Transformational Turning

August 9, 2018

So many people that we speak to on our travels say how hard it is to find time to have a regular spiritual practice.

People lead such busy lives nowadays, with constant demands on their time. They find it just doesn't seem possible to be able to shift into a quiet space to connect with something deeper.

Sound familiar? If it does read on.

I totally sympathise with this, having come from a life of a busy corporate job and very little free time for myself. It is as if our World is set up to distract us away from doing the things which really matter to us. It seems as though it is designed to keep us away from those things which we know will be really good for us.

So how do you find the time for a spiritual practice?

Well I can share my experience of the approach I took, following what felt right deep inside. Without discovering this I wonder where I might be now, as it led me to a very different life?

a message from pan

Let me begin by sharing a dream I had last week that has inspired me to write this blog today.

Pan came to me. Well through me actually.

Pan is a Greek god. He is also an embodiment of one of our most well known ancient gods of our land, the Green Man or Herne the Hunter. Herne is the Earth god, the overseer, and the energy behind making everything grow.

In my dream he jumped right into me and his words came out of my mouth.

​Pan reminded me of the transformational energies of nature. He reminded me that when I have aligned working on the inner alongside the transformational outer energies, great things have happened in my life.

​the inner and the outer

When I say 'inner', I am talking about the changes I have needed to make within myself in order to be different in the world, and enjoy a different life.

When I say 'transformational outer energies' I mean the changes which are happening in nature as we move through the year.

It is impossible not to notice them, as they have such an impact on us and how we live our lives.

So, if we are struggling to find time for a spiritual practice, why not align ourselves with what is going on outside our windows. It is a great place to start and super easy to fit in to a busy life. Let me explain.

This is likely to be a bit of a refresher for many of our blog readers, but I will go back to the beginning. If you are already familiar with the Sabbats then do feel free to skip on to the next heading further down in this blog, otherwise read on.

The Sabbats and the Wheel of the Year

One of the many things I love about aligning with nature cycles is that every six weeks there is a new energy, a new focus, and a new celebration.

I came to this by visiting a bookshop around ten years ago. I was on a hen weekend and was killing time before my friends arrived one Saturday afternoon in Keswick. I wandered in and was browsing the Mind Body Spirit section when I was drawn to a thick book. It was about working with the Wheel of the Year.​

It was divided into eight sections and included the Celtic name of each celebration, what the energy was about at that time of year and ideas on how to celebrate it. I was hooked from that point on.

I loved the idea of dividing the year up into eight chunks, and following the seasons. I also loved that there was an ancient festival attached to each one, as by that time I had already figured out that the Christian festivals of Christmas and Easter overlaid something far older and of this land.

Now no matter how busy life gets, and how distracted people are with their lives, there are always comments about it being the longest day of the year, or the shortest. Both days usually make a mention in the news. We find ourselves waiting for those points whether we are on an Earth spirituality path or not.

To create a Wheel, first draw a line between the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice, and the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice. Then draw a second line at right angles. These two points form the Autumn Equinox and Spring Equinox, and they are half way between the two, dividing the year up into perfect quarters.

​To get the other four festivals, you draw an X over the centre point.

These create what are known as the Celtic Fire Festivals of Imbolc (which is in-between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox), Beltane (which is in-between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice), Lughnasadh (which is​ in-between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox) and Samhain (which is between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice).

​When we overlay the two crosses, we have our Wheel of the Year, with all the Celtic Festivals, or Sabbats.

Working with the Wheel

In our Western culture our holidays are already based around key points in the wheel. Christmas is where we celebrate the birth of the son of God, or the rebirth of the sun in the horizon and the long nights start to draw to a close. Easter is a holiday marked by the first full moon after the Equinox. We have May Day which is our Beltane, and we have Halloween which is our Samhain.

I won’t go into too much detail here about all of these ancient festivals, as there is far too much to cover for one blog and take in.

What I would like to do here is highlight how I work with them each year, through the year.

​Working with the Wheel really takes no time at all, for all the benefits it gives you.

Firstly, I love that connecting in with each festival gives structure to my year, as every six weeks there is a focal point to draw my attention to, reminding me to take a few moments away from my normal day-to-day life.

Secondly each Sabbat has a different energy. In the depths of winter at the point of the Solstice we are reminded to be still, which is always welcome as it is often our ​busiest time of year with all the Christmas goings on. At Beltane, as the trees are coming into leaf and everything is greening up, we find ourselves amongst the energies of growth and abundance. As these energies are rife in nature it is perfect to draw on them for our own inner transformation.

Thirdly, I can’t help but join in with what is going on in nature around me. So many of us want to learn how to connect in deeply with nature and this is the perfect way, by aligning our own cycle with natures cycle.

​Summer Solstice in Anglezarke

Fourthly, it helps me notice the tiny changes which are happening all around me. I don't need a calendar to notice that someone has switched the lights on and the days are suddenly getting longer at Imbolc, or that I can smell Autumn in the air at Lughnasadh.

If I listen carefully I can hear the Great Tits​ change their song just a few days after the Winter Solstice, and I always love looking out for the first daffodils trumpeting the oncoming of the Spring Equinox.

The fifth and final reason to touch in on here is that celebrating the sabbats is something I can do with others, and and not just my spiritually inclined friends.

You too will most likely be able to find someone who isn’t on any kind of spiritual path who will like the idea of sitting out with you on the longest night of the year.

Or maybe going for a picnic to some bluebell woods to celebrate Beltane. People are interested in this kind of thing, and it is a route in to help include your less spiritually ​inclined friends and family members into this aspect of your life.

Transformation Within

Let me give you a little example of how working with the Wheel of the Year has helped me make big changes to my life.

Five ago Jason and I decided to switch to the Paleo diet. This is based on the diet our very distinct ancestors would have had when they were hunter-gatherers. It is quite an undertaking as you are saying goodbye to convenience food, including all grains, legumes, pulses and sugars.

In the past I have tried new year's resolutions, Spring intensive detoxes, and various specialised diet clubs including Weight Watchers. None have worked for me, and so we decided to approach the Paleo diet through the Wheel of the Year.

Rather than have a blanket cut off date, we spent the six weeks between the Autumn Equinox and Samhain trying out new recipes. During this time we looked at our current eating patterns to seeing what we were doing and what changes we needed to make.

This made sense with the energies of that time of year as the Autumn Equinox is about balance being of equal day and night. It is also about harvest and making preparations to gather what you need for winter and discard the rest back to the land.

​Samhain Mandala

At Samhain, this is the marker for the completion of one year and the beginning of the next. It is a great time for setting the intention to make big changes. The big one for me was to begin to eat meat again.

It is very hard to do the Paleo diet without eating meat and I had been a vegetarian for seven years. I wasn’t against meat in the diet, but I am against poor animal welfare. So I made the decision to switch back to eating meat, but only meat which was outdoor bred.

At Samhain I created a little ceremony to this effect, and cooked a steak bought from our local farm to mark the transition.

Once we moved into the dark nights, from Samhain to the Winter Solstice we continued to work in educating ourselves with going Paleo.

​Winter Solstice Mandala

We found that this was a great time to do this because life is generally quieter in the winter, as the pace slows down.

We increased the good foods and decreased the amount of grains we ate.

So this went on, through to the Spring and Summer.

There were ups and downs, as there are with any significant change you look to make in your life. In fact, the process to go fully Paleo took several years, continuously working with the seasons, stopping and starting as old habits are hard to change.

It caused me to look at patterns which were driving me to crave convenience food, such as stress or working long hours. I worked on these as the realisations arose.

I remember I did an Autumn Equinox ceremony the following year to call in simplicity into my life. That worked, as the following year I had given up all the work that was causing me so much anxiety.

​Summer at Arbor Low Stone Circle

The Autumn Equinox after that I called in fun and adventure into my life and two days later a horse, Curnel, came to me as my new pal, which again was transformational.

So it went on. It all led to me ultimately cracking the Paleo diet over four years to the place I am in now, three stone lighter and as strong and fit as I have ever been.

I am not sure what I am going to ask for during this Autumn Equinox, but given my success record I think I might aim high!

Celebration and Ceremony

How would it have been without working with the Wheel? I honesty don’t know how I would have done it.

The wheel gives me a sensible timescale to work with, to ease through the transformational changes at a slow rate, at nature’s ​pace, and to revisit it year upon year upon year.

For over ten years now, no matter how busy I am, I always take a moment when it is a Celtic Sabbat festival and do a little something.

Sometimes it is a big something, like a big ceremony with a hundred people at the Monastery in Manchester or a smaller gathering in our local woods at Beltane. Other times it is a small moment on my own, or with Jason.

​Imbolc at The Monastery, Manchester

​Maypole Dancing at Beltane

​Lughnasadh mandala

This Lughnasadh it was a chat with Jason on the sofa about what we have achieved so far this year and what we can celebrate from our plans we set out to achieve since last Samhain.

Taking stock at that moment was a real boost. I have found this to be the case too at this month's set of Shamanic Journey and Drum Circles.

People have shared all kinds of achievements, from building a shed, to keeping a kefir culture alive, through to improved relationships with family and taking days off completely for themselves.

Future Plans

We always align our Circles with the energies of the time of year and we often run free Sabbat ceremonies in the northwest.

​We have be​come aware that folk want more. Not everyone can get to our events easily as we are northwest based. Also there is a lot to be said for working with the energies on a individual basis too, wherever you are in your personal journey.

So, over the last few years Jason and I have been working on an idea to bring something to everyone, to help everyone ​align their lives with the Wheel of the Year, just as I have.

The exciting news is that we are just a few weeks away from making and announcement about this. So if any of this speaks to you keep an eye on your inbox and we will be in touch, and if you aren’t already on our mailing list you can sign up by clicking ​below.

About the Author


Nicola Smalley is an edge-dweller, shamanic practitioner and writer living in Anglezarke on the edge of the West Pennine Moors in Lancashire, England.
Following a career in corporate sustainability, she now runs The Way of the Buzzard with her husband Jason. Her passion is anything connected to nature and the mysteries of the Earth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Thank you Nicola, it was very interesting to read about your journey and connection with the Wheel of the Year. I too either mark or celebrate each turn, even if its just lighting a candle or leaving an offering.
    I am really looking forward to meeting you both at the drum birthing in October. Its like I am already connected to my drum in some way.
    Blessings to you both.

    1. Lovely Gina, it is such a super thing to do isn’t it. Really looking forward to meeting you in October too. It will be a really special day bringing your drum into the World together 🙂

  2. Your words always inspire me, Nicola. I have read this just at the right time, having slipped precariously off my path but am finding my way back with self love and forgiveness and always the chance to begin again. I also find each festival such a blessing and the golden Lammas energy has had a deep effect on me this year.
    Looking forward to hearing what your and Jason’s next plans are!
    Much love to you both X

    1. Oh really good to hear this has been helpful Laura. It is so easy to slip as you say, but each time there is a lesson there for us on what we need to do to right ourselves. I remember our time at Lammas together up at Arbor Low. Ah, good times 🙂 x

  3. I always enjoy reading everything you write Nicola as well as being part of events you plan and facilitate with such care and thoughtfulness.
    You and Jason are an awesome couple complimenting and encouraging each other and sharing your knowledge in a genuine natural way.
    I’m sure your new plans will be inspirational for us all and I am intrigued to know what it will be.
    Thank you for sharing,
    Love and blessings.

      1. I’ve been eating a mainly Paleo way since Space to Emerge.
        I’ve read up on the web sites that Jason told me about too ?
        I am purely doing it because it fascinates me . I just created with the meat, fish, nuts, fruit and veg and am really enjoying my meals.
        I’m feeling much healthier for eating this way and. I haven’t found it difficult it’s more rather creative and fun.
        Thank you for introducing me to it. I had never heard about it before I learned from you both.
        Nanight. ???

  4. Your blog is indeed timely Nicola. I too am trying to readdress my eating habits and am moving towards removing certain foods from my diet in the hope that it will bring more energy and less baggage to carry with me. I’ve also been looking for a “framework” that will support my increasing desire to follow a more spiritual path. I like the thought of a 6 weekly review of where I am and a ceremony of gratitude for what was and what is to come
    Thank you
    Love and light ??

    1. Super to hear this was timely Rhona and that you have been looking for a ‘framework; as you say. I have found the Wheel to be perfect for this. Looking forward to sharing more with you soon 🙂

  5. Hi Nicola,
    So much of what you have written resonates with me. Firstly, I have always had a fascination with the Green Man, then a few years ago, I was mediating and found myself in a handfasting ceremony with Herne the Hunter. Since then he pops up quite a bit. Particularly at your Green Man alter, at Space to Emerge. During another meditation we were walking through woodlands and meadows that had been burnt. As we touched the tree bark, and the ground, new growth sprang to life. He is a fun loving and mischievous character. I was in an antique shop recently, and was looking at a picture on the wall, as I glanced up, there was a picture of a man dressed up as Herne. It made me smile.
    I have now found myself at a cross roads. I gave notice on my job of nearly 14 years, as it no longer works for me, and I am moving back to Lincolnshire from the Midlands. I miss the open spaces of the countryside. So, I now have no job or home, and feel quite calm about it. My birthday is 23rd September, so I have always felt connected to the Equinox. So, this year will be a good time to take stock, and start my new pathway. Can you recommend any books that show the Wheel of the Year?
    Love and Blessings to you both.

  6. What a great blog thank you for writing this. I have always been drawn to the wheel but felt a bit unsure of how to use it within my life. I love your perspective on using it to break down the year and taking permission from this to slow down and notice. I’m definitely going to start using it this way for self reflection and gratitude of our beautiful earth and seasons

  7. I love the way you have connected every day life and achieving our aspirations to the celebrations on the wheel and how we can link this with nature.
    Thankyou for enriching our lives with these blessings in nature. X

  8. Hi Nicola
    Thank you for sharing your journey. I attend the Sabbat ceremonies at the stone circle on Birkrigg and reading this has inspired me to do more and to look more closely at what is going on in my life, and when, with a view to connecting more and recognising changes that I can make, especially around work life balance.
    Is this the book that you found in Keswick – Glennie Kindreds Sacred Earth Celebrations is essential reading!
    Much love and blessings
    Fuj xx 🙂

    1. Hi Fuj, ah yes Glennie book is essential reading! A MUST for everyones bookshelf. It isn’t the one I found in the bookshop in Keswick, … I came across Glennie’s book a little later and Jason and I use it all the time now 🙂

  9. Thanks so much for this Nicola… very timely ? as away from home – England on holiday in California…and much as enjoying it have been feeling disconnected. In fact, reading this away from everyone – in the shade & loving creating this sacred time & space.
    Much love & appreciation,
    Yvonne xx

  10. Wow Nicola thank you for sharing your wisdom and insights, I love your blogs, and love the idea of aligning personally with the seasons rather than a calendar on the wall depicting life daily as a number only.
    Thank you and many blessings ?

  11. A great read Nicola, I have always been connected to the wheel partly due to my upbringing and the fact I have always been rurally connected. Downloading your wheel recently, made me realise it is a structure and I’m not alone. Of course I know that religion and it’s culture had recreated ancient rights but your story has inspired me to respect my natural/inner instinct to follow the wheel’s path and not the modern/religious interpretation of it.
    I am thinking about my hobbies and interests as well as my lifestyle and future plans and they all connect to me being a citizen of Earth, following its path of Moon and Sun, 6 weekly changes, ebbs and flows. Thank you for sharing your story ?

  12. Very many thanks for sharing your story which in many ways reflected my own.

    I love the simplicity in your description of the wheel of the year, which is in my own way what I follow for the last couple of decades.

    I was very interested to read about the paleo diet. When I researched it surprise, surprise i already eat this way for about 10 years or so! Great ?

    Looks like you live in a beautiful part of the country. I don’t know how you arrived on my inbox…. but I give thanks to the wise ones that you did.

    Blessed be to you and your loved ones ?

    1. Thank you Sue, I am so pleased we landed with you in your inbox and you enjoyed our blog. Really interesting you have found your way naturally with both the wheel and the paleo diet.

  13. It is great to hear from someone on a similar path to my own.
    I had to give up many things including everything except a rucksack and young child holding my hand at one point. I learned that my ignoring my gifts was detremental for my life the hard way and at half a century old I realised that my running a gardening project as a volunteer was my happy place.
    I gave up the mortgage, 2 cars and societies expectations and judgement on life's needs and devoted my life to helping others "less fortunate" only to see I was less fortunate for different reasons.I researched and met people who explained my shamanic journey and it's reasons and thus my purpose to work with nature and help others in the process. I am not financially fluent and often live hand to mouth but I am much happier than all the money in the world can supply.
    I also would like to say that alongside of the wheel and books and guides you need to follow that little voice inside your head no matter how crazy it may seem for that is your guidance and refusing it will lead to no good.
    I felt the need to pass you this message personally and hope you know for what reason that you are receiving this as I don't know why.
    May your endeavours be fruitful and bring you love and happiness. 🤗
    My drum , plants, flowing water and candles are my aids but just being in nature to celebrate each day with milestones are all that is needed.
    I celebrated on the sunrise of the 1st August (Lammas) on top of the Tor in Glastonbury with friends this year which was incredible and suggest it is worth the journey to anyone🕯️

    1. It is great to read your note here, thank you 🙂 And yes, you are absolutely bob on – listening to that voice within, no matter how crazy it sounds is crucial. Your Lammas celebrations sound fabulous too 🙂

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Would you like us to keep in touch with you?

If you enter your details in the box we'll be able to update you with our event news, courses and more.