Festivities of Natural Annual Events: Midway Solstice & Equinox

February 4, 2014 by Categorized: Earth Matters, Earthly Rites.

F.N.A.E. articles are written with Ehoah phrases

Ehoah Phrases

What is Seasonally Occurring

During this transition between the Solstice and Equinox the southern hemisphere(Australis) is tilting away from the sun bringing the northern hemisphere(Borealis) toward it. In Borealis the days are getting longer, seeing the earth’s daily turning view of the sun higher along the southern horizon; for Australis the days are getting shorter with the daily turning view of the sun becoming lower along the north horizon; The equatorial regions will be seeing the daily turning view of the sun closer to the center of the sky from the south.

Within the Australis Polus Axis the turning horizon is closer to the sun’s disk with shorter days, and within the Borealis Polus Axis the turning horizon is getting further below the sun’s disk.

For Australis it is the hottest time of year and the wettest for many regions. Most of the warmer regions would now be experiencing their harvest and/or preparing for a “winter growing season” that is better adapted to colder temperatures and less daylight. Some species begin their migrations north.

For the Tropics, this is when the Tropical Rain Belt is almost at is most southern point in the year.


South of the Borealis Polus Axis, excluding West and Southern Europe (because of the warm ocean currents in that region of the world), it is the deepest of winter being the coldest time of the year. Around the Borealis Sol Axis, with the addition of Southern & Western Europe, spring is coming into effect with sprouts and flowers becoming visible.

Seasonal Customs

South of the Borealis Polus Axis, with the exclusion of South and Western Europe, a great many communities are hosting winter festivals for this coldest time of year, including activities of snow sculpting, ice fishing, ice skating, sledding, dog sledding, horse/reindeer pulled sleighs, skijoring (dog team, horses, or reindeer pulling a skier) and so on before the snow melts in the following months.

For the warmer climes of Borealis, there is more focus on the coming warmth and light of summer, banishing the dark, cleansing (ritually with fire or through diet or with thorough housecleaning) and celebrating the beginning of spring. Many regions celebrate with brilliant colours, a healthy dose of mischievousness and youthful gaiety in the excitement of spring. As the night still comes early for both climes, there are usually fireworks, bonfires and light displays during or marking the beginning or ending of the festivities. Because of the noticeable increase in day length many cultures have their new year begin around this time.

In Australis, various regions are having the summer harvest coming in and the winter planting season soon beginning.








Patras Carnival

Late January

17 January until 7th week before first Sunday after the full moon (the Paschal Full Moon) following the northern hemisphere’s vernal equinox.

Gregorian calendar

Southeast Europe



Late January

50 days before Northward equinox (~March 21)

Zoroastrian calendar

Western Asia


Chahar Shanbeh Suri

Early February

Last Wednesday of the Iranian Calendar year

Zoroastrian calendar

Western Asia


Tu Bishvat

Early February

~296 days after the night of a full moon after the vernal equinox

Hebrew calendar

Western Asia



Early February

1-2 February or nearest full moon to this date or first signs of spring

Gregorian calendar

Celtic calendar

Wheel of the Year

North Western Europe



Early February

45 days after winter solstice /45 Days before the Vernal Equinox (Midnight of Feb 3 – Midday Feb 4)

Ehoah Year Wheel – Gavia, Borealis Kalendar



Chūnjié – Chinese New Year, Tet

Early February

When the sun is exactly at the celestial longitude of 315° ending on the 15th day – around February 4 and ends around February 18 (February 19 East Asia time)

Chinese calendar

East Asia


Groundhog Day

Early February

Feb 2nd

Gregorian calendar

Central Europe

Pennsylvania Dutch


Early February

February 13 through 15

Gregorian calendar

Southern Europe



Late February

last week before the 7th week before first Sunday after the full moon (the Paschal Full Moon) following the northern hemisphere’s vernal equinox

Ecclesiastical calendar

Eastern Europe

Eastern Slavic










Lammas Lughnasadh

Early February

February 1st

Gregorian calendar

Celtic calendar

Wheel of the Year

North Western Europe



Early February

45 days after summer solstice / 45 days before autumnal equinox

(Midday of Feb 3 – Midnight)

Ehoah Year Wheel – Sphenisci, Australis Kalendar



Te Waru

Early February

2 February



New Zealand / Maori

If anyone knows of other celebrations and festivities that reflect the current season that are not in the chart, please post them below – they will also be put in next year’s post.

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Wordless Wednesday: Fern Frost

January 29, 2014 by Categorized: Natural Reflections.

Fern Frost, by Alison Leigh Lilly

Share your nature photography and artwork on the Pagan Newswire Collective Flickr group. For more information, check out our submission guidelines.

Wordless Wednesday: Devious Poetry

January 22, 2014 by Categorized: Natural Reflections.

Devious Poetry, by Ana Teresa Photography

Share your nature photography and artwork on the Pagan Newswire Collective Flickr group. For more information, check out our submission guidelines.

Poison in the Heart of the World

January 17, 2014 by Categorized: Earth Matters, Nature in the News, Restorying the Sacred, Science & Spirit.

Blue Ridge Red Shift. Photo by Andrew Flenniken

I was born and raised, as the phrase goes, in the desultory tail end of the Appalachian mountain chain as it swings through north Georgia on its way to Alabama, and the twangy lilt of Appalachia persists in my voice through graduate school and nearly thirty years down from the mountains.  Since I reached adulthood, I have lived both in the rolling Piedmont and in the sandy-soiled, pine and palmetto strewn coastal plains, and spent most of my time in and around the buzzing, sprawling, urban tangle of Atlanta.  I’ve learned to love all of the places I’ve lived, sometimes with a bit of negotiation and difficulty.  But some part of my heart is full of a wild yonder, smoke-blue mountains rising to hazy blue distance.  I was a fleet feral barefoot child there, and a serious-minded poetic young girl.  Even when nobody else in the world understood me, the wind in the pine trees and the ancient worn-down ridges and peaks held serene. Whenever I go home to visit family, as soon as I can see those mountains, my heart lifts.

The Elk River is poisoned.  You may have heard.  It may seem far away, but rivers are long, and connect to other rivers.  The Elk flows into the Kanawha, which flows into the Ohio, which flows into the Mississippi, which flows into the Gulf…which has had more than enough crap dumped into it already.

Amicalola Falls. Photo by Andrew Flenniken

There is magic there, in those mountains.  Inherent in the woods and hollows, tumbling down the mountain sides, rising up like mist, but also in the people:  their songs and stories and ways, their yarbs and praying rocks, their burn-talking, water-dowsing, blood-stopping charms.  Things get remembered there that other people forget, until one day somebody wonders where that Child ballad or old-timey cure went and comes looking to find it, kept safe in the memory of the mountain and its folk.  It is not a coincidence that Faery, the most well-known “home grown American strain of religious witchcraft” as Ronald Hutton called it, has its roots in Appalachia.  If you have any love of such things, know that the tributaries of your knowledge have springheads in those hills.

The magic cannot be separated from the land.  You can put the knowledge in a book, perhaps, but that does not preserve it; once everything is gone but the dry pages, they only point to what is lost.  Magic is alive, as the mountains are alive, as we are alive. One of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth cloaks those mountains like a mantle woven from a million colors. Richness, true wealth, in the living breathing threads, wealth we barely comprehend because it seems so ordinary, precious beyond anything else we know or could tell.  Like the old ballads, we remain ignorant of its value, perhaps, until it is lost…except when a thing is finally gone from these mountains, the oldest in the world, it is gone forever.

The truth is, this latest calamity isn’t new.  It hasn’t been new in my lifetime…or in the last century.  That glory has been being slowly poisoned to death all this time.  In Night Comes to the Cumberlands, Harry Caudill chronicles the pattern of destruction and exploitation carried out all over the region:  First the trees, then the coal.  Starting in the late nineteenth century, the dense forests were razed; then, when mineral wealth was discovered under the now denuded ground, coal companies secured deeds to mineral rights with contracts that would cause Mephistopheles to blush with envy:

The broad-form deeds passed to the coal companies title to all coal, oil, and gas, and all “mineral and metallic substances and all combinations of the same.”  They authorized the grantees to excavate for the minerals, to build roads and structures on the land and to use the surface for any purpose “convenient or necessary” to the company and its successors in title. Their wordy covenants passed to the coal men the right to use as mining props the timber growing on the land, to divert and pollute the water and to cover the surface with toxic mining refuse. The landowner’s estate was made perpetually “servient” to the superior or “dominant” rights of the owner of the minerals. And, for good measure, a final clause absolved the mining company from all liability to the landowner for such damages as might be caused “directly or indirectly” by mining operations on his land.

…a single acre sometimes yielded fifteen or twenty thousand tons [of coal]….For this vast mineral wealth the mountaineer in most instances received a single half-dollar.

It is evident that the modern descendents of yesteryear’s coal men view this period as a golden age,  a time when they could plunder freely without any pesky environmental or safety regulations or indeed any legal restraints whatsoever. They are anxious for those days to return.  The usual defense is to explain at length how they have brought in jobs and industry; the benefits of their reign can be seen in that a hundred and twenty years later, after many many billions of dollars of mineral wealth have been extracted from the region, how well the descendants of those original landowners are doing.  Hardly an Appalachian child goes hungry, and poverty is a thing of the past.  Oh, wait…

How can this be?  How can the rest of America sit by complacently and watch this unfold, with barely a flicker of outrage?  Well, part of the reason is that we have been carefully taught that Appalachia is a worthless backwater, full of ignorant, racist, inbred, willfully impoverished, disposable people who aren’t worth listening to and can’t be saved.

Understand that this is a lie.  Understand that it is a lie that has legs because it serves the interests, not only of the rich and powerful, but of every person who benefits from cheap coal and natural gas.  This means you. If you live in the service area of a coal-burning plant…and you probably do…understand that people who look and sound like me die to keep your lights on.  You are complicit, but so am I.  We live in a world that shapes our choices, and only through a collective rebellion can we change that reality in a way that will do some good.  That’s why politics, rather than personal moral choice, is the answer to certain kinds of systemic problems.

But the hillbilly stereotype, like other kinds of prejudice, serves other motives as well.  It is classism, pure and simple, as well as the kind of cultural prejudice which is next door to racism, and like other “isms” serves a twofold purpose:  It punishes the exploited, disheartens them to keep them down and saps their will to fight, and it divides them from their potential allies. It gives those who might otherwise feel some solidarity or a modicum of guilt the ability to rationalize that “those people” deserve what they get.  Like Eric Waggoner and Zada Mae and Betsy Phillips and Byron Ballard, I have less patience with that:

“this country has a long history of believing every terrible thing it hears about Appalachia…”  — “The Hillbilly Backlash”  Betsy Phillips

“To hell with everyone who ever asked me how I could stand to live in a place like this, so dirty and unhealthy and uneducated. To hell with everyone who ever asked me why people don’t just leave, don’t just quit (and go to one of the other thousand jobs I suppose you imagine are widely available here), like it never occurred to us, like if only we dumb hilljacks would listen as you explained the safety hazards, we’d all suddenly recognize something that hadn’t been on our radar until now.”

- “I’m From West Virginia and I’ve Got Something to Say About the Chemical Spill”  Eric Waggoner

“The same progressives and liberals who would have us believe they care for the underprivileged and oppressed also like to point at the working class white people in WVA and use words like ‘redneck’ and ‘snuff dippers’ and ‘hillbilly’ to describe them.

Enough.  Enough.”

- “But what am I to do with all this fury, all this rage?”  Byron Ballard

Photo by Andrew Flenniken

Do you think the beauty of the mountains is somehow in ironic contrast to the ugliness and squalor of its human inhabitants, that they just somehow wound up there by happenstance and are as insensible to the complex living world around them as so many bumps on a log from a old-growth tree? Or are you willing to contemplate the idea that they are the descendents of people who chose to live in all that beauty despite the difficulty of making a living there, and that that could say something about who they are? that their enthusiastic preservation of oral storytelling and old ballads and music and arts of all kinds indicates a love of such things for their own sake? that their ingenuity and ability (not yet entirely lost) to make anything out of two sticks, a rock, and a piece of home-made string, or to cure sickness with weeds out of the yard, are due to an intimate knowledge of the environment which might be useful somehow? that you have been sold a bill of goods, about the region, about the people, about us?

I am not trying to romanticize the people of Appalachia, either; that’s just another trap. I am just saying that one of the answers to “If things are so bad there, why don’t you just move?” is “Because we love these mountains.” Another is, “To where?” This is not just a story about Appalachia, you understand. This is a story about everywhere.

A segment of the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina. Photo by Andrew Flenniken

To contribute to relief efforts aimed at some of the hardest hit, go here.

Wordless Wednesday: Drum Spirit

January 15, 2014 by Categorized: Natural Reflections.

Drum Spirit, by SoulfireArtworks

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Inspired by David Douglas

January 9, 2014 by Categorized: Natural Reflections, Science & Spirit.

I recently read Jack Nisbet’s The Collector: Davis Douglas and the Natural History of the Northwest. Douglas was a prolific naturalist in the early 1800s, sent to the Pacific Northwest and other portions of what would become the U.S. and Canada to collect botanical specimens for the London Horticultural Society. Unlike many biographies, this one barely touches on Douglas’ childhood, instead focusing almost exclusively on his explorations between 1824 and 1834. It draws heavily from his journals and other writings from this time, and although the play-by-play can be a little tedious now and then, for the most part Nisbet manages to tell an exciting story that kept me turning pages, but without resorting to sensationalism or exaggeration.

While I appreciated the entire book, I especially was struck by how well Nisbet conveyed Douglas’ sheer enthusiasm for his work. Several times through out the book, the author couldn’t help but point out places in Douglas’ journals where the naturalist eagerly bounded off in search of new (to Western science) species, or excitedly wrote about one of his finds. For example:

[Douglas] left the open country of the Willamette Valley and entered the hilly, wooded terrain south of present-day Eugene [Oregon] on October 9. Douglas, who had often lamented during the march across the scorched valley that “nothing new came under my notice,” was rewarded with the sight of a golden chinquapin:

Its rich varied foliage, quivering in the wind, clothed to the very roots with wide-spreading branches, and standing alone on the dry knolls or on the crevices of rocks, gives a tint to the general appearance of American vegetation of more than ordinary beauty.

The collector had no idea whether this princely tree was a new species, but he felt certain it was rare. Hoping to find an example of its fruit, he explored the hillside, and after a laborious search found a single tree bearing the prickly golden husks that shelter its seeds. (p. 121)

This was far from the only time Douglas spent significant amounts of time and energy seeking out the seeds of plants he found. Far from simply sketching his discoveries, he supplied the London Horticultural Society and other entities with seeds and other samples of plants, as well as animal and mineral specimens, carefully prepared out on the field and painstakingly protected in all weathers and conditions. Rarely did there seem to be complaint from Douglas; in all but the worst scenarios he displayed an exuberance matched by only the most energetic and boisterous adventurers.

As a child, I fancied myself to be such an explorer, though of a much smaller territory, and with far fewer resources and training at my disposal. Yet as I got older, and as I watched beloved wild places being torn down for development, I lost that curiosity and wonder for a while. My turn to paganism in the 1990s was, in large part, an attempt to reclaim that connection to nature, but it wasn’t until I divested myself of many of the abstract and symbolic trappings, and embraced a more naturalistic paganism, that I managed to regain that closeness. That’s why my path has increasingly become one informed by joy and curiosity, rather than ecstatic trances and formal rituals.

And I’ve delighted in reading about Douglas’ exploits because they sound so familiar. Here is a man, close to my age, bounding about in the wilderness with the glee of a child, enduring hardships with a light heart because WOW LOOK AT THAT TREE ISN’T IT AN AWESOME TREE? Sure, there were plenty of other people, mostly indigenous, who were well acquainted with that particular species, but to him it was a new thing, and better yet, he got to share it with a whole slew of people on another continent who had never known such a thing existed. When I was a kid, some of my best days were the ones where I found a garter snake or box turtle or particularly large grasshopper, especially if it was some critter I had never seen before. It didn’t matter that other people knew about them; I was the one having these natural revelations.

Sadly, I don’t have the freedom or financial backing to go spend years at a time in the wilderness, but I can vicariously read Douglas’ writings and be inspired to get what wild time I’m able in my currently very busy life. In fact, as I’m writing this I’m out at the Oregon coast, and between Nisbet’s book and my next read, The Outermost House by Henry Beston, I’m ready to go absorb some ocean air and storm-soaked sand–ecospiritual bibliotherapy at its best.

Wordless Wednesday: Animus

January 8, 2014 by Categorized: Natural Reflections.

Animus, by Hillary Luetkemeyer

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Guest Post: The Gods Beneath My Feet by Nightfall

January 6, 2014 by Categorized: Earthly Rites, Natural Reflections.

Beneath my feet are my ancestors. In the food I eat, I consume the bodies of the dead. Their spirits nourish and protect me. It is a pact between us, they provide me with what I need, and I provide them with gifts. The Mothers are mighty on my land, and I thank them for the rain, for the trees, flowers, birds, the harvest, and for health and protection. A short drive away is a creek, key to the local ecosystem. I sit with her. I give her offerings, and I thank her for all that she does to provide life. I mourn her when she goes dry, and celebrate her when she is full. I wade my feet into her cool running water, and she reaches out and heals. Watchful eyes of the forest. I honor you.

The local deities are powerful, and are all too often neglected. The mighty gods of our ancestors are worshiped, but the local ones who are the land, and the water, the trees and the protectors of the beasts, are often left unnoticed. Our ancestors worshiped the gods of the wells, springs, rivers, groves, mountains, and hills. When they had to leave their land, some gods came with, some were left behind, but new ones were discovered. My ancestors might have called to Arduinna, a Goddess of the Arden forest. But when they left, and traveled to new forests, they did not call Arduinna there, they called to one who was there.

Interacting with the local deities does not mean that one should stop worshiping his/her current deities, but rather that one should pay attention to the where he lives. Is there a strong mountain nearby where a powerful spirit might reside, or perhaps a natural well, or an important spring, or river? Which trees are native? What types of stones, and animals? Where does our water come from, and what about our land drives the local economy? What is the local folklore, and how much is this tied to our land and its history? These are all questions we can ask in trying to develop a better relation with the spirits of our land.

Once we recognize the local deities, the mighty spirits, we can start to interact with them. At first, one might want to just introduce herself, to provide a simple offering, and to give thanks. Give thanks to the river for providing the water that we drink, and that grows our crops. Give thanks to the guardian of the forest that provides food, and shelter. Many of these spirits have not been interacted with in a long time, and especially not by one’s local community and family. How we interact with them can depend on our traditions and skills. For example, we could use divinatory methods such as scrying, or we could invoke them within our circles, or even ourselves. We could also use various trance methods to journey to them.

Once initial contact is made, or even just recognition that a deity is there, one might feel driven to attach a name to this god/spirit. The name can be something simple along the lines of ‘Mountain in the East’, or just using the local name of the forest, or river, such as ‘Mother of the Mississippi.’ There are no specific rules here. We are just reaching out to the living gods, and they are unlikely to be offended by being provided with a name. If it doesn’t like it, it will probably let you know.

As we develop a relationship with these gods, our land will become more alive to us. It is no longer just that scenic river, but we know the God that presides over it. It is not just a local forest, but there are guardians there, and we will tread as to not upset them. The gods have their roles, which they carry out no matter if humans pay attention to them or not, but if we watch out for them, we give our thanks and our offerings to them, they might start to help us out more than they already do. If we develop an honest relationship with the Gods, then perhaps they will open up to granting favors, wishes, and otherwise providing help. For example, that well spirit that you gave a food offering too, might help you overcome an illness. The guardian of the local forest, to whom you provided offerings of ale, might watch your back the next time you enter her forest. If you are a hunter, she might assist you in having a successful hunt. Don’t be surprised if your garden’s harvest is more bountiful, or that your local community supported farm is a bit more successful.

Overtime, these local gods might start to reveal their stories to us. New myths can be revealed, that tell who they are, how they came to be, and what they have seen and done. Just as a spirit of a plant can reveal to its properties, the gods of the land, can reveal its mysteries.

Nightfall is 34 years old, and a long time nature lover, who currently lives in Georgia. He has practiced Wicca for over 3 years as a member of LunaFyre Sanctuary. He volunteers at a wild animal rescue, and is passionate about engaging with the local land, seas, and sky in a sustainable and respectful manner.

Wordless Wednesday: Lizard

January 1, 2014 by Categorized: Uncategorized.


Lizard, by LiveinPix

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Wordless Wednesday: The White Sails

December 25, 2013 by Categorized: Natural Reflections.

The White Sails, by LiveinPix

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