Samhain marks the traditional cross-quarter time between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. It is often called the witches’ new year, the ending of one year and the beginning of the next as the trees surrender their leaves and the crops release their fruits. It is one of a number of sacred days this time of year for honoring the dead and connecting with the ancestors.
Here is a simple ritual for Samhain:
Bring your hands to the ground and say:
We bow our heads and hearts to our beloved and mighty dead.
We bring our hands down to the earth to honor our ancestors of blood and path and possibility and place.
We know that we are always standing on and with those who have come before us.
We know that those who have died have returned to the earth itself and have become more than they were.
We know that death and dying are part of life and living, that our lives are shaped by those who have died just as we ourselves will die and continue to shape the lives of the living.
If you like, you might bring your body to the ground, let your eyes close, and allow yourself to rest in the darkness and in the knowledge that you will one day be among the beloved dead.
Listen for the wisdom of your ancestors.
And practice dying, surrendering to death knowing that death is not the end but is a process of becoming other and more than we were, re-entering the cycles of birth and growth and death and rebirth, the cycles of matter becoming energy becoming matter becoming energy.
Stay here as long as you like.
And then arise, greeting tomorrow’s dawn as the start of a new cycle in the wheel of the year.
Tonight at 2:50am eastern, the Sun will cross the celestial equator and into the sign of Libra, marking the autumnal equinox in the northern hemisphere. Libra is the sign of the scales, and on the equinox, the hours of daylight and darkness are equal, held in balance. From this point until the winter solstice, the night will grow longer, overtaking the day as we move into a time a greater darkness—one reason why the Sun is said to be in its fall in Libra, the fullness and force of its light diminishing as it journey through this sign. The temperatures are dropping, the leaves are starting to change and fall, the harvests are coming in. It is a time of celebrating the bounty of the earth, all that we have grown and harvested, and also a time of letting go, releasing what we no longer need, surrendering certainty, turning our attention inward toward mystery and not knowing.
Can you feel the changing seasons in your body? And how might you honor both the parts of yourself that are coming alive as well as the parts that may be passing away?
What are the seeds that you have planted and nurtured this year that are now bearing fruit?
How might you offer gratitude for the harvests in your life—both our literal food as well as the fruits of our labors?
How might you bid farewell to the long days of summer and prepare yourself for the journey into the long nights ahead?
What are your practices for being with mystery and not knowing, rather than attempting to dispel the darkness with answers and certitude?
I hope you have access to all that you need to move through this sacred time.
Today is Samhain, often called the Witches’ New Year. It is the final harvest sabbat, one of the ancient Celtic cross-quarter days marking the midpoint between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice. Although the exact midpoint is no longer on October 31—this year it falls closer to November 7—many witches still observe the traditional date as a sacred time in the Wheel of the Year. It is an in-between period as the nights are growing longer, the trees are surrendering their leaves, and the last fruits of many crops are gathered.
It is also a time when we honor our beloved dead, those who have passed back into the great cycles of decomposition and regeneration.
We are always moving with the dead.
Go for a walk, and every place your foot falls is full of those who have come before.
We can know this, even as we also know that death is a great mystery. In some sense, there is no death, only life, the endless transformation of states. And yet we also know loss, we are broken apart by grief, losing some parts of who we were when we lose those we love.
As the nights continue to grow longer, we descend into this realm of darkness, this mystery, this blackness of all that came before and all that is yet to come and all that we cannot perceive in excess of the visible and the present.
This is a time for surrendering certainty, for sitting with deep questions without answers, for feeling our way into the dark.
If you feel so moved, you might create an altar to your ancestors—of blood, of path, of possibility—the ancestors of the land, the more-than-human ancestors reaching across deep time.
You might think of this time as a moment in the spiral of time inflected with ending/beginning, letting go of what is no longer needed and opening to what you don’t yet know that you need.
I hope you are staying warm, soft, and slow. Those are some of the spells I am casting today.
Imbolc—one of the eight sabbats in the Wheel of the Year—is the midway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere, traditionally observed on February 1. Imbolc is often translated as “in the belly,” describing the forthcoming spring germinating beneath the cold ground of winter. It is a time when we cultivate hope and honor that which is yet to come.
This year on February 1, we have a New Moon in Aquarius, just 3º from a conjunction with Saturn—the ruler of Aquarius—and closely squaring Uranus in Taurus. After a year of Saturn and Uranus moving in and out of exact squares with one another, this New Moon has the potential to mark a new beginning, planting the seeds of systems and structures for supporting the worlds to which we aspire. In the aftershocks of all the disruption and destabilization we have experienced, what are the ideas and ideologies that we are gestating capable of carrying us into the futures to which we are devoted?
The Sun is in its antithesis or detriment in Aquarius—sometimes called its exile. It is a place that is far from its home sign of Leo, a territory where it must make use of the unfamiliar resources of distant places in order to accomplish that for which it is responsible. Whatever perspectives and plans we are developing must come from the margins, emerging from the spaces far from those currently enshrined at the center of our social values.
At the same time, Venus is conjunct the asteroid Vesta in Capricorn (see previous post). It is a time for asking: what do you consider to be your sacred calling? What if the altar of your sacred calling burns with the flames of your truest desires?
May we all follow the flame of our hearts’ desires—especially those that are excluded or marginalized within our current world—to discover the blueprints for the worlds we will build together.
[Image 1 reads Astrology of the Wheel of the Year Imbolc 1 February 2022 in gold letters on a background collage of stars and flowers. Image 2 shows the chart for Imbolc on 1 February 2022 at sunset, 7:44am in Columbus, OH, USA]
As the Sun enters Capricorn on December 21, we observe Yule or the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere—the longest night of the year, as the Sun crosses the degree of its maximum southern declination, when the north pole is inclined furthest from the Sun. It’s a time for turning inward, for honoring the fallow period of winter, for drawing close to those we love and creating light and life with one another to see us through the darkness. It is also a moment of rebirth for the Sun, as from this point the days will gradually grow longer.
This year as the Sun enters Capricorn, it joins Mercury, Pluto, and Venus, just a few days into its retrograde and still closely conjunct Pluto. This Venus retrograde invites us to reflect on our commitments, examine the ways that power operates in our most enduring relationships, unearth the ways in which we re-enact our experiences of trauma or harm in our patterns of relating, and build foundations that can support our ability to love well. At the time of the Sun’s ingress into Capricorn, Mercury is also conjunct the asteroid Juno, the queen of heaven and goddess of loving commitments. How do you express you love to those with who you are committed? How do you commit yourself in words to being in practices of love, even when they require work or facing what might be difficult? This is the context into which the Sun is moving as we mark the start of winter.
The brilliant bell hooks, who is now a Black feminist ancestor, writes in All About Love: New Visions, “Love is an action, a participatory emotion. Whether we are engaged in a process of self-love or of loving others we must move beyond the realm of feeling to actualize love. This is why it is useful to see love as a practice. When we act, we need not feel inadequate or powerless; we can trust that there are concrete steps to take on love’s path. We learn to communicate, to be still and listen to the needs of our hearts, and we learn to listen to others. We learn compassion by being willing to hear the pain, as well as the joy, of those we love.”
May we all recognize love as an action, moving beyond the realm of feeling to engage in the practice of loving, learning to communicate, to be still and listen, to hear the pain as well as the joy of our own hearts and the hearts of those we love.
[Image 1 reads: Astrology of the Wheel of the Year Yule Winter Solstice 21 December 2021 in gold letters on a dark green background of flowers and stars. Image 2 shows the chart for the Sun’s ingress into Capricorn on 21 December 2021 in Columbus, OH.]
While no longer the mathematical midpoint between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice, Samhain is a time at which we celebrate the symbolic passage from the point at which daylight and nighttime were equal through the increasing darkness toward the longest night of the year. It is the witches’ new year, the ending of one cycle and the beginning of the next. It is a time when the veil between the worlds is said to be thin, when we honor our beloved dead and the inescapable truth that death is part of Life.
This year as the Sun sets on October 31, the Moon in Virgo is in the Waning Quarter phase, surrendering its light and moving deeper into shadow. It is also separating from a trine with Uranus in Taurus. Sometimes the process of letting go of what is no longer necessary for our journey leaves us trembling, shaken and unsettled as we part ways with what is no longer ours to carry.
The Sun in Scorpio is separating from a square with Saturn in Aquarius. What comes into view as you move beyond the places you never thought you would pass? Sometimes the only way through the barricades of rigid ideology is the swim deeper beneath the surface into the depths of where our established logics no longer hold.
Mercury in Libra is applying to a trine with Jupiter in Aquarius. How can you practice your most generous communication—both speaking and listening—with the living and the dead? What becomes more possible when you not only speak in a voice that is already more than your own but listen that way as well?
Venus in Sagittarius is conjunct the asteroid Juno, the Queen of Heaven and wife of Jupiter. You may find that as we move farther into this dark season, you long for the commitments capable of holding the wildfires of your passions. To whom are you devoted, and how do you sustain the blaze of love and desire within the partnerships to which you are committed?
May you release what is no longer yours, dive deep beneath any unyielding formations of your rational mind, practice listening and speaking in ways that are larger than any individual self, and devote yourself to love that can carry you through the long nights ahead. Blessed Samhain.
[Image 1 reads: Astrology of the Wheel of the Year Samhain 31 October 2021 in gold letters on a dark green background of flowers and stars. Image 2 shows the chart for sunset on 31 October 2021 in Columbus, OH.]
August 1 is the traditional date on which witches celebrate Lammas — or Lughnassadh — the First Harvest in the northern hemisphere, the midpoint between the Summer Solstice and the Autumnal Equinox. As a harvest festival, it’s a time for offering gratitude for the abundance of the Earth, for the crops that are starting to yield fruit, and for all the ways our lives are bringing forth bounty. This year as the Sun rises in its domicile of Leo on August 1, it’s in a tight conjunction with Mercury. This superior conjunction is a condition known as cazimi or ‘in the heart of the Sun,’ a time when Mercury disappears into the blazing daylight to be purified and clarified. It is a place of extreme favor and relief for Mercury halfway between its direct and retrograde stations. Messages come through with precision and authority, and the topics for which Mercury is responsible benefit from the good will of the dignified Sun. The Sun in Leo burns with courage, whole-heartedness, and authenticity, calling us to radiate more fully and persistently in our truths. However, this conjunction is also in a tight applying opposition with Saturn, retrograde and also in its domicile of Aquarius. Saturn is in the process of reviewing and revising systems, institutions, rules, and regulations, and in this opposition, we may encounter resistance to what is being revealed during the cazimi. There may be revelations we are harvesting that are not easy to recognize or receive. The waning quarter Moon is exalted in Taurus, separating from a conjunction with Uranus and a T-square with Saturn, Mercury, and the Sun. For this sabbat, may we celebrate the rich abundance of our lives, all the lessons that we are learning from our labor, daring to seek and uncover the truth even as we encounter fear or restrictions from within or without. Stay open to epiphanies and take responsibility for how or when you share what you are coming to understand. Trust that the wisdom of your body is already leading the way.
The Sun enters Cancer at 11:33pm eastern on Sunday, June 20, marking the Summer Solstice in the northern hemisphere—called Litha in the witches’ Wheel of the Year. The Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year, at which point the days begin to grow shorter and the nights grow longer. From the peak of its strength, the Sun begins to move toward its symbolic death and rebirth at the Winter Solstice. This year, as the Sun moves into Cancer, its ruler the Moon is in Scorpio, the sign of its fall or depression. The brightest light of the year is revealing where our needs feel unmet, the places that feel neglected or abandoned. The Moon is in the waxing quarter lunation phase, a time of pressing through resistance, overcoming challenges, and establishing the viability of this cycle—proving what is possible even when the support we may be seeking feels absent or unavailable. The Moon is also square Saturn and opposing Uranus in Taurus, wading through the residue of this week’s exact Saturn/Uranus square. Our foundations may feel shaken and unsteady. But the Sun is also applying to a trine with Jupiter in its domicile of Pisces, and it is co-present with Venus in Cancer. Provision may not come from the sources we expect, but there are resources available to us is we follow where the currents are carrying us. As that which you have been grasping is shaken from your trembling hands, surrender to the flow, moving in the direction of abundance rather than clinging to the places where it feels as if there is never enough. May we each trust that our lives are simply tributaries streaming into tides that nourish us even as we pour ourselves into them. As we move from the longest day toward the longest night, may we remember that we are never alone.
[First image reads “Astrology of the Wheel of the Year: LITHA, 20 June 2021” in golden letters on a dark green field of flowers and stars. Second image shows the chart for the moment of the Sun’s ingress into Cancer, and reads “Litha, the Summer Solstice, 20 June 2021, 11:33pm, Columbus, OH, USA”]
As the Sun rises on May 1, we celebrate the traditional midpoint or cross-quarter sabbat between the spring equinox and the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere. We are moving through the heart of Taurus season, when the spark of life is erupting through stem and bud and leaf and flower and fruit. The days are getting longer, and we are celebrating the creative potential of all life. This year as we celebrate Beltane, the Sun is conjunct Uranus in Taurus and in a tight square with Saturn in Aquarius. Saturn and Uranus have already made one exact square with one another and will do so again in June. The Sun’s conjunction with Uranus is activating this square, the conflict between structure and freedom, the demand for dynamic adjustment between a revolutionary impulse rooted deeply within our bodies colliding with rigid ideologies about how the world is or must be. Venus, the ruler of the Sun and Uranus, is also in Taurus, its nocturnal domicile, seducing us toward pleasure and satisfaction that grounds and stabilizes as we move through longer-term radical change. Venus is applying to a sextile with Neptune, a dreamy configuration that suggests that fantasy and visioning may offer opportunities for connection and satisfaction that might otherwise seem impossible. The Moon is in Capricorn, the sign of its antithesis or detriment, where we may feel burdened by the weight of work and productivity. The Moon is also in its disseminating phase, moving through a trine with the Sun and Uranus, and we may find that we have learned more than we realize about embodying revolutionary vitality, even in the midst of enduring hard work, and now is the time to share what we know. May the fires of Beltane connect us to pleasure that shakes us free from limited and limiting beliefs about ourselves and what is possible. May we ground ourselves in shared visions and dreams of what will allow us all to live well. And may we dare to embody lives that emit liveliness even under the conditions of struggle.
March 20 is Oestara, the Vernal Equinox in the northern hemisphere, when the Sun ingresses into Aries—the sign of its exaltation—and we celebrate the start of spring. The day and night are equal in length, held in balance before the lengthening days overtake the shorter nights. It is a time for honoring new beginnings and appreciating the return of life after the months of winter hibernation. This year, as the Sun enters Aries, its ruler Mars is in Gemini just two signs away. The waxing crescent Moon is also in Gemini, while the ruler of Gemini—Mercury—is in Pisces, the sign of its antithesis and fall, conjunct the asteroid Pallas. The Sun is exalted in Aries in part because of the days growing longer than the nights, an indication of the Sun increasing in its influence, authority, and strength. Aries is cardinal fire, sparking the flames of new beginnings and the ignition of initiative. With Mars and the Moon in Gemini, this equinox is also a time for gathering information, formulating perspectives, and determining how to act on the knowledge we’re creating. Mars is applying to a trine with Saturn, encouraging principled, deliberate action and bringing long-term, focused discipline to what we choose to initiate. While Mercury may struggle to manage details in the emotional tides of Pisces, its conjunction with Pallas suggests strategic thinking, the wisdom to direct power well, and tenacity to protect those who are made most vulnerable. Pisces carries currents of compassion and inclusion, so at this equinox, as we celebrate the return of life, may our compassion inspire strategic wisdom for protecting the livability of all. With whatever we are beginning or initiating, may we collect the information and data that we need in order to synthesize actionable analyses with long-term vision. May we boldly speak up and dare to make connections that require us to adapt and change our perspectives. If you ritualize the equinox, I hope these words can inspire your rituals.
[First image reads “Astrology of the Wheel of the Year: Oestara, 20 March 2021” in golden letters on a dark green field of flowers and stars. Second image shows the chart for the moment of the Sun’s ingress into Aries, and reads “Oestara, 20 March 2021, 5:38am, Columbus, OH, USA”]
Imbolc—one of the eight sabbats in the Wheel of the Year—is the midway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere, usually observed from sunset on 1 February until sunset on 2 February. Imbolc is often translated as “in the belly,” describing the forthcoming spring germinating beneath the cold ground of winter. At Imbolc this year, there is a full stellium in Aquarius—what Chris Brennan recently described as an “assembly” of planets—with Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, the Sun, and Mercury all in residence in the same sign. This puts considerable importance on the sign of Aquarius as well as Saturn—the ruler of Aquarius—who is then responsible for overseeing this assembly. Saturn sets boundaries, rules, and limitations, and in Aquarius, these concerns are often directed toward the future, toward worlds we are building, and that which exceeds the parameters of the old order. As the five planets convene to take part in creating new structures as the old institutions fall away, they are all in a whole-sign square to both Uranus and Mars in Taurus. The Sun is exactly square Mars, both at 13º. Building new worlds founded in ideological integrity amidst challenging upheavals assaults from those who feel disempowered is difficult work. The disseminating Moon in Libra suggests a time for sharing equity, equality, and justice. At this Imbolc, may we gather in our own assemblies, developing clear parameters and strategies for bringing new worlds to term. Whether in group or solitary rituals, may we pour our love and intentions into justice, community care and accountability, and everyone having access to all that they need in the worlds to which we will give birth.
[Image 1 reads Astrology of the Wheel of the Year Imbolc 1 February 2021 in gold letters on a background collage of stars and flowers. Image 2 shows the chart for Imbolc on 1 February 2021 at sunset, 5:48pm in Columbus, OH, USA]
Tomorrow is also Samhain, the witches’ new year. This is the midpoint between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. It is the final harvest, the end of a cycle of life and growth and gathering the fruits of our labor. Now we move deeper into the autumn months, the longer nights, and the colder weather. Every ending is also a beginning, and as the wheel of the year turns and this cycle is complete, we enter the dormant period that is also the start of a cycle of new life to come. Samhain is also a time for honoring our ancestors, for communing with the dead. It is said to be the time of the year when the veil between the worlds is thinnest. It is a time for celebration and also introspection. Today or tomorrow, you might create an altar to your ancestors—those who make your life possible whether related by blood or other forms of kinship—and offer gratitude for the lives they lived. For me, this includes my father, my grandparents, and my family line as well as the transcestors, the mighty and beloved queer dead who are not my kin by blood but by possibility. The lives they lived make my life possible. You might take time to be quiet and still, and listen to what your ancestors are saying. To say that the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest also suggests that this is a time for visioning toward worlds to come. What will justice in worlds to come require? What resources do ancestors past, present, and future offer to creating justice for all, for life on this planet other than ourselves? If we allow today to mark both endings and beginnings, what can you let go of or surrender that is no longer serving you, and how can you orient yourself toward being in service to that which you love in the year ahead?
Today is the Autumnal Equinox, Mabon to the witches, the midpoint between the summer and winter solstice when the hours of daylight and nighttime are in balance. It’s a time for celebrating the harvest, for cultivating gratitude for the work we have done and the fruits of our labor, as well as for letting go of that which we no longer need. As the Sun moves into Libra, in the northern hemisphere, the leaves are already beginning to turn colors and fall away. The crops are coming into their final fullness as longer days depart for longer nights. This is also a time for reconnecting to balance, for noticing what is out of balance in our lives, and for engaging in the dynamic process of making the changes necessary in order to feel stable in responding to the shifting forces of our lives.
Surrounding the Sun’s ingress into Libra marking the equinox, the Moon in Cancer will oppose Saturn in Capricorn. Now direct, Saturn has an agenda, steadily moving forward on long-term plans for the future. As Saturn demands these new directions, notice where you feel resistance or opposition in your body. The Moon then makes a square to Mercury in Libra and a sextile to Mars in Virgo. News, messages, or correspondences may challenge our sense safety or security—as if that’s not simply a daily reality in our current political climate—and we may in turn feel empowered to take action in order to support meaningful change.
As we embark on this new season and celebrate the turning of the wheel of the year, I hope that you can feel all the ways that you are of this place, constituted with and from this earth. It is not only that the world around us is changing; the worlds within us are changing as well—if we let them. Magic is what happens when we recognize this vital, necessary relationship between the worlds within and without, and allow ourselves to be moved by this changing earth to which we belong.