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The heART of Ritual


The Turn of the Seasons

I was reading about a white stag shot by police in England today and I was reminded of both this image by Vexim and the almost archaic portent of error and mistake which turns up in mythology to warn against trying to repel nature.

I once read a novel in which the wisest character in the story was approaching the end of her own life.

Her death would not be traumatic or unexpected, though. She knew her years, her seasons and her days were falling away, and those around her knew this too. She was lucky in this type of quiet passing, of course, as she had lived for many years and witnessed many worse kinds of death. As her time approached, she became more mindful of the world and those she loved, and those who loved her. Her friends would catch her watching them, her smiling sometimes, as she settled into her final slowing down. Her own appreciation for all she had lived through was matched only by the fear and anxiousness of those around her. They had yet to live such a life. They had not walked her path, nor had they made the always-kind decisions she had made as she watched over her loved ones as they grew. And, because of this, they did not have the wisdom to understand a life's closing and how death draws down upon us all. So it was that for those she was leaving behind, the final days were filled with a sense of panic. What would they do? Who knew the world like she did? Who knew the herbs and healing plants with slim stems which, when collected and dried, could alleviate pain or reduce fever? Who would know when it was the right time to pick the fragile wild garlic plants, or the flowers that grew by the riverbank? It was always her who could best tell when the petal shades were just the perfect colour, signalling their potency. Who else could read the patterns of migrating birds and know when to sow, when to harvest, and when to gather what would be needed to survive another winter.

The fear of turning and change, though, is both needless and futile. As one thing passes, another comes into being. The exchange of death for birth and the old for the new is what creates life in the first place, after all.

The wheel of the seasons sometimes strains as it turns, pulling the land, drawing the waters and reshaping the stars and constellations in their wake. As above, so below. Always turning. Just as those before us handed down their wisdom and legacy, one day we will do the same.

Whether we pass this on with a sense of peace depends on the lives we have lived, I think. We are all only here for the briefest time. Even when we live a long life, it is, really, always a too-short life. Our friendships, our loves, and our own lives are themselves only seasons waiting to change and leave their mark upon the world. (C.) David Halpin. Image: Vexim


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