Poor February

Imbolc                                                                        Valentine Moon

February was the end of the Roman year and the name of the month comes from the Lupercalia bacchanal before a statue of Pan, Poussinlatin februa.*  The ides of a Roman month, either the 13th or the 15th were sacred to Jupiter.  On the ides of the last month of the year Roman tradition involved ceremonies and rituals related to cleansing and purification. (see definitional material below)  Presumably this allowed them to enter the new year in March clean of impurities from the old year.

Lupercalia, a celebration which has convoluted possible relations with Valentine’s Day, came to be dominant in Roman times during the ides.  Certain ancients related this celebration to the Lykaen region of Greece where King Lycaon affronted Zeus and brought about his transformation into a wolf.  Lycaos, the mountain after which the region got its name, was sacred to Pan.

Thus, Lupercalia was thought by early Romans to be a wolf festival, partly for Pan and triumph of Pan, Poussinthe wolf-like nature of the Lykaen kingdom, but also, and later more often, association with the she-wolf who suckled the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.  Her cave was near the Palantine Hill and has recently, 2007, been provisionally located.  It was called the Lupercal and was, like Lycaos, sacred to Pan.

The Lupercalia festivities were held near the cave.

February was the shortest month and had an even number of days because, according to Roman belief, odd numbers had favor with the gods.  (Vergil:  God rejoices in the odd number.”  Until the 19th century the Germans called the month Hornung, or ‘the bastard gotten in the corner.’  The Scots Gaeli name, an Gerran, means the gelding.  Poor February.  It also had, in Europe at least, the reputation of having the worst weather of the year.

Much of the above information gleaned from The Oxford Companion to the Year, a 1999 imprint of Oxford University Press.

N.B.  Both of the Poussin paintings here:  Bacchanal Before a Statue of Pan (above) and The Triumph of Pan (below) have been associated with Lupercalia.


*from Lewis and Short via Perseus:

februa , ōrum, n., the Roman festival of purification and expiationcelebrated on the 15th of the month hence called February (v. Februarius); whence, Februālis , Febrūlis , and Februāta ,surnames of Junowho was worshipped at this festival; Februātus , the festival itself; and Februus , a surname of Lupercuswho presided over this festival

Imbolc 2014

Imbolc                                                       Valentine Moon

Bride put her finger in the river on the Feast Day of Bride and away went the hatching Brigid2mother of the cold.  Carmina Gadelic


Today is the official opening of this new website, ancientrailsgreatwheel, or, simply, Great Wheel.

It comes onto the web honoring Brigid, the triple goddess of the old faery faith–the Celtic understanding of how to honor the relationship with the natural and supernatural worlds.

Imbolc is her feast day, her market week actually, since all of these holidays coincided with markets, making them special points in the year when transactions of all kinds took place.

Imbolc itself means in-the-belly and signifies the time when, in preparation for lambing, ewes began to freshen and milk came back into the diet after the long winter. Brigid as Lady GreenFreshening, usually six weeks or so before the birth of the lambs around the spring equinox, signaled the emergence of new life, both animal and vegetable.

There was an ancient belief that the sun began to dominate on Imbolc and though this was a truer reference to the Winter Solstice, it did reflect the evident increase in daylight that had accumulated since the Solstice and, in combination with the freshening of the ewes, promised another growing season was not far off.

(Brigid as Lady Green)

This was important because in Scotland and in other Celtic lands, February came at a dismal time, bleak and cold with last fall’s stores dwindling.  The Scots called the time around Imbolc the wolf-month and others called it the Dead Month.

Brigid, the triple goddess of smithy, inspiration and hearth was at the core of ancient Celtic domestic life, poetry and iron working.  She was also a goddess of healing, triple goddessregeneration and abundance, and closely connected with cattle and other domesticated livestock.

She was the central deity of the ancient Celtic pantheon in many ways and honored by many sacred wells and sites of worship, among them the eternal flame at Kildare, a place of high importance on Imbolc since it is a fire holiday.  In later years, after the Roman Catholics absorbed Brigid as a saint, Saint Brigid, there was a double monastery at Kildare, both men and women in residence and 19 nuns kept the flame alive, tending it at night one at a time, with the 20th night left to the Saint herself.  It burned from the 6th century to the 16th, or so the old books say.

Brigid is also associated with the Bride who appears first on Imbolc.  One account says that Old Woman of Winter, the Cailleach or the Crone, goes off to a sacred well and drinks from a fountain of youth, coming back from the well as the Bride, the virgin who will later enter into consort with the Horned God at the festival of Beltane, thus assuring an abundant year for crops and animals alike.  This is a three fold division of the year john_duncan_015_the_coming_of_bride_1917-e1296621234846which gives one third to the virgin maid, in this case Bride, another third to the Matron or Mother, and the final third to the Crone, the Old Woman.

(John Duncan, The Coming of Bride)

So today can be a time to look into your heart, into your relationships, into the projects and work aspects of your life and find what needs inspiration, what could use a spark, a new flame.  You can also look for those aspects of your life that have begun to flourish, perhaps with only slight signs, like the freshening of the ewe or the advancing daylight.

This is a holiday for them, a time to find in your own well of inspiration, of home making and family building, of creative work the new and hopeful, a time to encourage them and yourself, remembering that a new growing season is not only promised, it is already underway.



The Days Are Gods

Winter                                                       Seed Catalog Moon


Thor Battles the Giants

Greek speaking countries, for the most part, changed their day names to conform to the tyr and  fenrirRoman Catholic system.  In the Latin world there was more variation.  Portuguese changed all the names, but in other Romance tongues the old planetary system of the Roman world prevails still with the exception of Sunday, Lord’s Day, and Saturday, Sabbath.

(Tyr and Fenrir

The most resistant have been the British and Celtic tongues.  English replaced Mars, Mercury, Jupiter and Venus with Germanic deities:  Tiw, Woden, Thor, and Frigga. English retains Saturn, Sun, Moon.

Who the heck, you might ask, is Tiw?

Well, Tiw is old English for Tyr,  a Norse god associated most famously with Loki’s child, the great wolf Fenrir, destined to kill Odin when Ragnarok begins.  Tyr stuck his hand in Odin, the WandererFenrir’s mouth as surety against a binding.  The binding held and Fenrir bit off Tyr’s hand.  He’s a martial god, too, sometimes called the Norse Mars.

Woden is Odin, the hanged one who gained wisdom hanging from the world tree Yggdrasil, and the king of the Aesir.

(Odin the Wanderer)

Thor was perhaps the best loved of the Nordic pantheon, a warrior god who specialized in killing giants.  His great hammer Mjolnir has had feature roles in two recent Hollywood blockbusters.

Frigga is a Norse fertility goddess.

Emerson’s quote on the masthead is not idle; the days are indeed gods and goddesses, Then-Frigga-Called-To-Her-All-Beasts,-Birds,-And-Venomous-Snakesno where more so than in the British and Celtic lands and those, like us, who follow them linguistically.

So, this Moon’s Day, weekly reminder of she who shines in the night, I bid you, good-bye.  Until Tyr’s Day.




Current Thoughts About Content

Winter                                                    Seed Catalog Moon

Here’s some current thinking about what this website will contain.  Posts:wheel_of_the_year1.jpg

1. explaining and amplifying the Great Wheel season.  This will include reference to other similar ideas when appropriate and available.

2.identifying significant astronomical events occurring in the season.

3. that focus on mythological elements, stories, tales, art concerning the season.

4. that expand on similar material for days of the week and months of the year.

5.  that reference historical events that seem interesting or curious or strange related to any of the above.

6. relating to weather and weather phenomenon.

7. relating to the cycles of the moon, moon lore, moon names, other cultures approaches to the moon.

8. concerning gardening, orchards and bees

Right now I plant to post to it once a day.  No more than twice.  I’m in a formative stage right now with Great Wheel and will appreciate any additional thoughts.