I’ve never quite understood the conventions surrounding the terms “midsummer” and “midwinter.” Each is used to describe the solstice – June 21st or so and December 21st or so – which are, as you know, the beginnings of summer and winter, not the middle.
Today is Imbolc, which we popularly celebrate as Groundhog Day.(I’m not sure whether Punxatawney Phil saw his shadow this morning, but if he were in Seattle with me he wouldn’t be able to see as far as his nose for all the fog, never mind his shadow.) In Gaelic cultures it’s called St. Brighid’s Day and the Catholics, in their campaign to appropriate all things pagan, call it Candlemas. Whatever you call it, today is the middle of winter.
Pagans of all sorts, both historical and contemporary, celebrate Imbolc as one of the eight Sabbats, or high holy days. It represents the moment where the sun is halfway in its journey from winter to spring.
I wrote this to mark a special moment on Imbolc 2011, and it seems appropriate to offer it up here. Have a happy Imbolc and may we all have a joyful six-week trek back to the light.
Old Ethan, Halfway Home
- Imbolc 2011, 2:17am MST Old Ethan like a walking stick, daylong shadow: sets him after a halfway pole fifty mile through a dankling woods. October throwed his scarecoat down. November framed those woods a house of smoke. December painted the black days white. Come January, the ringnecks froze in place. Treelocked they'll sit 'til April flumes their melted songs to the sea. Now Midwinter: a milepost on a swerving road, a weed in a tombyard. Turns him 'round and marks for home. Never know home until you get there, never know halfways at all.