Updated: Feb 2
The Cross Quarter days, also known in some traditions as Fire Festivals, happen opposite the Quarter turns of the year that land on the Equinoxes and Solstices.
The idea of the Cross Quarter feels very cross-roadsy to me. It's an intersection that results in an increase of liminal energy. Most Pagans and Witches recognize the Cross-Quarter time around the first of November. Celebrated between October 31st and November 7th, what many call Halloween, spiritual people know this time as Samhain, Allhallowtide, All Hallow's Eve, Day of the Dead or Día De Los Muertos, or All Souls Day.
The opposite of Samhain is Beltane. Both Samhain and Beltane are exciting, mysterious and extra AF. Everyone knows about these holidays and often look forward to them all year.
But what about the other two Cross Quarters?
Sadly, the other two Cross Quarter holidays are not as sexy. We have the beginning of February and August. Usually celebrated on or near the 1st or 2nd day of the month, many people call the August Cross Quarter Lammas, and the February Cross Quarter Imbolc.
February's Cross Quarter is also known as Brigid's Day and Candlemas. It lands about halfway between the Winter solstice and the Spring equinox.
If you are Wiccan, then Imbolc or Brigid's Day comes with lots of traditions that include making a Brigid's Cross, Corn Dollies, and visiting Holy Wells to name a few. Because there's so much written for Wiccans already, I won't make this post about Imbolc's many options for celebration.
If you're non-Wiccan like me, there are lots of ways to honor, acknowledge or mark this Cross Quarter in your Spiritual or ritual practice that aren't rooted in to the old Gaelic ways.
In Gaelic Ireland, Imbolc was the festival to mark the beginning of Spring. But here in most parts of the U.S., this is still very much Winter.
This weekend I went wildcrafting as part of an annual schedule I observe for celebrating this time of year. I usually do this the last day or two of January. Certain plants are just barely starting to 'wake-up' and the best time to harvest them is before they are fully awake come Spring. Harvesting them too early in the Winter and they will still be too 'asleep'. The Spirit of these plants have their own rhythms and life force and learning as well as respecting the nuances of those rhythms is part of my work as a Witch.
Even if you don't wildcraft, this is a great time to take a walk outside and observe what's happening in Nature. The simple act of tuning in to Nature is one of the most magickal things a Witch can do. Bring a journal in case you get struck with inspiration and want to write or draw, and carry some blessed water or extra energy to leave as an offering. If you're comfortable, bring a blanket or mat and try meditating near a river, surrounded by trees, or near large rocks.
Around the 1st day of February I take this time to plan out my gardens for Spring, inspect and organize seed packets on hand, and order new seeds if I need them. When they arrive I may start some indoors. By the Spring Equinox it is time for some of the seedlings to be transplanted to a bigger pot or start the process of hardening off. This varies from year to year by as much a a few weeks based on the local climate. If not done so already, by Beltane it's time to move the plants outside and into the ground for the ones not staying in pots.
February 2nd and 3rd are two of my daughter's birthdays. Folklore says children born at this time were most likely conceived at Beltane (also known as May Day), and are considered a gift from the Gods or alternately, a gift of the Fae. Part of my February Cross Quarter tradition involves celebrating their birthdays and making an offering to the Fae in a show of gratitude for the gift of my children. Whether or not the Fae Folk had a hand in my babies being born, I choose to err on the side of caution and stay in their good favor.
As with any new month, any magick, spells or rituals for new beginnings is appropriate right now. Because we are in the growing half of the year, with the Sun increasing daily since Winter Solstice and continuing through Summer Solstice, it's an excellent time to work all fertility, growth and increasing magick that you may need. Combining this with a Waxing or Full Moon (the Moon is currently Waning) at the beginning of a month can lend an extra boost of coherent energies.
I personally like Spring Equinox and Autumn Equinox energy for heavy-duty cleansing rituals, such as 'Spring Cleaning', but these can be done anytime and on any Sabbat or Holy day you observe. One nice thing is if you do a thorough Spring Cleaning now, you don't have to worry about it next month in March!
With Winter still firmly here and snow on the ground in many places, snow magick is on the menu for as long as it's available. This can be tied into your Winter Holy days to make them more special. In fact, oftentimes, this may be the only Cross Quarter day that has snow on the ground.
The liminal quality of Cross Quarters also brings to mind spells, rituals and workings related to pacts, places where two things meet, like land and water, doorways, gates and portals, communication with the Dead or necromancy, intersection & transition, Ancestors, beginnings, journeys, protection, secrets, offerings, Lunar workings, waste & unwanted things, Power and divination.
Use the energy of this time to work on magickal and personal projects that align with these themes. For example, right now is a good time to collect water and dirt together from a special place where these two things meet. Get creative and tune in for your own inspiration and ideas.
Finally, I take this time to intentionally observe and tune in to the Sun. I raise my face toward the Sun, absorbing the warm beams and pulling them down through my whole body. If you have something to charge or enchant, this would be a wonderful way to do so. You can raise one arm toward the Sun to draw down the Sun's energy, while directing that energy through you and out of your opposite hand. If you've ever heard of 'Drawing Down the Moon', this is really 'Drawing Down the Sun'. It helps me reconnect after many weeks of the cold, Dark Winter spent mostly indoors. It helps ground me but it also helps rejuvenate me. It infuses me with hope, joy, even giddiness. I can feel the promise of more Light radiating from the Sun. It gives me exactly what I need to make it through the next few months of cold and dreariness. As a Summer child, I thrive in the Sun, heat and long days, and wilt the rest of the year. Much like the plants I work with, I feel quite dormant after the bright days of Summer have passed. The Sun's changing position in the sky at the beginning of February is a welcome reminder that it won't always be cold and dreary, and that gives me something to look forward to.
Sending you all February Cross Quarter Blessings!
Here is one of the most wholesome videos on the internet. I watch it every year at this time and wanted to share it with you. Enjoy! :)