My ancestors built great circles of stones that represented their perception of real time and space, and enabled them to tell time: the stone circles were cosmic calendars. They went to great lengths and detail to get it right. It was obviously very important to them to have the stones of a particular kind, in the right positions according to position of the Sun at different times of the year, and then to celebrate ceremony within it.
I have for decades had a much smaller circle of stones assembled, representing the ‘Wheel of the Year’, as the annual cycle of Earth around Sun is commonly named in Pagan traditions. I have regarded this small circle of stones as a medicine wheel. It is a portable collection, that I can spread out in my living space, or let sit in a small circle on an altar, with a candle/candles in the middle. Each stone (or objects, as some are) represents a particular Seasonal Moment, and is placed in the corresponding direction. I have found this assembled circle to have been an important presence. It makes the year, my everyday sacred journey of Earth around Sun, tangible and visible as a circle, and has been a method of changing my mind, as I am placed in real space and time. My stone wheel has been a method of bringing me home to my indigenous sense of being.
As I sit on the floor in the centre of my small circle of stones representing the everyday sacred journey that I and all other beings make every day, I reflect on its significance as I have come to know the Seasonal transitions that it marks, over decades of celebrating them. This everyday sacred journey may be named as a Turas, a Celtic word meaning “journey”, “pilgrimage”, and refers especially to the circular, spiralying prayer used by people in Celtic countries as they walked sunwise around a sacred site (See Caitlin Matthews, The Celtic Spirit (p.31). I sense the aesthetics and poetry of each.
The small circle of eight stones represents the flow of the Solstices and Equinoxes and the cross-quarter Moments in between. Each stone of my small wheel represents a “moment of grace”, as Thomas Berry named the seasonal transitions – each is a threshold to the Centre, wherein I now sit: I sense it as a powerful point. I have facilitated and been part of the ceremonial celebration and contemplation of these Moments in my region for decades now. It has always been an open group that gathered, and so its participants have changed over the years but it has remained in form, like a live body which it is: a ceremonial body that has conversed with the sacred Cosmos in my place.
We have spoken a year-long story and poetry of never-ending renewal – of the unfolding self, Earth and Cosmos. We have danced and chanted our relationship with the Mother, opened ourselves to Her Creativity, and conversed with Her by this method. Each participant in their own way within these ceremonies made meaning of their lives – which is what I understand relationship to be. The relationship is in this context of Earth and Sun, our Place and Home in the Cosmos: that is, existence is innately meaningful when a being knows Who one is and Where one is. Barbara Walker notes that religions based on the Mother are free of the “neurotic” quest for indefinable meaning in life as such religions “never assumed that life would be required to justify itself”(p.693).
I face the North stone, which in my hemisphere is where I place the Summer Solstice. From behind me and to my right is the light part of the cycle, representing manifest form, all that we see and touch. From behind me and to my left is the dark part of the cycle, representing the manifesting, the reality beneath the visible, which includes the non-visible. The Centre wherein I sit, represents the present. The wheel of stones has offered to me a way of experiencing the present as “presence”; it recalls in an instant, as David Abram has expressed:
That which has been and that which is to come are not elsewhere – they are not autonomous dimensions independent of the encompassing present in which we dwell. They are, rather, the very depths of this living place – the hidden depth of its distances and the concealed depth on which we stand.
This wheel of stones, which captures the Wheel of the Year in essence, locates me in the deep present, wherein the past and the future are contained – both always gestating in the dark, through the gateways. And all this has been continually enacted and expressed in the ceremonies of the Wheel of the Year, as the open, yet formal group has done them, mostly in the place of Blue Mountains, Australia. And the ripples and practice continues in other locations.
Over the years of practice of ceremonially celebrating these eight Seasonal Moments – Earth’s whole annual journey around Sun, I have been held in this creative story, this Story of Creativity as it may be written: it is a sacred story. Her pattern of Creativity can be identified at all levels of reality – manifesting in seasonal cycles, moon cycles, body cycles – and to be aligned with this pattern aligns a person’s core with the Creative Mother Universe. I have identified the placing of one’s self within this wheel through ceremonial practice of the whole year of creativity, as the placing of one’s self in Her Womb – Gaia’s Womb. All that is necessary for Creativity is present in this Place. All may come forth from Here – and so it does, and so it has, and so it will. That is Her everyday magic.
© Glenys Livingstone 2020
Glenys Livingstone is the author of PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion which is based on her doctoral research (University of Western Sydney, Social Ecology. 2002). She has been on a Goddess path since 1979, and has contributed to several anthologies, including Goddesses in World Culture (ed. Patricia Monaghan, and Goddesses in Myth, History and Culture (ed. Mary Ann Beavis and Helen Hye-Sook Hwang). Glenys lives in Australia, where she has facilitated Seasonal ceremony for over two decades, and mentored students. She continues to write and to teach a year long course on-line.