trill in the dark. Evenings, and streetlights cast cones of swirling silver on the sky. Puddles become silver pools. Falling rain is glitter flickering on the road.
This post is about darkness and about greeting the dawn after the winter solstice.
‘At this time of year, the skeleton of nature is visible. Often, the landscape seems monochrome, dominated by the dark silhouettes of branches against an insipid sky. The structure that we don’t normally see is laid bare, giving us no clues.’
This post explores the way the skeleton of the earth and creativity is visible in the winter season.
This is the season of bones. The season of stark silhouettes against lowering skies. It is a season in which you can see the structure of the earth, the skeleton. The land is open. Views are revealed that would normally be hidden by foliage and flower.
This post is about what the earth reveals in winter.
There are few opportunities to experience the world without people, particularly if you live in a town. But there is a special kind of hush on Christmas Day. A silence so intense that it feels like it might shatter. People are celebrating behind tightly closed doors and the roads are all but empty.
This post explores the particular hush on Christmas Day.
‘As a new calendar year approaches, we wonder what to expect in the months to come. For me, this year has been an intense brew of the predictable and the unexpected. But then, when I look back, isn’t this always the case? Yes, some years seem to plod on, with nothing much of note happening, so that we wonder where the months went. Some years meander, as we drift, out of focus, along different paths. And then there are those years that we look back on as our turning points, when the unexpected happens and turns the year on its head.’
This post is a review of the turning of the calendar year and some of the posts I enjoyed throughout the year.
‘Everything I love about the slip into winter has already happened: the harvest, the magic of autumn and Halloween, the lights and celebrations of yuletide, the optimism of the new calendar year. So many wonderful things packed into four months, with all their expectation and excitement, giving that season a particular luminosity.’
This post is about capturing the dreams of the darkest season.
‘There is a sadness about early January that is different to the expectant melancholy of autumn or early winter. The year has clicked over and we move from the yuletide celebrations back into everyday life. ‘
This post explores the creativity of the return to ordinary time in early January.
‘If you’re seeking inspiration at one of the darkest times of the year, the festival of Imbolc is a good place to begin. Traditionally celebrated from sunset on 1st February until sunset on 2nd February, it is considered the ‘quickening’ of the year, when the first signs of spring begin to stir. It’s a time when the first hint of warmth and light returns to the land. But Imbolc is also a time of creative transformation, when we start to remember that the fire of inspiration is still inside us, after the introversion and stillness of winter.’
This post explores the festival of Imbolc or Candlemas and using the early spring energies for creative planning and optimism.
January has been a month of dis-connection. I’ve felt detached from the season and disengaged from the creative spark. Though I’ve produced work and developed new ideas, my creativity has lacked enthusiasm. January has been a drab month. The sodden ground, patches of mud and still-rotting leaves make the world reminiscent of the morning after a party, the sad leavings after the festivities of Yuletide are long forgotten.
This post explores re-connecting with the seasons after a period of disconnection.
Winter is flirting with us. She visits fleetingly leaving a sprinkle of ice-white powder. She stays for breakfast, but by lunch she is gone, only a few rimy traces remaining. Leaves are preserved in a sugar of frost crystals, giving clarity to their design.
This post explores the possibility of spring while still feeling the suspension of winter.
I wake just before midnight and peep through a crack in the blind to find the night-world altered by snow. We have been expecting a ‘beast from the east’ but this is too tame, too silent to suggest that ferocity will follow.
This post is about snow, and the ‘beast from the east’ snowstorm of 2018.
‘The weeks around the spring equinox can be unsettled and chaotic, as the energies of nature battle to come into balance. The signs of spring are obvious now, but the weather is still unpredictable. Here, there are spring flowers bursting through the soil wherever I look, yet within the space of days the weather brings us snow, sunshine, fog and drizzle. The wild March winds have made their debut, heralding this season of exuberant energy and movement.’
This post explores using the energies of the spring equinox, or Ostara, to ‘spring clean’ your creativity.
Quite unexpectedly, spring has given birth to winter. Through the trees, a milky mist appears to cling to the land. In fact, it is an illusion. The meadow, sloping upwards from the river, is sheathed in frost. We slip out, keen to see the effects of this wintry dawn up close. Frost covers roofs, fields, fenceposts, trees. It is a washed out, pearly landscape. We can’t see the sun that is rising behind the hills, but we see its light, casting a bronze reflection on the trees. As nature fights for balance, approaching the spring equinox, winter and spring wrestle for dominion.
This post is a celebration of the spring equinox.
When I leave the forest, part of me stays there: the part of me that is like the deer, slipping silently through the trees, glimpsed if you’re lucky.
This post explores re-balancing in the lead up to the spring equinox.
On this day before the spring equinox, I am marooned. I have come to the island that is my soul place, to write, circled by the sea. This is a tidal island, reached by a causeway. For eight hours a day, at the two high tides, the causeway is covered and the island is left to the birds and the seals.
This post is about celebrating the spring equinox while being marooned on an island.
I am on a path so overgrown with trees that it is pooled with darkness. On this equinox, I plan to walk from darkness into light. For many reasons it has been a challenging winter. I’m finding it impossible to slough off a melancholy mood. The move towards spring has been a sluggish one. I find myself wearied by routine, by effort, by restless sleep.
This post is about the potential and the sorrows of spring.
The transition from winter to spring is always, it seems, the most capricious. The slow dream of winter unravels into instability as the season is about to change, and if there is a time when my life is likely to be unbalanced, it is often around the spring equinox. Spring never arrives straightforwardly.
This post is about the rebirth of spring.
I’m waiting for the words to come. I’ve waited since the turn of the season, for my mind to follow the industrious tide of spring. Waited for dreams nurtured by the winter dark to emerge into the light.
This post is about trying to write as spring comes.
‘Summer sweeps in accompanied by the night of mischief that is Beltane. Beltane, or May Eve, is the second hinge of the year (after Halloween), representing an important turning point in the seasons. Whereas Halloween marks the beginning of winter and the start of a new year, Beltane is the transition from spring to summer. The veil between worlds is thin on both festivals, but whereas Halloween is a time to remember your ancestors, at Beltane the spirits around us are more mischievous and it was said to be a time when the door to the fairy realm stood open.’
This post describes the themes of Beltane and how they can be used to celebrate your creativity and take pleasure in the senses.
Spring is a collage of blossom. My favourite is the wild cherry: luminous cups languidly dangling from purple stems; tiny anthers dusting the blooms with turmeric sprinkles. The blossom is beyond white – as though composed not of matter, but purely of light. There is nothing in nature as joyous as a wild cherry in full blossom.
This post is a celebration of spring.
Sometimes, the earth conspires in gracious serendipity so that you think it’s sending a message just for you. On the week that I begin writing again I witness so many tiny wonders that it seems like a sign, dovetailing with my newly awakened inspiration.
This post is about finding inspiration again as the earth blooms.
‘The meadow is the essence of summer. Sun-drenched, delicate grasses swaying gently in a light breeze; spindly bobbing buttercups; squat purple clover and pale pink ragged robin with their windmill-shaped petals. Swallows are lightning acrobats, diving low over the meadow to eat their fill of insects. Butterflies and bees meander from flower to flower. A procession of three male pheasants clucks through the grass, their bright plumage just visible among the vegetation. A brook, glutted after days of rain, gurgles in the background. The surrounding forest wears its summer plumage with abandon, oak and ash and pine lush with leaf and entwined with the hedonism of rhododendrons in luminous pink flower.’
This post describes the themes of the summer solstice and how you can use the light of the sun to empower your creative energies.
‘We slip out in the half-light of solstice morning and head for the sea. It’s the beginning of the longest day and our purpose is to greet the sun as it rises. We head for our island, our soul-place, to watch the dawn. Already we can see that the sun is in hiding behind thick cloud and the signs are that it won’t be visible all day.’
This post is a memoir of the summer solstice.
It is the dawn of the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. This midsummer dawn is a time of transitions. For a moment the sun stands still, before the year turns into another season. Later today, the moon will become full, the first time in half a century that it has done so on a summer solstice. It is the fourth full moon in a season, something that happens seven times within a 19 year cycle.
This post is about the transition felt at the summer solstice and by the EU referendum in the UK.
Summer is a season of brief delights. Tiny beings on gossamer wings cloud the air for fleeting moments. Meadows undulate in an abrupt dazzle of colour. Birds swoop in from their long journeys to a frenzy of feasting and breeding. It is a season where things appear like magic, before vanishing as though they were never there.
This post is about the brief delights of summer and how they relate to those of a writer’s life.
It has been a season of fits and starts. I struggle to find the rhythm of creativity. There are moments when I catch the thread of it, begin to weave it into the trace of a pattern. But then the design is lost, strands abandoned on the loom or fading into incoherence.
This post is about being unsettled and feeling out of tune with the seasons.
‘Lammas arrives on 1st August and heralds the slow fading of summer. This is the beginning of the end for the sun, when the first hints of autumn are in the air. But on this Lammas Day, you would never imagine that autumn would ever come. This has been the hottest July for seven years in the UK and, as August arrives, we are still in the sticky centre of a heat wave. The summer flowers have been vibrant, the air busy with insects and for many, the heat is welcome after the cold, slow spring.’
This post explores the themes of Lammas, the first harvest, with its associations of thanksgiving, sacrifice and celebration of hard work.
‘Summer is a purple season: willowherbs, thistles and buddleia bloom in vibrant profusion, self-heal punctuates the grass, vetch curls its tendrils in the undergrowth, small clusters of viper’s bugloss and foxglove bloom in hidden spots. The fresh whites and yellows of spring and early summer have given way to deeper colours in preparation for autumn.’
This post is a flavour of summer as it gives way to autumn.
Along the tracks
There’s something exuberant about the blooms of August. As though summer, knowing it is on its last legs, throws all its efforts into a medley of colour before its time is over. It is the season of vivid purples and zesty yellows: great tangles of willowherbs, thistles and buddleia bordering knots of ragwort, great mullein and weld.
This post explores the last displays of summer.
‘Summer is slowly fading in the forest. Though the foliage appears as lush as it was at midsummer, everywhere there are small signs of transformation. The meadow is no longer dense with summer flowers and the sumptuous blossoms of the rhododendrons are gone. Instead, there are dried seed heads where blooms would have been. The birds are muted and difficult to see. The bats are invisible. The opulent red berries of the rowan punctuate the greenery, while lilac heather blooms in clumps beneath the trees.’
This post explores themes of transformation and renewal that I associate with the beginning of September.
I fear that the herald of autumn is dead. The small maple in the park – the smallest of all the trees – always turns first. Its leaves are bronze and gold while the others are still clothed in green. It tells me – even if I hadn’t felt that nip in the air, that soaking of early morning dew – it tells me that autumn is here.
This post is about autumn, migration and those of us who stay behind.
‘The sycamore knows what the other trees still only sense. It has already turned, leaves ablaze against the green of its elders. Already, its leaves are scattered on the grass, a fiery mat like a magic circle inside which autumn reigns. Outside this world between the worlds, summer clings on.’
This post describes the turning of the year towards autumn.
‘As we approach the autumn equinox, which is a point of perfect balance within the year, wind and rain have heralded a palpable change in the season. Though the vegetation is still green and the trees are clinging to their foliage, the first few leaves litter the park. I notice berries everywhere: fat clusters of rowan, glossy rosehips, fiery sea buckthorn and white snowberries. Fungi still fruits and disappears overnight. Seeds latch on to clothing and drift through windows. The heating is on once more and I often wrap a blanket around me to keep me warm. The nights have darkened rapidly and it won’t be long before we put the clocks back.’
This post describes the themes of completion and the final harvest associated with the autumn equinox.
‘In the forest, the earth has succumbed to a peculiar alchemy. Far below the canopy, in twisted root and shady hollow, the fruits of the wood have bloomed. These flowers of autumn are strange blossoms: bruised purples, sickly yellows, blood reds, viscous whites. Waxy, slimy, gnarled blooms with names that hint at death and decay: fly agaric, sickener, shaggy inkcap, brittlegill. ‘
This post is a celebration of the harvest of the year at the autumn equinox.
It has been a summer of drifting. One day into another, sun into rain and back again. There has been no definition to the season. No meadow season. No season of tiny flying things. Not even the dreaded dog days of August. Even now, as the season turns, we drift from the hottest September day for over sixty years into impenetrable fog. And I have drifted too.
This post explores being anchored by the earth after a season of drifting.
We gather on the Sunday following the autumn equinox, that moment of balance between light and dark when we celebrate the completion of the harvest. Our efforts are over for another year; whatever we sowed in spring and nurtured through summer has already borne its fruit and soon we must begin the cycle again.
This post is about the cost of the harvest.
October is the pause between breaths. That still space where awareness will enter if you let it. The harvest is in, but a few weeks remain until the celebration of the year’s end at Halloween. October brings a taste of the darkness to come. Mornings are haloes of misty light and frosted breaths in navy darkness. But the days dawn brightly, reminding us that we haven’t yet reached the point of no return, that journey into the underworld where we’ll stay until the winter solstice.
This post explores the process of gathering ideas before the year’s end.