While we wait for Spring to arrive, Punxsutawney Phil predicted another six weeks of Winter for us in the USA and Canada. Yep, the Groundhog saw his shadow in Pennsylvenia this morning. On the hand we have our own little critter, which predicts the weather here in Texas. Alvin, the Armadillo predicted an early Spring in the Lone Star State. Oh boy! We really could use a few cold weeks and some snow to kill those pesky bugs. And the land needs the water.
Today we also celebrate Imbolc. The days are getting longer. And Nature prepares itself for the emerging of new life. In many places in the Northern Hemisphere, little snowdrops and crocuses peak through the still frozen soil. It will get warmer and life will flourish with new baby animals. It’s the Coming of Spring.
In the Northern Hemisphere we celebrate the return of the Sun, today. It will be the shortest day and the longest night, before the days will be come longer, also known as the Winter Solstice or the Pagan Yuletide. The Southern Hemisphere celebrates Mid-Summer/Summer Solstice, today. It’s the longest day, and the shortest night of the year. So wherever is your home on this beautiful planet, Happy Solstice to you all!
Now in the darkening of the year
the veil between the world wears thin
and those gone on ahead draw near.
In the hours of quiet remembrance
that the waning season brings,
we may feel their whispered presence
like the brush of a gentle wind.
SAMHAIN (The Summer’s End)
Samhain marks one of the two great doorways of the Celtic year, for the Celts divided the year into two seasons: the light and the dark, at Beltane on May 1st and Samhain on October 31st. Some believe that Samhain was the more important festival, marking the beginning of a whole new cycle, just as the Celtic day began at night.
The most magically potent time of this festival is the night of October 31st, known today of course , as Halloween. The date marked both an ending and a beginning in an eternal cycle.
In the country year, Samhain marked the first day of winter, when the herders led the cattle and sheep down from their summer hillside pastures to the shelter of stable and brye. The hay that would feed them during the winder must be stored in sturdy thatched ricks, tied down securely against storms. Those destined for the table were slaughtered, after being ritually devoted to the gods.
All the harvest must be gathered in, barley, oats, wheat, turnips, and apples for come November, the faeries would blast every growing plant with their breath, blighting any nuts and berries remaining on the hedgerows. Peat and wood for winter fires were stacked high by the hearth. It was a joyous time of family reunion, when all members of the household worked together baking, salting meat, and making preserves for the winter feasts to come.
The Celts believed that at the time of Samhain, more so than any other time of the year, the dead were able to mingle with the living, because at Samhain the souls of those who had died during the year traveled into the otherworld. As a feast of the dead, it was believed the dead could, if they wished, return to the land of the living for this one night, to celebrate with their family, tribe, or clan.
Lughnasadh/Lammas is the time to celebrate the first harvest of the year, and recognize that the hot summer days will soon come to an end. At Lammas, (loaf-mass), freshly baked loaves of bread are placed on the altar.
Blessed Litha! Sacred fire!
Magical sunrise stirs desire
Queen of Heaven and of Earth
We celebrate your bright rebirth
We see your first blessed rays
In these magical solstice days
Ascending cycle to fulfil
Dancing on the silver hill.
Lilies burn with your desire
Intoxicating spirit fire
As oak and myrrh and mugwort burn
Elder, chamomile and fern
The sacred serpent eats the Spring
Then brings Autumn on the wing
Burning wreaths of sweet vervain
The Goddess will return again.