THE WHEEL OF THE YEAR: SACRED CIRCLE
How to invoke sacred space
The Shaman connects with Nature by invoking the Four Directions: North, East, South and West.
This may be done by a simple nod of the head or a complex ceremony, depending on the situation and circumstances. The Shaman thus unites with The Land/Goddess during healing or other practical work.
The Shaman often works within a circle of power, a sacred space. This circle denotes ‘The Wheel of the Year’ and equates to Nature’s seasons, which are the language through which Nature communicates. As such, each quarter of the British Wheel is associated with a direction, a season, an aspect of The Goddess, an element (water, fire, earth and air), and animal archetypes. All relate to the specific energetic qualities of that quarter.
There are numerous preferences when working with the directions, from which direction the circle starts in, which animals, elements and colours are associated with each quarter. This depends on the the roots of one's practice and personal preference.
The models commonly used are from Native American traditions, or from those devised by Western Spiritual practitioners during the the Victorian era and relating to esoteric leanings of the time.
The associations given here for the Wheel of the Year are developed from the Four Branches symbolism and other Celtic sources to represent the British landscape for the practitioner connecting to the British Goddess.
The animals represented here are related to the British landscape because spirit animals and animal archetypes are the best allies for humans to get to know and interact with Nature on the deepest of levels.
This, I believe, is the purpose of the animals painted on the walls of caves by our ancient ancestors. Take Chauvet Cave in France, the focus on Werner Herzog's film 'Cave of Forgotten Dreams'. On the walls of this one cave, 447 different animal species are depicted, including large numbers of predator animals such as lions, bear, rhinoceros, panther, and even an owl. These would not have been the type of animal hunted for food. These paintings date from 35, 000 years ago and were painted over the next 5,000 years by early humans.
No one knows the purpose, but I speculate these animals may have been painted in the cave (the womb of the Goddess) in the darkest reccesses, to invoke or 'give birth' to their Spirits and their archetypes. They would then be available to act as go-betweens or allies for humans, to enable a deeper interaction with Nature and the Other-worlds.
Some of the animals mentioned in the Wheel of the British Year are extinct in Britain today, but their energies are still strongly associated with the landscape at a psychic level. These animals are the best teachers for working with the British landscape.
The British focus here is not a 'nationalistic' one, indeed, since we have probably all incarnated in past lives as people living in a number of different countries, that would be foolish. If we are living in Britain now, then the British landscape is simply the current microcosm for our physical and spiritual interaction with the whole of planet Earth, and it is the part of the planet we can have a direct relationship with in this lifetime. Even if we don't live in Britain, if our personal 'inner landscape' or Other-world landscape is of the British Land, then go ahead and embrace it. I have met British people who resonate with a North American landscape and Americans who resonate with Britain.
It is only by having this direct relationship that we can truly make deep and lasting roots with Nature, our Great Mother, which leads to our evolution and enrichment and the enrichment of others.
THE SHAMAN'S STANCE:
When creating Sacred Space by calling the Four Directions or the Wheel of the Year, the Shaman may begin by invoking ‘The Shaman’s Stance’:
Stand with feet firmly on the ground and ‘know’ that the Land between your feet is the Centre of the World. You stand at the Centre of All-That-Is.
Now visualise a pole that goes through the top of your head, through your body, and down through your root chakra, between your legs and into the Earth. The pole goes down very far into the Earth, connecting to the Underworld, and up far into the sky, connecting to the Upperworld.
You may see the pole as a tree, the Great World Tree ‘Yggdrasil’. The ‘Shaman’s Stance’ centres you, and provides a device for travelling up and down between the worlds quickly and easily. The 'Shaman's Stance' puts you at the hub of the Wheel of the Year of The Land.
The calendric gateways mark the quarters of the Wheel of the Year.
The Celts revered four main festivals throughout the year, each occurring three months apart. In The Wheel of the Year, these gateways define the changing seasons of the Land.
The point where one quarter ends and another begins is a powerful boundary, an in-between time where magic occurs and the veil between the worlds is thin.
Is it possible that the Celts held these festivals at these times because they were already important and powerful markers of the transition between Time and Nature?
The Christian church holds major festivals which overlap pre-existing ancient celebrations, including at these times, and the Celts may have acted similarly.
The gateways are Samhain at October 31st, Imbolc at January 31st, Beltane at April 30th and Lughnasadh at July 31st.
These festivals began at sunset on these dates, and then continued over the following night and day, because, to the Celts, the day ends at sunset and the next day begins with night-time.
Most people today mark the day of the festival as the 1st of the next month, rather than the last day of the one before. Samhain is more commonly associated with October 31st because a festival relating to the departed and the beginning of the new year is more closely connected with the midnight hour.
The calendar dates shown here are related to our modern calendar, so they would not have been accurate to the times of our ancestors. These are the dates most people today celebrate these festivals. The fact that the majority of people are focussing on the specific energies represented by these times of the year on these dates, causes an increase in the energetic power.
Follow now, as we travel through the Wheel of the British Year:-
Dates - Starts Samhain (1st Nov) and ends Imbolc (1st Feb)
Direction - North.
Season - Winter.
Element - Air.
Goddess aspect - Maiden. (Rhiannon, Goewin).
Energetic qualities - Potential, dormant, hidden, possibility, embryonic.
Animal archetypes - Horse, Hare, Swan.
Dates - Starts Imbolc (1st Feb) and ends Beltane (1st May)
Direction - East.
Season - Spring.
Element - Fire.
Goddess aspect – Bride. (Blodeuwedd, Branwen).
Energetic qualities - Potent, transformation, power, metamorphosis, change.
Animal archetypes - Serpent (adder), Owl (feminine), Eagle (masculine), Fox.
Dates - Starts Beltane (1st May) and ends Lughnasadh (1st Aug)
Direction - South.
Season - Summer.
Element - Earth.
Goddess aspect - Mother. (Modron, Arianrhod).
Energetic qualities - Abundance, plenty, birth, realisation, receiving,
Animal archetypes - Bear, Wild Cow, Bee.
Dates - Starts Lughnasadh (1st Aug) and ends Samhain (31st Oct)
Direction - West.
Season - Autumn.
Element - Water.
Goddess aspect - Wise Woman. (Ceredwen).
Energetic qualities - Completion, transmission, regeneration, wisdom, knowledge, teaching.
Animal archetypes - Wolf, Raven, Salmon.
Additionally, this is the direction of the ancestors and ancient ones.