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.
It is summer solstice. Every year in June, the Sun returns to its northernmost point in our sky. This solstice time signals the peak of summer sunlight falling on the northern hemisphere (and the peak of winter darkness in the southern hemisphere).
Traditionally summer solstice is a time of celebration, a time to rejoice and offer gratitude to the Sun for continuing to bless our Earth with life giving sunlight. This particular solstice is extra special because the Moon is full at the same time. This combination of solstice Sun and full Moon hasn’t happened in 40 years.
Our moon is full and bright in the fiery sign of Sagittarius, the truth seeker. Meanwhile, our Sun is dancing out of Gemini and into the watery sign of Cancer, the nurturer. Both Sun and Moon are in their most expansive state, creating a potent interweaving of the sacred feminine and masculine energies.
Mystic Mamma offers insight into the significance of this special full moon summer solstice time: full moon solstice insights.
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.