The Seasonal Psychologist is a year-long series by Pagan Psychologist Betz King. Each piece corresponds to one of the 8 Pagan Sabbats, or holidays, while exploring ways to use the symbolism of the season for personal growth and in clinical practice.
I conceptualize both my personal development, and that of my clients, within the framework of our local 4-season landscape. Mostly this means a framework of trees, crops native to Michigan, and lots of plants, crops, and flowers. The Pagan path is a seasonal one, hosting 8 holidays called Sabbats. They parallel the movement of the sun across a year. Each holiday expresses a facet of the relationship between Light, Dark, and life. I use them as lenses of reflection, opportunities to contemplate the cycle of birth, growth, harvest and death that impacts all living beings.
As a Pagan psychologist, many of my clients have some form of an earth based belief system. This allows us to revisit treatment goals seasonally. The view from my office window is lush with trees. A simple glance outside provides the framework for our review; whatever the trees are doing becomes an invitation to consider the same within ourselves. The Oak Holly, whose strength peaks at Midwinter, begins to retreat with the warming temperatures and we are reminded that one season’s strength is another’s weakness.
Remember the commercial for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups? “You got your peanut butter in my chocolate!” “No, you got your chocolate in my peanut butter!” Spring Equinox, or Ostara, could easily have a similar ad – “You got your Paganism in my Christianity!” “No, you got your Christianity in my Paganism!”
Usually falling on March 20 or 21, the Spring, or Vernal Equinox is close enough to Easter for all kinds of decorations to get mixed up. Eggs hang from trees. Let that sink in. Eggs (fertility symbols) hang from trees (sacred to Pagans). Chocolate bunnies abound (nothing fertile about that)!
As Christianity became the dominate religion of the land, it is thought that Easter was strategically placed atop of Spring Equinox so as not to upset the village folk who likely worshipped a feminine life-giving Goddess. For some, this might have been the Germanic Goddess Eostre, or Ostara.
Traditionally honored in the spring, her festivals celebrated fertility and rebirth. She was often portrayed with a wild hare and a basket of eggs, strolling across the land, awakening flora and fauna alike. This is the root of our Christian word Easter, and also the word estrogen (a key component in fertility).
Whether celebrating the resurrection of Christ from the grave, or the earth from deep slumber, Spring brings us a lovely mish mash of symbols to celebrate our victory over real, or metaphoric death. For just a brief moment in time, day and night are of equal length, and then, joyfully, it’s all downhill to Summer as the day grow longer minute by minute.
Last fall, many seeds were planted in your garden of life. Some you planted with great intention, some fell accidentally onto your tilled ground. Psychologically, this is a time to watch with great curiosity while those seeds begin to peek through the earth. What are you hoping to see come spring, and what would it surprise you to see?
This month, my clients and I happily negotiate the sun shining in the window and comment on the lengthening hours of daylight. There is a collective sense of “whew, we made it.” We will talk about the psychological perennials that come up every year – hope, rebirth, growth – and we’ll discuss the annual seeds we’ve been thinking about planting – new goals and new paths to express all that has been growing inside across the dark cold months, now ready to take wobbly baby steps forward into the light.
Perhaps most importantly for therapy, we will discuss the parts of the self that – like Dumbledore’s Phoenix Fawkes – have embraced the fires of transformation and have emerged reborn. This is the process of psychotherapy; we grow, we transform, that which no longer serves us falls away, and that which is left is stronger and wiser.
This spring, when you see bunnies, painted eggs, daffodils and tulips, I invite you to take a moment to contemplate your own resurrection. You’ve successfully negotiated the dark night of the soul that Winter brings, and are born again. What transformed in those cold months of darkness? What now emerges better than ever?
Whether celebrating Ostara, Easter or the Spring Equinox, fertility abounds and you are a powerful gardener. What innocent newness will you protect and promote until the Summer Sun arrives? Happy resurrection of choice!