In the milk: Midwinter holiday

Dear Friend and Reader:

Today the Sun reaches 15 degrees of Aquarius — the exact midpoint of that sign. This is called Imbolc, which means “in the belly” or “in the milk.” This acknowledges that we are at the depths of winter; though today is a holiday called Midwinter. In the Catholic tradition it’s called Candlemas — the time we take stock of how many candles are left, and if there are enough, light one in every window. (If you take part in this tradition now, please mind the curtains.)

Imbolc is one of eight turning points of the solar year; that is, the year that is based on the Sun’s apparent movement through the seasons. We are familiar with the equinoxes and solstices: the points in the year when the day is longest or shortest; and those when day and night are equal. These are considered the “major” turning points. They are when the seasons change and the Sun enters one of the cardinal signs: Aries, Cancer, Libra or Capricorn. They are called the quarter days because they are the points wherein we divide the year into four.

Then there are the lesser-known cross-quarter days, which are offset from the quarter days by about 46 days or 45 degrees of solar movement through the sky. They are the midpoints between the changing of the seasons, and they occur when the Sun reaches 15 degrees of the fixed signs Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius.

Two of them have holidays we are familiar with, Halloween and Ground Hog Day. While Valentine’s Day is technically about 11 days after the cross-quarter, it’s still close enough to count. You can see that it’s a power point because Valentine’s Day seems to draw more energy every year, even though it’s a holiday that obsesses over the relatively unholy theme of romance.

Meanwhile, the cross-quarter in May is turned into a party or a ritual mainly by Pagans (it’s called Beltane, and it’s the celebration of Venus, the Goddess and the May). This would actually be a lot better time of year for Valentine’s Day. And the one in August, also known to most Pagans, is called Lammas or Lughnasadh. That is the “second planting” or “first harvest” as opposed to Sahwen (traditionally spelled samhain) or Halloween, which is the “final harvest.”

That’s the background. These holidays represent a cycle; they have many names; they tell a story, which is the cycle of our lives. It is illustrated, in part, by the energies, archetypes, gods and goddesses of the zodiac. And of course, they are illustrated with the poignancy of the seasons.

We are now at Imbolc. In practical terms, winter is half over. Most of us up in the Northern Hemisphere are sick of the cold weather by now, so this is a turning point; it usually does feel like a step toward spring, even though there are a few good snowstorms and slush puddles ahead of us.

Energetically, this is the Aquarius holiday and there is a lot of Aquarius to go around. There happens to be a planet sitting at the midpoint of Aquarius right now; actually there have been for years, as Chiron and Neptune have finally reached 20+ degrees of Aquarius. The planet that’s there is Nessus, which is a centaur in Chiron’s class of planets: intense, highly-focused energy that feels a little like catching a boomerang when we’re working with it carefully and consciously.

Nessus in Aquarius illusrates what is, in my view, one of the major crises of the lives of most people — how and whether to fit into the groups of people around us; how and when we need to get out; and the distinctly negative influence that conformity can have if we don’t work with it consciously.

What is consciously? We need to see and address the influence that needing to be like other people has on us. I assure you: most of the time it’s not a friendly influence. Most of the time it’s about covering for the insecurities of others, or more to the point, our own. It takes guts to stand up in your truth, to speak your mind and to believe what you know to be true and not hide it.

Nessus on this Midwinter holiday is suggesting we take a moment of real reflection about the impact of our need to conform, and to remember that sooner or later, the karma of self-deception always comes back to us. There is another way — but we need to find it. Consider that we’re not going to find it alone. We need each other, not to hide the truth of who we are, but to bring it to the light of day.

Yours & truly,

Eric Francis

14 thoughts on “In the milk: Midwinter holiday”

  1. There has been some amazing energy afoot over the Imbolc time this year: I had a deep, lucid dream about inititation into the Mysteries overnight Feb. 2-3. One of my friends, who is a high priestess, received granting of a long-held wish in a dream the same night.

  2. Imbolc holds special meaning for me— it was on this Holy day I began my “year and a day” Druid apprenticeship years ago. So, I raise my whiskey glass in a toast—to The Ancestors,to my fellow surfers on Kozmic waves here at PW, and to the Better World we are bringing in………..Bless U all.

  3. victoria, thank you for exhaling. i think you are right on with the next step, it’s about living our truth now. and context matters , it all depends on the space and place and timing – we are situated selves after all. i’m much more for quality than quantity, always have been. to me, the networking sites offer interesting spaces for people to cross paths, and the filters make it easier in some ways to put yourself out there and reconnect. then again in some ways it makes it easier to keep the masks on as well. yoda comes to mind when i think of the journey (for whatever reason), “do or do not, there is no try.” 😉

    nance, HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! isn’t 45 the “new” 35? i had a boss once who would celebrate varying ages – one time she decided to celebrate her 5th again (to recover from the first one) and another, she celebrated her 100th because she didn’t know if she would ever be able to. this lyric popped in now (random radio in my head), “middle of adventure, such a perfect place to start.” enjoy!

  4. Thanks Stormilarue for the beautiful Starhawk quote. And thanks Eric for the awareness around conformity.

    It’s my birthday today and it all feels like being in the middle. I am 45 today, which sounds decidedly more ‘middle-aged’ than my previous ages. We are in the middle of eclipses in the middle of winter. What does it mean?

    I have loads to celebrate! I am counting my blessings.

  5. Hey eric, about the rellies. I did it for years for my parents. A few of us still try to do it at mom’s, but she just looks at me and smiles and says have fun and then spends the day in bed, while we wretch. Sly old coot!

    I’d rather go fishin with my dad (if he were still here) rather than spend time with his entourage. I’d rather go on adventures with my sisters than deal with the rest of the pack.

    Where is the judith with her triabalism talk on this one? It took me awhile to get what she was talking about. By the third time she used the word, I started to get my aha. It was a good start for me personally to break the ties that bind. If she has more theory or whatever on tribalism maybe you could fire her up to share some more?

  6. stormilarue, speaking truth is good. Except I’ve been actually “speaking” my truth. I think I need to exhale and begin “living” my truth.

    Yes there are places and times and people where I can just throw all the words and ideas and thoughts and responses out there into the creative pool and that is a beautiful and stimulating thing. But the truth on that one is that all environments are not like that.

    Social networking is probably just that social. Social networking with a shared focussed interest, well that is sublime. But there is a delicate balance between focussed interest and becoming a member of a club that is about alot of other things. I think that becomes a cause. And that is a choice, too. I’m kinduv a one on oner myself. And sometimes things bunch up and we cross match but not too much for strictly social reasons.

    It always seems to start with lunch. That was something I had to learn to do. Say let’s do lunch sometime. And the journey begins or ends.

  7. marymack, it is so about the leo moon for me, I can’t begin to tell you. I heard the heavy door door open at the eclipse and I just knew I was preparing to meet my king. I’ll be wearing something royal. My heart opening to the light. Get them reiki tapes revved and receive.

  8. Actually, there are a bunch of holidays and events that cluster around Imbolc, many but not all of them concentrated in the US:

    Groundhog Day
    Valentines Day
    The Superbowl
    Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
    President’s Day
    Inauguration Day (every 4 years)
    Chinese New Year

    It’s like a bunch of little holidays/celebrations/events, all with more or less Aquarian themes.

    My birthday also comes around that time on February 9th. And of course this year, my brithday and the Imbolc season also involves a big fat Lunar Eclipse. Weeeeeeee!!!!

  9. a friend and i have been having this conversation about conformity and worth for a while now, much of it revolving around social networking sites. we’ve both tried them, enjoying the thrill for a bit (some longer & deeper than others ;), then the angst comes and it’s like high school all over where it’s this patterned narcissistic need for external validation and acceptance. deconstructing it all, we know it’s ultimately about the Self love, healing and respect. For millennia, socially, we have been disconnected from that Self, thinking all we are is what others see and believe. It’s an internalized oppression creating externalized depression, more than ever.

    Each site for me brought up all the different issues (again ones I thought was done with years ago), really asking who I am, and how i want to be and whoTF really cares about any of it beyond our own ego-reflections. It then for me become about the ego-ectomy and/or ego-cism, checking my Self consistently in a critically conscious way. Mi mama always tells me, speak your truth, it’s the safest space. Finding the balance and being comfortable with that 24/7 is part of the challenge I find. I “stumbled” upon this quote just now and it seemed appropo;

    “If there’s a core belief in the Goddess religion, it’s this: that each of us is part of the web of life, and precious, bringing our own unique gifts to the world. We don’t ask people to believe in things, not even the Goddess who is simply
    our term for the great creative mystery that weaves the world. But we do ask people to believe in yourself, in your own deep work, in your sacred purpose. You are here for a reason.”

  10. “Nessus in Aquarius illustrates what is, in my view, one of the major crises of the lives of most people — how and whether to fit into the groups of people around us; how and when we need to get out; and the distinctly negative influence that conformity can have if we don’t work with it consciously.”

    Agreed. As MM indicated with her ‘hits a new dire’ and your pondering the twisted family romance, and Victoria’s recent “Nessus-pieces” (I *loved* that wordplay).

    My Nessus image was that crack in the ceiling that appeared last night just over my desk. What came wafting through it is indeed a collective issue, and the question is whether I am ready to take that step. I am.

  11. Reader Comment by Email


    I just had to write and tell you that today’s article is completely in sync with the dream I had before I woke up this morning.

    I dreamed of step-relatives, whom I’ve known 36 years. I pondered whether I’d go to the annual family gathering this summer. I pondered whether it’s in my best interest, or whether I may as well invest in time with them because after all, aren’t we all in the process of healing? Yet I am uneasy and find it difficult to trust them, and find it difficult to tolerate
    certain aspects of unhealthy behavior that perpetuate in the family.

    All of this, I have not given a thought to for several years. Yet this morning, it looms large in my head.

    The most telling part of the article is in quotes below.

    “Nessus in Aquarius illustrates what is, in my view, one of the major crises of the lives of most people — how and whether to fit into the groups of people around us; how and when we need to get out; and the distinctly negative influence that conformity can have if we don’t work with it consciously.”

    Just thought you’d like to see another example of how the heavens are influencing us below.


  12. “Some openings are ~>more<~ louder than others. Oh well.”

    Moan, sigh, moping for the bungee key… meant to write:

    “Some openings are louder than others.”

  13. I am helping a friend submit erotica to various publications (since I have my hand in that market now), and as I was opening up her files, a BOOM went off in my neighborhood that produced a 2-foot crack in my ceiling.

    Walked outside to see smoke, then flames shooting 60 feet into the sky from a house right behind the labyrinth (a block away). This is the most heavily-wooded neighborhood in Austin. A gas line had blown and as we are now in an 8-month drought (which can be fixed easily enough ~ahem!~) it was good to see the half-dozen firetrucks on hand within 5 minutes.

    Happy Mid-winter’s Night Eve!! As I climb higher and deeper into the Tantree, it is plain to see that not all reactions are going to be fun and games. The journey is fated, so here we go…

    The sensory array is being tidied up and opened in humanity at large. Some openings are more louder than others. Oh well.

    Life to Smoochey!


  14. Chiron now sits on my Ascending/Mercury and I find my present situation hits a new dire. I’m hanging onto the notion that there is awareness here/coming and it may be about the Leo Full Moon. All that phenominal eclipse energy is shifting from 12th house to 1st and I’m counting the days … and loose change.

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