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.
Winter Solstice officially occurs Saturday night December 21st in North America. But the entire weekend is filled with sacred solstice light.
This is the perfect time to pause for a moment or two. Silently express gratitude for all life on Earth – Life made possible through the magic alchemy of sunlight, soil and water.
Winter Solstice Chant
Vines, leaves, roots of darkness, growing, now you are uncurled and cover our eyes with the edge of winter sky leaning over us in icy stars. Vines, leaves, roots of darkness, growing, come with your seasons, your fullness, your end. ~Annie Finch
All the complicated details of the attiring and the disattiring are completed! A liquid moon moves gently among the long branches. Thus having prepared their buds against a sure winter the wise trees stand sleeping in the cold. ~William Carlos Williams
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.
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.
Life bursts forth Flowing all around Tiny green buds First flowers of spring Magical new Life.
Ancient dance Fertile dance Yin & Yang unite Life blooms With natural joy.
May Day, or Beltane, is the halfway point between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. This date marked the beginning of summer for the ancient Celts. It was a day of dance and song – a celebration in gratitude for fertile fields sprouting with new life.
Blessings to our beautiful Earth on this magical Beltane cross-quarter day. So grateful for our original Mama, the planet who birthed us all.
Full moon in watery Cancer lights up the longest night in the northern hemisphere. This is a traditional time of rest and reflection. Sit in the stillness of winter solstice and breathe with the slow flow of nature in winter. Slow down and enjoy the quiet gifts of the season.