It is January and by the Gregorian calendar a new year. Yet, by the Celtic calendar the new year began back in November, when Samhain, Celtic winter, claimed its rule with the celebrations of Halloween. Now we find ourselves in the deepest realms of Samhain. Winter continues and will continue to hold us until the rising of Imbolc, Celtic spring, in February. However, something has changed. Outside our windows the days are getting longer.

In the Celtic traditions, as in many others, new life begins in the darkness of the mother’s womb. It is the period of gestation that precedes birth, a time before time, a place of preparing for what is to come. As the Great Mother’s children, we return each year into Her womb. Spent of last year’s vision, with the arrival of Samhain we sink again with the plants into the fertile darkness of the earth and sleep in the arms of the Great Mother. There in Her love, we begin to separate the dross from the pure. We reflect on the times that have been, on the faces and names of those we have known, on the names and events that have shaped us. We remember who we have been. We remember who we want to become. We begin to dream a new dream, to gestate a new vision for the year to unfold.

Our own modern day celebrations are, to some degree, a reflection of this deeper archetypal transition. The holiday season reunites families, in ways no other occasion can. People who are often separated by miles and even continents come together around the same table, beside the same hearth and talk. They tell the stories that all families have, laughing and reliving precious moments. They remember those who came before and even jest of what may come. This is as close to clan living as most families today ever experience. Together families remind each other of who they were, who they are, who they could be.

And something miraculous happens. Before a single gift has been opened, before the glasses have been raised, something changes. Midway through Samhain we find ourselves standing on the threshold of the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. In that darkness, the return of the light is guaranteed.

With the next sunrise, the light begins to grow stronger, shining just a bit longer each day. We are reassured that winter will end. We are also reminded that a new seed has been planted for us. Although we are still gestating in the Mother’s womb, that sunrise brings with it the first shafts of the light that will grow and mature within us over the next three seasons. It carries in it the light that we will shine into the world in the unfolding year.

We can choose to be active participants in this re-seeding. Whether through shamanic journey, meditation or simple attention, awareness begins with a single question, with the act of asking yourself what light is being born within you this Midwinter. The answers can be found in the life unfolding around you. Perhaps they even dined with you at your holiday table. What ancestors have been haunting you through this holiday season? Which stories of your life did you recall and relive? What were the themes of your winter celebrations? How are you different from before these events? All of these experiences offer clues, small guide posts along the journey, and all of them are whispering to you the truth of who you are to become. Together they reflect the truth of the light that is being born.

Buddha is quoted as having said, “Make a light of yourself.” What light do you most want to shine into the world around you? What light will be your gift to the world this year?