From the Perennial Course in Druidry:
“Season: Winter Waning
At Midwinter, we celebrate the birth of a new light. This is poetic, expressing the first moments in the potential for renewal and regeneration, the beginning of a new cycle ahead. For many, this is an expression of deity, inspiring profound reverence and respect; here there is a god of light, a god of regeneration, of birth. What is the purpose and impact of acknowledging these forces as deity or divine? What other gods are present and prominent during this moontide? Which do you feel most drawn to, in which do you see most beauty, and through which do you find inspiration? This is midwinter, and the darkness is still powerful. The worst of the cold is yet to come. It is a sacred time of stillness, when all life moves slowly; if we try to speed it up, it will only drag and pull us down. Spending time awake to the environment, be aware of how nature functions at this time. Does anything in nature move quickly at this time? How can you too slow down and what value would there be in doing so?”
During Midwinter, I think of the Bru/ na Bo/inne, or Newgrange, on the banks of the Boyne river in Ireland, a megalithic mound into which the midwinter sunrise shines for about a week’s worth of mornings. Though built before Celtic culture arrived, it was later associated with the god an Daghda and the goddess Bo/ann, She who gives Her name to the river, the mound, and the whole valley. The tale is that they trysted there as lovers while Her husband was tricked away, and when they learned She was with child, He made the sun stand still for nine months so She might proceed through Her pregnancy, deliver the babe, and have him hidden away before Her husband might ever learn of it. That child was a boy, named Aengus O/g, Aengus the Young. He is the spirit of the young, new waxing solar cycle which begins at the midwinter solstice, when the sun stands still. Deifying the new cycle in this way gives prominence to this event of renewal of the sun, the land, all growth and fertility, upon which our lives depend. Acknowledging these forces allows us to be present with them, participate in them, aligning us with the cycles of nature, that we might remember to harmonize all aspects of our lives with nature. In this way, the mound reminds us of the deep darkness that is the midwinter season, of the fertility asleep within the land, the tomb to which life on earth has gone, and the womb from which it shall re-emerge. It shows us how to make space for our spirits to also sit in and with the dark, for rest and renewal, and to pause to honor and welcome the moment of the renewal of the sun’s great cycle. Bringing presence and awareness to this event and all its implications can be done by slowing down enough to gain such presence; I have found that keeping a simple Midwinter Advent season provides the moments for such presence and awareness to be had, by lighting a candle each sunset of every day of December leading up to the solstice, reading a solstice-themed poem, and contemplating the deep dark, and the coming of renewal.
Once Midwinter has passed, Aengus turns my thoughts towards Scotland, and the coming Imbolc, where He is featured in a tale with the prime goddess of that land, called The Coming of Angus and Bri\de. In this tale, he is the son of the Cailleach Bheara, Queen of Winter, and dreams of fair Bri\de, the maiden his mother imprisons and enslaves in her mountain home, to keep the summer at bay. He searches for Her and brings Her out of the mountain prison, where She melts the ice of the rivers, and they are wed by the Faery Folk, marking the event called Br\de’s Day in Scotland, and Imbolc in Ireland. After this Aengus’ mother Queen Beara sends up great storms to hold back the coming light and growth, which force the newlyweds back to the Green Isle over the sea from Scotland for a time, though Aengus does fight back with pleasant sunny days. As the spring equinox arrives, Beara realizes she can do no more, so leaves the land and flees herself to the Green Isle, where she drinks from the Well of Youth and is renewed herself into a young maiden, to grow through the year until she is an old hag by Samhain, to bring the winter back to the land, and imprison Bri\de once again. After the equinox, Aengus and Bri\de reign in both the seen and the unseen worlds as the King and Queen of Summer.
During the month of January, I stand witness each evening at sunset, noting its later arrival each night, and appreciating the slow lengthening of the light. I note the weather, how it battles between winter storms and spring sunshine. This year, I am crafting and observing an Imbolc Advent for the first time, to slow down and bring more presence and awareness to this slow change in season, and to prepare myself for Bri\de’s return from the underworld. I have set up an altar of five candles for this advent, four placed in the shape of a Bri\de’s cross, with one in the center. On each of the four Sundays proceeding Imbolc, I light one, then two, then three, then all four around, meditating on an aspect of Bri\de, what we know in my priestess Order as Her Four Fires, and dedicate an action for that week in alignment with that aspect. Honoring the growing light and the returning of the vitality of the land through deification allows us to give great honor to these powers upon which we are totally dependent, acknowledging them as greater than ourselves, and absolutely vital to our survival, to which we must be grateful and humble, and with which we must harmonize to best receive these gifts and blessings.
During this season of renewal and regeneration, I am finding renewal for myself as well, in finding inspiration for new directions and making plans for the coming year. I am also walking my yard, watching for what is waking up, and making planting plans for the coming spring. When Imbolc arrives, I will welcome Bri\de back to the land, and ask Her to bless my seeds for the year, both those for the garden, and those for my personal plans. Storms still may come, but Light will surely be on its way once again.