Spring and fertility go together. To honor the fertility of the spring growing season, many of our ancestors held huge celebrations in early May. The festival of Beltane was used to acknowledge and honor the beginning of Earth’s fertile growing season.
In May, the days lengthen in the northern hemisphere and we slide quietly into the light half of the year. The light half of each year is filled with sun and warmth, new growth and abundance. Then in 6 months, around November 1, we will dive into the dark half of the year, marked by the festival of Samhain and short, dark days, fallow ground and long cold nights. And so the cycle of the seasons progresses, year after year after year.
My Celtic ancestors were avid observers of the seasonal shifts, both on Mama Earth and in Papa Sky above. So it doesn’t surprise me that my Welsh and Scottish ancestors held large outdoor festivals in honor of Beltane (also known as May Day). The tradition of teen aged boys and girls dancing around the May pole is believed to have started with the Celts. The dance was a way to have fun AND symbolize the intertwining and merging of the male and female energies that ultimately create new life on the land and in the waters all around us.
Beltane is the perfect time to get outside and commune with Mother Nature by hiking, dreaming in a hammock, picnicking, or just sitting with a tree listening to the wind rustle a thousand tiny new leaves. Every moment spent connecting with Nature is guaranteed to nourish your heart and Soul.
Beltane is the perfect time to connect with Mama Earth in a deep intimate way.
If you can, spend a few hours outside around Beltane. Turn off your computer and go walk barefoot in the grass. Breathe in the scents of spring. Pause and notice the abundance of new life sprouting up all around you; green shoots of grass, tiny new tree leaves and a plethora of flowers all show us how fertile and abundant Mama Earth is at this time of year. Meditate on the beauty and bounty of Mama Earth. Give thanks for every gift that this beautiful planet joyfully shares with us. Give thanks and revel in spring.
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.”
As the shadows lengthen and the days grow short in early November, many of our European ancestors actually celebrated the start of their year. Depending on which source you believe, this celebration happened on November 1st… OR was celebrated at the time of the new moon in late October or early November. The Celts named their celebration Samhain. In other cultures it is known as the Day of the Dead.
This special time marks the entrance into the dark half of the solar year, when night lasts longer than day in the northern hemisphere. Many still view the Day of the Dead or Samhain as a time to connect with and honor loved ones who have died and crossed over into the place beyond. And with harvest ending at this time of year, it is also the perfect time to acknowledge all the blessings and bounty received in the past year.
Celebrating Samhain does not have to be complicated. Just take a few moments to pause and light a candle in the dark. Send love to those who have passed. Offer thanks for all the good in your life.
In the spirit of Samhain and honoring our Earth, Irish bard John O’Donohue offers you the blessings of elemental earth, air, fire, water and spirit:
“May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.”
~John O’Donohue, Anam Cara