Brightening

It interests me that the new dawn in American politics comes at the same time that it has become evident (in the Northern Hemisphere) that the days are lengthening. We are no longer in the darkest of winter; the February Sabbath approaches, and the Sun, though young, is definitely returning.

A member of the Atheopagan Facebook group dubbed the February Sabbath (or, in the Southern Hemisphere, the August one) “Brightening”, and though in my region I celebrate this as Riverain, the Festival of Water, I like that characterization a lot, as it is so universal. And who knows? It might even share a word root with Brighid, the Irish goddess celebrated at this time.

Brightening is a time to gather tools and energy, just as infants do in their rapid acquisition of knowledge and skills. Historically, it was a time when agricultural tools were sharpened and repaired, and plantings planned. Not quite time to break ground yet, as there is still freezing in the near future, but planning and dreaming are definitely in the mix.

So the symbols I see associated with this holiday are the infants/toddler phase of life, planning and tool preparation, rain and all things water. Some of that is consistent with modern Pagan imagery, some of it not: the building of a tiny, cozy cradle for a corn dolly, or a Brighid’s triskele (the original design before the four-pointed Christian cross supplanted it), or hammering out some metal on an anvil are all very appropriate seasonal symbols.

I’ll make a triskele this year, soaking the reeds in rain water first to soften them. I’ll make a corn dolly too: a Rain Baby. I have a small anvil and sledge, and maybe I’ll make her a miniature key for her belt: a key to unlock the future. There is nothing quite like the sound of the ringing of a hammer on an anvil, a magical harbinger of something new being created where once there were only raw materials.

It’s a new day, and a new year’s cycle of the Wheel. My life is going well. As the adults who have thankfully retaken control of my government steadily erode the worst of their predecessors’ policies and turn to actual public service, as the light grows, I find myself feeling an unfamiliar, pleasant sensation that hasn’t been with me for four years: hope.

I wish you the joys of the season, and a returning of the light in your personal world.

Coming Up Dry for the Festival of Water

In my Wheel of the Year, the February Sabbath is Riverain, the Festival of Water.

This is because ordinarily, it rains torrentially in late January and into February in my region. The hills grow emerald with new grasses and the creeks swell and thunder. It is a beautiful time, the time of burgeoning life.

But then there are years like this.

It was 73 degrees F. here (nearly 23 Celsius) today. In mid-January. There is but a shower or two in the forecast for the next two weeks.

On the day after SLOGG, no less!

It’s about two weeks until the February Sabbath—roughly the midpoint between Yule and High Springand what shall I celebrate? What can it mean, when the skies are dry and the world is hotter than ever and all the usual metaphors and symbols for this lovely liquid time are hardly relevant?

There is, of course, the other metaphorical overlay I apply to the calender’s cycle: the arc of a human life.

As Yule is birth and new beginnings, Riverain has been for me the Sabbath of young childhood: infancy and toddling. The very early stages of growth, of the first hints of new plans and potential.

This year, of course, it will mark the beginning of a new government in the United States: one actually administered by adults of good will and care for the public interest.

So there is that to celebrate, at least.

Presuming it happens. With chaos and fear so present in the realm of governance right now, I can’t help but feel nervous about the whole thing.

I just wish it would rain.

The February Sabbath

The February Sabbath always seems a bit elusive to me. I don’t believe in the goddess Brighid, who is often celebrated at this time, and I don’t live somewhere where first, small indications of spring are appearing.

No, I’m in coastal Northern California, and here in this Mediterranean climate it is wet and the mountains are a beautiful emerald green at the height of its intensity. That green will transform to gold in May as the grasses go to seed, so this is a lovely and fragile moment.

So while snowdrops are indeed blooming here, soon too will be crocus and daffodils and milk maids. And they aren’t coming up through snow.

And so I title this station in the Wheel of the Year Riverain, the Festival of Water. A time for celebration of that substance so essential for life, in its many aspects as sustainer, cleanser, bringer forth of the original Life on Earth.

Still, most notable and important at this time of year is the brightening: the days are noticeably longer, and though there is a lot of cold and weather yet ahead of us, the true depth of winter has passed. Light is returning.

Historically, this has been a time for belt-tightening and preparation for the new agricultural cycle: repairing and sharpening tools, “spring cleaning”, and fasts as the food supply dwindles. It is still a good time for planning for the coming year, cleaning house, and experiencing some want.

Tomorrow, my circle, Dark Sun, will convene to celebrate the season. I am so grateful for this practice, for feeling more connected with the seasons and the Earth through these ritual observances.

However you celebrate the February Sabbath, I wish you a joyous one, with happy prospects for the coming year!