Avalon Lunar Tradition
In the Avalon tradition, Imbolc is known as Gwyl Mair the second Great Grove Festival in the Wheel of the Year.
In the Lunar tradition of Avalon, Gwyl Mair is celebrated on the first full moon when the sun is in Aquarius. Gwyl Mair is known as the Feast of Mary to the Welsh and as Imbolc (In the Belly) to the Irish (celebrated on Feb. 2). Traditionally, the Celts had little outward activity during their harsh winters. Agricultural, social, and much government work came to a standstill as weather and other natural forces of winter drove people inside. It was a time of inactivity and inward focus for the Celtic Britons. Unlike the other Great Grove Festivals, Gwyl Mair was most often celebrated locally as travel to a more central location was difficult due to the winter elements and terrain.
Spring Begins in the Underground
Gwyl Mair marked the beginning of Spring in the Celtic Year. It was a welcome time as it was seen as a harbringer of Spring – regardless of the actual weather. Sheep began to lactate following the birth of their lambs. In addition to feeding the newborn, this milk would supply a source of needed protein in the form of cheese and whey. The ground would begin its thawing and soon plowing and tilling of the soil could begin in preparation for planting. Fishing boats could be readied in anticipation of the beginning of the fishing season.
Although spring is associated with green and growing the Celts held that everything began in darkness – the Womb- and moved toward the light and emergence. Spring begins in the underground of Earth while it appears that Winter still rules. We can see that this belief is carried over to Gwyl Mair because even though the signs of spring are subtle and often times deeply hidden they do appear and signal that spring is rising up within the womb of Earth – that the dark and cold will not last.
Gwyl Mair sits at the Station of Confrontation in the Cycle of Healing. Its major correspondences are the Dark Moon, Earth, Ceridwen, and The Tor.
The Station of Confrontation is the time of identifying and naming the root source of the Shadow issue we are working with. The Dark Moon with its black void and the Holy Day Gwyl Mair, the nadir of the Wheel of the Year (the point mid-way between our descent and our emergence) act as mirrors that reflect back to us the truthful state of our Shadow expression. With the advent of Gwyl Mair we may begin our emergence into the light which shines on our hidden place where we will emerge at Calan Mai into the light of understanding.
Do We Have the Resources We Need?
Gwyl Mair marked the half-way point for the resources and food stock that had been put away at Calan Gaeaf (Samhain/Halloween). Not outstripping the stored reserves was important if one was to continue to survive until the beginning of the Light Half of the Year. Divinations about the weather, household prosperity, and taking into account improvements for the planning of the descent into the Dark Half of next Year were practiced.
At this point in the Wheel of the Year it would be possible to see where lack of clarity may have resulted in not having enough to sustain the family through the harsh winters.
This parallels our own inner journey on the Cycle of Healing. Having descended into the Dark Half of the Year at Calan Gaeaf in search of our Shadow issue and confronting and naming the source of our Shadow at Gwyl Mair we too must assess if we have ample stored reserves to “make it through” to our emergence at Calan Mai (Beltain).
Have we put enough away to sustain us in our journey to emergence?
Do we need to reconsider our pacing and our work?
We too can see Gwyl Mair as the heralder of our emergence into the Light Half of the Year and begin our work of preparing to plant new seeds for an abundant harvest.
The Goddess Ceridwen is in ascendency during the time of Gwyl Mair. She is a great and exacting Goddess and the Keeper of the Cauldron of Inspiration from which all Knowledge can be obtained. In her Cauldron, she brews the powerful potion – the Graal of Wisdom. This potion requires much time and many components to brew and when complete will yield three drops of potent medicine containing all Wisdom – the rest is poison.
At Gwyl Mair, Ceridwen reminds us that the Graal of Wisdom is still brewing and that we best not drink from the cup too soon. There is still work to be done so that we can precipitate out those precious three drops of understanding that will allow us to crack open the caste of our Shadow. Drinking from the Graal of Wisdom too soon may mean that there is still too much Shadow left and instead of Illumination we may again get mired in the poison of the Shadow. Just as traveling too soon in the Winter to a central location for the Gwyl Mair celebration could have taxed the ancient’s resources it is instructive to have a sense of the need to keep pace with the energies of our inner healing.
As Gwly Mair is a time of preparing and tilling the soil for planting, it is also a time for preparing our own souls for the activation of the dormant sees of wisdom – the Three Rays of Awen – which must be patiently brought to the surface to sprout our new potential. We have not yet emerged into the Light of Illumination but we have the sense that we are now preparing ourselves for the Emergence.
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