As some people are aware for the last four years I have been researching the Pleiades from a spiritual perspective and working to create a system of rituals connected to it. As we approach the four year anniversary of the experience in Iceland which led me onto this path I wanted to recap how things have gone so far.
image of Pleiades by NASA, public domain
I've talked about the approach I was developing to honouring the Pleiades in the past (here and here), beginning in 2018 after the initial experience that drew my attention to it; eventually I compiled that material into a book titled Living Fairy. for those unfamiliar and who don't want to read the indepth explanation at the links the short version is that while visiting Iceland in September of 2018 I and several friends had an experience after wandering outside late at night. We saw what appeared to be a large number of Otherworldly beings moving across a hillside in the darkness and the Pleiades glowing blue just at the horizon like a bonfire. Later in discussing it with my friend Cat Heath we both concluded it represented a ritual celebration by those Powers, which we theorized was tied to the Pleiades - specifically the acronychal rising of the Pleiades which we had witnessed. And from there I was sent on this path to connect the dots as it were between fairies, the Pleiades, and ritual.
Over the last four years I have established four main ritual dates:
The conjunction around May 14th: The Darkening
The heliacal rising around June 24th: The Return of the Queens (or just the Returning)
The acronychal rising September 22: The Way-Opening
The culmination November 20th: The Rade
With those dates I created a series of rituals which connect to each and tie into a new kind of mythology around them, inline with my practice of Fairy Witchcraft.
Additionally I noted that every 8 years the Pleiades are conjunct with Venus, a planet which can be seen as a star-like object in the sky and which is associated by some people (including myself) with a fairy goddess called the Queen of Apples. This occured in 2020 and I chose to call it the Great Gathering and created a ritual specifically for it as well. It will happen next in 2028.
One of my main struggles across the last four years has been working out the precise timing which continues to be a challenge. The dates for these events vary by latitude and while they are generally around the same times each year, with a slight and slow drift, getting the dates worked out has been a bit hit or miss for me. I don't have much experience with astrology or astronomy and haven't yet found a good program or app that can tell me when the Pleiades will be conjunct or rising, but have been slowly working it out through direct observation.
I've also found myself tending to look for close correlating solar holidays - equinoxes especially - as they are easier to track; but they aren't as accurate for timing the Pleiades. I realize some of that desire is simply to stay a bit aligned with the more popular pagan approach to holy days, which is something I need to let go of.
On the other hand, I have had a great deal of success with the rituals themselves. While my previous experiences with pagan rituals provided a handful of intense numinous experiences my work around the Pleiades has proven to be quite intense and inspiring. So far even the least active of the rituals I've done has involved a noticeable change in the temperature around me, a stilling of the sounds, and a rise in the wind. These results have also been noted by other people working the ritual cycle, suggesting that it is the dates themselves, and perhaps the ritual structure, that are effective.
My struggle to date the events with technology has also been a success in a way because it has forced me to directly connect to the constellation by tracking it visually as much as possible. I have found a lot of value in that and in nurturing an awareness of the constellation itself beyond its symbolism.
Finally I've found that working with this has deepened my own spirituality and connection to the Othercrowd. There is a dance-like rhythm to this cycle and it speaks its own mythology to me as I go along, a story of the 7 fairy queens travelling through the year, the sky, and our lives.
This year's acronychal rising will begin my fifth year working with this system and I remain excited to see how it continues to play out and shape itself.