In this article, Yoga teacher and sacred jewelry creator India Terry shares the connection between the Earth’s natural cycles and mala beads. Terry says that malas are actually wonderful tools to focus the mind and to connect us with the energies of these cycles.
We all witness the movement of the year as holidays come and go. Whether you celebrate them or not, it can be hard searching for the true meaning in holidays when many of them have been overshadowed with consumerism. However, many of these holidays that we celebrate are actually connected very deeply to the Earth’s natural calendar.
Many of the holidays we celebrate now, have original ties to the solar calendar, for example: Ostara (or the Spring Equinox) usually celebrated around the 20th March, honours the fertility of the Earth and re-birth of nature. With symbols such as the hare and egg (remind anyone of the easter bunny?) Easter and Ostara are very similar holidays even in their meanings, the resurrection of Christ symbolising re-birth also. The name Easter even first came from the celebrations of Ostara (or even deeper, the Germanic goddess Eostre) which also then came the naming of the hormone essential for fertility: Oestrogen.
The Wheel of the Year is another name for this solar calendar, mapping out Solstices (the greatest distance away the sun will be from the equator during Earth’s orbit around it), Equinoxes (the suns closest distance to the Equator), and the mid-points between them. The term ‘Wheel of the Year’ and many of the named Sabbats (a grouping term for the 8 holidays) was only really coined in the 1960’s with Gerald Gardner’s creation of Wicca, or modern Paganism. However people on Earth have been celebrating these times in the year for centuries: the Anglo-Saxons and the Celts both used the solar calendar to plan when they would sow, harvest, and store food. The Solstices and Equinoxes were celebrations to mark the start of these seasons.
We may wonder, in a world where we buy most of our groceries, and do not need to plan for winter survival, why we would want to follow the Wheel of the Year, or what benefit it could have for us? And like many other things we may wonder: the answer is often in the question. We have developed a large disconnect between ourselves and the natural world. We can refresh ourselves from city life by taking a walk amongst the trees, but do we really see and connect to the turn of the seasons as clearly as our ancestors once did?
Let’s simplify this. The Wheel can also be dissected into 4 key times: The time of Darkness, the time of Dawning, the time of Light, and the time of Harvest. Originally these were markers simply for crops and weather, but our ancestors knew of the deeper connection between the Earth’s cycles and ours. As we move through these seasons, we often see our moods and emotions changing with them. Many of us feeling lower during the time of Darkness, hopeful during the time of Dawning, happy through the Light, and grateful in the Harvest. But like many representations of the wheel (e.g. Mayan or Native American medicine wheel) these can also be applied to cycles we go through in ourselves; through any period of time.
Maybe you find yourself going through this solar cycle in a day, or even during an argument. The Wheel of the year is a great reminder of the cycle of life and death we go through in our lives, and in each moment. Not only does acknowledging the cyclical movement of all things, bring us peace in moments of distress, or even humility in moments of ecstasy. We can also look a little deeper now into how we can work with the energy of each Sabbat in the Wheel for a sense of presence and connection. Each Sabbat has its own meaning for the Earth, and as beings of the Earth: we can directly relate that back to ourselves. Just like tapping into how we are feeling on full/new moons, we can also do the same around these times. Although the meaning of each of these Sabbats cannot be explained fully in a short article, I created three-word intentions for each of them:
Yule: Purification – Meditation – Wisdom
Imbolc: Clearing – Dreaming – Trustin
Ostara: Rebirth – Harmony – Joy
Beltane: Vitality – Balance – Love
Litha: Power – Courage – Celebration
Lughnasadh (or Lammas): Grounding – Abundance – Protection
Mabon: Enthusiasm – Gratitude – Bliss
Samhain: Transition – Support – Clairvoyance
As a Yoga teacher and student, I enjoy using mala beads (a string of beads used to keep count of mantras) in my meditation practice. Whilst moving through my own journey in an Earth-based spirituality, I decided to channel mala beads to capture the energy of these sabbats and how they relate to us. So, I created a line of mala beads I call “Enchanted Malas,” which contain semi-precious stones with properties in relation, or in support of each Sabbat’s meaning. For example, our mala “Lughnasadh” contains Jasper because this stone holds grounding properties. A mala is a great tool to use around these holidays, as it helps to focus the otherwise busy mind so we can take a closer look at how we may truly be relating to the Earth’s calendar.
Similarly to how we looked at our everyday containing cycles, we do not have to be confined to working with the Wheel annually. We can also apply their meanings to stages we are at in the bigger picture of our life, or small view of a life event. For example, we may choose to work with the energy of Samhain (the start of the time of darkness, and energetic end of a year) during the loss of a loved one. A Samhain mala would be a great tool to tap into the energies of this time when the Earth is otherwise somewhere else.
Whether you are looking to deepen your connection to the solar calendar, or to understand the cycle of our own “inner wheel,” our mala beads are wonderful tools to focus the mind, and connect us to these energies.
About the Author:
India Terry is a Mystical Yoga Teacher, Faerie-Folk Musician and Sacred Jewellery creator. Inspired by alternative and Earth-based spirituality, India connects with the ancient ways of being through her weavings. If you’d like to learn more about working with the energy of the eight sabbats in your Yoga/meditation practice, or her Wheel of the Year mala beads, feel free to check out her website: www.enchantedmalas.com. You can also connect with her via: Instagram @enchantedmalas and Facebook: https://facebook.com/enchantedmalas