The Celtic Wheel of the Year is a celebration of the turning of our beloved planet Gaia. It is separated into 8 holy days or holidays based on the Solstices and Equinoxes known as the quarter days, and the midpoints between, known as the cross quarter days.
The quarter days are…
Yule- December 20-23rd (Winter Solstice)
Ostara- March 19-22nd (Vernal/Spring Equinox)
Litha- June 19-23rd (Summer Solstice)
Mabon- September 21-24th (Autumnal Equinox)
The Cross quarter days are…
Samhain-October 31st-November 1st (Halloween)
Imbolc-February 2nd (Candlemas)
Beltaine-May 1st(May Day)
Lughnasadh-August 1st (Lammas)
The Wheel of the Year according to the Celts begins at Samhain. It is in the darkness that the seed of life and change is planted in minds and spirit. As many of you have expressed your desire to be more educated on this matter, I will start with Imbolc as it is the Holiday that stands directly before us.
Imbolc is a holy day connected to the Goddess Brighid/Bridget. It also a time of weather divination and preparing for spring. For many it was and is a celebration of hearth and home. A time of honoring the first signs of spring as the light becomes noticeably longer & the Ewes begin to give birth.
Brighid is one of the oldest Celtic goddesses. She was so beloved by the Irish that they refused to put her aside when Catholicism/Christianity made its mark, and was hence transformed into Saint Bridget by the Catholic church. Brighid is a triple faced goddess, but not in the maiden/mother/crone way. Her triple aspects are that of -Inspiration-poetry, song, divination, witchcraft & fertility/Smithcraft-she is the goddess of the forge/Healing-Herbalism, medicine, etc…All three of her aspects are connected to the element of fire making her a fire goddess. When honoring Bridgid at this time fire is recommended, whether it be a blazing bonfire or a simple candle. Other traditions include weaving Bridgids eye and/or Bridgids crosses.
When honoring Imbolc at home the hearth is seen as sacred or blessed at this time. So if you have a woodstove or fireplace, make sure to light it and give honor to the fire within us as well as the fire without that keeps us warm as we transcend the last months of winter. It is also a time to celebrate with dairy products to acknowledge the onset of spring. Ewes often come into their milk at this time and it is seen as one of the signs of spring around the corner. From a spiritual perspective this is a potent time of divination on the year to come and of planning, setting forward our desires to be planted at the Spring Equinox.
The weather divination aspect of Imbolc is where we get Ground Hogs day from. Traditionally at this time of year wise women would look for signs of spring. Had the badgers come out of their den (groundhogs here in the US). It’s important to note that our weather is a little behind living in the frozen tundra of Vermont. In Scotland they see Imbolc as the day of the Hag. They believed she collected her fire wood for the rest of winter on this day…so if the day was beautiful it meant we had a longer stretch of winter ahead of us as she had time to collect more wood. If you have an interest in Weather Divination you might want to
research Nephomancy and chiromancy.
Nephomancy is the art of studying the size and shape of clouds in divination and Chiromancy is something most of us have done since childhood, interpreting the picture we see in the clouds. Another form of weather divination is called
Anemoscopy, which is the art of studying the wind and its patterns.
I have lived by and celebrated the Wheel of the Year for almost 20 years. When we work with the forces of Nature our work is easier. At Imbolc nature is at a time of waking up…just getting ready to pull back the covers and get out of bed. We all know that the time before waking is powerful, as the spirit of creativity (Awen) is strong. My personal celebration of Imbolc has always been one of inspiration, lighting my internal fire and preparing for growth. I encourage you to explore this subject more fully…go online, read books and articles and decide how you can best incorporate this into your own life.