At the beginning of February, we celebrate a strange and wonderful holiday known as Groundhog Day. We are told that if the prophetic groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, sees his shadow on this day and runs quickly back into his burrow, winter will last at least 6 more weeks.
The idea of waiting and watching for the first inkling of spring is not new. The ancient Celts celebrated Imbolc in early February long before Groundhog Day existed. Celtic stories tell us that the Cailleach—the divine hag Goddess who rules over winter and death—gathers firewood for the rest of the winter on Imbolc. If the Goddess Cailleach wishes to make the winter last a lot longer, she will make sure that the weather on Imbolc is bright and sunny, so she can gather plenty of firewood. But, if Imbolc is a day of foul weather, it means the Cailleach is asleep and winter is almost over.
The Cailleach was worshipped by the Celts as the sacred Earth Mother in her bare winter form. And she is not just a dark and evil hag who arbitrarily decides how long winter will be. The Cailleach is also the Bone Mother who collects the bones of the animals that die in the winter. The Bone Mother is said to sing or pray or sleep over the bones all winter long. She does this out of love, so that the animals will cross over and can return as new life in the spring.
There is a magic to Imbolc and the early days of February. It is there, running just beneath the surface. Can you feel it?
Mama Earth holds the seeds of spring safe for us all winter. As the cold wind blows and the snow piles up, she holds them safe in her soil.
The wheel of the year is slowly turning towards spring and new growth. And beneath the surface of Mama Earth, the seeds are beginning to quietly stir. Spring is stirring in the ground beneath our feet.
Imbolc is traditionally celebrated at the halfway point between winter solstice and spring equinox. In 2020, this halfway point falls on February 4.
Light a candle or two tonight, and offer up a simple prayer of gratitude in honor of Mama Earth and the return of spring.
Earth teach me quiet ~ as the grasses are still with new light.
Earth teach me suffering ~ as old stones suffer with memory.
Earth teach me humility ~ as blossoms are humble with beginning.
Earth teach me caring ~ as mothers nurture their young.
Earth teach me courage ~ as the tree that stands alone.
Earth teach me limitation ~ as the ant that crawls on the ground.
Earth teach me freedom ~ as the eagle that soars in the sky.
Earth teach me acceptance ~ as the leaves that die each fall.
Earth teach me renewal ~ as the seed that rises in the spring.
Earth teach me to forget myself ~ as melted snow forgets its life.
Earth teach me to remember kindness ~ as dry fields weep with rain.
Today marks the cross-quarter day (halfway point) between Fall Equinox and Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere. The wheel of the year turns and the entire northern half of the planet enters into the dark part of the year. It is the time of year when the Sun drops lower and lower on the horizon, and the dark of night lasts longer and longer.
Ancient Celtic tribes celebrated Samhain (pronounced sow-in) to mark this auspicious time. According to the Celts and other pagan tribes, the veils between the worlds grow thin at this time of year. That means we can more easily connect with loved ones who have crossed over into the land of the dead. It is the perfect time to honor and celebrate our ancestors.
Celtic Samhain is also about celebrating life. The last of the harvest has been gathered up in our fields and orchards. The natural bounty of Mama Earth will bless and nourish us all winter.
As you enter into the dark half of the year, pause for a moment or two. Offer love and gratitude to Mama Earth for the water, food and shelter she provides. Say a prayer for any loved ones who have moved beyond here and now. Express thanks for everything you have harvested in your life this year.
May the Spirit of peace
bring peace to your house
this Samhain night
and all nights to come.
Today is the autumnal equinox. Autumn has officially arrived.
An equinox is the moment when the equator of planet Earth lines up perfectly with the center of our Sun’s disk. The equinox occurs only twice each year, in spring and again in fall. This is a time of balance on our beautiful planet. Day and night are precisely equal at the equator — and very close to equal everywhere else on the globe.
The ancients worshipped Mama Earth as the great Goddess Gaia, miraculous creator of all life on this planet. Gaia is the original mother of us all.
This is the perfect time to spend a few moments meditating with Gaia. Offer a prayer of gratitude for the comforting rhythms of her cyclic seasons; autumn follows summer just as surely as night follows day. Ask your Earth Mama to help you find balance and equanimity in the midst of all the waves of change washing over you in these chaotic times. Thank her for the oxygen, water, food and shelter she provides that make your life possible.
On August 7th, we will reach the halfway point between summer solstice and autumn equinox in the northern hemisphere. This is one of four “cross-quarter” days that occur in our annual trek around the Sun
Many of our ancestors celebrated the harvest at this time of year. The Celtic people in the British Isles paid homage to the Sun God Lugh at this time. The first sheaf of wheat was harvested and ceremoniously ground and baked into bread for the festival of Lughnasadh. Bonfires were lit to honor the fiery energies of the Sun. The fruits of the harvest were celebrated and shared by everyone.
Later in Britain, the festival of Lughnasadh became Lammas Day. The festival of Lammas was held to honor the wheat harvest. The word Lammas comes from the Anglo-Saxon hlaf-mas or “loaf-mass.” On the day of Lammas it was customary to bring a loaf of bread made from the new crop to church in celebration and gratitude.
Many centuries before Lugh or Lammas existed, the Goddess Arinna was worshiped by ancient tribes living in the region that is now Turkey (1400 BCE). Arinna was their main solar deity and her consort was the weather god, Teshub. Arinna was honored for creating the natural abundance of our Earth and making human life possible.
Whether through honoring Arinna, Lugh or Lammas, our ancestors took time to express their gratitude for the bounty of the harvest every year. Their ceremonies were ritualized ways for the community to acknowledge and honor the food that grows when Father Sun unites with Mother Earth. Our ancestors lived closer to the Earth and the cycles of the seasons. They understood that all life on Earth depends on the magical union of sun, seed and earth.
What have you harvested this year? What are you grateful for? During this sacred time, take a few moments to express gratitude for all the abundance in your life.
And take time to thank Mother Earth and Father Sun for life itself.
“As I grew to understand the gifts of the earth, I couldn’t understand how ‘love of country’ could omit recognition of the actual country itself.
The only promise it requires is to a flag. What of the promises to each other and to the land?
What would it be like to be raised on gratitude, to speak to the natural world as a member of the democracy of the species, to raise a pledge of interdependence?
No declarations of political loyalty are required, just a response to a repeated question:
Can we agree to be grateful for all that is given?
… What happens to nationalism, to political boundaries, when allegiance lies with winds and waters that know no boundaries, that cannot be bought or sold?”
~Robin Wall Kimmerer,
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants
“Today I heard a new client ask me in a perplexed moment.. “ But what will I use the land for if I give it back to nature?”
That language.“ What will I use the land for?”….. It cut into my heart.
Every life form matters.
Every conscious being has a role to play in the web of life.
We have no role In the earths ecosystems…The only living beings that don’t.
But now we must undertake a vital position in the web.
We have got to become guardians.
Caretakers of the wildness.
Inside and out.
The time is up.
The earth is crying out for our attention.
We fight to live, so shall she.
We are many and We Are the Ark.”