This is your outline for the year.

As you can see from the diagram above, there are eight touch points throughout the year that act as keystones to the entire CUSP process.  These are dates that are recognizable to many as being important astrological and agricultural times that have prevailed in usage and celebration through history.  We wish by no means to promote the idea that the discovery of these particular dates as catalysts to progressive development is our own; far from it.  Our intent is to celebrate the legacy they bring to us.  Many spiritual paths are drawn to these dates or times near them to share in the energy that has become indigenous to them as a result of literally thousands of years of humankind’s investment into and usage of their power.

When nomadic humans began to embrace the agricultural lifestyle and in the most literal sense, “put down roots” by cultivating crops to sustain their village, they found that these were the dates that held within them a particular significance to the process of natural growth.  Just as those dates marked the important transitions through the literal agricultural cycles for those first farmers, so does it take us, the modern “spiritual farmers” through our own yearly life progression.

Pre-Christian Celtic and Germanic agriculturalists honored the equinoxes and solstices as important turning points in their harvest cycle.  The “High Holidays,” as the remaining 4 events were called, completed their Wheel of the Year and heralded important annual points of animal husbandry and the agricultural process.  The holidays we will discuss are specific to the Northern Hemisphere of the world.  Although the agricultural year in the Southern Hemisphere mimics that of the North, the progression occurs at different times due to the way the earth is tilted on its axis.

In ancient times, the changes of the season were vital for survival in terms of the effect on both hunting and the harvest cycle.  Our lives are still bound by these cycles, even though we do not usually practice them actively.  You do not have to work hard to attune yourself to these natural cycles.  You are already attuned by virtue of being human due to the actions and beliefs of your ancestors.  All you have to do is to honor the connection that is already within you and strengthen your existing bond to the natural flow.

Winter Solstice – The Spark:  

In the darkest moment of the longest night of the year,  the spark of light returns to the sky.  Incrementally, the days will begin to lengthen as the sun returns to the sky.  Many spiritual paths see the strong, sustained energy of the sun to be masculine in nature and the moon with its monthly cycles and gentle light to reflect the feminine qualities.  If we follow this theory, then the dark of year which begins on Nov 1st is the most female time and therefore, the most nurturing and intuitive.  The darkest and longest night of the year is then the apex of this energy. When the spark of light returns to the sky, it begins to very subtly push away the darkness. We start our cycle of the year with the “spark” of intuition and desire that will create the goal that we will nurture and grow in the coming months.  Like the spark of life that springs forth from the seed, the spark of an idea that comes to us now begins the process of the harvest that will culminate in the Fall.

What to do:  Create a list of ideas for what you want to plant in March to manifest at Harvest.  Meditate on your list, adjust it over the next six weeks as the spark of inspiration continues, and have your list finalized by Imbolc.

Imbolc – Finalizing and Committing to Our Harvest Goals: 

At Winter Solstice, the spark of an idea formed in our minds of how we would like our lives to be when Harvest comes.  By Imbolc, we should a solid plan for what we wish to plant for the coming year.  Now it is time to commit to that plan and put it out into the Universe as a solid and substantial determination.  Once we do so, the Universe will show us over the coming six weeks whether or not this plan is indeed in our best interest.  Our task during this time is to pay attention, watch for signs, and trust that we will receive clear confirmations or redirections regarding our plan.  Vigilance and objectivity are vital at this point in the agricultural year.  Sometimes, what we think we want in our lives is not what our inner selves know is actually for the best and The Universe will clearly show us if this is the case.  This is a time to be very alert and aware of subtle (or profoundly direct) nudges and guidance that present.  It is part of the human condition to ignore what we do not wish to hear, but it is to our greatest advantage to be very honest with ourselves and accept the wisdom we are shown during this time.

What to do:  Read your list aloud and make certain you are satisfied with your plan.  Fold the list and put it under a column candle.  Commit to following through on what you have written and ask for guidance from The Universe/God for your greatest good to manifest.  Burn the candle a little every day/night and repeat the request.  Spend time with your list and consider your plans carefully. Watch for confirmations and redirects in the form of hunches and actual occurrences that reinforce or change your plans. This is still the Dark of the Year, so our actions toward goal manifestation are quiet, internal, introspective, and thoughtful. This is a continued time of stillness that began November 1st.

Spring Equinox – Planting: 

Spring comes to us as a time of new life and new beginnings.  The earth has softened and awaits the seed that it will nurture and sustain in the coming months.  The world sings with possibilities and potential.  We have now invested six weeks in determining whether our plan is solid or should be adjusted according to the redirections we receive.  It is now time to plant our goals and begin the active part of the year.  As ones who follow the natural flow of the year, we rest, reflect, plan and contemplate during the cold months and emerge ready for action when the first warmth of the sun touches the earth in Spring.  By “planting” our goals, we start our process of welcoming the outcome into our lives and we signal the onset of the physical actions we invest into making those goals a reality.  Planting represents the end of the time of “planning” and our transition into the time of “doing.”

What to do:  Incorporate the guidance you received over the past six weeks into your plan.  It is possible your plan needs no modify at all or you might go into Spring planting with a completely different plan than you had at Imbolc.  Choose a dried bean or other seed to represent each goal.  As you visualize your goal, plant your seed into a small peat pot of potting soil.  Give it a little water.  This literal plant represents your goal.  Plant one bean for each goal.  You may use more than one pot.  After watering, place yoru plants in an area that will receive adequate sunlight and be safe from spillage.  Care for your growing plant over the coming weeks.  Watch to make sure it is getting just enough sun without over or under exposure.  Keep the soil lightly moist, but not soaked (plants usually do not like wet feet).  Your plant’s progress will reflect the health of the goal it represents.  Begin the process of “acting in accord,” which means taking the initial steps to create your harvest.  As you work toward your goal, blessings toward that end result will start to manifest, encouraging you along your way.  Remember, the Lord helps those that help themselves. Some goals may even manifest right away, proving they were already in the making and just needed an energy boost to find form.

Beltane – Fertilization: 

In many ways, this is the hardest time of the year because we have invested effort into the conception of our goals and now they feel tiny and vulnerable.  After the planting is done, we may see the first tiny signs of life emerging from our goals…or we may not just yet.  An old saying tells us, “Do not dig up in doubt what you planted in faith.”  It is tempting to want to poke down into the planting area to see if our goals are manifesting; however, this is instead a time to step back, provide essential maintenance, and allow the process of growth to establish in a healthy, undisturbed fashion.  Fertilization occurs at this time and the seeds got a good start in life during the planting.  Now, we fertilize the ground around it, gently protect it from encroaching weeds or other dangers, water it just enough, and wait.

What to do:  Re-pot your plant if it has outgrown its first peat pot.  You do not need to remove the plant from the peat pot.  Just add potting soil to your new, larger pot and make a hole in the soil big enough to set the whole peat pot into.  Cover the peat pot with more soil and gently pat it around the stem of your plant.  Give it a little water and some potted plant fertilizer (such as a “Job’s” fertilizer stick).  Step up your efforts toward your goal. Submit your resume if you are looking for a job. Emerge into the world if you are seeking a partner. Network with those who can support your goal. Stay active and busy working toward your desired outcome.

Summer Solstice – The Promise: 

The time of promise is the direct opposite of the time of the spark.  The sun is now at its zenith and masculine energy that is in full force:  Do, Make, Create, Fix, Protect.  The longest day of the year was a blessing for farmers as it gave them more time to work in the fields.  At this time, the crops are very visible above the ground and although still young and vulnerable, they are seen to be green, strong and full of the promise of a successful harvest.  In our own lives, we begin to see the results of our efforts and know that with continued effort, we will achieve in the fall what we planned in the winter.

What to do:  By now, your plant has likely yielded flowers or vegetables.  You may have tiny beans on your plant if that is the seed you used.  Summer is when we begin to see tangible results from our efforts.  In your “real” life, you will start to see assurance that your goals are manifesting. Celebrate the promise of your coming harvest.

Lammas – First Harvest: 

Although this is a joyful time in the cycle of the agricultural year, the harvest is also a time of tremendous, back-breaking, sweaty, muscle-wrenching hard work.  It is a labor of love, there is no doubt, but it is certainly a challenging time.  Many people who follow the CUSP flow of the year – and many who do not – find that this time of the year is extremely busy and productive as the fruits of their efforts begin to manifest and they are rewarded for the energy they have invested.   The first harvest is the direct result of our own actions and our own efforts.  What we have planted in faith now manifests in our lives and we experience the exhilarating rush of its fruition.

What to do:  Your plant may or may not die off at this time.  It is up to the individual plant.  If it does, do not despair.  It has fulfilled its purpose and lived out its lifespan.  Rest assured that your harvest is coming.  If your plant continues to thrive, keep up with the usual care to keep it alive and honor it.  In your “real” life, you will begin to see results from your own efforts over the coming six weeks.  You may not see results all at once on August 1st. Remember that harvesting is a cycle of eighteen weeks from August 1 – November 1. Some goals take longer to manifest than others and if significant Divine intervention is needed, they may not come until well into the second harvest. Continue to work toward your harvest and celebrate the goals as they come to fruition.

Autumn Equinox – Second Harvest: 

Historically, the time of the second harvest was “The Boon” and an incredible blessing to the ancient farmers.  While still putting away crops from the fields for winter storage, nature yields up a bonus bounty that would grow with or without the farmers’ efforts.  As they made their way into the untended forests, they found fruits of the trees, bushes, and vines.  Nuts, roots, berries, fruits, and other forms of food seen as gifts from God supplemented their harvest. If a harvest suffered from calamities such as drought, disease, fire, or pest infestation, the second harvest could ensure survival through the winter as a supplement to the primary harvest. In our modern lives, we often find that during this time, blessings rain down upon us in addition to the fulfillment of the goals we planted in our own life’s “fields.”  These extra blessings are The Universe’s way of telling us that we have done well with our year’s planning, planting, and harvesting.

What to do:  During this time, you will likely receive additional blessings.  You will find that the harvest you created has formed in abundance and now you receive the bonuses!  The timing of the harvest manifesting sometimes reflects whether there was the greater amount of effort needed was on our part or on the part of The Universe/God.  If the goal is more divinely driven, it may manifest during this time if it did not over the six weeks of Lammas, indicating that the greater effort came from us.

Samhain – The End of Harvest: 

In some European traditions, any crops remaining in the field on November 1st were said to be “poisoned” and were sacrificed when the fields were burned to cleanse them for the planting of the following year.  Although we certainly now know that the crops would be no more poisoned on November 1st than they were on October 31st, there is a valuable lesson to us in this ancient wisdom.  “Know when you are done.”  “Understand when to let go; when to release.”  In the demanding life we live in the twenty-first century, it is often a challenge to stop needing, stop wanting, stop teaking each little thing. We feel like our hands have to be on everything, pulling the string and in constant control. The Dark of the Year tells us to put all of that to rest and to go into the stillness of the year.

From Samhain until Winter Solstice, we enter a time of fallow, of quiet inactivity. We consider the year that just passed and our accountability in the outcome, for good or for ill. We process our lessons and revel in our successes. We turn our minds and spirits toward introspection and reflection. Fields are burned away, literally and metaphorically, cleansing us of the old and outmoded and encouraging us to release the parts of our lives that do not serve us. Winter invites us to fall softly into its embrace to rest and to wipe clean our slates to receive the new spark for the coming year that will present to us in December as the cycle begins again.

What to do:  The time of Samhain is a time of letting go.  On November 1st, what you have received is what you will receive.  Now you must let go of your attachments to specific outcomes and allow the year to rest, allow yourself to rest.  Spend the next six weeks in quiet time, dialing down your activity as much as possible. For this time, say no to social engagements more often than you say yes. Go inward rather than outward. Even the weather historically encourages us to “go inside” during winter. Meditate on the previous harvest cycle and consider what you learned.  Did goals manifest in ways other than expected?  Did you get more than you expected?  Did you miss an earlier redirect and force your will onto the harvest cycle to your own detriment?  Do you feel abundantly blessed?  Take time to journal about your harvest experience and release the year to the past.  Do not yet plan for the coming harvest year.  That time will come again at Yule.  For this moment, your focus is on processing, release, and acceptance.