The Goddess and the God
Come with me on a journey—a journey that is as old as time itself. Repeated so often, the earth knows the rhythm and follows it, like a cosmic dance.
First steps of the dance take us to October 31, Samhain ("SAH-wan"), or Hallowe'en. Why does the dance start here? Because here are both of the greatest events in any individual's life. Here lies Death—the great God dies. But here also lies the potential for new life: the Goddess sleeps, pregnant with the unborn new god. Death is not a bad thing: if the god did not die, he could not be reborn. The great God's spirit is not the only one that is turned loose tonight. The lines between the living and the dead are thin and spirits may walk the earth. See how people carve scary faces on pumpkins to frighten the spirits away.
One small turn of the wheel, one twirl of the dance, brings us to Yule, the winter solstice (on or near December 21) the shortest day of the year. On the longest, darkest night of the year, the Goddess becomes the Great Mother and gives birth to the young Sun God. "Celebrate fertility and the perseverance of life with evergreens, holly, mistletoe and pine trees," instructs the Goddess. "Light yule logs and bonfires and sit with me throughout the night as you witness my labor to bring the sun back to the earth."
Imbolc ("IM-bulk"), February 2, comes next, a slow slide toward the light. "Imbolc" means "in the milk;" this is the time in Europe when sheep and cows begin to lactate to feed their young. Now the Goddess is Mother, nursing the young Sun God. The Mother is honored when we cherish springs, wells, all underground sources of water that thaw as the days grow warmer. This is a day of purification: out with the old to make room for the new!
Add a spring to your step as you dance towards Ostara, or the Spring Equinox, on or near March 21. Here we find the young God comes to power. The Goddess has rested and returned as the Maiden, and brings her minions, the rabbits. Rabbits become "mad as March hares" as part of their mating season. Celebrate new life, spring forth like young spring lambs, by coloring eggs for Eoastra, the Goddess of Spring.
Lovely Beltane, May 1, promenades onto the scene. Young girls, dancing around the May pole, wear garlands in their hair. So, too, the young Goddess. She is in full bloom, just as the earth. No wonder the God discovers his love for her.
Turn the wheel to Litha—that is, Midsummer/Summer Solstice—on or near June 21, when the God ascends to his highest power in sky and the Goddess prepares to bring forth bounty on earth. Celebrate the longest day of the year with bonfires. Sit around the bonfire, telling stories, and see if you can stay awake all night. Why? Because the veil between the worlds is thin again and you might see a fairy, like Puck, Titania, or Oberon from Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night Dream. But be careful! These fey are the trickster kind. Any plants gathered today are especially potent.
Now the wheel brings us three harvest festivals. The first is Lammas or Lughnasadh ("loo-nah-SAHD), on August 1. In our story, the God, having peaked at the height of Midsummer, knows it is time to rest and is voluntarily sacrificed to make the earth—and the Goddess—fertile again. The Goddess as Crone oversees the ceremony. Bake John Barleycorn men and bread, and make cornhusks dolls.
A Pagan time of thanksgiving comes next in the form of Mabon or Harvest Home, on or near September 21. This is no surprise: it is the Autumn Equinox and civilizations have been celebrating the harvest around this time since farming first began. Decorate your home with signs of the harvest. Slice harvested apples crosswise to reveal the pentagram inside. Plant bulbs for spring as you consider what changes you hope the next year will bring.
But where are our God and Goddess?
The wheel returns to Samhain. The Goddess carries the sleeping God. Her fertility and the God's death have brought forth the good harvest. The God that will be reborn rests within the earth until it is time for him to be born and for the eternal wheel to turn again.