This year I have decided to see what impact each of the pagan festival dates – the eight points in the solar year – have upon the earth energies we have been investigating. My aim is to try to coincide with the times when the earth energies are at the peak of their powers, when the sun and moon are at their strongest. My aim is to see what difference that makes to the strength of the dowsing and druidry experience at some specific sacred sites whose qualities match those of the festival that marks them. I will attempt to repeat experiments at later (not astrologically significant) dates to obtain a comparison (although there are many factors involved). Just what can I expect to happen if I’m paying the right kind of attention at the right time? I aim to find out!
I’m not going to pretend I know what the old Celtic festivals were all about. I have been reading Paul Broadhurst’s “The Green Man and The Dragon“ book, so I have a good background on the myths of some of those dates, and the ways that they have been celebrated and venerated going back to the start of recorded history and beyond. However, our aim is to discover for ourselves whether the festivals have these mythical qualities for a reason, and specifically by reason of the qualities of the earth and celestial energies at those particular points in the cycle of sun and moon over the year.
So, here are some quotes from other people concerning the background to the Imbolc Festival.
“Imbolc is one of the four principal festivals of the Irish calendar, celebrated among Gaelic peoples and some other Celtic cultures either at the beginning of February or at the first local signs of Spring. Most commonly it is celebrated on February 2, since this is the cross-quarter day on the solar calendar, halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox in the northern hemisphere. Originally dedicated to the goddess Brigid, in the Christian period it was adopted as St Brigid’s Day. In Scotland the festival is also known as Là Fhèill Brìghde, in Ireland as Lá Fhéile Bríde, and in Wales as Gwyl Ffraed.”
From Sig Lonegren’s Mid-Atlantic Geomancy site:
If the Quarter Days start a season on the cycle (Winter Solstice starts winter, Spring Equinox starts spring, etc.), the Cross Quarter Days mark the high point of each season. For example, here in Vermont, the old-timers say that you should have half your hay and half your wood by Candlemas (Imbolc). We also have our coldest nights (40 to 45 degrees below zero) just before the first of February. High Winter.
Imbolc – This day is sacred to the Celtic fire-Goddess Brighde, “the Bright One” also known as Bridget, Brigid, and Bride. Other cognates are Brigantia and Britain. Bride was a Sun Goddess who presides over the hearth and smithy, over the inspiration and skill of sacred art and craft, and over the world of crops, livestock, and nature. In particular she is important to sheep who (on the British Isles) begin to lamb at this time of year. The starting of their lactation is a sign that Imbolc is near. Milk has always been important to Bridget. You can see her above the south western door of the tower on Glastonbury Tor. She is milking a cow.
Another “holiday” around the time of Imbolc is Groundhog’s Day. While perhaps it might not seem that way on the surface, there’s something very ancient about this one – especially because it has to do with the Sun and whether it shines or not, and whether the groundhog sees its shadow. In the context of sacred space, this is very interesting. There are shadow paths that have been found in Britain where, due to the gently downward curvature of the land, a single standing stone casts a shadow that is half a mine long! Shadows and light play an important role in any sacred space, and the lowly American groundhog has become the recipient of a much older, I suspect European, tradition. Another connection between Groundhog Day and Imbolc has to do with weather prediction aspect of this day in early February. The major role this simple herbivore plays is to give us the answer to a most important question in northern climes: “Will winter end soon or will it drag on?”
Properties associated with Imbolc
“Imbolc is traditionally a time of weather prognostication, and the old tradition of watching to see if serpents or badgers came from their winter dens is perhaps a precursor to the North American Groundhog Day. A Scottish Gaelic proverb about the day is:
‘Thig an nathair as an toll
La donn Bride,
Ged robh tri traighean dh’ an t-sneachd
Air leachd an lair.’
‘The serpent will come from the hole
On the brown Day of Bride,
Though there should be three feet of snow
On the flat surface of the ground.’
Fire and purification are an important aspect of this festival. Brigid (also known as Brighid, Bríde, Brigit, Brìd) is the goddess of poetry, healing and smithcraft. As both goddess and saint she is also associated with holy wells, sacred flames, and healing. The lighting of candles and fires represents the return of warmth and the increasing power of the Sun over the coming months.”
There are several factors that I am considering may affect the timing of these visits:-
- The 11 days difference between the original calendar and that imposed by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.
- The nearest appearance of the full moon to these festival dates
- Whether there is a coincidence of a full moon already on any of the festival days as it falls in 2009.
- The site must be conducive to, and relate to, the traditions and supposed qualities of the time in question – e.g. a male deity worshipped at a site that is aligned with the sun will be best suited for solstice days.
My working theory is that because the energies of the earth respond to celestial proximity and strength that this will determine the best times to visit the sites. Here are the dates for 2009:-
|Imbolc||1 Feb||Spring Equinox||Thu Mar 20 5:48 GMT|
|Beltane||1 May||Summer Solstice||Sun Jun 21 0:59 BST|
|Lughnasadh||1 Aug||Autumn Equinox||Mon Sep 22 16:44 BST|
|Samhain||1 Nov||Winter Solstice||Sun Dec 21 12:04 GMT|
(from Pagan Calendar site)
As the current Gregorian calendar is most closely aligned with the movements of the sun I will have to work to those, however if the nearest full moon is taken into account then the dates shift to a lunar alignment like this:-
|Imbolc||21 Jan||Spring Equinox||Thu Mar 20 5:48 GMT|
|Beltane||20 April||Summer Solstice||Sun Jun 21 0:59 BST|
|Lughnasadh||21 July||Autumn Equinox||Mon Sep 22 16:44 BST|
|Samhain||21 October||Winter Solstice||Sun Dec 21 12:04 GMT|
So, which dates are correct? The first set, the second set, or mixtures of both? I honestly don’t know. We’re going to have to dowse on those days as we go through the year and see what happens. When does it feel right, and when are the energies particularly active?
How many times do the sun and moon align this year? First Quarter moon on 1st May 2009. Balance at the Beltane festival. No moon showing for Summer Solstice. New moon next day. Moon perigee and new moon day after 21st July (Lammas -11 days). 2nd November (the day after Samhain) is a full moon. It seems the modern calendrical dates for the cross-quarter days of Beltane and Samhain will have strong moon influences this year (balanced, then full).
I would hope that the male energies would be more active on the days of solar worship such as Summer Solstice, or the Equinoxes. If we get sun in Britain on those dates then we have a chance to test this theory out by visiting some of the sites we went to over this Winter period, when the energies seemed distinctly quiet and weak, with no evidence of male energy activity at all. On active solar days we would expect to find the qualities associated with maleness – protection, transformation through initiation, and the manipulation of energy.
The festival dates when the moon is very present coincide with the lunar festivals of the cross-quarter days (Beltane and Samhain) this year. That’s lucky for us and we can report on the status of the female earth energies at sites on those dates. We expect that the traditionally female aspects will be in evidence on those dates, that is fertility powers, sanctuary and healing.
We hope to be able to answer whether the times of year of the festivals correlate to a particular quality of the powers of the moon or sun at that time. The White Virgin (the first stage of the goddess) is linked to Spring. Are fertility powers stronger at Beltane and Spring Equinox? May Day was always seen as a fertility festival. Imbolc is associated with Brigid and healing. Are the healing energy frequencies strongest at this time?
It’s perhaps a foolhardy quest to try to answer this in one year of dowsing and druidry work. Nevertheless, we like challenges, so we will report back soon after Imbolc with a report of where we went and what we found there. Is the forecast for snow? Ha!
Following the sun and moon.