Calendars, Cycles, and Holiday Seasons

Calendars, Cycles, and Holiday Seasons

Yes, I am talking about calendars again. Blame Kiya for lobbing a lightbulb.

I have a certain fondness for the Wheel of the Year, though in practice it never worked for me. I think it’s because it is a unified, coherent cycle, unlike most of what I have been exposed to in terms of calendars, either before or after it. It has a strong agricultural theme, but one that maps metaphorically onto personal action, internal or external, with relative ease. And though the seasonal cycle never matched up precisely with my location, it was close enough to work.

Except that as a whole, it didn’t. I think that is in large part because I’m not Wiccan; I have no idea which god is doing the death and rebirth bit, I don’t have the religious context that makes the Wheel of the Year more than a generic British Isles agricultural cycle. It’s like recognizing most things Lord of the Rings without being a Tolkien fan- I have neither the breadth of knowledge, experience, or intimacy to really internalize the depth of meaning that many aspects of the story or world have to actual fans. Someone can explain it to me, and I will probably remember, but there’s still a big gap.

My interests in things wax and wane. I am a creature of phases, I always have been. This applies to my eating habits, my focus on hobbies, my reading material, my energy and enthusiasm levels, everything. I am almost paradoxical in that I have a short attention span and a tendency to hyperfocus- I do or eat or think about predominantly one thing for a period of time, and then it suddenly ceases to maintain my interest, and I move on to something else. I almost always cycle back, but depending on how many different things I have sitting around to capture my attention, it can take a while.

Anyway. I am beginning to stray, but my point here was that my life is not one big cycle. I do not sow at one time of the year and reap at the other; I am always starting and ending. My life is not centered around one major theme- the gods I work for do not have any one thing in common. I, like most people, am a bundle of different qualities and interests and skills, that manifest in different combinations at different times. What I wonder is: are those manifestations cyclical, in a predictable and trackable manner? It’s not something I’ve noticed before, but then I wouldn’t; I am not good at patterns. It’s something I’ll have to look for.

I do want my calendar to be a cohesive whole- but if it’s a reflection of me, if it’s my calendar, then it will never comprise of one smoothly working part. It will likely not even comprise of several pieces that fit seamlessly together; it will have a variety of odd shapes that cannot run all at once, but fit together in a number of combinations, with different bits waiting on the sidelines to come back into play.

Which brings me around to holiday seasons. I think anyone from the US is familiar with them; some people call 1 October the first of Halloween, (US) Thanksgiving lasts most of November, and Grinchmas starts as soon as the turkey leftovers have made it to the fridge. The Grinchmas season at least has some theological precedent, what with Advent and all, but slowly these single-day holidays have grown and grown. Some people complain. I know that working in retail, I did not enjoy a month of Grinchmas music on the radios, especially in those places that used specific recordings of selected tracks instead of the actual radio. And the fact that these holiday seasons are increasingly commercialized- Grinchmas keeps creeping up on Thanksgiving for the sales- is not something I love. But the taking of the important, celebration-worthy aspects of a singular day and distilling them out over a longer period of time… I feel like it makes things more manageable, somehow? There’s a lot of pressure in the pagan community to get everything Right, to do everything Right. Accuracy and precision certainly have their value and their place. But in a world like today’s, without priests to handle the heavy lifting- there’s a lot more weight on our shoulders, a lot more decisions to make. Do we do a processional if it’s just us in our living room? Does it count as a processional if there’s only one person? How do we scale down a city-wide celebration into something a single person can mark on their own, when they’ve been at work all day, have to go back again tomorrow, and need to keep an eye on their offering budget because it’s almost winter and the heating bill is going to go up? Opet just ended, and I spent a good portion of it thinking about the fact that I am not a priest, I have no barque to carry. I did emboaten the boatless (only once, unfortunately, because money) but that was a single action of a very long festival. I spent most the rest of it feeling guilty for not knowing what else to do. I like the idea of putting a specific festival or ritual occurrence at the end of a longer period of mindful preparation, and I think if I had treated Opet this year in a similar fashion, and spent some lead-up time thinking about my commitments and my relationships with an idea to refocus them at the end, I would have felt better about the whole thing. (Maybe not- retrospect is funny that way.)

As I’ve said before, my calendar is seriously stripped down at the moment; I’m putting bits back in a little at a time, seeing what I think will work, what I think is important. With the ideas of themes and cycles in mind, I made a chart of with each month of the year, and placed my current and soon-to-be-added holydays on it, and they arranged themselves into a few different categories. The days for my dead (not individual birth and death days, but the group observances) cluster at the end of the year- two in mid/late August, two in November, and one in December. The holydays focused on creative skill and competition are summer-ish: one in July, one in August, and one in October. My new year’s celebrations are also mostly summer-ish, in May, June, and August, with the January outlier; the three holdays focused on community bonds start in September and stretch through December. And in working on this chart, I was able to pinpoint why “Carnival” is something I want to work on- because not only does the traditional Carnival season incorporate the revelry and inversion of norms associated with Dionysos, and correspond almost exactly to his time at Delphi (whilst Apollon is elsewhere), but it also overlaps with my dark days, when my seasonal-affective disorder is at its worst. I don’t know yet what the work is, but I know there is work to be done there.

Not everything fits neatly into one of these categories, and I’m not going to force it; I’ll keep this chart around, and use it to see how things evolve, and maybe to see where I have too many gears in play, or not enough. (March and April are totally empty at the moment, and while I don’t find it surprising, exactly, I didn’t notice it before.) Some things will always remain singular days, brief markings, like my Beloved Dead’s birth and death days that are scattered all over the year. But I do like the idea of having these cyclical phases where I focus on my dead, or my connection to my community, or on my creative endeavors, and not try to force myself to do All The Things All The Time. I could put something down without feeling like a failure, because I’d know that I would come back to it.

As always, it’s a work in progress. But I’m feeling like I’ve got a little more direction, now.

3 thoughts on “Calendars, Cycles, and Holiday Seasons

  1. One of the exercises that I had early on with my teacher is, basically, “What’s your personal year-wheel like?”

    When do you tend to start projects? When do you tend to run out of steam? Do you fall in love more often in one season or another? Do you have seasons where everything just goes to pieces on you? (I was reminded of this from your dark days comment.)

    I think it’s a really useful exercise.
    Kiya Nicoll recently posted..Returning to Calendar GnawingMy Profile

    • I think you’ve mentioned it to me before, and it definitely seems like worthwhile to me. I’m just going to have to learn how to take better notes, or something, because I cannot answer any of those questions reliably off the top of my head. I didn’t even recognize my SAD on my own, it was something my therapist noticed after working with me for two years.

      Any advice on how to track details like this, or is it something you’re able to notice without notes?

      • Broad strokes stuff I was able to sort through on my own. “It’s winter, I want to sleep and not do anything,” like.

        A whole lot of things about my life made a lot more sense when I sort of sat down and logicked at things and realised that I only have energy to get things done in spring and fall and tend to have horrible momentum crashes ….
        Kiya Nicoll recently posted..Returning to Calendar GnawingMy Profile

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