So have you ever wondered why the Winter Solstice is sometimes called Midwinter, and the Summer Solstice Midsummer? It’s because the calendar, as understood by ancient peoples in the temperate zones, where there were defined seasonal changes, was viewed in a more natural way. The season covered the time from the first signs of a change on to that season’s fullness and then the easing of those changes as the next season came on.
To whit: August 1 – Teltane, Lammastide, Lughnassa – the first day of autumn in those olden times – the first few leaves are coming off the first few trees, and many veggies begin to slow down their growth. Root crops (potatoes, for one) are often finishing about that time and can be dug up and allowed to rest for a few days above ground before storage. By November 1, all of fall, all of those transitions from growth to cessation, are complete. So we’ve seen the season from its first timorous steps to its glory of leaves, and then the completion – leaves are largely gone, the world is prepared for the death-like cold.
Thus, winter begins tomorrow, November 1. Reckoned that way, December 21 is indeed midwinter, nearly the fullest expression of the season of the dark and the cold. And that makes February 1 – Imbolc, Candlemas – the first day of spring. As I’ve seen it written – the ‘day the seed stirs in the earth’ because there is more light.
All of this just feels more right to my mind and my body than the current reckoning. And certainly more right than the current culture / church’s creation of feast days of saints on days just a few days before or after these days, to distract attention from the natural rhythms of our lives. Feels to me like people are simply and easily returning to these old concepts, understanding them intuitively. More and more there are equinox and solstice celebrations, enjoyment and meditations on new moon, full moon, eclipses. All of that feels right to me, too. We are becoming, once again, one with nature, and one with who we really are.