• Ellen Shilling

Dancing at Lughnasa

Nature moves through a cycle every year – winter, spring, summer, autumn and then back to winter. Our ancestors lived by a similar cycle but with different names and they had 12 significant dates. This is called the wheel. Each culture has it's own wheel, they're all very similar just with different names on them.

You've probably heard of some of the dates, but here they all are together to form the Celtic Wheel. Each date was a turning point and a time of celebration and reflection with particular themes, energies and lessons around each one.

Nowadays we seem to be cut off from this cycle but more and more people are coming to classes and workshops loving how getting back in tune with this cycle is helping them with their everyday lives

You see not only do we go through this cycle on a yearly basis but every day we cycle through a winter (sleep), spring (breakfast, showering and preparing for the day ahead), summer (morning until early afternoon), autumn (late afternoon until evening) and again to winter (late evening to early morning).

Everything we do goes through this cycle. Think of the last project that you worked on, it could have been at work or a holiday or a night out. Let's see how planning a holiday might move through this cycle.

Mary is happily plodding along with life, she has no idea that she wants a holiday (winter). One day she arrived into work and someone says to her “are you going on holiday this year?” She pauses for a moment before replying “yes, I am but I’ve yet to start planning” The seed is planted (Spring)

She starts researching online, talking to friends, where would they recommend, who would like to come with me, where do I want to go to? She gets busy looking into budgets, options, flights and weather. After a while of researching she books the holiday (this is all summer, i.e. the busyness)

Delighted with herself she tells her friends and family where she’s off to, shows them brochure. Mary basks in the glow and excitement of her achievement. She enjoys following the weather on her app and talking to people about what to do and where to go (autumn).

Winter is the phase of trust and patience. Mary must wait not for the departure date to arrive. (winter) after which starts a whole new Spring once more of arriving and exploring her new destination. And so on.

While this is a very simple example, it applies to all that we do and we often get stuck in one phase or another. If motivation to get started is a challenge for you then perhaps you get stuck in spring. If you find it hard to make a decision and book the holiday, you’re stuck in summer. If once you book the holiday you can’t wait for it to come or you doubt your decision only to fret that you made the wrong one, then perhaps winter is your medicine (trust and patience).

It’s always an interesting exercise to reflect and observe with gentleness where your challenge might be and what lesson that has for you. You may find that you repeatedly get stuck at or find the same point stressful no matter what the project is. Another way to look at it is to ask yourself what season you enjoy most and what one you dislike most? Oftentimes the season you don’t like is the phase of the cycle that you may find difficult to navigate.

So what can you do?

Awareness is the first step and then we can use the teachings of nature to help us align to the seasons so that we can navigate through this cycle every day. The teachings of these 12 significant days are beyond the scope of this newsletter but if there is interest I will start writing more on each one.

Currently we are moving through Lughnasa. You might have seen the film or been to the play “Dancing at Lughnasa” and while it’s definitely a time of dancing and celebration, it’s also a time of reflection.

Why celebration?

July was known as “hungry July” as there was no food; August marked the first signs of the harvest, so it was most definitely a time to celebrate. I was driving down to Altamont gardens last week (if you haven’t been I'd recommend it); and as we drove, it was so lovely to see all the signs of Lughnasa all around. The bales of hay in the fields, the slight slowing down of nature as we gently turn towards autumn.


The invitation of Lughnasa is to stop and reflect. The theme of the reflection is gratitude and acknowledgement of your skills and talents (as Lughnasa is associated with Lugh, a Celtic god who could do practically anything he turned his hand to).

Questions to contemplate at this time of year:

  • What are your skills and talents? I know we can all tell anyone what we’re not good at, but what are you good at? Your skills may be obvious to your or they be something you haven’t thought of as a skill before as it may come so naturally to you. Such as listening, storytelling, creating, painting, sewing, gardening, art, music, dance, sports or communication, organizing, healing, parenting, problem solving etc. Write down all that you’re good at and celebrate your talents, even to boast a little no matter how uncomfortable it is. We did this at a workshop last Thursday evening and it was moving to see people (especially us irish) share all their talents with the group without apology (as is so often the case)

  • As you look on your life now is there anything that’s showing up that needs to be “weeded” out? Or are there signs of your intentions appearing in your life now? If not what can you do to water those seeds as such.

Practices at Lughnasa:

  • Gratitude: Every evening write down 3 things that happened that day that you’re grateful for and WHY you’re grateful for them (this is very important)

  • Celebrate all that's in your life no matter how big or small

  • Send a thank you letter to someone who has in the past or is currently making a difference in your life.

  • Write a thank you letter to 2019 so far. Even though it might be difficult, just start with Dear 2019, thank you for...... and see what happens! It's a lovely exercise to do as we tend to initially think of all that went wrong and not see what's gone right or even what might have come out of the challenges. This then gives us helps to change our mindset and provide motivation for the next part of the year.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and I thank you for reading it. Please feel free to share it.

And now, I'm off for a dance!



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7 Carysfort Avenue,


Dublin, Ireland 

Eircode - A94 K6Y5

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