Imbolc: The Great Wheel Turns

Imbolc  Waxing Wild Moon

Imbolc.  The celebration of lamb’s in the belly, imbolc and the festival honoring Brighid*. (see information below from the Encyclopedia Mythica.This is my favorite web source for quick, accurate information about Gods and Goddesses.)

When I came back to my Celtic roots during my transition out of the Presbyterian Ministry (the state church of a Celtic country), Brighid became central to the spirituality I began to develop.  As a fire goddess, her Imbolc celebration symbolizes the quickening of the earth as the reign of the Caillieach, the crone, recedes under the sun’s (fire) unrelenting return.

As a fire goddess, the blacksmiths worshiped her, as did the housewife with her hearth-fire and the poet, the filid and the bard, roles critical to ancient Celtic society.   Brighid inspired the poets.  Thus, she supported craftspersons, domestic life and the spark of genius that kept kings and the ruling class in check and still gives Ireland fame in letters to this day.  She became associated with fertility, hence the ewe and the lamb in the belly.

In one interpretation of the Great Wheel, the earth goes through three phases:  the first, or the virgin/maiden takes prominence with the beginning of the agricultural year, Imbolc.  The second, the Mother, takes the God as her husband at Beltane (May 1) and reigns over the growing season.  As the harvest comes in the Cailleach, the old woman or crone, takes charge.  The year proceeds in this way through virignity, motherhood and old age; a procession repeated over and over, as this archetypal linking of the year and the maturation of humanity repeats over and over in human society.

On this February 1st, as the business cycle continues its skid, the Great Wheel can teach us that the cyclical nature of human events will right this plunge and prosperity, too, will return.  You might see the business cycle as going through its crone phase, except the crone was a wise woman and as near I can tell this phase of the business cycle represents foolish men.

Time has many puzzling aspects, not the least is its appearance of linearity while we experience, too, and more profoundly, its cycles.  I see the cyclical nature of time as more true to my experience and more hopeful.  The Great Wheel, the natural cycle, does not require a cataclysm at the end to right injustice and imbalance, as do faith traditions invested in chronological time.  Each year each season brings its own opportunities for renewal, for celebration and each season is only that, a season.  In regular succession the next season will come.

I used to close my e-mails with this quote I discovered carved into the Arbor Day Lodge wooden border in its reception atrium:

There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrain of nature–the assurance that dawn comes after night, spring after winter.    Rachel Carson

This is the great and wonderful gift the Great Wheel can bring to your life, if you let it. Read More

63  bar falls 29.57  3mph WNW dew-point 56  Summer, sunny and cool

Last Quarter Flower Moon

Mid-summer has come and gone.  This means that Lughnasa, a cross-quarter holiday lies only a few weeks ahead.  Lughnasa is a cross-quarter holiday; it comes between the Summer Solstice (mid-summer) and the Fall Equinox (Mabon).  The Celts divided their festival year first in halves, Beltane and Samhain, Summer and Winter, then in fourths, adding Lughnasa and Imbolc (Candlemas).  At some point they added in the solstice and equinox celebrations that were more common in the rest of Europe.  This created the current eight part Celtic year which begins at Samhain on October 31st and runs, successively, through Winter Solstice (Yule), Imbolc on February 1st, Spring Equinox (Ostra), Beltane on May 1st, Summer Solstice (Mid-Summer), Lughnasa on August 1st, and the Fall Equinox (Mabon).

This means that New Years for Celts occurs on what the US celebrates as Halloween.  The creative part of me has found the Celtic year a perfect fit for my writing life.  I try to start writing projects on or around Samhain since the late fall, winter and early spring seasons are inside times in the northern latitudes, at least for those who don’t ski.

Following the Celtic Year, or the Great Wheel of the Year, has proved faith and spirituality enough for me since late in the last millennium. We move in response to nature’s deep rhythms whether we acknowledge them or not, just consider the beating of your heart and the breath in your lungs right now.  Eating, sexuality, exercise and play are all intrinsic aspects of the body and DNA we have inherited from millions of years of evolution.  That evolution has focused on those functionalities necessary to survive in Earth’s specific environment:  its seasons, its other animals both predator and prey, its plants and mountains, rivers and streams, lakes and grasslands.

We are not only animals, our mind gives us self-awareness, a precious and difficult gift.  We are, however, never less than animals and the self-awareness and agency we so cherish vanishes if we lose the vessel given to us by those millions of years of evolution.  This is why death is such a difficult barrier for us.  We flail around when confronted with the loss of our body’s elegant functionality.  Perhaps this body is a chrysalis and death the trigger for our imaginal cells to begin a process of subtle transformation so that we emerge after death a resurrected or transmigrated entity, as different from the earth bound us as the butterfly is from the caterpillar.

Until that great drifting up morning however, we walk here, feet bound to alma mater and hearts beating without conscious help.

Sad Movies Always Make Me Cry

60  bar steady 29.59  0mph NNW dewpoint 59  Beltane, night

              Waxing Crescent of the Flower Moon

What a beauty.  This crescent moon, nearing the first quarter, has two stars above it, one low toward the horn and the other on a thirty degree angle further away.  Rain scrubbed the sky clean tonight, so they sparkle.  We only to look to the moon and the stars to find ample inspiration.  Do we need another layer, a human interpretation of the wonder we feel when we see the great star road?  I’m not so sure anymore.

The list of movies I haven’t seen that others have a long time ago included Dances With Wolves until tonight.  Not many movies make me cry, but the closing scenes when Dances With Wolves and Stands With A Fist leave the winter village did.  Especially moving to me was Wind in the Hair crying from the cliff top, “Dances With Wolves, do you hear me?  Do you know that I will always be your friend?” 

When the soldiers killed Dances With Wolves’ horse and then his wolf companion, I also cried.  The wolf’s loyalty and love repayed with death.  These two incidents capture so much of the casual violence that American culture legitmates.  Once again, I cringed at the harsh lessons of the frontier. 

Weeding tomorrow.  Oh, boy.  Also, I get to do some chainsaw pruning.  We lost a main branch off one of our Amur Maples.  They have a tendency to fragility so it didn’t surprise me. 

My Y Chromosome

32  bar steep rise 30.08 1mh NNW dewpoint 27 Spring

              Waxing Crescent Moon of Growing

This  invitation is also for any of you read this blog and would like to come.   I’d love to see you.

Sierra Club Power 2 Change House Party Monday, April 14th 

 7:00-8:00PM

Hosted by Charles Buckman-Ellis 3122 153rd Ave. NW. Andover.Learn about the Power 2 Change campaign, an effort to educate the public about what is at stake in the 2008 elections. High gas prices and America‘s dependence on foreign oil have made energy one of the most pressing and important issues of this political season.  We face a crossroads, and we need to challenge all of our elected officials, including the next President, to provide the leadership we need to move America in a new direction on energy.  Between now and Earth Day on April 22nd, the Sierra Club is working to get the word out that we need leadership who will make the right choices.  Join us for refreshments, meet your neighbors and learn how you can take actionRSVP to Margaret at 612-659-9124 ext. 306 or Margaret.levin@sierraclub.org Visit the web site to learn more about this important effort: http://www.sierraclub.org/power2change/minnesota/ 

Note: This is NOT a fundraiser.

 Come to the event if you can.  I’d love to see you.  (Anybody who reads this is welcome.)

Whenever Kate comes home and I’m watching a football game or a basketball game, she’ll say, “Aha. Caught you with your Y chromosome in action.”  Doesn’t happen often, but had she not been in San Francisco, she could have found me watching the last half and the overtime of the Kansas/Memphis game of the NCAA finals. Whoa.  What a game! Kansas, down by 9 with 2:12 left to play and down by 3 with less 2.0 seconds left to play. Chalmers hits the three.  Tie.  In overtime Kansas takes advantage of a missing big man (Dorsey) and goes on to win pulling away.   

That wasn’t all though.  Tonight was also Woolly night at the Istanbul.  This is a y-chromosome only club.  We talked about Rome, about China-Tibet, Danish desserts and Pawlenty’s veto of the Central Corridor light rail.  Stefan and Bill celebrated birthdays.  A guy’s night out. 

Talked to Kate when I got home.  She’d called the home phone, left a message and said she forgot I was the Woolly’s and that she’d call tomorrow.  I picked up the cell phone, called her cell phone.  She answered.  I said, “I just called to tell you we’re old farts.”  “Why?”  “Because I could have had my phone turned on and you could have called me at the Istanbul.”  “You called me on the cell phone just to see if I’d answer?”  “Yeah.  If you hadn’t, that would have meant we were O.F.’s for sure.” 

Mailed another package to the serviceman in my life.  Still strange.

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Cheesy Sci-Fi Movies

21  bar steady  1mph W dewpoint 15   Spring (yeah, right!)

              Full Moon of Winds

Spent this afternoon and evening watching NCAA basketball and movies.  Watched a medium bad Sci-Fi movie about a blackhole created in a lab in St. Louis.  It’s bad in part because of the acting.  Cheesy sci-fi movies only seem to have enough budget for one take.  It’s also bad because I read the hard sci-fi book from which the concept came and this movie bore no relationship to the very good book at all.  Which is a shame since that book had real science behind it and would have made a good movie.  This one had a beast that came out of the black hole and ate energy.  Hmmm.  So much wrong with that premise, you’d think I’d stop watching, but, no.  I have a low threshold for quality when I want entertainment.

Been kicking around the idea, for a few years, of writing some original theology/atheology, a ge-ology, or something.  The woman who complimented my learning this morning, Lois Hamilton, got me thinking about all this again.  I’ve spent since 1965 getting seriously educated.  In a lot of fields.  I’ve had interesting real world experience in politics, the church, development and working with developmentally delayed adults.  I’ve traveled some, read a lot and learned a good deal about gardening and art.  Maybe I don’t need to anything, but I feel like a bad steward of the work I’ve done and the knowledge I’ve gained if I can’t set it down in some form for others.

Not sure what I want to do, or if I want/need to do anything.  Just pondering, for now.

The Days Look Potent

26  bar rises 29.93  5mph  NNW windchill23

       Waning Crescent of the Snow Moon

The angle of the sun has changed; the days look potent, ready to burst open and let plant life smash through winter.  Even the snow today has a futile, last gasp appearance.  It is not the snow fury of midwinter when the drifts pile up and driving snow blinds motorists, making the home a cozy refuge.  Yes, temperatures will plunge the next couple of days, but we know this is just the Hawthorne Giant reluctant to let go his grip on the land.  The Oak King has already seized the season, opening the eyelid of nature wider and wider until one day soon the snow will melt and the ground begin to thaw.  Then, all hail breaks loose.

This drama, the back and forth of seasonal change, is not felt in the tropics.  I remember the struggle my brother Mark had explaining snow to his classes of Thai students learning English.  How to grasp cold and frozen water falling from the sky when all you know is wet seasons and dry?  As a child of this land between the Rockies and the Appalachians, the vast Midwest, and as an adopted son of the northern reaches of it, the seasons long ago seeped into my bones.  The sun’s countenance changes and I know it; I know it in the animal part of my brain that tells me when it’s time to migrate toward the growing season or to put up stores for a coming winter.  The subtle variations between late season snow and the early spitting of snows in November have deep meaning for me.  We are, all of us, practitioners of meteoromancy, attempting to tell our futures through cloud cover, length of day and temperature.

I would have it no other way.  Visiting the tropics is  wonderful, a chance to see another life way, another adaptation to the planet’s many faces, but to live there, to wipe out lifelong learning about spring and its puddles or summer and its heat, does not appeal to me.  This has been and will be my home.  As I said the other day, I am kama’aina of the heartland, a child of the Upper Midwest on the North American continent and this is where I belong.