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
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.
Certain times in our lives are filled with potency and magic. Twilight is such a time, as is dawn. These are magical moments when it is neither day nor night. Birth is another potent in-between time, along with death. These special times mark borders and transition zones. The in-between is a sacred time when magic is afoot.
Here in the northern hemisphere, we find ourselves on the boundary between autumn and winter. The light is slowly fading away as our Sun drops lower and lower in the sky and our nights grow longer. This is another potent in-between time. The ancient Celtic people would celebrate Samhain (Sow-in) at this time. Some tribes chose to celebrate at the 1st new moon after late harvest (October 19th this year). Other tribes celebrated at the 1st full moon after harvest (November 3rd this year). The celebration of Samhain was a beautiful way to honor the seasonal transition out of the light and into the dark.
The veils between the worlds grow very thin during this sacred in-between time. Loved ones who have departed this Earth are believed to be nearby. Many people in Mexico honor this by celebrating Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) at this time.
Samhain is the perfect time to acknowledge and celebrate the sacred cycles of birth – growth – death – rebirth that are an integral part of Nature.
Some suggestions for acknowledging and honoring the magical in-between time of Samhain:
Take a few moments to honor everything you have “harvested” this year.
Bow to your ancestors and thank them for giving you this life.
Offer love and prayers to loved ones who have transitioned.
Thank the brilliant light of summer and embrace the deep dark of winter.
Listen for spiritual guidance to help you in the coming year.
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.
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 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.
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 2017, this halfway point falls on February 3.
Want a simple way to honor Imbolc and the turning of the year towards spring? Light a candle or two tonight, and offer up a simple prayer of gratitude in honor of Mama Earth and the return of spring.