Astrology Secrets Revealed by ERIC FRANCIS

The High Sabbat of Imbolc

January 28, 2005


Dear Readers:


The coming week brings the Pagan festival or High Sabbat (Sabbath) of Imbolc. This is a seasonal festival celebrating the transition from winter to spring, which our many readers in the Southern Hemisphere will of course relate to as something that is not happening to them. Which is a nice lead into our first question for the week, addressing astrology themes in the Southern Hemisphere.


The word Imbolc means 'in the belly' or 'in the milk', which in cosmic terms relates to the fact that those for whom the days are cold and dark right now are deep in the belly or milk of the stars. To this day, Pagans still call this the Midwinter Holiday. The Church took this holiday and revamped it into Candlemas, which is a celebration of light. Tradition held that at this time of year, one counted one's candles, and if there were enough, one would be lit in each window. Modern agrarian culture reinvented this as Ground Hog Day, where two million TV cameras terrorize a poor little rodent in Pennsylvania.


At the opposite time of year, the corresponding festival or Sabbath is traditionally called Lughnasadh, or Lammas by the Christians. This is the festival of the First Harvest or Second Planting, as you wish.


These holidays are based on the solar year, that is, the apparent movement of the Sun around the path of the ecliptic. We're all familiar with the equinoxes and solstices. These are called the 'quarter days', as they divide the year into four. Then there are the 'cross quarter days' -- which include Imbolc and Lughnasadh, as well as Beltane (The May or May Day, May 1, though in some cultures celebrated the 5th or Cinco de Mayo); and Samhain (also called Halloween, October 31, also known in some cultures as 'Days of the Dead'). Of the four cross-quarter holidays, Beltane and Samhain are believed to be the oldest, and address the rather fundamental human issues of sex and death, and all their associated symbolic meanings.


Imbolc falls with the Sun at the midpoint of the sign Aquarius, the Water Bearer, who lives today as the astrological symbol of rebellion and eccentricity. But traditionally, Aquarius is an important sign of tradition. So there are often two versions of the story. Is Aquarius an air sign or a water sign? (It's an air sign with water themes and imagery.) Is it ruled by, or associated with Saturn or Uranus? (Traditionally Saturn rules it, but in modern astrology most astrologers use Uranus.) Do those wavy lines represent air or water? (All waves are waves of energy.) Is the Water Bearer a male figure or female? (Probably male, but usually represented female.)


Aquarius, which has some interesting androgynous qualities, is truly a mix of all of the above, and this happens at a time of the year when many things are changing; when life is a great mix. And so it is.


In other news, tomorrow is the conjunction of Mars and Pluto in Sagittarius, as well as of Mercury and Chiron in Capricorn. As I've been covering these aspects copiously in the daily stars column (both the thought of the day and the sign-by-sign write-ups), I'll refer you to that writing -- as well as to the blog on, where I have posted the Galactic Times by Phil Sedgwick, which addresses the Mars-Pluto conjunction specifically. Please don't miss this excellent article by an astrologer whose work you should know about.