Today (Feb. 3) is the Winter Cross-Quarter (in the U.S. — It’s tomorrow in Europe and Australia). It is the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring equinox. It is one of eight stations in our planet’s annual journey around the sun. For those in the Northern Hemisphere, the claws of winter are harsh at this time, even though sunlight has already started returning. It takes a while for the climate to warm in response to the longer day, so the earth remains cold. While the Winter Solstice is the time of longest darkness, the Winter Cross-Quarter is (on average) the time of greatest cold. Yet, like a secret promise, the sun is returning. Jon Cleland Host of the Naturalistic Paganism yahoo group refers to the day as the Winter “Thermistice”, the peak of cold in the winter season.
In the Northern Hemisphere, February 2 is traditionally celebrated in the Neo-Pagan Wheel of the Year as Imbolc. Other names include Oimelc, Brigit, Brigid’s Day, Bride’s Day, Brigantia, Gŵyl y Canhwyllau, and Candlemas. Those in the Southern Hemisphere celebrate Lammas instead at this time. Imbolc derives from Celtic traditions surrounding the goddess Brigid, whose sacred fire at Kildare was tended by virgin priestesses. Traditionally, it marks the season when ewes birth and give milk. It is a time of emergence, as the herd brings new life into the world, and we look forward to the coming spring. One custom to observe this is placing a well-protected candle in each window of the house, to shine the light of life out into the snowy cold (Nichols, 2009).
Glenys Livingstone of PaGaian Cosmology, a naturalistic tradition revering the Goddess as a metaphor for the Cosmos, recommends meditating upon emerging Creativity through the ever-new flame of the candle, the beginning of the in-breath, and the word om. It is a time for individuation, a time to renew dedication of one’s small self to the big Self.
“A dedication to Brigid means a dedication to the Being and Beauty of particular small self, and knowing deeply its Source – as an infant knows deeply its dependence on the Mother, as the new shoot on the tree knows intimately its dependence on the branch and the whole tree, as the new star’s being is connected to the supernova. It is a dedication to the being of your particular beautiful Self, rooted seamlessly in the whole of Gaia.” (Livingstone, 2008)
“As I stand here on this celebration of Imbolc, the sacred wheel of the year continues to turn and spring begins again. As my forebears did, I do now, and so may my descendants do in time to come. It is the feast of the goddess Brigid, guardian of the hearth fire and protector of the home. Patron of poetry, healing and smithcraft. It is a time of awakening after the dark, cold slumber of winter. The sun has grown stronger and the days have grown longer and I see now the first signs of spring. Trees are beginning to bud, snowdrops are blossoming and animals are stirring from hibernation. The time of Oimelc has arrived – the ewe’s are pregnant, lambs are being born and milk is beginning to flow once more. Winter is over and I rejoice in the hope of the coming warmth.
“I light this candle now in thanksgiving to Brigid, the sacred hearth fires of my home. I celebrate the growing power of the sun and look forward in hope to the coming warmth of summer.”