“Upon the earth, the ice and snow remained, and the people suffered through the frozen night, but now a change had come, for when they looked upon the Sun, each day was longer than the last. No longer did the darkness rule, and within their hearts, they began to know hope. There was rejoicing throughout the land as at last the long Winter approached its end.”
Once upon a time, before calendars and timepieces ruled our lives, people lived according to the moon, the sun and the seasons. During Spring, the Great Mother is young and fresh, blossoming with hope and the dimness of Winter becomes a memory. The days grow longer and crops begin to grow with the increasing light. The peak of summer, the Longest Day is celebrated with joy. Harvest time follows and as the days begin to grow shorter, they gathered the bounty, beginning to prepare for the coming cold. When once the chill winds begin to blow, they gathered together before the hearth fire and shared their summer memories. The larders were full, and the time of resting was upon them once again.
Today we fill the pantry and refrigerator from the grocery store all year long. Many people supplement their groceries with the harvest of their own gardens, but we are no longer dependent on the cycle of the seasons, the weather conditions and a myriad of other factors for our immediate source of sustenance. During the hot summer, or the coldest winter, we have the opportunity to run to the market and get fresh meat and vegetables. And even though we grow sick and tired of winter, it no longer threatens our lives in the same way.
What used to be a physical necessity, at least for most people in industrialized nations, is now focused on the emotional and spiritual. People of all religions still pray for prosperity, bountiful harvest, and the return of the Light. We are dependent on the ebb and flow of the Moon and Sun to regulate and balance the physical. And Light and Dark, summer and winter, play an important role in our spiritual lives as well.
Summer is a time of external expression. Barbecues with family, planting and keeping the garden, or joining together in synagogue or circle to share in the celebration of life. When it is winter dark and winter cold, it is a time of resting and going within. And as much as we know from technology that spring will follow winter, the cellular fear of the dark inhabits us all, that it might just be winter forever. So we once again gather together to work with the gods to usher in the changing of the seasons.
Lupercalia to the Romans, Imbolc to the Celts, and Candlemas to the Christians, February 2 marks the time of the Young Mother, the Goddess who has given birth to the Sun/Son. “It is the Feast of the Waxing Light. What was born at Winter Solstice begins to manifest, and we who were midwives to the infant year; now see the child Sun grow strong as the days grow longer. This is the time of individuality, beginnings, inspiration, the growing year, returning light, a festival of purification, chastity, the magick of a new fire and life force, the return from the Underworld, the Sun child nurses at the mother’s breast, the Crone retreats from Her reign, a time of creativity, healing, inward strength, potentiality, awakenings, meditation, and contemplations.”
It is a time of hope.
At this time of year, my first thoughts go to my garden. It is a reflection of the changing cycles of the year. During the time of growth, I sense the energy ebbing and flowing inside the plants. The Dark Moon draws the life force into the roots, nurturing and feeding the foundation in the darkness beneath the soil. The Full Moon draws that same Earth/Mother energy into the tops of the plants to produce flowers and then seeds, which are offered to us as the promise for the future.
Even though the days are getting longer, we are still within the Dark of the Year, and those promises, dropped as seeds into the soil in the fall, are still gestating beneath the scant winter snows that remain. It is a time of purification and cleansing, preparing for the coming Light for all of Nature.
As I notice that I begin thinking more and more about my small garden plot, I recognize that the nights have grown shorter, and the Southern Sun is just a little higher in the sky. If I pay attention to the hints from beyond the Hedge, I can almost smell the coming spring on the breezes that are still very chilly. And usually very near the date on the calendar that marks this Sabbat, I hear the young Goddess whisper in the early morning hours, “It’s time.” So I step into my grubby boots and with winter coat and gloves I gather my garden tools and begin cleaning the remains of winter from my wytches’ garden. Thoughtfully and very carefully, I clean the debris, piling sticks into the large fire ring that waits behind the old pine. The remaining lavender stems and mugwort rest on the top. Occasionally, depending on the temperatures, I catch a glimpse of the tiny crocus that are reaching for the sun and leave a tender covering of leaves to protect them.
Having cleaned out closets, drawers and my own personal debris during the previous week or so, I gather these things together and take them to the local goodwill. Purification and cleansing, remember? After returning home, I work on the final cleansing of my home. I wash my sheets with a touch of lavender oil. Sweeping the floors with intent, I banish the outworn to make way for new life. Wiping away the dust, I purify my personal space in honor of the Goddess.
The last of the vegetable soup that was canned the previous fall goes on the stove to simmer. Returning to the bonfire, I light the remnants of winter’s destruction, and as I gaze into the fire and smell the lavender scent, I offer my thanks, watching them float on the smoke to the heavens and pray that the Goddess will renew and recycle the leftovers and turn the destruction into hope.
After a final cleanse, a long luxurious bath, I pull out my Tarot, and sit down to the delicious aroma of the Fall Stew that fills the kitchen.
“From Mountain and Stream, from forest and field,
From the fertile Earth’s nourishing yield
I now partake of Divine Energy.
May it nourish and fulfill me that I may nourish and fulfill my world.”
Pulling the Star card from the Tarot deck, I ponder the meaning and symbology. The Star card is a card of hope for the future. Linked with the sign of Aquarius, it’s a watery card and the beautiful maiden that pours water from her pitcher into a stream and onto the Land is preparing for the future, watering seeds to grow in the spring, and refilling the stream so that those who are thirst may drink. She tells me that although we are still in the last throes of winter, spring will come.
I have prepared for the coming Light and made way for the blessings to come. Looking forward to longer days and warmer lights, I am grateful for making it through yet another winter.