You don't have to understand the world. You just have to find your own way around in it. - Albert Einstein

Sunday, 18 August 2013

My New Home is Hot and Sticky

...which is not at all surprising, seeing as we are officially living in a sub-tropical rainforest, but, my goodness, it's a bit of shock to the system for this winter-loving lady.

I'm aware that most people from other countries have an impression of Australia as a generally very hot place, and for the most part of this nation's landmass, it's quite true. But I have lived most of my life in the southern states of Victoria and Tasmania, enjoying a proper cycle of the four seasons in a fairly regular European fashion - cold winters requiring woollens, firewood and raincoats, and hot summers with ice cream, sunglasses and broad-rimmed hats. I've always adored the colours of the autumns and the thrill of the icy winters, and barely tolerated the hot summers, hiding indoors as much as possible in the daylight hours.

And now I am here, where it's summer nine months of the year, and winter is something that only happens in the night hours, and retreats each day at dawn, leaving me dressed in the summeriest frocks throughout even July and August. This is a great sadness for me, and the sacrifice against which I measure all the advantages I have gained with this move.

I am glad for the humidity, for I have always tolerated a damp heat much better than a dry heat, which gives me the feeling that I am dying of dessication. Still, I got quite a shock to realise just how saturated the very air and land is here. All the bedding and clothing seems to be slightly damp, all the time. Many of my personal possessions made of wood or leather have had to be thrown out because all they do here is breed mould. Wooden frames are swollen and warped. I'm collecting air-tight tins as fast as I can with every trip to the op shops, and the question I ask myself when buying anything new is "Is this going to get mouldy at home?". I'm using a tumble dryer regularly for the first time in my life, because the clothes just won't get dry, even hanging in the sun all day. And apparently this is still the dry season. I'm yet to experience the wet of the summer months, when we can expect to be flooded in as a matter of course. It reminds me of the two visits to Bali I've had more than anything I'm familiar with. I might still be in Australia, but this land is so very foreign to me.

As you can imagine, there are quite a few changes to my lifestyle involved in adjusting to this new climate. The most significant of these, for me, is to my spiritual practise. The short story is that I have abandoned the Wheel of the Year as a part of my practise, or at least shelved it until such time as I can return to more conducive climes. The long story is as follows.

I remember one day, a couple of years ago, I was idly pondering certain thoughts when it suddenly occurred to me that it would be impossible to recognise or practise the Witches' Wheel of the Year if you lived on or close to the Equator. This apparently trivial detail really got me thinking very deeply - how valid is the Wheel of the Year as a doctrine, if isn't even portable to another part of the Earth?

So I thought, and I pondered, and I realised that it is still as valid as it was when I thought of it as an absolute truth. But I needed to add a new dimension of my understanding of spirituality, that it is a response to the immediate environment as much as to our human consciousness. I asked myself what Witchcraft would be without the Wheel of the Year, and I envisaged an animistic, shamanistic kind of practise of folk magic. And I realised I was closer to the truth of the nature of my religion than I had ever been before.

Like most people of a witchy nature, I read a lot of witchy books, especially when I was younger. Many of those books were strongly influenced by Wiccan and BTW memes, including the concept of an eight-fold Wheel of the Year. And, like most people, I swallowed it all whole at first. It didn't take long for niggling doubts to arise. If I really put the effort into celebrating a Sabbat with a full-scale feast and ritual, it would take a considerable amount of time and energy, and usually some expense, to pull it off, and then a little while longer to recover and integrate the experience. By then, the next Sabbat would only be a few weeks away. If my modern, affluent self could feel overwhelmed by the resources required by the 'proper' celebration of the Sabbats, then how the hell did our primitive, subsistence-living ancestors handle it? Something didn't add up. The doubts niggled away, though I love the story of the Wheel of the Year as a creation myth. I found that my favourite Sabbats were Samhain and Yule, and with these I found I could focus on developing a continuing and cyclic system of marking the passage of the seasons. I sometimes wondered if I were not 'doing it right'.

The light-bulb 'aha!' explanation came to me about a year and half ago, when I 'just happened' to read in three different texts over a period of two months that the Solstices and Equinoxes, or 'Lesser Sabbats' in the Wiccan tradition, were marked and celebrated by Germanic and Scandinavian peoples, while the Celts practised the celebration of the cross-quarter days or 'Greater Sabbats' - Beltane, Lughnasadh, Samhain and Imbolc. Both these traditions had become conflated into one modern, eight-fold system in more recent times - and I'm guessing, though I haven't actually done the research, that Gardner & co. had something to do with that. Somehow, learning this helped me to give up the pressure I put on myself to find the 'right way' to mark the Sabbats, and just concentrate on my actual experience and reality.

And my reality is now sub-tropical. I'm going to have to learn the signs for the passing of time all anew.

And, as for the fact that a power line to my new home went down, cutting off the power, exactly on the evening of May 1, exactly at the first moment of my non-observance of Samhain, shortly after our arrival here - well, if that was gods or spirits commenting on such, or whether it was just the fact that the power poles had been left long neglected of maintenance, we'll never know.

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