The Pagan Experience asks;
Time – How do you measure time? How do you make use of linear time in sacred space? How do you call forth the space of timelessness in your physical life? How do you integrate the two for your magickal/spiritual work?
Time, that wonderful man made concept that rules *everything*. We live our lives according the that clock on the wall which dictates when we go to work, when that appointment is, how long we are allowed to allocate to certain tasks, experiences, events on and on and on and …arg!
I’m quite anally retentive in observing the social conventions associated with time, even though I really don’t like it. I will book an earlier train so I can get somewhere with enough time to get settled, I will arrive at work at least 15 mins before I am due to start just so I don’t feel guilty about the time it takes the computer to turn on and kettle to boil. I most certainly do not ascribe to SPT (Standard Pagan Time).
Now that’s out of my system lets look at time in my spirituality and practice.
Time and Calendars
Western society looks at time as a linear event. There is a beginning, middle and end and we can only move in one direction, forward to the future. The good Doctor would disagree with this description and would describe it as being more Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey, with cause and effect having all sorts of impacts on Time and reality. I am sadly lacking a TARDIS so time is only what I can experience it, a progression to a single destination.
On a cosmic scale the numbers and theories involved are almost meaningless so humans have broken time up in a number of different ways. Usually these are based on centuries of observation and careful calculation the movement of the sun, moon and of the stars. Different cultures have developed their own systems for observing time, each unique to their own origins and context. One thing that is consistent is that these calendars are cyclical; they travel through a progression according to observation; usually of seasonal, solar, lunar and stellar cycles. They do not end, rather they begin again. A never ending cycle, the serpent eating it’s own tail, the Ouroboros.
Whole civilisations have built calendars around theobservations of heavenly cycles. The one that immediately springs to mind is the details and farsighted Myan Calendar which uses both the movement of the sun and moon as well as the progression of stars. The Myan Calendar is the most complex calendrical system there is and leaps to mind because of the fears that the end of the 13th B’ak’tun would be the end of the world. Don’t worry if you think you missed it as it didn’t actually happen. The 144,000th day of the 13th B’ak’tun (which is the equivalent of 394 solar years ) slid past us and into the the 14th B’ak’tun with less than a ripple. Even when the 20th B’ak’tun comes to an end the first Piktun will have begun and and longer count will have begun. The long count calendar is far from run out.
Calendars and Pagans
Most civilisations use the progression of the sun on a daily and yearly basis to plan their activities from deciding what tasks will be performed during each day to knowing when to plant and harvest or tend to the beasts of the field.
Taking the definition of paganism as a nature based religion (the definition is much more layred in actuality) it is easy to see how time can fit into spiritual practice. Many pagans honour the passing of the moon cycle and/or the solar cycle, the most obvious example being the Wheel of the Year as a solar calendar linked to nature.
The “Quarter” days of the Solsices and Equinoxes are defined by the movement of the sun. They occur in conjunction with particular solar events which vary only by a few hours either way. The “Cross Quarter” events are defined by the movements of the moon and can vary in date quite widely. These celebrations mark the movements of the seasons and in the Pagan calendar have been given fixed dates to give the impress of the aesthetically pleasing eight spoked wheel.
As an aside the regular progression of the eight sabbats was established by Gerald Gardener and Ross Nichols by drawing different seasonal celebrations from different cultures together. This system is not the only calendar systems used by Pagan traditions. Systems consisting of 5, 7, 9 or even more celebrations based upon solar, seasonal and even other religious calendars are in use by individual traditions within the pagan umbrella and it is interesting to see how time is divided up throughout the year in other settings.
Time and Pagans
As spell casters we can time our rituals and spells according to the astrological associations of the day of the week or the planetary hour of the day. We might choose to perform a love spell on a Friday in the hour of Venus in order to reinforce the associations of romance and love in our work. We might also choose to perform our work whilst the moon is passing through one particular astrological house or another, or choose to act during a specific aspect of the lunar cycle for similar reasons.
Time can impact on spirituality in a number of ways. Sometimes in ritual it is easy to ‘step outside of time’ and experience a sense of dislocation in context to the construct we live our lives but. Hours seem like minuets, especially when we are divorced from time markers like the movement of the sun and moon. We become lost in the ritual and step out of time in to a ritual space which itself Timeless.
Time, Space and the Sagas
It’s impossible to talk about time without referring to space, and I’ve already spoken about ritual space but let’s open that out a bit. Space and time, as physics now knows, are tied up with each other but the same is true with spirituality and particularly mythology.
There is an excellent course running at the moment which looks into exactly this complex relationship between space and mythology (and through the history of mythology, time) within Norse mythology.
Particularly with the Icelandic Saga’s there is an movement towards understanding the various sagas in terms of their geography. There is a wonderful map of the Icelandic sagas can be found here but the same process can be applied to the creation myths of Norse mythology, creating what is known as mythography.
Synchronosity of Time
As it happened the subject of this week’s Pagan Experience dovetailed nicely into a talk I attended in the last week called “Wheels within Wheels”. Travelling to Nottingham Emperyem I watched my friend Chattering Magpie give an interactive presentation which examined the interconnectedness of the different types of calendars that are commonly used in Paganism. The talk laid out how the movements of the Sun, Moon, Planets, Stars and Seasons all interlink into a clockwork of fate which we stand at the centre of.
The talk also stirred conversations and thoughts about the nature of time and fate, particularly noting how whilst tide and time wait for no man things happen in their own time for their own purpose and there is no way for Man to hurry these things along whatever our wishes.
However time features in your praxis I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it. The original writing I intended to post was far better but an ill ‘timed’ flick of the finger deleted it all. Much anguish was had but this offering is a close approximation. If you have the opportunity to see “Wheels within Wheels” by Chattering Magpie (aka Daniel Griffin) then I highly recommend it. Daniel is a gifted speaker, well informed on his subjects. Any talk is worth seeing but this particular one is very interesting and very engaging.