Arizona Reclaiming Witches: One Perspective

Submitted by Darrell

This has been a year of years for our group. Some of the community has become strengthened by coming together to overcome struggles, claim our successes, fight our demons, and claim our power. Hearing the many stories throughout the year, the themes that have risen to the surface are oddly aligned, like iron filings with a magnet underneath: “Principles before personalities”, “vulnerability is not weakness”, saying “yes” and saying “no”, “fuckit”, acceptance, and “I see you in me”.
This list of challenges will be with us as the new year carries over and introduces its unknowns. We will adapt, for that is what we do. As we chanted at California WitchCamp this past year: “We Are Witches, and There Is Work for Us To Do”.
Our group has crossed the threshold from fledgling group to established group, now passing through our fourth anniversary year. Our gatherings have varied in size from 3 to 73, celebrating the sabbats, both the established Celtic Wheel of the Year™ and a wheel that, if drawn, would look more like a doodle on the back of someone’s notebook who’s trying to get their pen to write.
There are few initiated Reclaiming and Feri in attendance, but a surprising number of initiates from other traditions who are broadening their perspective. There are covens who join us for the sabbats. There are also Episcopalians, Benedictines, Catholics, AA’s, Chaos Magickians, Druids, Asatruar, Agnostics, husband/wife attaché’s, a whole bunch of “I don’t know’s” and another bunch of label-free folks. There are children and grandparents, teachers, PHD’s MD’s LNP’s RN’s LNP’s and other multi-lettered folks, all varieties of sexual orientations and those who identify at various places along the gender spectrum. There are even those who often change their mind about some of the above on any given day depending upon mood, weather, or astrological influence.
Many our ritual participants, perhaps more than half, come to attend the ritual only and that’s all we’ll see of them till the next ritual. And that’s great. That’s one of the reasons we offer our rituals publicly. Reclaiming magic is potent magic. We believe it should be shared. The more love we give, the more love we have.
We have offered a lite version of Elements of Magic, the Iron Pentacle, have had book studies, independent classes on herbalism, drumming, chanting, energy work, Feri, and just good old fashioned conversational chit chats. We’ve done some volunteering – not much, but some – however individually, there is an overwhelming sensibility of caring and altruism to our group that is unparalleled.
These things are not offered in hopes of proselytizing new Reclaiming Witches. It is of our perspective that if you have stepped forward in one of our circles – in fact if you have stepped into your own power by any means – then you are already priestess or priest of God Herself in your own right. You are your own spiritual authority. If we do our job right, you step away from our gatherings with a stronger sense of empowerment, a community connection, a sense of direction, or at the very least, a few belly laughs.
The path of the Priestess and Priest is not an easy path. It is a two way conversation between Powers that Be and your Self. And it is a two way conversation between your self and everyone and everything around you. And everyone and everything around you has its own conversation with the Powers that Be. Power Within harnesses that inner conversation, between your Self and God Herself. Power With harnesses that outward conversation, between your Self and your fellow Souls. And although words are potent forms of conversation, Service, Gratitude, Empathy, Compassion, and Appreciation when combined with action can move mountains. Prayer is not helping; prayer strengthens your inner connection. Action activates the outer connection. Prayer is praying; only helping is helping. Prayer plus helping is also helping with a little extra. Many paths stop at the thinking, praying, and energy work parts. As we practice, we don’t stop there. We act, we enact, we create, we make it happen.
Many of you have expressed interest in moving past the introductory levels of your practice.
Many of you have expressed interest in moving past a rut in your practice.
Many of you have expressed that you really don’t even know where to start.
We have enough people gathered together in our group to make a lot of things happen. We’ve discussed recurring naming rituals, rites of passage for our many diverse members, the creation of a community liturgical cycle, a book of shadows, bringing the local flora and fauna into our lore along with the Sonoran Desert Wheel of the Year, a musical guild (vocal, instrumental, drum) women’s circle, men’s group, LGBT group, ASU Campus events, bringing teachers in from other groups for weekend retreats, group hiking trips, camping trips, wilderness survival classes, self defense classes, mediation and mantra work, yoga, group fitness goals and coaching, crafting guild, Feri and Reclaiming initiatory paths, lore of the various pantheons, divination classes, continued volunteerism, local governmental participation…
But in community, in groups of three, of five, of ten, we could go far with any of the items in this list. That’s power with.
If you want to help, or contribute to any of these, contact one of the steering comittee members. If you dont know who they are, just say STEERING COMMITTEE MEMBER contact us via the contact us form and one of us will message you.
With risk of sounding grim, I’ll say that we have some very unpredictable and strange times ahead of us. Some of the ground that we have gained towards equality seems like it is at risk. We cannot let this shock us into inaction, into being frozen by fear. Nor can we let it distract us from what lies before us, which is this: “We are witches: and there is work for us to do.”

With Love, Darrell

Questioning Forgiveness

I am in my 40’s now, firmly in middle age somewhere between the “mother” and “crone” stages of life. One would think I would be wiser, more practiced at the processing of grief and pain and anger and forgiveness. I am a witch, after all. That implies wisdom. And people who have heard my story often state that I have lived several lifetimes in this one. But I struggle still with forgiveness. Oh, I struggle! I am an expert at holding grudges.

I think back to all the times I was hurt. Intentionally, unintentionally, selfishly. And all the times I’ve had to rebuild my life and move on. The last incident, the one that has prompted this deep exploration into the idea of forgiveness, is still too fresh to elaborate upon. Let’s just say it shattered me to my core. Again. And I know it won’t be the last time I will be hurt or wronged.

I need to find a better path of recovery for next time. Because there’s always a next time.

But let’s start at the beginning.

The first time I was severely hurt was when a man who was a friend of the family murdered my six year old handicapped brother. I was nine. The world as I knew it, the proverbial rug I was standing on so securely, was in one motion ripped out from under me. Child Protective Services was involved. I never again saw my friends, my home, my neighborhood, and even lost my beloved little dog. Not to mention my only sibling at the time. In addition, I was removed from the closed religious community of my mother and placed into the secular world of my father. Culture shock in every way possible.

How does one survive this and go on? Being a child, I had no choice but to go on. I was enrolled in a new school. I was given new clothes to wear (pants for the first time!). I grew into a woman without my mother around. My father was harsh and militaristic. Although he had the best of intentions and I know he loved me, he had a funny way of showing it.

Later, after I was a mother myself, my dad made amends with me. He truly apologized and meant it. We healed and had a close relationship until he died suddenly at the age of 59. I am so glad we were in a good place when he died. If there’s an example in my life of true forgiveness, it was between me and my dad.

My mom and I have both tried to repair our relationship as adults. She is not the person she used to be. I had to set boundaries, including a ten-year period where we did not speak at all. Although I love her, I still keep her at arm’s length. Is this true forgiveness? Not really. It is tolerance for the sake of love and doing the right thing.

Next was a twenty-year marriage that ended in divorce. The marriage started well enough, with love and hope and promises of a good life together. And then I became a stay at home mom of two kids (one with medical challenges). I don’t think he could adjust well to this. He coped by going back to how he was raised. He became rigid, controlling, and emotional abusive. I found myself a woman in my early 40’s with two kids, starting over. Again.

And then there is this most recent thing that happened. I entered into a situation with pure love, great trust, hope, and the best of intentions. Then a problem emerged that took on a life of its own. I thought love would be enough to overcome it, but it was not. This one hit me hard. I was caught off guard, emotionally open to all the love and pain. I loved fully. I grieved fully.

Just when I would think I was over it, it would hit me again and I’d spend more time being heartbroken and angry. I wondered when the pain would end.I would be angry at myself, that I “should” be over this by now. That I “should” forgive.

As I was having another depressive episode triggered by this situation, I remembered years ago when a friend pointed her finger at me and commanded, “Witch, heal thyself!” Indeed, I am not helpless in this situation. I don’t have to carry the victim’s burden and pain forever. I walk the Witches Path. It is a path of shadow work, finding truths, and then casting those truths into the bright sun. Step by step, I make a new path.

Step 1: Examine the meaning of “forgiveness”

As a child, I was taught that in order to be a good person, I was required to forgive, even embrace and love, my enemies. I was taught: Colossians 3:13: “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” And Matthew 6:15 “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Merriam-Webster says forgiveness is “the act of forgiving.” It’s something that is done actively. It’s a conscious effort. It’s hard work (damned hard work!). To forgive is to “to cease to feel resentment.”

The main problem I have with “forgiveness” in the definitions above is that it requires the victim and perpetrator both be involved in the process of healing, even if only in the mind of the victim. The victim must forgive (let go of resentment towards) the one who caused so much pain. Maybe they just want to focus on healing their wounds instead of thinking of the one who caused them.

There is guilt factor here, too.If the victim continues to have occasional thoughts of resentment, it makes the victim feel they have failed in the act of forgiving. It also denies them permission and room to be angry.

Step 2: Allow anger to happen.

Anger can be a good thing. It validates feelings and allows me to express them. I am still learning to be comfortable with anger. A good fire has a purpose. It should be allowed to blast up to the heavens, and then burn down to glowing coals. I think those coals are those of resentment, and it’s okay to let them glow a bit. They are living reminders of the lessons learned, the wisdom earned.

It is hard for me to let anger die down once its ignited. Sometimes compassion towards the wrong-doer tempers resentment: they had good intentions that went poorly, they were not being mindful of my feelings, they were immersed in their own problems. But big infernos are directed towards the person who hurts me with intent: who knowingly manipulates me, lies to me, abuses me! This burns my heart! Especially if this person is someone who supposedly loved me, who hurt me when my heart was open to them. This shatters me.

Step 3: Seek the support of friends and community to witness the pain

In the rebuilding of my life, I embraced– and was embraced back by– a beautiful community of friends and spiritual companions. And I did a difficult thing. I reached out to them as I felt myself retreating into the darkness of grief. I suffer from depression, always trying to put it in its place on my good days. On my bad days, it takes over and pulls me down into a dark spiral.

This time I started to reach out to my community in my desire to heal and be pulled out of the spiral. Sometimes I told them I was having a dark day. Other times I just started a chat with them about neutral topics, or checked in with them on their problems.

At one point when I was in the deepest throes of my anger and pain, I reached out to my inner circle for help. I needed to be heard. Many were shocked by the intensity. I even shocked myself! I allowed my tears to flow freely. My friends, my tribe, they lovingly witnessed those tears. They held me, and protected me, and offered healings. They helped me bank the fire.

What was left after the healing was a strange kind of indifferent nothingness. This created space for wisdom and joy to return. It created space for me to breathe.

Step 4: Let go of the expectation of an apology.

This one is so hard for me. Probably the most difficult step of all. I was raised that people who hurt others should apologize and make amends. That’s what good, decent people do.

In childhood the teacher would make the perpetrator say “I’m sorry” and then the victim would have to say “It’s okay” when neither of them really meant it. The best part of this for me as the childhood victim was knowing that my perpetrator was caught and people saw what they did. In real life the perpetrator often gets away with it and even continues to hurt others with no regrets.

I realize now I would rather have no apology than an insincere one. And that expecting one stops me in my path of healing, and makes me dependent on the actions of the person who hurt me. I need to stop giving them power over me.

There is power in letting go, walking forward.

Step 5: “Walk forward, always forward”

What came out of the most recent heart-breaking situation was the ability to truly express my full anger for the first time in my life, and being truly held by my community and friends.

In exploring this topic of forgiveness and healing, I asked several people in my life what worked for them, and what it meant to them. One friend’s words became my mantra when I started to look back and feel pain again: “Walk forward, always forward.”

I know my journey is not done. The answers I have found are not wrapped up nicely with a bow. They are messy answers, uncertain, not fully or satisfactorily defined, imperfect. As is life.

As a Witch who walks the Path with all its shadows and light, I accept this truth. And I keep walking.

Let’s Talk About Love

by M.W. Whitaker

Ah, l’amour.  Love is an emotion that transcends borders, social strata, and even time.  Even someone who seems not to need it, both craves and treasures love.  To give you an idea of how much we value love, over 85% of songs that you hear are about love.  Love is one of the most complex emotions around.  Love is so complex that there are different classifications of love.  There is filial love, which is the love for a friend.   There is familial love, which is the love for your family; and of course, there is romantic love, which probably needs no explanation.

Love is even more complex than you might think.  The way movies cause us to perceive love is a linear flow, where two people fight their feelings for one another, but sooner or later, there is an epiphany, both characters usually run to each other’s arms, there is a stirring romantic score, and we reach for the tissues after they go off into the sunset together.

But love is both wonderful and terrible, harsh and gentle, and even has its own flow and ebb.  It’s not an accident that the ancient Greeks believed that Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love was born of chaos.  It is also noteworthy that some depictions of Aphrodite portray her as Aphrodite of the Tombs, almost as a death goddess.  Why?  Well, first off, love for all of it’s beauty has a darker side as well.  Love can motivate people to do things that they would never do for anyone else.  If one falls in love with the wrong person, that love can in turn lead them to their end.   But why do we do it?  Why do we become vulnerable to someone, let down all of our carefully crafted defenses and let that person in our heart and our life?  Well, this video clip from The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) sums it up rather nicely, I think.   While this whole clip is excellent, the most relevant part is from the 3:24 mark forward:

If you have not seen the movie, one of the most important things that the movie also brings up is the importance of learning to love yourself. And that is the real thing to think about on Valentine’s Day, but perhaps a little more than that. Instead of buying someone flowers, gifts, and treating them like someone special for one day out of 365, maybe do that more often. Realize that love always and ever shall be, a gift, and one that is precious and rare. But if it is a gift, who do we give it to, when there is no one willing to receive it, or able to? Then you have to give it to the one person who matters, at the risk of sounding selfish. You have to give it to yourself.

Every chance you can, look at yourself in the mirror. Tell yourself how beautiful you look, regardless of your gender, because the word beautiful is infinitely more powerful than terms such as handsome, good looking, etc. Tell yourself that you believe in yourself. Then with emphasis, say “Now, go out and get ’em.” If you make this a habit, you will find that you have cast a truly powerful spell on yourself. You will find that you approach a lot more situations with confidence, whether that be with a potential date, a new business opportunity, or even a day at work. You have to follow up these expressions of love with real action. Start exercising a bit, and taking care of yourself. Treat yourself as you would like others to treat you, with dignity, respect, and kindness.  After a while, you won’t be just okay with yourself, you’ll be happy with yourself. But what do you do with all that love? Sooner or later, it has to go somewhere, so where does it go? Maybe start showing love for others in small ways. Pay it forward whenever you can, hold open the door for someone coming behind you. Smile at strangers and say hello and good morning every now and then. When we love ourselves and send that love out, the world starts to change around us. There is also, a funny thing to note about the power of self-love.

It is often counter intuitive, but where love is concerned, the more hungry we are for it, the less likely we are to receive it; and when we are okay without it, or even ambivalent towards it, it often appears. I don’t know if you will ever find love with another person. But give a lot of love to yourself. You are worth it.

-M.W. Whitaker
Valentine’s Day, 2017

Other Resources:

“A Seven-Step Prescription for Self-Love” by Deborah Khoshaba Psy.D, Psychology Today, March 27, 2012. [https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/get-hardy/201203/seven-step-prescription-self-love]

“What Self-Love Means: 20+ Ways to Be Good to Yourself” by Banu Sekendur, Tiny Buddha, March 2014 [http://tinybuddha.com/blog/what-self-love-means-20-ways-be-good-to-yourself/]

The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996) , Barbra Streisand, Jeff Bridges.  Available through multiple sources, including the Maricopa County Library District (free checkout)

Why Should I Care About Them? Or Excuse Me, Your Privilege is Showing

By M.W. Whitaker

strike-protest-human-group-collection-many-peopleI am not them, so why should we care about them? Who are they?  See if any of these sound familiar:

“I am not gay, I’m straight.  They follow an immoral lifestyle choice.”

“God I am so sick of hearing about transgender rights.  Can’t they just be  the gender that they’re born?”

“Wah wah, poor refugees have no home. What a shame, but I don’t want any of them in my neighborhood.”

“Women should submit to their husbands. They should not have any life outside of the home.”

“They are in this country illegally. They’re criminals.”

“That’s the way it’s always been. Why should we change things for them?”

“God I hate men, they are such pigs.”

“White people, you gotta love them.”

“You have to respect what they are saying. Everyone has a right to their opinion.”

“Who cares about the whales? They’re animals.”

Whenever we start to judge people that is when people stop being people and become them.  We focus on their differences.  They worship a different god, or worship the same one in a different way.  They are brown, or not quite right.  Whatever the differences someone has, those differences are perceived as a threat.

People are gregarious and often like to congregate with other people that look the same way, think the same way, act the same way. If we’re not careful, we form cliques, exclusive clubs, and worst of all, thought bubbles.  Thought bubbles are safe.  They isolate us from the new and strange and keep us in the familiar and comfortable.  They are ancient, and are one of the things that have divided the world.  When you put anyone into the category of Them, unless they are giant mutant ants from a 50’s B Movie, you are indirectly lumping them into the category of Other.

Othering happens when people see only one part of who someone is. Instead of seeing a fellow human being, they only see someone who likes the same gender, or is of a different belief system than they are.  There are three problems that are the greatest threats to society: ignorance, cruelty, and complacency.  They intertwine and choke off all that is good in the world.

Ignorance is dangerous because when it becomes ingrained, it leads to terrible “ism” behaviors such as racism, sexism, nationalism, fascism, the list goes on and on.

Cruelty takes its lead from ignorance. Cruelty is the lack of compassion.  When people are cruel, their ignorance fuels their behavior.  Cruelty can lead us down paths that aren’t just dark , they’re malevolent and evil.  Cruelty leads to destroyed lives, and perpetual cycles of violence.

Complacency is the worst of the three. Just because a state of being has been doesn’t mean that it is what we are supposed to keep doing.  There is only one constant in the Universe: everything does, can, and must change.

So how do we as witches know what is right and what is wrong? We have no central book to refer to.  It’s really simple.  We need to look at ourselves.  We are Othered by society simply for being witches.  Judging and othering are part of being human.  But instead of denying these behaviors and suppressing it, we need to embrace them and use them to our advantage.

Discriminate against people who define and tell others that everyone must conform to a life based on their expectations. Discriminate against bigots and zealots no matter where they’re from.  Some you’ll be able to sway, but there will be some people you won’t be able to reach, and in this lifetime anyway, they will not be united with anyone that believes the same way that they do.  No platitudes about room for everyone at the table.  No touchy feely. If someone is advocating hatred and violence against someone else for whatever reason, step away from them. Never give into violence. You are dancing to their tune. If someone judges you for being who and what you are, don’t try to change their mind with words.  Don’t change. Show who you are.  Do it by the way you live your life and the way you treat others.  If someone tells you that as a man you should know how to fix things, tell them to fix it themselves.  If someone tells you as a woman that your place is in the home and that you should be married and submissive to your man, tell them you’re going out and you have stuff to do that has nothing to do with them.  Someone calls you a freak for not identifying with the gender that you’re born as, don’t re-masculate or re-feminize yourself to please them. Let your “freak” flag fly.  You are who you are, embrace it.  If someone gets in your face for the color of your skin, the way you worship or don’t, supporting people or creatures that are marginalized, look at your accuser coolly and say, “It looks like your privilege is showing.”

Or to quote Michael Jackson from the song “Man in the Mirror“: “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make the change.

Sonoran Desert Wheel of the Year: Square Peg Round Hole!

Originally Published on WitchVox

IMG_0671One thing that most strongly calls to me from the Earth-based religions is their profound adaptability.  There is such a strong anti-dogmatism present at the heart of the Goddess-based eco-spirituality, which borders on anarchy and bedlam at times.  Many who have migrated from other, less flexible, spiritual paths feel ‘at home’ in the Pagan practices because there is a deep sense of ownership of the spirituality, an opportunity to make it one’s own, a reflection of our mind, body and spirit.

Yet, as paths tend to do, the more they are travelled, the more well worn they become.  Those well worn paths are then paved, and eventually even may become highways.  And sometimes, often at great expense, those highways become the ‘only way’.  It happens!

One such example is the Wheel of the Year.  The traditional Wheel of the Year is derived from a combination of astronomical, agricultural and traditional practices of Western Europe.  An excellent history is described at AmericanPaganism.com (* Links and references follow this article).

One day I was planning my Samhain ritual and was thinking deeply about harvest.  I was clearing out the straggling weeds from my garden getting ready to plant my Winter crops.  (You can see the Planting Calendar for the Sonoran Desert in the links below).  Although I was getting ready to plant, I was still trying to ‘make it fit’ the classic harvest-festival mold by trying to generate some pseudo-harvest activity in my life to celebrate according to the Eurocentric calendar.

I continued puzzling about this and decided to ask the local community how they’ve responded to this topic.

Off I go to a few local Pagan groups and individuals at meet-ups and Pagan pride to pose the question “How have you adapted the Wheel of the Year to meet our desert climates?”  Their answers first surprised me, and then followed a great loss as I realized that many people, in essence haven’t.  It just didn’t make sense.  After all, this is supposed to be an Earth-based religion, right? Isn’t it our responsibility to adapt it to our needs?

I would often get a furled brow and a squinting eye of suspicion to which I would clarify.  “Take the fertility rituals, for example… Beltane really isn’t a time for planting for me.  I planted my tomatoes back in February!  And the Summer Solstice, well my basil and dill made it through the heat but the rest was in the compost pile already! Fall is really less about harvest and ore about getting ready to plant my second crop for a good Winter harvest. The Winter Solstice provided me with some tasty turnips and beautiful beets, but the rest of my garden was positively thriving by then.  I had fresh herbs all Winter, and let’s not forget delicious oranges. And, I stay indoors more in the dry-Summer (they’re pretty hot) and am outside more in the Winter! There’s something in bloom every day of the year!  It just doesn’t match.  What do you do about that?”

Most people responded that the wheel of the year “is what it is.” They indicated they make do with it as it was handed down to them and celebrate the sabbats as they were taught: Beltane is for sowing, Samhain for harvest, and so on. They used words like traditionalist, old fashioned, Celtic, and old school to describe their celebrations.  In other words, most practitioners have little no adaptations.  Many drew strongly from European traditions and felt that they were honoring their ancestors and motherlands by maintaining those traditions.

A few ignored the agricultural ties completely and just focused on the astronomical aspects of the wheel, the solstices and equinoxes, and their esoteric meaning.  This indicates a modest adaptation.

More than a few people ignored the question altogether and told me how to ‘force’ vegetables and herbs to grow against the seasons.  I also got some good tips on how to make tomatoes grow, what types of fertilizer to use, and a lecture or two on composting and ladybugs.  When pressed to answer the original question, they typically deferred to the no adaptation school.  (Don’t even get me started about what I heard when I asked if eating was a spiritual issue.)

In fact, of all the people (several dozen) I’ve asked, only a handful actually drew from local seasonal changes and augmented the wheel of the year in such a way as to make it apply to us.  And fewer still checked out the local native tribal practices to see how they perceived the seasonal year. Dia de los Muertos, came up often, but almost unanimously October harvest did too.

Well, I sat on this for a while. Immutable traditions are so frighteningly close to dogma.

I realized that there was something I could do! Research it and report back on what I’ve found.  And what I’ve found is pretty amazing. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

On the web, I found only one article, authored by Shawn Finn (published in Sage Woman magazine, issue # 76 entitled “Sonoran Seasons”).  I highly recommend to anyone interested in this topic.  In it, she describes the rhythm and flow of nature in the desert and some of her reflections on becoming acclimated to its cycles.

The traditional wheel of the year goes like this: Yule (Winter Solstice, 20-23 December), Imbolc (2 Feb), Ostara (Spring Equinox, 19-22 March), Beltane (1 May), MidSummer (Summer Solstice, 19-23 Jun), Lughnasadh (1 Aug), Mabon (Fall Equinox, 21-24 September), Samhain (All-Hallows Eve, 31 October; All-Hallows, 1 November).  The Equinoxes and Solstices  (also called the Quarters) mark the 4 traditional seasons.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum lists five seasons for our climate: Winter (December through early February), Spring (Late February through April), ForeSummer Drought (or Dry-Summer, May-June),  Summer Monsoon (July to Early September),  and Fall (September to November).

There still is a bit of a lineup as you may notice. However, there’s a few other things to consider.   There’s really no ‘dark’ and ‘light’ half of the year.  It’s sunny 85% of the time.

A great majority of my vegetables grow in the traditional ‘dark half of the year’.  Because the Fall, Winter and Spring are so seasonable here, it’s also when the parks and mountain trails fill up with people hiking, camping and enjoying outdoors life.

And during the traditional ‘light half of the year’, the Sun has a few months when it is most Brutal, it’s way over 100 and a lot of people just try to keep cool, although you’ll see early-morning joggers, and late-evening promenades, and families still enjoying a good park visit. If I were to call a season of hibernation – it’d probably be the dry Summer. I tend to put on a few pounds, just about the same way I used to in Winter when I lived in the Midwest.  And Summer is certainly not about lush anything: the desert seems to pull back its life and go into a deep slumber throughout the unforgiving dry Summer.

The Tohono O’odham Nation has 12 seasons, each corresponding with the moons:  January, No More Fat Moon; February, Gray Moon; March, Green Moon; April, Yellow Moon; May, Painful Moon; June, Saguaro Moon; July, Rainy Moon; August, Short Planting Moon; September, Dry Grass Moon; October, Small Rains Moon; November, Pleasant Cold Moon; December, Big Cold Moon.

So, there’s stuff out there. There are several tribes native to this area that we can access for insight while avoiding cultural appropriation.

I want to be clear that I’m in no way suggesting that we abandon the wheel of the year.  It’s symbolism has become one of the binding elements of Pagan practice.  However, I do believe that the Goddess manifests herself to us in a very uniquely South West Desert way.  People in the Southern Hemisphere have a calendar opposite that of the Northern Hemisphere. (Their Beltane is in October; Samhain is in May).  Why not us?

Although I still recognize the thinning of the veil at Samhain, that time to me is a time of sowing, not harvest.  With the spirits of those who have come before me at my side I begin planting the seeds, which will nourish me in the months to come. Winter, once a time of quiet reflection is now the time of action and harvest.  First frost is really when the hiking is best.  And Beltane in some ways is the last hurrah before the long and hot slumber of the desert, when things grow quiet at midday, not because of the lack of light, but because of the overabundance of it.  And Summer the rest in between, when I get caught up on all my reading.  Monsoon is a great cleansing time, to wash and be washed. And the wheel turns, once again.

Useful links and references

American Paganism.com is a very detailed website with plenty of references  http://americanPaganism.com (website is offline) and the history of the wheel of the year is at http://www.americanPaganism.com/historyofthewheel.htm (website is offline)

Arizonensis http://www.arizonensis.org  lists the 12 names of the Tohono O’odham months at http://www.arizonensis.org/news/sonorandesertedition/almanac.html

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum http://www.desertmuseum.org/ has a Sonoran Desert Natural Events Calendar here: http://www.desertmuseum.org/books/nhsd_Winter.php

National Ocanic and Atmospheric Administration http://NOAA.gov has Comparative Climate  data at http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/ccd-data/pctpos11.txt

Sage Woman Magazine http://www.sagewoman.com/ Issue # 76, p 12. Shawn Finn writes an article called “Sonoran Seasons”

Tohono O’odham Nation website is at http://www.tonation-nsn.gov/

The Urban farm http://www.urbanfarm.org/ has an amazing planting calendar for the Sonoran Desert.  http://www.urbanfarm.org/Planting_Calendar.pdf

The Reclaiming website on the Wheel of the Year: http://reclaiming.org/about/witchfaq/wheelofyear.html