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21 September, 2011

Keeping the Sabbat Holey

I just had another run-in with another one of those neo-Wiccans who has a serious burr up their arse about the fact that not all pagans celebrate their festivals. Which was one of those tedious things that crops up every so often when one doesn't bow to the Llewellynist hegemony, but whatever.

It has me thinking about calendars.

Actually, a lot has me thinking about calendars because I've been up to my armpits in calendar research trying to make things go for my life, my work, my theology, and so on, but that's gotten me a much clearer sense of what works for me in a calendar and what doesn't.

I startled someone a while back by commenting that the Wheel of the Year thing never really worked for me, I never connected with that system of eight festivals. And that's despite growing up in a climate where it actually was something that suited the seasons, more or less, so if it was going to be intuitive it is not like I was living in Texas or another not-four-temperate-season climate.

Somewhere in this I realised one of the big deal things for me, though.

Equinoxes are way too fucking abstract.

I mean, the breath of the year, the lengthening and shortening of the days, that I can understand; I can understand marking the long and the short of it, even though that's not part of my personal practice. But the moment in the middle? Tracking that makes as much sense to me as taking note of the moment when my lungs are half-full. When I'm doing breath exercises, it's in, fullness, out, emptiness, and 'in' and 'out' are continuous functions, not things with notable break points at three places along the road ('halfway' and the points between). It's a neat trick to calculate, but it doesn't have any particular immediacy for me.

I'm a little obsessed with getting the lunistellar version of my festival calendar calculated out somehow, rather than just settling for the thing I have which pins things to the civil calendar like moths on a lepidopterist's display, because of the thing about breath. If the breath of the month is the breath of the moon, that's immediate, that's there: it's something I can see, or could if I ever left the house but that's kind of tangential. Breathe, and the moon breathes with you.

The mechanical life support structure of the civil year is something that can do for now, keeping my little Frankenstein's monster going while I actually build the heart properly and get it to breathe, breathe in a way that doesn't depend on these machines of calculation. It's something real, though: I see the star. The moon flows through its mythic rending and mending and all things are made whole thereby.

Abstractions like a balance of seconds on either hand elude me; a day is a breath in and a breath out, however long each is held. I cannot celebrate a teetering pile of seconds or register it as spiritually meaningful - it does not connect to my world in that way. It's a curiosity, a piece of abstract knowledge, a process of understanding the world that does not speak to my souls. I studied astronomy and loved it, and understand the wheels of this process, but that does not make them liturgy to me.

I am probably more annoyed than I should be by that conversation, more annoyed than it deserves, but I am tired of being pinned to seconds and to declarations that this cycle matters and that does not, because the hegemonic forces of pop paganism have so declared it. Talk to me of what stars are rising and how many fractions the moon has, and leave the measured paces of the sunlight in peace.

Tomorrow begins Opet, at least in my lepidopterist's calendar. Perhaps by the end of it I will have the slightest clue what to do about that.


MP said...

to declarations that this cycle matters and that does not

Your cycles matter to you, not to me.

Mine matter to me, not to you.

Anyone who goes beyond that has lost sight of one of the very important thing most neopagans claim to be looking for: personal freedom.

The equinoxes matter to me, and have mattered to since before I read any sugary neo-wiccan claptrap - balance, and balance points, have been a focus of the western mystery tradition since before the HOGD.

You have a much more engaged/engaging calender, and that works for you.

Dw3t-Hthr said...


Happy Mabon to you. Happy Opet to me. It all comes clean in the wash.

Aqua, of the Questioners said...

At one stage, I kept track of the moon, i.e. I tried to make sure I looked for it at least once every 24 hours except right around new moon. This often meant three-four times a day once I was in the habit. I found it a very interesting connecting experience - particularly the way the times you can see the moon keep changing through the month.
Given your inclinations, I would totally recommend trying it - I don't know if you have windows you can see the moon out of, but if you do, that's a place to start.

Anonymous said...

I think MP has it right, if it is not individual cycles and patterns that we create for our own meaning, well, then it has no real meaning.

To fall blissfully into the "eight sabbat" bit is to buy, hook, line, and sinker, the concept that paganism is merely a commercial venture to enrich hucksters pushing the calendar of cash.