Celebrating without ritual

I’ve been celebrating Imbolc for more than a week now, in a non-ritualistic sort of way. I get outside every day, normally. There are snowdrops in bloom and hazel catkins in abundance. I can see leaves coming up from the daffodil bulbs, and there were a few of those in flower at the weekend. I’ve seen winter jasmine and gorse as well. I see pair bonding activity and territory setting in the local birds.

When you celebrate as part of a community it makes sense to get together at a time that helps you connect with key changes in the seasons. When you work alone, the changes aren’t an event, but a day to day progression. The days get longer, the nights are not quite so cold. I’ve ventured out without my winter coat, and I can be barefoot in the flat without my feet suffering. The first signs of spring are here, but this is also a time in its own right.

One of the dangers of being too involved with the wheel of the year narrative, is that we come to see it as eight events. Eight big points of change when we honour the shift from one season to another. In practice, every day is part of the cycle of ongoing change. Every day at the moment, a bud fattens, a new plant pushes up through the soil, a seed stirs. Nests are built one stick at a time. There may still be days with frosty starts, there may be wintery storms, and the earliest starters may find themselves set back if the season doesn’t go smoothly. At this time of year, a warm, sunny day inviting spring feelings can lead to a clear, cold and lethal night.

For some time now I’ve been making a point of celebrating the seasons in a way that doesn’t focus on big events. I’m celebrating my own experience, day to day. I’ve done pretty well this winter for not falling into total gloom, and part of that is because I’ve been getting outside, noticing, and participating a bit more in the season. I doubt I will ever love the winter, but I can appreciate the beauty in it, and that helps me get through. My body doesn’t do well in cold conditions, and the increase in warmth makes a huge practical difference to me. This is nature as it manifests in my own body.

When you explore the seasons in a day to day sort of way, there’s more room to have your own relationship. Hitting a major festival, with all its ideas and baggage and stories and assumptions can be really uncomfortable if your lived experience doesn’t match it. Working day by day creates very different stories. Today the path is clear and the flowers are coming up. Tomorrow, everything is wet and impassable. A few days hence, a sudden frost kills the new growth. Next week, spring reboots. It stops feeling like a simple progress narrative and becomes a complex mix in which some things do better than others. Watching closely, it becomes obvious that ‘nature’ as a whole isn’t perfectly in synch with the progression of spring. Some things will be too early for their own good, and some come too late.

All we can do is be alive and aware of what’s around us. Some years we will be creatures who time it perfectly, opening our leaves at just the right moment. Some years we will act too soon and get frostbitten. Maybe we’ll restart successfully, maybe we won’t. Maybe we don’t have buds, maybe we are like foxes who have carried on doing fox things all winter. Maybe we are more like migrant birds, or the night sky. If we put down the big stories about the seasons, we might find more space for our own stories in the details of day to day living.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

7 responses to “Celebrating without ritual

  • lornasmithers

    Similarly I’m moving toward celebrating nature as I’m moved to rather than because I have to because it’s a certain date. For me the festivals are bound up both with nature and with myth and deity and it’s the correlations between these that make them interesting.

  • Ryan

    Yes! I think it might have been John Michael Greer who spoke about how there’s no point looking for snowdrops at Imbolc if they don’t come up for another month in your region, or if the later blooms are already out. For Druidry to be a path of “loving nature and allowing that love to inspire you to live your life accordingly” (Jo van der Hoeven) then it behooves us to be aware of real nature where we really are rather than beholden to dates on a calendar. Where I live, I saw the first snowdrops over a week ago, so that’s Imbolc for me.

    • Nimue Brown

      While I think there’s a place for the ancestral dates, there’s so much they don’t do for me. Figuring out what your key seasonal moments are is also a thing – Julie Brett’s work on Australian Druidry is brilliant in this regard.

  • contemplativeinquiry

    Great post. I like this approach too.

  • Jen - Liminal Luminous

    such wise words, that really hadn’t occurred to me! Thank you for sharing these thoughts

  • eberis

    I have a joke about Senate proceedings after the State of the Union address . I’m a 4th Level druid of green acquiren with 1spell of giving . Peace to You … maybe I used the wrong fedinit2 druid.io entry . Peace

  • garycohenblog

    Great post. Lovely words. I can relate to what you are saying here.

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