Monday, February 7, 2011


I know that Winter is almost over but, before it goes, I have to document how it began for me, not just to share it with other people but to have it written somewhere for myself.  It was no ordinary start to Winter and it left an indelible impression on me, my spirit and my life.  It was the most spiritual event of my life to date and an experience that I will carry with me everyday for the rest of my time on this Earth.

Monday, December 20th, started like any other day before Yule in my home, with the morning hustle and bustle of getting ready for work and school and rushing out the door to get to these places on time.  Everything was ready to make the Yule log – the log itself had been trimmed up, the holes for the bayberry candles were drilled into it and the greenery was waiting in a basket outside to stay fresh until it would be placed upon it.  Vases in the house were full of pine branches and holly.  Candles were placed around the house to let light and warmth shine in our home and in our life.  The tree was set up on the front enclosed porch of our house with 600 white lights on it ready to twinkle the night away.  After my husband and son departed for the day, I sat with my morning coffee and decompressed before going to work, meditating on what the evening and the next day would bring.  This was to be a very powerful night.  Not only was Winter Solstice to begin after but it was to be a full moon with a total eclipse of the moon.  The last time a total lunar eclipse coincided with a Solstice was in the year 1638 and it would not occur again until 2094.  A clear but very cold night was forecast, all the better to see the full moon and the eclipse.

After dinner that night, I worked on putting together the Yule log, carefully wiring in layer after layer of small pine branches and holly with a pinecone tucked in here and there, a meditative activity all in itself.  When it was finished, I lit the bayberry candles and the other candles throughout the house and settled in for a short Winter’s nap with my husband on the sofa.  We had decided that we would just get a couple hours of sleep and wake up around to see the eclipse.  I moved in and out of sleep for a while, something like excitement coursing through me.  I felt like a child on Christmas Eve who is anxiously awaiting Santa’s arrival.  But, finally, I gave in to unconsciousness.

The alarm on my phone went off at , “The Nutcracker Suite” by the Brian Setzer Orchestra jolting me from my slumber.  I jumped up off the sofa and hurried to the front porch to see if I could catch a glimpse of the moon through the barren tree in front of my house.  There it was!  I dashed back to the living room and gave the hubby a shake.  “Come on,” I said, “it’s time.”  Then I ran upstairs to my son’s room and woke him from his deep sleep, telling him that he could not miss an event that would not happen again in his lifetime.  We quickly bundled up in heavy coats, hats and gloves and went outside to the backyard.  An icy wind blew from the North, heralding the arrival of Winter and almost taking our breath away.  I turned and looked up.  Totality was just about to occur, the moon almost covered by the Earth’s shadow, an amber halo beginning to form.    It was surrounded by stars which are normally not in view because of ambient light and the sky seemed darker, more vast.  The wind suddenly ceased and all the world went quiet.   I huddled with my son as my husband tried to capture the event on video and digital camera.

In that moment, I felt a sudden grounding to the earth beneath my feet, like I was held in place by a huge magnet, but there was also a tug from inside me, at my solar plexus, like my spirit wanted to take flight from my body.  My heart pounded away and my breath seemed to be stuck in my chest somewhere.  Tears stung my eyes.  I’m still not really sure why.  I felt suspended in time and space, like everything in the world had stopped.  And then…totality.  A great noise enveloped me, like that of ocean waves and I thought I heard whispers on the wind.  Again, the wind slowed and I let a long cleansing breath out, like the first breath after being born or the last breath upon dying.  There was a rush through every part of my body, a tingling like static electricity.  The wind gusted again and I held my son closer, also leaning against my husband.  “Happy Yule,” I whispered to them.

We stood there for a few more minutes and then were driven back inside by the cold.  They headed up to bed and I sat for a short while by the tree and front windows on the chilly front porch watching the Earth’s shadow begin to release the moon before heading off to bed.  After all, there was still the Yule celebration on the night of the 21st to look forward to, in which we would light the small Winter Solstice bonfire, full of aromatic woods and herbs, under that full moon to welcome the return of the sun.  And I would read the story I had found in a book called “A Visit to Mother Winter”.  And we would eat, drink and make merry.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

On A Cold Winter's Day

As I write this, I am awaiting round two of a huge storm system that has its icy tendrils stretched across the greater part of the United States, encompassing the South, Midwest, Northeast and Atlantic coast.  Depending on where you are, you may be seeing rain, freezing rain, sleet or snow.  It is gray and cold outside my window.  The fine sheet of ice that coated everything around me this morning has just melted.  Tonight should bring us freezing rain that will leave us with a quarter to a half inch of ice on all surfaces and will be followed by an inch or so of rain.  I have spent the morning cleaning up my house, doing every bit of laundry, organizing my refrigerator, putting candles here and there, making sure flashlights are within reach, and generally preparing my home and family for whatever may come.  In doing all of this, one simple thought stayed at the forefront of my mind.  Spring is almost here.

Tomorrow is February 2nd, Groundhog Day, Candlemas, Imbolc, the midway point between Winter and Spring.  With the current weather, Mr. Groundhog will come out tomorrow and will not see his shadow because the sun will be hiding behind the rain, snow, ice and clouds.  No shadow means an early Spring.  According to an Old English saying:

“As the light grows longer
The cold grows stronger
If Candlemas be fair and bright
Winter will have another flight
If Candlemas be cloud and rain
Winter will be gone and not come again”

Therefore, it looks like tomorrow, which is Candlemas, will “be cloud and rain and Winter will be gone and not come again”.  Oh, if only that were so.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news but Spring arrives precisely when it means to, in six weeks on the Vernal Equinox.  On the bright side, it’s only six weeks away.

So, here we are, right between Winter and Spring, between rain and snow, between warm air and cold air, waiting.  What now?  I look to Brigid.  In the Catholic tradition, she is a saint and her feast day, a time of purification and blessing, is celebrated today, February 1st.  In Pagan traditions, pre-dating Christianity, Brigid is the Goddess of inspiration and poetry, associated with creativity, home and hearth, and tomorrow, February 2nd, Imbolc, is sacred to her.  In both religions, this a time when candles are prepared and blessed, a time for purification rituals, and a time to let light, warmth and hope into our homes, into our very lives.  This is a wonderful time to clean up and organize your home, to have your home and hearth blessed, to rededicate yourself to your personal spiritual path, to begin new creative projects, or to begin planning your garden for the Spring.  These are all ways of bringing warmth and comfort to our spirits during the cold dark days of Winter and of looking forward to Spring and all of its new possibilities.

Tonight, light a candle to the Brigid of your religious tradition and ask her to bring inspiration, warmth, light, hope and protection to your home and family.  And, think Spring!