Celebrating the turning of the year as a pagan in Madison, WI has been a completely different experience from the years I spent in San Diego, CA. In SoCal, it was impossible to relate to “winter” holidays, because it was 80* and sunny at Christmas. We didn’t really have “harvest” due to drought and lack of rainfall (San Diego sees an average of 266 sunny days per year, to give you context). Here in southwest Wisconsin, though, we get all manner of weather, definitely all 4 seasons, and being surrounded by farms makes it a bit easier to see how agriculturally based holidays fit in to the grand scheme of nature cycles. Same country, different region, VASTLY different experiences of the pagan Wheel of the Year.
In a city like San Diego, I often felt extreme disassociation with the WotY. Here in Madison, I still sometimes feel that disassociation, but on different holidays. An idea that I’ve only heard occasionally in the last 2 decades, though I think it has a great deal of merit, is to update the traditions and customs to reflect your local geographic area. Obviously CA and WI are different in their weather patterns, regional industry, etc. (hell, SoCal vs NorCal is radically different), so why do we try to celebrate the year as if it’s all the same?
The first time I encountered this was on a message board thread at Sacred Mists Online Wiccan College where folks were posting regional full moon names. A long time ago as a baby pagan, I had written down a list of full moon names from Wicca.com:
I took those as Holy Writ, and never asked why – though they really didn’t mean anything to me. So when I got involved with this thread on the forums it was like a smack to the head with a cosmic 2×4! A gal from Alaska, whose screen name I didn’t write down and can’t remember this many years later, showed some humor and a little Inuit influence in how she regarded the full moons of the year. For her, January was the “Ice Moon”, because it is the month that generates the most ice. April was “Cabin-Fever Moon”, because it isn’t necessarily thaw but everyone is going stir-crazy anyway! My favorite was May, for “The Moose-Calving Moon” where moose population in Alaska can double or even triple. September was the “Salmon Moon” because the salmon runs were so dense. Some of the names may seem irreverent, but it helped her to connect with the local energies and better understand how the year turned for her region. So I wanted to write my own for my life in San Diego!
|January||Rain Moon||The only month where it really ever seemed to rain.|
|February||Gray Whale Moon||Gray Whale tours are popular during this month, as they migrate through.|
|March||Mating Moon||This is when the San Diego Zoo pandas are encouraged to mate… along with all the other animals in the zoo!|
|April||Flower Moon||Have you ever seen the desert bloom out in Anza-Borrego? Spectacular.|
|May||Marine-layer Moon||The marine-layer was always thicker for longer in the day in May than any other month, since it wasn’t hot enough to burn it off early.|
|June||Tourist Moon||Weddings, travel, vacations – the tourist moon to sunny San Diego!|
|July||Rainbow Moon||Pride month in Hillcrest!|
|August||Hot Moon||…or as I like to think of it “hot as hell moon”, because it is darn hot.|
|September||School Moon||Everyone heads back to school, which changes traffic patterns and my ability to sleep in on my week days off since the elementary school behind our house resumed its bell schedule.|
|October||Wild-Fire Moon||Yup, every year Southern California is ravaged by wild fires, and this month is when they’re the worst.|
|November||Festival Moon||Local harvest festivals, Thanksgiving, Day of the Dead, etc. all come together to make this a month of festivals!|
|December||Cold Moon||The coldest month (which I now know wasn’t cold at all!).|
To me, these reflected the regional variations in my experience of San Diego, CA. Any San Diegans, give me a shout if you agree! 🙂
Back to the WotY. If we can rename our moons, then we can absolutely change our solar holidays as well! Perhaps changing the name is too much, since it is too convenient to have a semi-standard way of relating to these times of the year that most people know, but certainly we can take a look at the customs! It didn’t make sense to make corn dollys for Lammas in San Diego, because we didn’t grown corn! Maybe something with citrus peels instead? 😉 I personally hate calling Litha “mid-summer” because it isn’t the middle of summer, it’s the summer solstice – literally the start of summer! The point I’m making is to not blindly accept dogma you are taught, and instead take the concept, internalize it, and make it your own.
Recently, I’ve been working to create my personal WotY that incorporates the 8 traditional solar festivals, though I take the solstice/equinox names where I can instead, with the 5-fold goddess archetype model from Jailbreaking the Goddess, overlaid with the Avalonian Cycle of Healing, bringing in my personal correspondences for colors & seasonal representations to all of these aspects. I’m not super artistic, so it is slow going, and looks like a child created it, but I feel more connected to this than anything I’ve ever Crafted before, and look forward to adding more pieces as my understanding of and connection to the yearly cycles continues.
What does your GeoLocal celebration or custom or understanding of the sacred world look like?