I started writing this from the perspective of the rest of the United States. My opening line was something to the effect of, “there’s a great swath of the country that experiences the classical view of the seasons to greater or lesser degrees.” That immediately draws my focus and yours away from the subject I actually want to discuss: Florida’s seasons and how local traditions might look.
I enjoy writing about my experiences here. There is a primal power that exists in Florida that I’ve had a lot of first hand experience with, that’s kicked my ass, made me sick and even left me injured on occasion. The spirits of the land, air and sea here are not forgiving but they are rewarding to know.
What I’ve noticed among the Wheel of the Year traditions is that it’s hard to get away from the associations that were created by folks from the British Isles or the northeast of the United States. This isn’t news to anyone who lives say, in the Southern Hemisphere or the tropics, or anywhere without a temperate climate. The odd thing is that even if you live somewhere like Florida or Arizona, you’ll find a majority of pagans following something that doesn’t reflect their climate at all, really.
Does this matter? Yes and no, I actually enjoy honoring the symbols of my birth climate, it brings me back in touch with another part of my life that I find value in. However, I’ve lived in Florida for ten years now, and there is nothing quite like the dissonance of putting up decorations that emulate snow, something that hasn’t been seen in this area since 1977, two years before I was born. I’ll continue to observe the more traditional Wheel of the Year, but I think it’s time for Floridians to start cobbling together our own.
Especially in the southern part of the state, we don’t get seasons that resemble anything similar to the rest of the country. Our climate is much more similar to the Caribbean than it is even to northern Florida. We follow the light and dark patterns of the solar year, they’re just not as pronounced. When everyone is celebrating that fruit harvest (I call it Mabon but I know some of y’all prefer Autumnal Equinox or in my old OBOD tradition, Alban Elfed) we’re actually starting to plant vegetables here. Why? Because no vegetable cultivated in northern climates can put up with the unrelenting heat and humidity of our summers.
Yule is still dark at around 5:30 in the afternoon for us, but it’s also likely to be 75° to 80°. Ostara is approaching the end of our planting season, and come Beltane, things are pretty much wrapped up. In this way, we’re much more similar to the inverted Wheel harvest holidays that are present in the Southern Hemisphere. But this is only the case for food crops because summer in Florida is actually a huge boon time for the native vegetation as we enter a monsoon-like time that lasts from around May/June to late November/early December.
I think everyone tries to honor their location to some degree, but I’d like to incorporate this more profoundly in my own practice. The Everglades are enormous, over 700 square miles, which is much smaller than it used to be. There’s a spiritual presence there that is unlike anywhere on earth, it is deep – as close as I’ve ever been to the sense of primal life reflected in the Great Mother and it deserves our reverence and respect. Likewise, the state is surrounded by the ocean, there’s more water than land, we are quite literally awash in her emotions.
Perhaps it’s just the animist in me, but while I honor the gods I have come to know, I feel just as deeply connected with the spirits of this place. When I stand on the beach looking out at the ocean or knee-deep in muck looking out over sawgrass that extends to the horizon, I feel imminently in touch with the pulse of life, anchored to the universe.
As I said to my partner a couple of years ago, hiking a muddy trail, kayaking a river, that’s my real church. That’s where I’m most connected.
I’d love to know how others have incorporated the spirits of the air, land and sea into their practice. My goals, I suppose are to see how we can create a regionally relevant practice. The idea of open source tinkering really appeals to me, where we all share our thoughts, pick up things we like, and communally create.