The Wheel of the Year is constantly turning. Each day rolls into the next and before you know it, it is a new season. The changing of the seasons or the turning of the wheel may be more noticeable at certain times of the year, depending on where you live. The seasons are not the only things that can change with the turning of the wheel. I have found that there are deities who seem to ride the Wheel, coming into my lives at certain times and then slowly fading out.
Many of us are familiar with the idea that our spirit guides, teachers or allies can be with us for life or they may appear just to help you with certain things or to navigate a specific challenge. Once you have made it through that situation, they move on. You may find them again if you go through a similar situation or you may end up with a new guide for your new adventure.
I was surprised to learn that some deities work this way. I call them my seasonal deities.
Meeting the Bona Dea
When I first started my Pagan journey I got involved in a Wiccan church. I started attending rituals with them, going to their workshops and eventually taking their degree classes. Degree classes are common in Wicca and other initiation-based mystery schools. Essentially you prove to yourself and your teachers that you are serious about your religious practice and ready to put in the commitment to learn through a series of long-term classes. In Wicca it is common to see three degree classes, each one lasting about a year. These are for people interested in going deeper into their religion and spirituality. And if anyone feels the calling of the priesthood, they typically begin their studies with the degree classes.
I was in my second degree class when I met my first seasonal deity. For the class, we were supposed to choose or find a goddess to work with for the duration of the class. We were supposed to build a relationship with Her and learn from Her. I spent most of my early life being obsessed with Ancient Egypt and thought I knew enough about the major Egyptian deities. I did not want to “take the easy route” and choose an Egyptian goddess. I decided to find a goddess I was curious about but one there was not a lot of information on. That was my ego teaching me a lesson.
Instead of trying to meditate, or connect with Spirit and see who came to me, I picked the Bona Dea to work with. Maybe she did come to me, I honestly don’t remember. But she did not come to me the same life changing way Sekhmet came to me. I was an inexperienced baby Pagan, so it’s possible that she did come to visit me, and I took her visit as an invitation to work her into my personal pantheon of deities. Regardless, I set my heart and mind on Bona Dea and set off to learn her lessons.
Bona Dea simply means “good goddess” and like many deities I know and love, is just a title for the goddess. And like some of the other deities who are recognized by their titles, their true names have been lost to us (think of the Norse Freya or Egyptian Nephthys – their names mean Lady). Bona Dea is a Roman goddess associated with chastity and fertility, women, healing and the protection of the state and people of Rome. Bona Dea’s cult allowed women to use strong wine and make blood-sacrifices, things forbidden to them by Roman tradition. Men were barred from some of her mysteries but allowed to attend some major public festivals. Since male authors had limited knowledge of her rites and attributes, speculations about her identity have thrived. Some believe she was an aspect of Terra, Ops, Cybele, or Ceres, or a Latin form of a Greek goddess, “Damia” (perhaps Demeter). Most often, she was identified as the wife, sister, or daughter of the god Faunus, making her an equivalent or aspect of the fertility nature-goddess Fauna, who could prophesy the fates of women. It was through her aspect of Fauna that I connected with the goddess the most.
Things were going about as well as you can expect with a baby Pagan given free reign to make friends with a deity. That is until the seasons changed and autumn arrived. It took me some time to realize that the Bona Dea was not around as much as she had been. But I eventually realized that my tenuous connection to her was gone, and I was not getting anything from her. I eventually talked to my teacher and some of the others in the church and learned that the Bona Dea may be a seasonal goddess, at least for me. Feeling her was easy when it was sunny and green out. But as an aspect of nature’s fertility, she was difficult to connect with during the fall and winter. Perhaps for the Roman women of the time, the Bona Dea was a constant source of empowerment and healing. However, for me, she was more of the personification of spring and summer.
Although I do not work with the Bona Dea, she still has a place in my heart. She was my first and for that I will always think fondly of her. Even now, writing this, I feel as if I have pulled her closer to me once again. She instills a sense of peace and calm in me, offering a quiet place to think and heal. I still see and feel her in the spring when everything begins to bloom or anytime I see a picture of the Aventine Hill in Rome where her temple used to be. Years after my first exploration of the Bona Dea I was given a magickal name by another of my gods. That is a long story for a different post but one of the interesting things about the name I was given is that it has ties back to the Bona Dea. She may be seasonal but there is always a piece of the Bona Dea with me.
Years after meeting the Bona Dea for a class assignment, I find myself clergy and co-founder of a Wiccan church, leading rituals and teaching workshops and classes. One autumn, my husband (who is the other founder and clergy of our church and my priest) and I are trying to put together a new ritual. He comes up with this very pretty and immersive ritual for people to meet Hekate. But Hekate was not a goddess I had ever worked with. She didn’t know me. So I immediately got to work on making friends with Hekate. I wasn’t trying to build a lasting relationship necessarily, but I wanted us to be on good terms for this ritual. I was greatly surprised during that ritual by how easy and natural my connection to Hekate was. Here I was aspecting a goddess who I had not spent a lot of time with, and doing it successfully.
I know a lot of people who work with Hekate. I know people who work only with Hekate. She is not a seasonal goddess for them. She is for me, and that is one of the beauties of our relationships with the gods. Each of us has a unique relationship with our deities and they can serve different roles in different peoples’ lives.
Hekate typically only shows up in my life during the fall and around Samhain. This is the time of year that I first met her and I don’t know if that has anything to do with it or not. I suspect she typically shows up in October because we work well together at Samhain. I do not often seek her out at other times of the year, and she has not yet reached out to me for anything else either. We seem to have this seasonal, Samhain agreement. Hekate will be a part of our Samhain ritual again this year. Once it is over, I image she will recede into the mists again, but you never know with the gods.
I have one other seasonal deity who blurs the lines between showing up at certain times of the year and showing up when certain conditions are met. Baron Samedi is another death deity that I work with (I have a whole collection) and one who likes to exert his influence around Samhain. He has made many appearances in my dreams over the years and often pops into a good party or ritual gathering.
Baron Samedi is a LWA, a Vodou spirit who oversees a whole family spirits known as the gede – spirits who represent the powers of fertility and death in Haitian Vodou. I am curious about Vodou and respect it, but I do not practice it and do not work with any of the other LWA. I have no idea why Baron Samedi shows up in my life, but every now and then he does. And I love him.
It is not uncommon for him to reappear in the fall, close to Samhain and All Souls Day. Being the foremost of the spirits of the dead, it seems natural for the Baron to walk the earth more when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest. But aside from Samhain, the Baron’s presence in my life is more sporadic. Occasionally I get weird cravings to drink coffee and smoke a cigar. When I do, I know it’s Baron Samedi. Eventually I will find myself on my patio with a giant cup of coffee and a cigar. Mind you, I don’t smoke tobacco so sometimes smoking that cigar is a real sacrifice for me. The times that I smoke a cigar and it doesn’t bother me are the times I know Baron is really close.
But sometimes Baron shows up in the spring or summer and I have no idea why. He may like to visit but he is one of the most cryptic deities I know. Generally, Baron Samedi isn’t forthcoming about his plans and does what he wants. I have noticed that the Baron is more likely to appear when there are multiple Pagans around who are receptive to hearing or seeing the gods. He is a showoff and knows when he has a good audience. I think he is also more likely to show up if some of those Pagans are ones who work with the darker side of ourselves. I don’t mean just shadow work, but Pagans who may claim the title of shadow worker, death worker, death doula or those who truly embrace the mystery and occultism of transformation. If there are enough of those people in a group, the Baron is likely to pop in and say hi to those who accept him and his work.
Like the Bona Dea and Hekate, Baron Samedi is not a seasonal deity for everyone. We each work with the gods in ways that make sense to us and fit in our lifestyles. Truly my deity table is full, and I don’t know that I have room for more full-time, regular deities. Perhaps that is why these three only show up at certain times of the year. You may find that on your path you encounter deities or other spirits who pop in for a season and then leave. If you find yourself with seasonal or situation specific deities, don’t worry like I did. Eventually it will all make sense and you’ll figure out your relationship with that being. Just appreciate that they came into your life to help and guide you, and be sure to thank them as your time with them ends. Even if you don’t find yourself working with them again, you can always be grateful for the time they gave you. It is, after all, the season of thanksgiving.