Cycles Of Life
From earliest times Paganism has been based on the appreciation of the cycles of life and applying them to advance and advancement both as a culture and personally. The use of the seasons of the year to plant and harvest crops was the first step on the road to self-sufficiency and a measure of control over circumstances. Once people had moved from hunter-gathering to farming and/or fishing they became aware of other natural cycles including the effects of the moon on the tides, the length of the days on animal and plant life, and awareness of extended cycles such as lunar and eqinoxal precession.
By harnessing these, and other natural laws, humanity began to develop sophisticated civilisations, but always these were based on the observation of the natural world and, usually, working with it.. Even in the Middle Ages there was a time of the year for fighting and warfare, and a time to plant and gather the harvest. This is how conflicts could last ten, thirty, or even a hundred years as only about four months was spent fighting and the rest making sure people had enough food to live on.
However since the rapid development of industrialisation in the last 200 years, particularly in the agricultural field, means that people today have lost touch with the rhythms of the earth and cosmos. So bad has this become that children in many inner city areas of the world – and some adults – think that food arrives ready packaged without any idea of the way it is raised or grown. It was only with the re-popularisation of Paganism when the Fraudulent Mediums Act in 1950’s Britian superseded the Witchcraft Act, that people began to re-connect with themselves and nature. This lead indirectly to the upheaval of the 1960’s and the re-emergence of a Pagan spiritual and philosophical path.
Pagans today, through celebration of the eight festivals of the ‘wheel of the year’, are becoming aware of these natural cycles again along with how to connect with the powerful natural flow of nature. Science is also providing evidence to back up beliefs of earlier times as to the influence of cosmic energies on humans, animals, and even supposedly inorganic things such as chemical reactions. One of the most famous of these is the discovery by Professor Georgio Picardi in 1951 that oxychloral bismuth, an inorganic chemical, took less time to dissolve in water in March, than it did in September even under strictly controlled laboratory conditions.
Further investigation revealed that in addition to the seasons, sunspot activity, magnetic storms, and eclipses, also affected the dissolving time. On the organic side of things, it has been shown that bulbs kept in a dark cellar will still begin to sprout at springtime even with no other cues than the changes in the magnetic field that happen during the spring..
Humans also have a number of different cycles and it is though these that you can start to become aware of your own connections to nature and the cosmos. The system with the most evidence to back it up is based on Ultradian Rhythms, these are biologically based cycles caused by autonomic systems in the body. One of the most noticeable is that the cycle responsible for attention and focus in the average person lasts for about 90 minutes. During this time your attention changes from good focus to “spacing out”.
This is why many rituals last about an hour and a half, allowing most of the participants to enter altered states of consciousness naturally. Group working naturally entrains most of the people in it to the same cycle, generating a common experience, which is why for lots of people group working can be a very powerful. The same can happen in solo ritual when three hours can pass in what seems like a half hour ritual to the person doing it. Particularly if pathworking, communing with the Divine, or working on the inner planes. This is the result of entering and expanding the ‘spacing out’ part of the Ultradian cycle.
In ordinary circumstances the ‘spacing out ‘ time is a natural time for mind and body to regenerate and usually lasts from 10-20 minutes. In modern society there is a tendency to try to overcome this feeling tired or groggy sensation by using mild stimulants such as tobacco, coffee, or sugary drinks. This can be highly detrimental to the person’s health – particularly over a long period of time – resulting in “feeling tired all the time” mood swings, and general non-healthy stress.
When this down time happens it is far more beneficial to use it to allow rest and regeneration to occur. “Power Naps” are one of the more socially acceptable ways of using this time as are meditating either formally or informally. Not all employment or personal situations will take account of this natural need to recover so if you wish to make maximum use of this natural rejuvenation time you may have to reframe it slightly to fit in with work or other duties.
One Pagan I know has a combination slide and sound file on his computer that, once activated, puts up generic paperwork up on his screen that changes at irregular intervals. It also plays murmuring sounds, and sighs thus giving the impression of working while he allows his mind and body to rest. Other people use a portion of their lunch and coffee breaks, timing them to fit in with their natural rhythm. During the working day many people find that shorter times of tuning out, even just three to five minutes can be just as effective as the full 20.
The main thing is to become aware of when you need to rest through cues such as tiredness suddenly coming on, sighing/ yawning, slipping into daydreaming, or becoming clumsy. When this happens take a short healing break to restore yourself. Far from cutting production or effectiveness working with your natural rhythms actually increases both so is a worthwhile investment in yourself.
When doing rituals or celebration following an Ultradian cycle will add extra power and meaning to your communing with the Divine. Respecting your natural energy flow at work means that you are in a better state of mind when you come home to prepare for your celebrations. By timing your ritual itself to fit in with all, or key parts, of your 90 minutes cycle you gain the maximum benefit. Being both alert and more likely to remember the words of the ritual, plus adept at handling any tools such as candles and Athame at the beginning of the ceremony. Then, as the symbolism and contemplative side take over, your system shifts into the ideal state of mind to make the most of it – particularly if you are communing with a God, Goddess, or other Sentient Beings.
The normal Ultradian rest and healing state of mind is the alpha state, ideal for rest and rejuvenation. At its deepest it also borders on the theta state which is a positive state of mind ideal for accessing information beyond normal conscious awareness including ESP skills and being able to focus your consciousness outside the body and recall the experience. This is the aim of most Pagan rituals and attainable through this natural method rather than using other, more dangerous, methods
When you combine this with tapping into other cycles including the seasons and cosmological ones the effects can be profound, helping in both your spiritual and personal growth and connection with all of nature. As a microcosm of nature the more you develop your awareness of your own cycles, the more you will become aware of them in everyday life and in your Pagan path.
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