Because I had to be awake early for work, on January 31, I saw the partial eclipse of the moon as she set just before dawn in Massachusetts. Wispy black clouds, tangible as lace, ethereal as smoke, like a widow’s veil, coursed across the glowing orange disc that grew larger and brighter as she sank to the tree line with only her upper corner clipped by the shadow of the earth.
As I looked toward the bustle of life kindled by the rising sun, the moon disappeared. What I had witnessed was not only a moon set, but a sunrise. The world outside my window had sprung to life as gulls swooped and cars whooshed, carrying their occupants into the day. What lingered with me was the thought of the earth’s shadow creeping across the moon. How do the demands of our lives limit our intuitive lunar knowing? That is a good question to ponder as February is upon us and the darkest days of winter behind.
Imbolc (im-bulk), February 2, marks the cross-quarter day between the winter solstice and spring equinox. It was at this time that the ancient Celtic goddess Brigit returned to the land—sharing its rule with her counterpart, the Cailleach (kal-ack), the old woman goddess of winter. Brigit ignites the tension between the forces of life and death; inevitably, the grip of winter loosens as the light returns.
I feel this tension inside myself. Perhaps we all do, as we move further into our crone years. Our Becoming Women of Wisdom book guides women through the process of remembering the decades of their lives. In the decade of my 60s, I became a crone. When I was 63, my husband died suddenly. Death opened its maw, seized my beloved, and invited me, if I chose, to walk in. Death seemed closer and more real than life. Slowly over the intervening five years, death’s door has closed. Newly committed to life, I welcome Brigit with energy and purpose, yet even so, the unremitting presence of the Cailleach lives on inside of me.
As the frozen ground of winter thaws, streams and wells sacred to Brigit swell and saturate the earth, nurturing new life as we women nurture our young with our own sweet milk. We can call upon Brigit, “mother of memory” to cradle us and wrap us in her mantle, to hold us through our griefs and to give us the resources to return to life. Brigit’s fires are transformative, hot enough to bend molten iron. We call upon her to spark the flame of our creativity. Come to us Brigit, kindle our wisdom that we may light the way for others. Help us discern what energies are coalescing in our lives now as the cycle of life renews itself. Help us discover what lies just below the level of our consciousness waiting to be born.
The moon rules over the long nights of winter, but on this last day of January, she ruled over my day as well. I saw her set and prepared to see her rise. Mine was the only car parked in the mile of curbside parking at Revere Beach. The tide was out, and it was cold. Save for one couple in a distance, and one dog walker, I had the beach to myself. The time of moonrise came and went. Half-frozen I headed back to my car. Just as I was ready to drive away, I glimpsed Lady Luna glowing behind midnight blue clouds that opened like venetian blinds and striped her face in bands of dark and light. Layered in mystery, slowly she mounted into the sky changing from horizon orange to pearly white as she hid behind dark veins of dense cloud and wispy veils of mauve. As I drove home in evening traffic, she disappeared from my sight, but the mystery of her presence still pricked at my soul.
At Imbolc, let us open our lunar consciousness and listen for intuitive rumbles of inner knowing that suggest which way we are to grow, to change, and to be as we harvest the wisdom that is great within us.
Lunar blessings this Imbolc,