Flowing With the Seasons

September 10, 2021

I have come up to my favourite stone circle to write this blog today.

Many of you will have been here with us as we regularly ran full moon and Wheel of the Year celebrations here before the pandemic, much like we now do online.

Arbor Low is a special place for me. This stone circle was one of my go-to places during a major transitional phase of my life that began just over ten years ago. At that shaky time, one world was falling away, but the next one hadn’t yet emerged. I was in what Charles Eisenstein calls ‘the space in-between stories’. I found comfort when I came and spent time here during those years.


One of the reasons I love this place is because the outlook is incredible. You can see probably for as many as twenty miles in several directions. I have watched countless sunsets here and a few sunrises too. I have seen an electrical storm journey past way over on the horizon and rainbows and sundogs in the sky. I have been here in the dark, with rain lashing down, and in the glorious sunshine. I have held ceremonies here, from solo ceremonies just for me right through to large gatherings of over one hundred people with Jason. I have been up here to celebrate the Summer Solstice, the Winter Solstice and many full moons. I have slept up here, picnicked up here, drummed, and journeyed.

Today I am up here alone, the sun is shining, and I have my comfy chair and drum. I am planning to be here for some time. It's a great writing spot for me as it's almost always very quiet. Although Arbor Low is a big stone circle, the stones have been knocked over and are lying flat on the ground, and so it's less popular than some of the other stone circles in the Peak District.

As with other circles across Britain, some of these stones align with the rising and setting sun at certain points of the year. I love to think of people amassing here thousands of years ago, attending celebrations and ceremonies as the seasons went by.

Wheel discoveries

Along with the Arbor Low stone circle, the Wheel of the Year also has a special place in my heart, as it was my route into the Earth spirituality path. The Wheel of the Year is an old calendar followed by our distant ancestors. Our Celtic forbears worked with the Wheel, and it is likely to predate them by several thousand years. There are eight festivals, which align with the movement of the sun on the horizon, and land roughly six to seven weeks apart.

Coming from an Evangelical Christian upbringing, after I left that faith I started to question the festivals that we celebrated in the Christian calendar. I knew that some of them aligned with particular stages in nature’s cycles, such as the Winter Solstice, Christmas, Easter and the Spring Equinox. I wondered why this was.

One day, my question was answered when I was in a book shop, not too far from here, in Buxton. The book was about how the Christian calendar overlay something far more ancient: the Wheel of the Year. For some reason, I chose not to buy the book that day. I thumbed through the pages in the book shop with interest, but procrastination got the better of me, and I put the book down. It wasn’t for perhaps another year until I came across a similar one, this time on a hen party in Keswick, Cumbria as I waited for the other hens to arrive.

I bought the book that day and decided to start to celebrate the festivals myself. I followed the author's instructions, decorating my home with nature finds and carrying out the rituals, much to the bemusement of my then-husband. I even organised meals and invited my friends. They talked with me with interest about the Wheel, asking me questions, which I did my best to answer. They didn’t ‘get it’ though, not as I did. They just enjoyed the excuse to gather and eat food!

Several full turns of the Wheel went by, and I marked each festival in some way. The energies of the Solstices and Equinoxes were easy to understand. Some of the cross-quarter festivals like Beltane at the start of May were too. Other festivals took a little longer to understand fully, but I celebrated them nonetheless.

I loved the process, but I wanted to share the experience with people who felt the same way I did about it. As I started to consider how I might find a group I could walk the Wheel with, an email popped into my inbox. It was for a year-long shamanic medicine wheel. A group of six participants and the facilitator were to come together for the weekend at the time of each of the festivals. It was being run in the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire, and so quite local to me. It sounded perfect. I made contact with the organiser, Jayne Johnson, and enquired about coming along. There was one place left, and so I booked on. That course changed my life, but that is a story for another time.

The Wheel as a spiritual practice

So, I get very sentimental about the Wheel of the Year. Since going on the shamanic medicine wheel course almost ten years ago, not a single festival has gone by that I haven’t acknowledged and marked in some way. Often Jason and I hold a big celebration which we offer out free for anyone to come along. These used to be in physical locations, like here at Arbor Low, but they have been online for the past eighteen months.

As well as the community events, Jason and I also do something privately too, just for us. Sometimes this is a day out somewhere local in the northwest of England, and sometimes it's a holiday where we go further afield. Other times it is a shamanic journey at home. Occasionally we are so busy we don’t manage to schedule in time. That in itself teaches us something. It usually happens around one of the Equinoxes, the time of balance, teaching us the need for more balance in our lives!

The Wheel allows me to reflect on where I am up to, look ahead, and set goals for the period ahead, whether the next six weeks, three months, or the entire year. The Wheel's turning gives me a flag that I need to journey to my spirit guides if I haven’t done that for a while.

It also helps me keep an eye on what is happening in nature. I notice each year whether spring is late or early when I get to Beltane, depending on which trees are in leaf. I notice how quickly autumn is on its way at Lammas at the beginning of August. This year it felt about ten days later, although now it has caught up. I can orientate myself around the Wheel, so I know where I am.

Before I was conscious of it, I thought winter was just three long months of darkness. Now I treasure each phase of our coldest season. I observe the rapidness of the nights drawing in from Samhain at the end of October through to the Winter Solstice. I cherish the long evenings by the fire, knowing they will carry on for several months.

Then, at the Winter Solstice, I celebrate that the days will once again get longer. I listen out for the change in the song of the Great tit, which is the first bird I hear that changes its tune with the light. At Imbolc, I know that spring is here and revel in seeing the snowdrops push their noses up through the soil. Their tiny white flowers are amongst the first flowers to bloom, showing me that the light has well and truly returned. So, although it gets colder after Imbolc, and we often get snow and hard frosts, spring has begun for me. I can imagine all the activity going on beneath the soil as life awakens one again.


Another benefit I get from the Wheel is that following it enables me to align my life with the natural flow of nature. As nature slows down in the cold months, this somehow gives me permission to take the pressure off doing so much in the winter. If nature has stilled, then so can I. As spring emerges at Imbolc, I begin to stir myself into action, ready to throw myself into things from Beltane onwards right through to the harvest season.

This is counter what was expected from me when I worked in the corporations. Working in a professional job, there was the expectation that a person would perform consistently right the way around the year. I wouldn’t have been permitted to do less work in the winter than in the summer like nature does. That is why I was always susceptible to hard-hitting winter colds when I worked in a mainstream job.

Culturally we are expected to do the exact opposite when the rest of nature is still and resting. At Christmas, everything ramped up, so deadlines had to be met before the Christmas break, as well as parties and work-dos to attend. Back then, as I was busy expending my energy, nature was sleeping. Now, I sleep along with nature. The Solstice is a rest period for me, and I hope always to be able to keep it that way.

Now I manage my workflow around natures cycles. I will share a couple of examples to illustrate how I do this. At the moment, Jason and I are relaunching our Mystery School, and there is a reason why it is happening at harvest time during August and September. This is our harvest from a long period of work that ramped up during the spring and summer as the rest of nature was growing. Last winter, we did the quiet work, sowing the seeds, beginning the rebuild of our school and planning out the new content.

For my second example, I will take you back further to three Samhain’s ago. Samhain is the Celtic festival of the new year and lands on the 31st October to the 2nd November. It marks the end of one cycle and the start of a new one. At a celebration we held at The Monastery in Manchester, I set the intention to write a book about one of my ancestors, my Irish great-great-great grandmother. She fled the Great Irish Famine in 1848 and came to live a tough life in the slums of Victorian London. This was to be an ancestral healing book, helping others work through the same process as me to heal unresolved ancestral trauma. It was also time to tell Catherine’s story and release it from the dark into the light.

It was to be my first book, and was a daunting task. I had no idea how to start. I spoke out my intention in the ceremony at Samhain and then put the thought to one side as I got on with my day-to-day work. A writing mentor had approached me by the Winter Solstice and offered to support me in my endeavour. Until then, I didn’t realise writing mentors existed. It was a perfect solution for me and one that I had not consciously undertaken to find a mentor. I sense that my spirit guides sent her to me after they heard my words of intention. Working with Sally-Shakti enabled me to get the idea into a manuscript and isn’t something I think I would have ever managed on my own.

I worked with the Wheel of the Year through the whole writing process. I chose to write the bulk of the book between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice, as nature was going full pelt. Then, in the following few months, I got it ready for its proof-read during the harvest season. My edits took a further full-year cycle turning the Wheel, and I worked with each season, completing various milestones in line with the festivals. The most recent was completing the final edits and the manuscript in time for the new moon following Lammas. Now I am complete, and come the Harvest full moon, I will turn my attention to the publishing process.

Jason and I manage our lives and our major projects by the Wheel. Everything flows, everything gets done but at natures pace. Sometimes this takes a little longer, but it is the way to do things, just as nature creates. So, come Samhain, we will again be hunkering down by our wood burner in our cottage on the edge of Anglezarke moor and incubating a new set of plans for the coming spring.

It is a valuable part of our spiritual practice, and we love to share how we work with the Wheel. We do this through holding festival celebrations, teaching our approach in free Pop-Up Talks and through one of our foundation courses in our Mystery School.

Coming up next

If you have enjoyed this blog, you might like to consider coming along to our next and final Pop-Up Talk in our free series on Shamanism and nature connection. It’s about working with the Wheel of the Year and how to align your life with the cycles of nature. The date is Thursday 16th September, starting at 7 pm. The session will be recorded, so if you can’t make it register anyway, and you will receive the replay with 24 hours of the evening.

Click here to book on if you haven’t already registered for our free training series. You will receive the joining details for Thursday's talk along with the other replays for this series.

We also have another of our free celebrations coming up. This next one is on Monday 20th September at the time of the Harvest Full Moon, two days before the Autumn Equinox. It will be a special celebration for us for two reasons. It marks the end of our Mystery School relaunch period and the bringing in of the final harvest. It also marks the completion of a full, unbroken cycle around the year offering free online gatherings to our community. Registration details will follow soon. If you aren’t already on our new mailing list, click here and enter your details in the box at the bottom of the page.

Finally, we have a free Wheel of the Year guide. If you haven’t seen it yet, click here to download your copy.

Thank you for reading our blog here. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comment box below.

Useful links

If you would like to hear more about The Mystery School, where we teach about the Wheel of the Year, click here.

If you aren’t already on our email list and would like to keep in touch, click here and scroll to the bottom of our home page.

Click here to download our free Working with the Wheel of the Year guide.

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.

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  1. I feel so blessed to have been with you in the Buzzard tribe for over a Year's Turn of the Wheel of the Year, now. I don't cease to learn more lovely things about each of you, Nicola and Jason, and about my emergent self too.

    I keep finding synchronicities and points of overlap between your
    journeys and my own, Espeically in shared geography, and in your delight in nature signs and nature words. You write so tenderly of what you love and care for.

    Thank you for …. the Enchantment, and the enchanting process that you share so generously. May the Magic continue! My Anglezarke Drum (named for Magic, as you know) sends an echo of love and awe, respect and joy.

  2. Thank you, Nicola, for sharing your thoughts in this article. I really enjoyed reading it, as I am growing in understanding of the Wheel of the Year myself. I started attending your talks in June 2020, and have learned so much. There are aspects of your own story that resonate with me, although I am still a practising Christian. I feel that knowledge of the Earth pathway simply enhances my faith in many ways. I like the way you and Jason reference our Celtic heritage: this makes perfect sense and feels very comfortable. Now that I am in the Mystery School I can delve more deeply. However, the thing that troubled me for a long time before joining was calling on our ancestors during ceremony. I wrestled with this concept for ages, until it occurred to me that I had been researching my family history since 2005 anyway, and piecing together information about my ancestors' personalities which have been passed down the generations. Now I can acknowledge their help and influence without fear. When I read about your wish to help "heal ancestral trauma" through your book about Catherine, I felt moved to tears. So many of our families had to abandon their way of life in the country to travel to cities and factory work during the 19th century. I look forward to seeing your book in print! X

    1. Betty, I am moved by reading your words. Thank you. It is just how I feel too – that so many of our ancestors had to leave their community s and live in terrible conditions in the slums of Victorian Britain. So many people are unaware of their lineage and the stories held there, and yet I believe it is the source of so much trauma that we carry now. I am just delighted that you have weaved the Wheel into your Christian path. I have come across lots of people who also found their way to integrate this practice into their faith and it is beautiful to see. So delighted to be on this journey with you 🙂 Thank you … and I am touched that you would like to read my book too. Thank you for saying 🙂

  3. I enjoyed reading your reflections of the year. Reflecting is a skill that takes time look at good and not so good things that have or are happening in our lives. Taking a step out of our ebbing times crests that space for ourselves to checkout what’s happening. Then to plan, for the coming time. But we often don’t realise hope important this is

    The wheel of year allows for mind body and soul to be re-born to celebrate and look in depth at our observations that occur at intervals unseen and progressing as nature shows the way

    Drumming in and seeing assistance from our spirit guides can bring about profound changes for our individual needs and development on life’s journey and can signal a new path which may previously been unseen.

    I am rambling on. The wheel of the year reminds us of what we need to prepare for the coming next season

    1. Not rambling at all Len. I have loved reading your reflections here. The wheel absolutely does that doesn’t it… reminds us of what we need to prepare for. Bob on and thank you for sharing your thoughts too 🙂

  4. I’m the type of person who is busy all the time and even though I had been trying to live by the wheel for many years I struggled with the winter. I always seemed to accelerate, even last winter during the pandemic as I worked in care.
    This year I started making real changes to my life, I realised my winters needed to change, I have started to feel exhausted and this year I am determined to live winter as intended.

  5. Yes I agree with all that you say in the blog. The wheel gives purpose and direction to my life. It emphasises the joys to be found in each season. It makes me excited to think about what I achieved in the last period and what I will be focusing on in the next. Slowing down the pace makes life so much more pleasurable and yet you still get it all done and more because I have found that I have more energy and enthusiasm for the things that interest me and more va va voom in general. ?

  6. Hi I’m ashamed to say I don’t always get the chance to read your blogs in bed today with a bug so maybe spirits way of saying I needed the rest thank you I enjoyed this one x

  7. I am sitting in the fields at the edge of the woods by a little babbling stream & have just read your latest blog , what a gift to me it has been , Thankyou so much

  8. Hi Nicola, I have really enjoyed reading this blog, and has reminded me to list things I want to work on from Samhain on.
    Life and circumstances sometimes has the habit of becoming like a run away train that gathers you along in its haste. I too am looking forward and your timely reminder of 'balance' with the Autumn Equinox on the the horizon has really helped me to look ahead, take a deep breath, release things aren't working in my life now so that new doors can open.
    Significantly this last week I have been in my home of South Wales. I used to live near the Gower Coast and one of my go to places that I have spent many hours at is Rhossili, I stood on the cliff looking at the bay and a not one but two crows flew up right in front of me, they startle me as they were just feet from me. I new then there was a message in there for me and reading your blog along with crow has made things clear what now needs to be done. Thank you, Bethan xx

    1. I have loved reading about your experience here Bethan, thank you. To have two crows fly so close must have been very special. So delighted that my blog has helped you reflect on bringing some balance back for you. Thank you for sharing 🙂

  9. It is always a pleasure to read your words and your teachings are so sorely needed in today's frantic and busy world.
    Respect, love and conservation of the natural world cannot be emphasised enough and learning to work with nature can only help to bring about the changes we all so desparately need.
    Please keep up the good work .

  10. Wow this Email was absolutely brilliant I really enjoyed reading it and also reading about the wheel of the year so thank you very much Nicola I really appreciate it I would love to learn more about the wheel of the year love & light to you &Jason. X

  11. Thank you, enjoyed and learnt lots from the wheel of the year free lesson and have just read your blog.
    I am a truly practitioner and Crystal healer and am delving into shamanism, unsure yet whether to delve deeper but will be guided as to when the time is right.
    I also need a new career but can't shake the fear of leaving without my next step in place.

  12. I love the way you write Nicola. Ive learned from you that being super articulate is very grounding.
    I think I read two posts. Both had the same effect for me. I was reading about Beltane and saw in
    the list of highlights mention of something I am not sure what you mean. What is the Sidhe realm?

    I am in awe of how to write.

    Best wishes,

    1. Goodness, what a message to hear. Thank you SO much Rose. I am not entirely sure how I do it. I am dyslexic so somehow I think that helps as my mind likes structure in order to make sense of things!

      Sidhe is an Irish word for Faery. So the Sidhe realm is the faery realm, or the Underworld. I don’t think we have a blog about this though I am afraid. An idea for a future blog topic there 🙂

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