There are special in-between times in life that are filled with power. Twilight is such a time, as is dawn. Those magical moments in each day when it is neither day nor night… Birth is also an in-between time, as is death. Each of these in-between times marks a border, a space of transition. They are special times when the ancients believed magic is likely to occur.
Here in the northern hemisphere, we find ourselves on the boundary between autumn and winter. This is yet another potent in-between time. As the sunlight fades away and our nights begin to lengthen, the ancient Celtic people celebrated Samhain (Sow-in). Some tribes celebrated Samhain at the 1st new moon after late harvest (October 30th this year). Other tribes chose to celebrate at the 1st full moon after harvest (November 14th this year).
The Celtic celebration of Samhain was a way to acknowledge and honor the transition out of the light half of the year and into the dark half. The Celtic people believed that the veils between this world and the next are very thin at Samhain. Those that have departed this Earth are close at Samhain. This made it the perfect time to celebrate the gifts of the ancestors, and to celebrate the endless cycles of birth – growth – death – rebirth that are an integral part of Nature.
In this sacred and magical in-between time, spend a few moments acknowledging and honoring all that has happened in the past year.
Honor everything you have “harvested” this year.
Consider what you hope to “birth” and “grow” in the year ahead.
Bow to your ancestors and thank them for giving you this life.
Offer love and prayers to loved ones who have transitioned.
Thank the light of summer and embrace the dark of winter.
Celebrate the Magic of Samhain.
We honor the fertility and magic of Nature
on this day the Celts called Beltane.
Even with snow on the ground here in the Rockies,
the flowers are in bloom!
“Beltane is so much about the urge to connect, to blend and merge;
to feel a part of something extraordinary; to at once lose one’s sense of self in that merging
but also to paradoxically feel more absolutely and truly oneself because of it.
In the desire to penetrate life’s mysteries, we need also to open ourselves to them,
surrendering to the power of love that it may have the opportunity to transform us.
Great things are born in us at such moments of union;
this place of merging is where the tap root of our creativity feeds,
without it we feel dry and disconnected.
If that magical, alchemical moment of connection and merging were a colour,
I suspect it might be perceived as many beautiful, vibrant shades but its foundation,
I feel sure, would be the green of spring: ecstatically joyful –
the irrepressible life and desire that leads us to love.”
~ Maria Ede-Weaving
Every year, in the 3rd week of March, spring officially begins in the northern hemisphere. This date is known as the vernal equinox. This year it occurs March 19th at 10:30 PM Mountain time. Vernal equinox marks the moment that our Sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above Mother Earth’s equator. Vernal (or vernus) is actually the Latin word for spring. The term equinox is used to acknowledge that the length of day and night are equal or in balance at this time of year.
Traditionally, vernal or spring equinox is a time to celebrate new life, rebirth and new beginnings. Quite appropriate, given that spring is the time of year when Mama Earth “wakes up” and offers shoots and buds of new growth everywhere. Spring is also the ideal time to sow seeds that will sprout and grow as our days lengthen and the soil of Mama Earth warms up.
Our ancestors built many monuments honoring the return of spring. The Great Sphinx, an ancient Egyptian symbol of resurrection and rebirth, is precisely aligned with the sky so that the Sphinx stares directly at the rising sun on spring equinox. Angkor Wat in Cambodia is positioned so that the sun rises up the side of the central tower of the temple and crowns its pinnacle on spring equinox. And at the Mayan temple of Chichen Itza, a magical sun serpent appears and slithers up the pyramid stairs each year on spring equinox.
Here at Sacred Earth Institute we like to be a bit more informal and simply shout with joy that spring is coming!
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. Today Phil did NOT see his shadow, thus predicting that winter will end soon. How ironic that this prediction occurs when much of the country is buried under piles of snow!
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 herself 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.
The Celtic tribes lived in the far north where winter is a brutal season. They had to burn huge quantities of wood to keep from freezing every winter. They also had to rely on their own stores of food to get them through the long winter months when no crops could be grown or harvested. There was no corner grocery store to run to if they ran out of bread. Is it any wonder that the Celts were quite focused on the return of spring?
The Celts watched and waited for spring. And they noticed that the ewes began to lactate and prepare for the birth of their lambs in early February. The Celts saw this return of mothers’ milk as reason to celebrate. The flow of milk and the birth of baby lambs meant spring was definitely on its way. The harshness of winter would soon end. The Celts celebrated Imbolc because they understood that their lives depended on the grace of Mama Earth and her seasons.
There is a magic to Imbolc and the early days of February. It is there, running just beneath the surface. Can you sense 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. Now it is February, not quite time for the seeds to sprout. But the days are definitely lengthening. 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 your feet. Listen with your heart. Can you hear the stirring?
Imbolc is traditionally celebrated at the halfway point between winter solstice and spring equinox. In 2016, this halfway point falls on February 4. Here is a way to celebrate Imbolc at your house: Light a candle or two tonight. Then offer up a simple prayer of gratitude in honor of Mama Earth and the return of spring.
Winter solstice happens tonight in the northern hemisphere. This is the longest night of the year here in the North.
Our Sun it sitting directly on top of the Galactic Cross in our sky. The Galactic Cross marks where the plane of our solar system intersects with the plane of the Milky Way galaxy. Our Sun sits on the cross for 3 days.
This is a natural energetic gateway into the new year. Set your intentions for 2016 now!
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.
It is early August. Here in the northern hemisphere, we are in the midst of the hot, lazy “dog days” of summer. The expression “dog days” is believed to pre-date the Roman Empire. Our ancestors named this late summer season the dog days because at this time of year Sirius, the dog star, is closely aligned with the Sun in our sky.
The ancient Celtic people held the festival of Lughnasadh during the dog days of summer. It was their way of celebrating the start of the harvest season. Lughnasadh was typically held halfway between the Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox. It was a time of gratitude for the bounty of the harvest season. In many villages 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 first fruits of the Earth were harvested and shared.
Later in Britain, the festival of Lughnasadh became Lammas Day. The festival of Lammas was held on August 1st in honor of 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 for the harvest.
Lughnasadh and Lammas are both 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. In these modern times, it is easy to forget that all of our food comes from the bounty of Mama Earth. Every morsel is a gift from the Sun and Earth, even if purchased wrapped in cellophane at the local grocery store!
All of our clothing and shelter are also gifts from this sunny planet, as well as the oxygen we breathe. We have come a long way from the times of subsistence farming, yet we are still the children of Mama Earth and Father Sun, completely dependent on their gifts for life. And pausing to acknowledge and honor the start of the harvest season can be a wonderful way to reconnect with the beauty and bounty of Mama Earth.
Take a few moments in early August to connect with Mama Earth and Papa Sun. Offer up a simple prayer of thanks to Earth and Sun for all that you have in your life. You can also create a simple harvest ritual of your own. Just focus on giving thanks for this year’s bounty.
Your personal “harvest” may include more than just the food you eat – what else has come to fruition for you this year? Perhaps you have a new job or a new family member. Maybe you made progress on a project near and dear to your heart. Or perhaps you’ve found peace in a troubled part of your life. Take a few moments to honor all the gifts that you have received this year.
Simple ways to honor this year’s harvest:
- Prepare a dinner feast for family or friends and give thanks.
- Bake a loaf of bread in honor of the harvest season. Not a baker? Make corn bread or gingerbread.
- Light a candle and offer a heartfelt prayer of gratitude.
- Build a bonfire and dance a prayer of gratitude around it.
- Go outside and sit for awhile with Earth and Sun. Offer them a heartfelt thanks.
☼ ☼ ☼
“The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest”
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