These are the wee hours of Winter’s long night. Each day the sunlight grows stronger, winter’s icy grip begins to slip just a bit, and the promise of spring, though weeks away, can be heard in the whispers of a less frigid wind.
This moon cycle, starting with the new moon on January 20, contains the sabbat of Imbolc. In some traditions this is the Milky Moon. Imbolc means in the belly of the Mother and oimelc means ewe’s milk—this was the time of year many herd animals gave birth and began producing milk. Milk was an import source of nourishment, not only for the animal babes, but also for the community as winter stores were running out. The creation of life-giving and life-renewing milk was a cause for celebration.
This moon is also known as Snow Moon, Hunger Moon, Storm Moon, Quickening Moon and other names evocative of the season, depending on tradition. But as this new moon dawns we are still in the time of high winter, a time of waiting and anticipation, watching for early signs of reassurance that winter will soon be taking its leave.
This is the moon for divining the time of Spring’s arrival. If the groundhog sees its shadow, winter will have a long farewell. It’s ironic that a clear, bright blue sky and sunshine on Ground Hog Day, after so many overcast gray days of winter, is really just a “save the date” sent from Spring, an announcement of arrival at some distant time in the future.
If you have difficulty remembering whether sun or clouds predict the early arrival of spring, this rhyme may help ~
If Candlemas Day be sunny and bright
Then winter shall have another flight.
But if it be dark, with clouds and rain,
Winter is gone and will not come again.
Candlemas has its origins in the Christian church, both as a time to honor the purification of Mary and presentation of Jesus in the temple, and as the day when the candles that will be used in mass throughout the year are blessed in the church— thus Candle Mass.
Imbolc, Groundhog Day, or Candlemas, February 2nd* marks the continuation of the growing light that will reach full apex in June, on the Summer Solstice. As a pagan observation, Imbolc marks the first stirring of spring, deep below ground, like the quickening of a child growing in the womb.
While some cultures associate this moon with purification, the energy of this moon also includes planing and preparation. These two aspects compliment one another, especially at the time of the dark into new moon.
Think of it like Persephone in the Underworld with Hades, tidying, organizing, pulling the suitcases down, preparing for her trip back to the surface. This “quickening” energy is also reflected in the nesting behaviors of mothers about to give birth.
After being closed in for the dark winter months, take this in-between time to clean house—literally. Sweep away the dust and cobwebs of winter, get into the corners and under the beds, organize the closets and cupboards.
Magically, tap into Winter’s waning cycle to perform spells and rituals of release and banishing. Then, as the moon visibly grows in the sky from first quarter until full illumination, work your magic to manifest supporting structures for your desires.
During this season, beneath this Milky Moon, is the time to start feeding your personal goals. Think about what lies ahead, where you’re going, what you’ll need and want for the journey, and how to lay the groundwork.
What seeds do you want to plant, nurture and grow to fruition? How will you achieve your desires? What tools and strategies will you use? What and how can you adapt for a greater chance of success? Direct your magical workings to these outcomes.
*Astrological Imbolc falls on February 3 this year.