When I was younger this time of year used to depress me. I pushed myself through it by fueling up with tons of calories and reminding myself that it was only going to last a few weeks. Taking off for the tropics wasn’t in the budget. Having money in the winter meant getting Fuel Assistance at Cal’s house!
My daughter Eliza was born on Valentine’s Day and so halfway through, at least there was THAT to get happy about. Too bad I’m not one of those women who ever wanted to know what “Victoria’s Secret” was. The “Hearts and Flowers” that are supposed to light your fire on Valentine’s Day never got me going. It’s just as well. The men in my life have either been cheap and practical or cross-addicted, macho cavemen: if we celebrated on the 14th of February it was by turning up the heat, one way or another.
Maybe it’s a godsend that my personal life has been such a disaster. Instead of whining about it, I got into my studies and my spiritual work. Astrology and the Wiccan ways have turned Aquarius into my favorite month. I see it in a completely different light now that I’m old and gray.
Nature teaches me everything I need to know and I’ve spent many winters watching Mother Earth and Father Sky do their winter dance. Look around. The world is covered with ice, the air is filled with crystals, and everything is locked in a state of suspended animation. The life force in the frozen ground is hibernating and there’s not a trace of evidence that it will revive. The stark background that we conduct our lives against provides us with plenty of opportunity to see only what is essential.
With nothing to distract us we have plenty of time to ponder. What are we here for? What do we really want? What are our ideals at this point in time and are they working? Do they need to change? The dead of winter is the perfect time to reevaluate everything that we’re doing from a detached perspective so that we can be reborn with a new vision in the Spring.
The sign Aquarius is the embodiment of the “visionary” archetype. The frequency that vibrates through the unified field when the Sun is in this sign endows everything in it with the capacity to dream. Everyone knows that when we dream we wish for, or envision, possibilities that don’t exist. What we know less about is the fact that if we hold our dreams in our hearts for any length of time they become real. The importance of the dream and the strength of the wish bring it to life.
It doesn’t matter what the dream is. You can wish for a Mercedes-Benz or you can hold a vision that the people of the world will remember what it means to live in peace and harmony. Dreams are the matrix that reality is woven upon. If we’re too fearful to strike out and carve new paradigms, or don’t understand the importance of weaving new and better visions, the structures we create become static and wind up choking us to death.
In the Wiccan traditions this time of year marks the approach to an important cross quarter. It’s known as Imbolc, Saint Brigid’s Day, or Candlemas depending on where you’re from. God knows what they were thinking, but when the patriarchal forces extinguished the “old ways” they renamed this holy day, Groundhog Day! Why they stuck such a stupid label on one of the most magical points in the year is beyond me.
People’s lives were much more intimately twined with nature in the old days, and mid-winter must have been the pits. Supplies were low, food was scarce, and none of them knew how harsh the remainder of the season would be. But every year on or near the second of February the ewes started lactating. They still do by the way and have every year since the dawn of time. This was the sign that something was “quickening” inside Mother Earth and that her womb was preparing to bring forth new life.
Imbolc means “in the belly.” Saint Brigid is an ancient fertility goddess. She was brought up by a wizard and became quite a magician herself. Her specialty was the ability to multiply food and drink. Candlemas is about light and all the rituals performed on February second involve lighting candles to pierce the winter darkness. The various traditions associated with this cross quarter could fill a book. ALL of them are incredibly beautiful and real. Behind every one of them the intention is the same. That intention is to seed the dreams for whatever we want to come to life in the Spring.
The week before Imbolc is pregnant with unrealized potential. I keep the candles burning non-stop. On the eve of February second I light a white candle and fill a pitcher with fresh milk and think about what I really want. When the vision is clear I walk outside and pour the milk into the snow and watch it flow down into the frozen ground. As this happens I see all of my wishes coming true. By the Spring Equinox these visions begin to manifest, showing me that there’s more to the Old Ways than meets the eye. Use this time to dream new dreams. Fill them with love, water them well, and let the Great Mother take it from there.