Spring Prophecy

Spring Thaw

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 Gateway

Winter Solstice at Stonehenge
Winter Solstice at Stonehenge

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!

☀️

#solstice  #magic

The Dark Half of the Year

Samhain - Wheel of the Year

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.

Late Summer Harvest

The Golden Lions of Lugh

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”
~William Blake

Abundant Summer Solstice

Earth Laughs in Flowers (1)

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:

Don’t grieve.

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…

~Rumi,
13th century Sufi mystic

Fertile Spring Beltane

Beltane-1999

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.

Happy Beltane!

The Promise of Spring – Imbolc

Spring Crocus

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.

Seeding Winter Solstice

Mount Sanitas in Winter

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.”
~Julia Cameron

Autumn Samhain

Samhain

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