Wheel of the Year - WEST

'The Morrighan and Crow' by Amanda Reid

WEST - Autumn

The West is the last quarter of the circle, and it represents the season of Autumn.  This quarter begins at Lughnasadh and ends at Samhain.  Samhain was the end of the Celtic year, the last night of the year, thus making it an in-between time, ideal for contacting the ancestors.

WEST - Water

The element of the West is Water.  Water is Feminine in nature.  All life is born through Water, and it is the element that occupies the vessel that is the womb of the Goddess, as cup, cauldron or void.  Water holds all information, everything that ever was can be accessed through Water, thus it is the element of the transference of knowledge and wisdom, as the Wise Woman passes the legacy on to the Maiden.   Water exists in a cycle of renewal, as the process of the Wheel renews itself constantly. Visualise Water as constantly flowing, always renewing itself and giving of itself, pure as a spring or mountain stream, for this is Water’s lesson to us.

WEST - Wise Woman

This is the direction of ‘Completion’, ‘Initiation’ and ‘Wisdom’, and is where we meet the Goddess as Wise Woman.

The Goddess as Wise Woman is Rhiannon, Arianrhod and Ceredwen.  Ceredwen is from the tale of Taliesin, which provides a most revealing story for this quarter.  Ceredwen has a cauldron (womb) in which she brews a potion of Inspiration.  After a year and a day, three drops from the potion fall onto the thumb of the boy stirring it, so he puts his thumb into his mouth and instantly knows everything.  There are two valuable pieces of knowledge here, the first is the fact that it is the refined essence of the potion that is imbibed.  It is in distilling the core of all life’s experience that the essence of life is attained, for the essence is our Spirit.  The lesson of the West is to focus on the concentrated essence of the wisdom that is learnt throughout our lives, and to transmit it so that the next generation may find it again.  It then appears in the Maiden again, hidden within her as a jewel or seed, until it is re-discovered in the turning of the next Wheel.  The second important piece of knowledge is the fact that he places his thumb in his mouth to imbibe the essence of the potion.  This is a Shamanic act.  Look at this Celtic image of a man with a bird headdress putting his thumb in his mouth, a similar image exists in a Mayan stone carving.  The theme is repeated in Irish mythology, where Fionn MacCumhail receives the refined essence of the Salmon of Wisdom and imbibes it by placing his thumb in his mouth.  Interestingly, there is an acupressure point at the roof of the mouth that is activated when we do this.  Eastern tradition states that by activating this point we increase our Chi.  Perhaps babies and young children who like to suck their thumb instinctively know something we have forgotten!

Flying Shaman wearing bird head-dress with thumb in mouth

WEST - Completion, transmission, wisdom, knowledge, teaching

In the West, the ancestors and ancient ones are located and honoured.  The West connects us to their wisdom and knowledge.  The veil between the Worlds is thinnest here, so the Other-worlds are more accessible.  That which was created at the last quarter, ‘The Child’ (which is not just a person, but a principle, a concept), evolves to attain its highest potential in the West.  This is the direction of ‘Enlightenment’, where the highest expression of Self attains one-ness with All Things, with The Divine.

One of the strongest images of the Transformative process of Initiation and Completion is found at the end of the Fourth Branch.  An eagle (of transformation) is perched at the top of an oak tree (oak is a symbol of the Druids, and the tree is the Shamanic pole-between-the-worlds).  Rotting flesh (the old, material body of the physical Self) is falling from the eagle’s outstretched wings and is being devoured by a sow (the Goddess).  This is a powerful image of Transformation, Rebirth and Enlightenment, which Lleu Llaw Gyffes is only able to attain due to the nature of the challenges provided by the Goddess, as Arianrhod and Blodeuwedd, and through his death as transformation.

For Taliesin, it is Ceredwen who pursues and ‘swallows’ him and ‘re-births’ him as an enlightened being.  The powerful songs or poems attributed to him speak of his one-ness with All Things;

I have been a fierce bull and a yellow buck.
I have been a boat upon the sea.
I have been the foam on water.
I have been a drop in the air.”
He has attained a state of being beyond the separateness of Self.  His name means ‘Shining Brow’ which describes a strong aura or halo of light around his head.

WEST - Raven, Wolf, Salmon

The animal archetypes associated with the West are Raven, Wolf and Salmon.

Raven is one of the most intelligent of all creatures.  Raven is messenger between this world and the Other-worlds, with especially strong connections to the Lower-world.  Raven connects to Bran from the Second Branch, for ‘Bran’ means ‘Raven’.  Thus, like Bran’s head, Raven acts as an oracle of wisdom and brings strong protection.

 

Wolf is said to have been still living wild in Scotland into the 18th Century, and has a very strong link to the British landscape.  Wolf is ‘The Teacher’, and as a tribal/pack animal, Wolf makes strong bonds with those that become allies.  Wolf’s intelligence is used for strategy, and Wolf always has an intimate knowledge of the landscape.

 

Salmon has very strong British connections and features strongly in the old mythological tales of Britain and Ireland.  Salmon’s main trait is Wisdom gained from eating the hazelnuts of the Tree of Knowledge.  In the tale 'Culhwch and Olwen', Salmon is credited as being the oldest of all animals, which is a trait connected to its wisdom.  Salmon has a most impressive life-cycle, living both in fresh and salt water.  Salmon undergoes a transformation of the physical form, and makes an incredible journey against great odds in the attempt to travel upstream and return to the place of birth.  Is that not the lesson of the Wheel of the Year, to return to the start, the Source, enriched by the journey?