Q: Why community ritual spaces on the Celtic Wheel of the Year?

A: When we engage in attuning ourselves to the natural rhythms and cycles of Earth, we develop our capacity for wild self-regulation and holistic ways of being that allow us to form the selves required for our thriving, and for skillfully managing the challenges of an increasingly disordered world.

The Celtic Wheel of the Year is an ancient way of marking the constant cycling of time and honoring the turning of seasons across the year. It originates many thousands of years ago from the indigenous (aka pagan) Celtic people of Europe. The Wheel divides the solar year into eight sections: the two solstices (winter and summer) and two equinoxes (spring and fall), plus the dates that fall in the "midpoint" between those, for a total of eight holidays spaced about 5-7 weeks apart.

Participating in the celebrations and ritual spaces occasioned by these eight Wheel of the Year holidays is a method of aligning oneself with the cycles of nature, and honoring our deep bonds of interconnectedness with Earth and living systems.

As Starhawk, a preeminent social permaculture elder and witch, discusses in her book The Spiral Dance, witches and witchcraft celebrates the individual passion and creative expression of each person. Organizing rituals is to be non-hierarchical and co-creative, and the rituals themselves offer room for original, spirited expression by each participant. So in these spaces it is less about performing some ancient rites perfectly (if that were even possible), and more about connecting in the present and in a personal way with whatever aliveness is felt in reconnecting with these cycles as old as time and with our ancestors.

There’s a great deal of symbolism involved in each of these ceremonies. For example: On February 1, the midpoint between winter solstice and spring equinox, there is a holiday called Imbolc in which we celebrate the goddess Bridgid, “bringer of light,” symbolizing the sunlight’s waxing as the Earth progresses into the warmer months. Bridgid represents inspiration, midwifing, fire and light—that spark or “breath” of aliveness that lights up our mind and can motivate us with sustained energy to create something new. We “welcome” Bridgid in by lighting an abundance of candles, turning on all the lights in the home, and throwing open all the doors and windows. As the patron goddess of poetry, arts, and smithcraft, we also honor Bridgid by giving space to express our creative gifts: singing and music, poetry and storytelling, handicrafts, etc.

As a facilitator and spiritual practitioner, I am called to provide spaces in which people can synchronize themselves with natural rhythms and cycles, in whatever way feels whole or authentic to them. And there’s something really special about ritual spaces, which is why I have committed myself to holding community-stewarded, co-curated ritual spaces year round through my business Fractal Praxis.

I work deeply with custom-designed ritual spaces for the special states they tend to stimulate in us—particularly mind-body states of trance and imagination activation. In my view, these “dreamier” wavelengths of the human mind are extremely important to becoming a more whole human being. Specifically: in "softer" mental states—like those accessed in meditation, chanting, psychedelics use, creative flow states, or ritual spaces—one's mental model, or operational paradigm, can experience seismic and important shifts.

As a student of sustainability and systems thinking for over ten years, and a social permaculture educator for five years, I have observed that training ourselves to think in new (and ancient) cultural ways often amounts to a paradigm shift in consciousness. For example: to be actively thinking in systems means one cannot simultaneously think in rigid parts and fixed cause-and-effect; to think from a paradigm of nonduality occludes thinking from a paradigm of duality.

When a paradigm shift occurs, it is kind of like a disruption (like those observed and discussed in ecosystems). Some paradigm shifts occur spontaneously and are understood as spiritual experiences. A person who undergoes an inner paradigm shift is in need of integration and recalibration.

I believe that such “sacred states" of mind-body are essential to a person’s embodied-cognitive process of having insights and of integrating awarenesses and knowledges. “Spiritual experiences” are often reported as simultaneously somatic (bodily) and cognitive (mental) events in which the truth about the interconnectedness of all living systems and beings is revealed directly to consciousness. While such phenomena might seem special or rare, I believe they are in fact common to the path of a social permaculturist or any seeker willing to undergo significant personal transformation in the name of truth. A person willing to reshape their mind and actions in greater accord with truth may welcome the paradigm shifts necessitated by constant growth.

Remember—your “self” is a whole system. What happens when it goes through a disruption and transformation? Who do you become? How would you hold space for yourself in that situation? Community-stewarded ritual spaces on a regular cycle can help accommodate these necessary shifts that are ongoing in our bodies, hearts and minds.

Emerging from these spaces and states, a person may carry forth a more holistic orientation that lasts for hours, days or even years, in which one is in touch with one’s sacredness and the sacredness of all life. I'd argue this is as important to the beliefs, journeys, and traditions of many religious systems (including Buddhism and witchcraft), as it is to a contemporary human being engaged in the intentional work of reconnecting and practicing social permaculture.

If you find yourself vibrating with some of the ideas I’m sharing here, please consider becoming a Sustainer Member of Fractal Praxis to help ensure we can continue to provide free and by-donation community ritual spaces in the Denver area. As a member, you'll gain full access to the archives of photos, videos and stories from all past Celtic Wheel of the Year ritual spaces! If you're feeling really fired up about joining a future ritual space or helping to make them happen, check out this page for more.