Hills of the Horizon: Breathing the Year

Hills of the Horizon: Breathing the Year April 29, 2017

If all the cosmos is alive, if there is a truly immanent theology, then that applies to time as much as any other phenomenon. The year is a living, breathing entity, one that shifts and shapes in consistent ways.

Beltane is coming up, that bit of the wheel of the year that is – at least in my own Craft tradition – the flipside of Samhain. The veil is thin, the energies flow. The year is like breathing, and these are the places it turns: if at Samhain we give to the dead, at Beltane the dead give back to the living. In Egyptian theology, the spirits of the ancestors are those most intimately responsible for governing how smoothly the flow of life passes back and forth between the visible realm and the unseen, that breath of the cosmos. The in-breath of Samhain, in which life flows into the invisible, turns and becomes the out-breath of Beltane, in which life flows back out from the spirit lands.

Public Domain Image via Pixabay.  CC0 License.
Public Domain Image via Pixabay. CC0 License.

A while ago, I spent a while contemplating the Egyptian celebration of the Beautiful Festival of the Western Valley, which falls at the new moon in May. (To a strong approximation; the nuances of my calendar calculations are a whole different and exceptionally boring rant.) I’m fond of describing the Beautiful Festival as a cross between Samhain and Mardi Gras: the veil is thin! The dead walk among us! Have a flower garland! Drink the good intoxicating drink! The word for “perfume” in Middle Egyptian can easily pun on the word for “engender”, and life flows, and keeps flowing, as the living and the dead are reborn in sweet flowing scent.

I’ve seen a lot of people talk about the whole “veil is thin” thing as a night, a moment, a few days at most, but I’ve never really related to that at all. It’s a season, a period, from that tipping-point of breaths, through, in my experience, to the solstices, where something more like normal settles into being, the other three-quarters of the year that aren’t in that queer twilight state, where life and death show that they’re two sides of the same coin. The fairy hunt seems to turn up a lot more often in those times, too.

I spend a lot of time thinking about what it means, that the year breathes, that I’m aware of those breaths. The world is breathing, and I am breathing with the world, the seen and the unseen realms ebb and flow like the tides. These are cycles that feel present in more than one place, in several ways of seeing, and – mystics speaking mystic and all – that feels like it carries its own significance.

So: we step into one of those twilight times. The boundaries aren’t clear, and there’s life that wants to flow out towards us. There’s danger to be had in the edges of time, the turning of the breath, the possibility of things being sorted out wrong. But drink the good intoxicating drink, and dance with the dead when they come to visit.


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