As the days grow short and the nights lengthen in the northern hemisphere, the ancient Celtic tribes of Europe used to hold a celebration they called Samhain (sow-in). The Celts celebrated Samhain to mark the turning of the Wheel of the Year. At Samhain, the entire northern hemisphere officially enters into the dark half of the solar year. This is the time of year when the sun seems to turn away, and night lasts longer and longer. The dark half of our solar year officially begins on November 6th this year.
Samhain actually marked the beginning of the Celtic New Year in times past. At Samhain, the Celts paused and took time to reflect on the past and plan for the new year. They also believed Samhain was a time to connect with and honor loved ones who have crossed over into the land of the dead. And halfway across the world, the people of Mexico and Central America still celebrate Dia de los Metros (Day of the Dead) at this time of year.
Celtic Samhain is not just about celebrating death and those who have passed beyond. It is about celebrating life. The last of the year’s harvest is being gathered up in the fields and orchards now. Samhain is the perfect time to express gratitude to sacred Mother Earth for all the blessings and bounty she has provided for you and your loved ones.
Celebrating Samhain does not have to be complicated. Just take a few moments to pause and offer up a prayer of love and gratitude to those who have died. Go outside and offer gratitude to Mother Earth. Express thanks for everything you have harvested in your life. Simply pause and take a few moments to appreciate all the good that has come your way in the past year.
May the Spirit of peace
bring peace to your house
this Samhain night
and all nights to come.
Where is the moon tonight?
Is she up yet?
What aspect of herself is she showing?
These are the questions that come to mind when I gaze at the night sky. Maybe it’s because I’m female. The ancients claimed that all women are creatures of the moon. Or maybe it is because I was born in the early morning hours before dawn, just as the moon became full. And on that night many moons ago, the moon rose in the sign of Scorpio, the keeper of the night and the dark mysteries of life, death and rebirth. I am a moon baby.
For whatever reason, I have been fascinated by the moon for as long as I can remember. My Celtic ancestors used the cycles of the moon to track the passage of time. And I still do the same – in fact, it stuns me that the Gregorian calendar in use all over the world is not linked directly to the cyclic movements of the earth and moon. That’s why we have a silly Leap Year day every 4 years – we need to “correct” the errors in the Gregorian calendar! Whoever thought it was a good idea to ignore the cyclic movements of the sun and moon when creating a calendar?!
In every solar year (the time it takes mother earth to go all the way around our sun), the moon goes through 13 cycles. There are 13 lunar months in each year, not 12. And within each lunar cycle, the moon slowly shifts from the dark phase of a new moon, gradually revealing more and more of herself (waxing) until she is completely lit up at the full moon. Then Luna slowly wanes, showing less and less of herself in the night sky until she is dark and barely visible at all. When she enters this dark phase, her her rhythmic dance of light and dark begins all over again.
These cycles where the moon is constantly shifting and dancing with how much she reveals of herself seem quite female to me. There is nothing linear about the moon! And I find that women are typically more changeable and moody and rhythmic than men, whether we care to admit it or not.
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant,
and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance…”
~Ecclesiastes, King James Bible
Our ancestors planned their sacred rituals around the cycles of the moon; they knew that each moon phase holds a specific power. So, when the moon was fully revealed in her full moon state, the ancients celebrated and worshipped the divine feminine energies of birthing and completion. Even today, wise midwives plan their schedules, knowing that many, many babies are born when the full moon exerts her pull on pregnant wombs! Full moons are times of completion.
In contrast, when the moon is hidden from view in her new moon state, the ancients saw it as a potent time to plant the seeds for new projects and begin new ventures. Even the timing of farm planting and sowing was tied to the moon cycles in ancient times; not so silly when we realize that the waters and tides of planet earth feel the pull of the moon as well.
I love watching the moon go through her dance from dark to light and back to dark each month. I am definitely a moon baby! And I plan to continue my love affair with the rhythms and cycles of the moon until I leave this earth. It keeps me connected to the cycle of the seasons in a deep meaningful way.
The next time you want to start a new project, begin working on it during the dark phase of the new moon.
Ready to celebrate an accomplishment or rite of passage? Try holding your celebration during the full moon.
Synchronize with the rhythms of the moon and discover the potency of rhythmic organic timing.
‘Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher.’
Earth laughs in flowers… especially at Summer Solstice!
Summer Solstice normally falls around June 21-22 each year in the northern hemisphere. It denotes the longest day and shortest night of the year. Summer Solstice is the sacred time of the Sun.
Young children understand the potency of Summer Solstice. They roll in the green grass and smell the blooms of summer. They run and jump and scream with the joy of long summer days. They beg to stay up just a little longer – trying to squeeze every last drop of living out of the long sunlit day. Children intuitively understand the power of sacred Sun time.
Go outside and smell the roses at Summer Solstice. Go outside and revel in Nature. Go outside and witness a multitude of life dancing with exuberant joy! Go outside and the sacred abundance of summer will reward you and bless you.
This excerpt from a poem by Rumi catches a hint of what you may feel when you stop to witness the sacred in Nature:
Anything you lose comes round in another form.
The child weaned from mother’s milk
now drinks wine and honey mixed.
God’s joy moves from unmarked box
to unmarked box, from cell to cell.
As rainwater down into flowerbed.
As roses, up from the ground.
Now it looks like a plate of rice and fish,
now a cliff covered with vines,
now a horse being saddled.
It hides within these, till one day
it cracks them open…
13th century Sufi mystic
Last night it rained. In the morning, there was a scent in the air that took a moment or two for me to place… Then suddenly I remembered; it is the smell of soil waking up, coming alive after its long sleep. It is the smell of spring.
Go outside and sniff the air in early February. Grab a handful of soil and hold it up to your nose. Do you smell it? Or just stop and listen. Perhaps you can hear the gentle whispers? Mama Earth is beginning to stir.
All winter, Earth has quietly held the seeds of spring in her soil body; she has coddled them and kept them safe, waiting for the time to sprout. And now spring is almost here and the seeds are stirring, preparing to crack open and grow new life.
The chickadees know spring is on its way; they whistle to each other from every treetop in my neighborhood. My dog knows; she sniffs at the soil with new interest. And the sheep know; they birth their lambs in February, knowing spring will soon arrive.
My Celtic ancestors celebrated Imbolc at the time of lamb birthing. It was their way of honoring the end of winter and the promise of life returning to the land. The early Catholics changed the name of Imbolc to Candlemas. And modern man morphed Imbolc into Groundhog Day. By any name, this time is about honoring the promise of spring.
It has been snowing and snowing here, even more than usual for northern Colorado. And I had begun to worry that winter might decide to never end. But then, on a cold, wet day in February, I suddenly hear the whispers of Mama Earth, and I get a whiff of her soil coming alive. And it feels like I just received a message from a long lost lover. The spring I crave is on its way back to me.
On Winter Solstice, we officially enter into Seed Time in the northern hemisphere.
Winter is the time in Mama Earth’s cycle when she becomes still and appears to be lifeless. But beneath the surface, our earthy mother is very much alive; she is quietly gestating seeds for the new year, loving and holding them safe in the dark. This time of holding in the dark ensures that when spring arrives, the new seeds will be ready to sprout and grow.
What is yearning to come into your life now?
How does the Universe want each of us to sprout and grow in the coming year?
Let’s get still and listen in the darkness…
“Creativity – like human life itself – begins in darkness.”