Bright Winter Blessings
During the last week of January, while braving frigid temperatures for a late evening walk, I looked up at the full Wolf Moon at the zenith of the night sky. “Aha,” I thought, “the moon is a place holder for the summer sun which has been abducted into the Southern hemisphere.” Yet, I know, even as we gingerly tread ice-strewn sidewalks in New England, the hostage sun is stealing its way north again, and darkness is abating.
February 2, Groundhog’s Day, marks this shift to the brighter half of winter. In Neolithic times in Scotland and Ireland this was a time to celebrate the quickening of life in the womb of the Goddess of the Land that had been impregnated by the sun at dawn on winter solstice in such places as New Grange. For later Celts this day, Imbolc (im-bulk), which means “in the belly,” marked the beginning of spring and was dedicated to the triple goddess Brigit, patron of healing, the forge, and poetry.
Christians mark this day with the celebration of Candlemas in which candles are consecrated for sacred use during the year ahead. Passionate festivals celebrating the lunar new year and Valentine’s Day are only a few short weeks away. These late winter holidays celebrate the growing light and warm our hearts as they prepare to burst into spring.
In early February in the snow-covered north, it is easy to imagine being curled in the belly of mother earth listening to her heartbeat and dreaming into being the next cycle in our lives. Small and tender we are held secure in the warmth of her love. She is an extra layer of protection as we hibernate in the shelter of our homes away from the rampant spread of opportunistic viruses in this pandemic year. Even the joy of drawing our blinds at 5 instead of 4:30 reminds us to hope for spring and our turn to receive the Covid vaccine. How far advanced we are into our crone years may determine whether we get our precious doses in winter or spring.
The idea of resting in a womb-like structure reminds me of Christian mystic, Teresa of Avila’s vision of the soul “as a castle made of a single diamond or of very clear crystal” (4). Twentieth century artist Wenzel Hablik’s painting, pictured above, renders her vision well. Within the castle are seven mansions each with many rooms. The Divine light in the interior mansion around which the others are arranged illuminates them all. In her book, Interior Castle, Avila guides the reader through each mansion from humility, prayer, and ascetic practices, toward a gradually deepening spiritual union with the Divine One. Her gentle voice transcends time and place to speak to the questing soul today. Both Avilla’s image of the soul as a multi-faceted diamond and Neolithic tombs are containers in which we can be held and transformed.
The contemplation of such images has the potential to bring comfort to our enforced solitude. And as restrictions ease, Brigit can serve as a guide and midwife as we work to manifest our personal and collective visions for the health of the planet and its people in this ever-challenging world.
As crones, or elders, we are called to have compassion for ourselves as well as for others. Acknowledging and forgiving our own imperfections allows “empathy … [to flow] as if from a wellspring” states the Compassion card in the Wisdom of the Crone deck. It counsels, “The ability to think with our hearts and feel with our minds, allows us to truly walk in another’s shoes. A wise woman once said, ‘We can do no great things, only small things with great love.’” May Brigit kindle in us the ability to listen compassionately to others and to do our small part in working for mutual understanding and peace.
Fire is transformative; it refines our souls and warms our hearts. Winter is the best time for telling tales around the fire to quicken our imaginations. In this time of pandemic isolation, Zoom is our hearth, and we gather around virtually to reach out to one another. We create new ways to transform loneliness into shared experiences. May Brigit’s fire kindle warmth and kindness in our hearts so that we might use our hands to give generously to others.
As writers, artists, musicians, or dancers, we translate the soul’s language into human communication. Our talents offer pathways to spirit so that it can speak through us and reach out to others to unify us through beauty. If you are privileged to enjoy the gift of retirement, you might use it as a time to create works of art to expand your soul.
With humility, may we listen to the heart beat of the Mother and the music of the spheres to guide our efforts to work for justice and manifest joy during our sojourn on earth.
May the love and warmth of Brigit be yours this day.
With warm blessings,