Imbolc actually means “in the belly”. It refers to an ancient Celtic celebration that was held in the early days of February. This is the time in the northern hemisphere when ewe bellies are fattening with the new life growing within. We are halfway between winter solstice and spring equinox. The wheel of the year has officially turned toward spring!
For more information, please check out Nancy’s 2017 article on Imbolc:
An earthy full Moon in Virgo, the sign of the priestess is happening now. In ancient times, Virgo priestesses served the Earth, by leading rituals and ceremonies to honor the seasons and cycles of life on Earth.
This Virgo Moon helps bring the expansive energy of a dreamy Pisces Sun back down to Earth. Yes, we must step outside ordinary reality and dream big in order to transform our world. But the devil is in the details. Now it is time to begin turning our dreams into grounded action. Time to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on our big dreamy plans for the future. Meditate and call on the energies of this Virgo moon to guide you and help you.
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.
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.
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.
New moon tonight in earthy Virgo, the keeper of sacred rituals and rhythms. This is a great time to honor our beautiful Earth with some small gesture of gratitude. Below are a few simple ways to express your gratitude:
Sit outside. Offer a prayer of gratitude to Mama Earth for the water, food, oxygen and shelter she provides for you and your family.
Return the favor. Plant a new tree or bush. Create cover and food for the birds, butterflies and bees in your neighborhood.
Go Organic. Make a commitment to switch to using all organic fertilizers and pesticides in your yard. Visit your local nursery for guidance.
Take a walk outside. Hum or sing your joy and gratitude for the beautiful grasses and trees and wildlife you encounter.