Nicola Smalley is an edge-dweller, shamanic practitioner and writer. She runs The Way of the Buzzard with her husband Jason, an earth spirituality community supporting spiritual seekers in deepening their connection so they can live with greater freedom and creativity.
With the change in bird song and the first spring flowers blooming, nature is slowly emerging from the depths of winter. New shoots are pushing through, and the snowdrops are showing their faces through the darkness of the soil. We are reminded that the light is returning once again. Yet below the frozen ground, there is much work being undertaken as life once again stirs into being.
Imbolc is the festival of awakening and marks the first day of spring. It’s time to take early steps towards your upcoming plans, breathe some life into them and bring them into being. Remember though, there is no rush. Go with nature’s pace and take your time to emerge. Allow the stirrings of excitement as you think of what seeds you want to plant. What projects can you breathe life into as the sun continues to march across the sky?
~ As the birds and animals are building their nests, look towards laying a good foundation from which to launch yourself into spring. It is time to start planning.
~ Gather nature finds that symbolise new growth. Create a mandala from these and place a white candle in the centre to welcome new beginnings into your world and hope for the coming months.
Imbolc © Nicola Smalley
Here at the Equinox, we are at a point of balance: from this moment onwards everything is going to ramp up. Spring is already well underway, with the daffodils proudly trumpeting their arrival and the first chicks having already hatched into the world.
It is time to start creating. Throw yourself into your carefully nurtured plans. What do you want to hatch this spring? What is the egg of your potential? You have three months until the height of summer and another three months until harvest is complete: six glorious months of longer days and creative energy to draw on. It’s time to tip the balance and move from planning into action. Begin to sow those seeds and seize the day, making the most of the growing hours of warmth and light.
~ Connect to your inner potential by meditating or journeying whilst holding an egg in your hands. Within this egg, there is everything that is needed for life, just as within you there is everything you need to achieve your goals. Ask for help in achieving them.
~ Observe the alchemy of nature by going on regular walks, following the same route, and observe the subtle changes day by day. Record this by taking pictures and journaling your experience.
Spring Equinox © Nicola Smalley
Having arrived here at the festival of fertility, nature is going full pelt. The birds are singing their loudest, and many of the trees have shown their leaves. The hawthorn has blossomed, an aroma of bluebell perfume fills the woods, and the ferns are beginning to unfurl. In just a few weeks a green canopy will cloak the landscape.
Right now, the earth energies are at their strongest and most active. Nature has erupted, and it is time to create, to throw yourself into all that you need to do to achieve your goals. Don’t hold back. Instead, go for it and ride the wave of the spring energies through to the Summer Solstice and beyond. It is a perfect time of year to bring ideas, hope and dreams into action.
~ Rise before dawn, wrap up warm and go hunt down a bluebell wood, taking a cushion and blanket to lie on. Listen to the dawn chorus through the morning as you stare up at the emerging tree canopy.
~ Write in your journal what your creative venture is, what completion looks like and what it feels like. Ask for support from your spirit guides and the universe to help you bring this to fruition over the coming six months to Samhain.
Beltane © Nicola Smalley
The literal translation of the Latin word solstice is ‘sun stands still’. This festival marks the point when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. The days are long, and the earth energies high. Nature is at its fullest: all the leaves on the trees are fully grown, and the animals are busy feeding their young. It is a powerful time.
As the sun rests on the horizon, make the most of the long days, soak up the sun and take time out to play. Empower yourself, recognise your strength, and draw courage from the high energies of this festival to pursue your goals.
~ Meditate or go on a shamanic journey to an animal that has great strength, such as a carnivore that sits at the top of the food chain. Feel its power within you and draw on this energy to move you forward in the coming weeks with courage and assurance.
~ Gather your friends and family around a Solstice fire or visit a sacred site such as a stone circle together. Celebrate life. Spend time drumming and singing. Consider staying up all night to welcome in the sun as the wheel turns once again towards the dark nights.
Summer Solstice © Nicola Smalley
Summer has now reached its peak, with the days at their hottest and the land often parched and dry. The first berries are ready to pick, the corn is ripening ready for harvest, and many of the flowers have been and gone leaving behind seed heads and fruit. There is a smell of autumn in the air and subtle changes in the light as the evenings draw in.
This is the festival of the first harvest and a time to take stock of where you are up to with your goals. Can you begin to see the results of your planting and cultivating? How are you progressing against the dreams you set yourself this year, and what is left to do? Celebrate your first fruits now, and then map out what you are going to do over the next three months.
~ Follow the ancient tradition of going on a pilgrimage at this time of year to a special place: either a local power spot, river, tree, wood or high point, or travel further afield to visit a stone circle or sacred well. Take time out to enjoy the experience and soak up the energies there.
~ Reflect on what you are grateful for that has happened this year and what you are proud of achieving so far, taking time to celebrate this.
Lammas (Lughnasadh) © Nicola Smalley
Once again, the day and night are of equal length and preparations for surviving the cold winter months are underway. The trees are starting to draw in, fledglings are fully grown and fending for themselves, and the swallows have left our shores. The berries are ripe, and fruit is in abundance. Nuts are falling to the floor. The harvest is being gathered.
The Equinox is a time of balance, reflection and preparation. At this moment, we sit poised ready to tip towards the long nights. It is an opportunity to take stock and celebrate what has already been achieved, with awareness that there is still much to do before the long nights draw in. This is a good time to address balance in your life, to clear out the old, reassert your boundaries and consider what actions you need to take in the coming weeks. What steps can you take to create more space for the things you value in life? What tasks do you need to complete before winter?
~ Hold a harvest party and celebrate the abundance in nature and in your life with friends: share what you are proud of achieving this year.
~ Take a walk in a woodland to see what wisdom the trees have to share about preparing for winter.
Autumn Equinox © Nicola Smalley
Samhain is translated from old Irish as ‘summer’s end’ and is the festival that marks the transition from summer to winter, the end of one year and the beginning of the next. As the trees are shedding their leaves and the last of the harvest has been brought in, this is a time of death and rebirth and clearing and cleansing to make way for the new. It is a time to choose those seeds that you are going to take through into the darkness to gestate.
In this transitional space, the veil between the worlds is thin, and the connection with the Otherworld is at its strongest. It’s the time to connect with and honour our ancestors to thank them for the gifts they have given us and acknowledge the positive attributes that have been passed down the family line.
~ Work with the energy of endings and beginnings. Reflect on the past year and all you have achieved. Decide on what your goals are going to be for the coming year.
~ Create an altar for your ancestors, decorated with yew sprigs, the tree of death and rebirth, and items that belonged to your ancestors. Light a candle in their memory and express your thanks.
Samhain © Nicola Smalley
Today the sun rests on the horizon for three days until it begins the journey back across the sky. Nature has well and truly hunkered down: the ground can be frozen, the trees are bare, and there is a stillness that spreads across the land.
This is a gentle time of rest, so make the most of this pause and find your peace here in the stillness of nature. As soon as the days get longer once again, it will be time to focus your energy once more on what you want to bring through into your life. But right now, drop into the darkness of the earth and the wisdom that is held there, creating space for the inner work to unfold its magic.
~ Turn to holly as the tree that defines winter. It’s in its full glory right now. Decorate your home with bright red and green holly sprigs and draw on this tree’s inner qualities of sanctuary and resilience during the long nights.
~ Find a spot to go and watch the Winter Solstice sunrise. As the sun first appears on the horizon, speak out something which you wish for with the return of the new growth cycle. What is your dream for the coming year now the light returns?
Winter Solstice © Nicola Smalley
My teacher is the blade of grass which grows tall in the lazy meadow, the crow which calls to me as he tracks above, the apple as it swells through the summer, the weeping willow branches as they sway in the autumn breeze. The wise out there know exactly what to say to me, and when to say it. They call, oh so quietly, beckoning me, summoning my soul to reach out and hear their telling.
The Teacher © Nicola Smalley
The dew strewn grass-tips lick around my toes. I can feel the coolness of the earth beneath my feet. Such comfort this feeling brings, anchored to this meadow as the sun kisses my skin, like tender lips that are moving slowly over the body of a lover.
The wind sings her song, bringing tales of good fortune and abundance from the West, a box of treasure hidden in the dark secret place revealed only by those who reside in the Otherworld.
Here is your bounty, which you will find by following the words of magic hidden within the wildness of the moors. Follow the whispers, hang onto the scent of the unknowable, until the call becomes so clear you can do nothing to calm it but answer and respond from your own inner depths.
A marriage of souls out in the wilds, the wonder awaits.
Box of Secrets © Nicola Smalley
It was to be a ceremony of gratitude. Earlier that day, out amongst the wildflower meadows and limestone pavements we had crafted grain mothers out of corn and braid, reflecting on what we had each achieved since the spring.
As we walked up to the Lammas fire beneath the Ash and Sycamore, we heard the first thunder roll. The wind picked up, swirling around us, and as the sun set on the horizon we each placed our grain mothers on the fire with thanks.
As we each spoke our words we were serenaded by erupting thunder clashes, and as the last person finished, the rain fell. Delicious warm rain poured in from the sky above, soaking us through. We stood there firmly in the eye of the storm laughing, drumming and singing, warmed by the flames, steaming in our transformational wet lodge with a theatre of thunder and lightning all around us. Fire and Water. As above, so below.
As it passed we settled for the night, sleeping out under the stars, piles of wet clothes abandoned beside us, cosy in our sleeping bags. It was a wild camp indeed.
The Lammas Wet Lodge © Nicola Smalley