In the Season of Hope

A couple of days ago, Americans acknowledged the festival of Imbolc (or Candlemas) by practicing the art of weather divination. In other words, some folks woke up a groundhog and, because the groundhog saw his shadow, declared there will be six more weeks of winter bleakness.

For the most part, I don’t mind winter and enjoy the snow, but sometimes it does seem to drag on and on. I suspect the Celts thought so, too, since they chose to celebrate the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It’s kind of an “over the hump” thing – the Wednesday of winter.

The temperatures this season have bounced between “too warm for winter” and “too cold for my liking,” and rain has alternated with snow leaving a thick layer of ice on places like my front steps. The political and social climate in the United States has been equally inconsistent and icy.

Yet, here we are at the middle of winter, and there is reason to hope. Can you feel into that?

We may be gathering in protest rather than in celebration, but we are gathering. We are leaving our homes, risking icy steps and, for some, arrest, to declare that we still have hope. After all, if we didn’t believe good things are still possible, why would we bother?

This is the spirit of Imbolc. It is a time to shake off the winter doldrums and cultural apathy and joyfully declare, “I know that spring is coming. We can get through this dark time.”

During our last Goddess Circle, the women who gathered took part in a simple ritual for Imbolc – burning the greens to show our faith that the green of spring would return. We had some boughs from my Yule tree on the altar, and took turns pinching off some of the green needles and dropping them on a lit tealight in a cast iron cauldron. As her pinch of greens burned, the woman spoke of something she hoped for the future. There was lots of hope in our circle that night.

You can do this ritual on your own or in your circle. If you don’t have a cauldron, anything fire proof will do. A terra cotta pot works well. You could also throw your greens into a bonfire or fire pit if you’d prefer to be outside. You can be creative with the ritual. It’s the intention that is important.

In this season of hope, what are you hoping for?

Appreciating fall days: 4 quotes honoring autumn

We are at the peak of the fall foliage viewing in the Adirondack mountains. I love the quiet splendor of the fall colors. This is my favorite time of year. What season makes you feel most alive?





Lughnasadh without bread: 5 ways to celebrate the first harvest for the gluten intolerant


Simple wheat decoration for Lughnasadh.

Lughnasadh (also known as Lammas) is an old Celtic festival marking the start of the harvest season, particularly the harvest of grain. Traditional Lughnasadh celebrations include lots of bread and beer, neither of which is part of the gluten-free and limited grain diet which is currently helping my gut to heal. Does this mean I cannot participate in celebrating the abundance of the season?

Of course not. I’m not missing out on the fun of the first harvest.

If you can’t partake in bread and beer, here are five things you can do to celebrate Lughnasadh:

  1. Light a candle. Even better to grab a tub, fill it with water, and float some candles among red, orange and yellow flowers. The candle flame honors the sun’s strength during these last long summer days.
  2. Feast on berries. Berries are abundant this time of year, especially raspberries and blackberries. Try a berry cobbler made with almond meal flour instead of grains. There’s a great recipe here.
  3. Decorate with corn and grain. As long as it’s safe for you to touch wheat (I know some folks with Celiac who can’t), you can make a number of Lughnasadh decorations from wheat stalks or dried corn. Some options are wreaths of corn, wheat or grapevines, corn husk chains (made just like paper chains) and corn dollies, which are – this is  interesting given their name – traditionally made from wheat stalks. Look here for a nice corn dolly tutorial.
  4. Make herb smudge sticks. If your herb garden looks like mine, it’s overflowing. I can’t grow white sage in the North Country, but there are a number of other herbs and flowers which smell wonderful when burned. The “You Grow Girl” blog has a list and instructions on making your own smudge sticks.
  5. Start working on Yule crafts. Lughnasadh honors Lugh, the Celtic god of artisans, so it’s a great time to begin a creative project. Why not get going on those gifts you’ve sworn to make this year? December will be here before you know it.