When We're Halfway: this week on the Storyteller's Night Sky

Feb 1, 2021

Halfway down the stairs is halfway through the season, which is where we are this week. Illustration by Ernest H. Shepard.

This week we come to Winter’s Cross Quarter Day, which means we’re halfway through the season, so does that mean the warmth is already returning? 

In the United States, the cross quarter day is all about the shadow, and it’s celebrated as Ground Hog’s Day.

In the Christian tradition going back at least as far as the fourth century, this season marked the celebration of the presentation of the Christ Child at the Temple, in accordance with Jewish law that the mother must go to temple for purification 40 days after giving birth. By the fifth century, candles had been added to the celebration, from which we get the cross quarter day name Candlemas.

In Celtic tradition, this is the season of Brigit, who sings of the mystery of the Earth to the Tuatha Dé Danann, the ancient race of gods that descended to Ireland in a mist, having been inspired by Brigit’s song to stay with the Earth until there is nothing un-beautiful in all the world.

Considered relative to the sky, cross quarter marks the time when the Sun is halfway along its path from Winter Solstice to Spring Equinox. Beneath the cold mantle of the Earth, the growth forces now begin to stir, and the mystery of what’s to come wakes into our dreams.

And this year, I’m reminded of one of my favorite rhymes from childhood and wonder now if maybe it was cross quarter day that AA Milne had in mind when he wrote:

Halfway down the stairs is the stair where I sit. There isn’t any other stair quite like it. I’m not at the bottom, I’m not at the top, so this is the stair where I always stop. Halfway up the stairs isn’t up and isn’t down, it isn’t in the nursery, it isn’t in the town, and all sorts of silly thoughts run ‘round my head, it isn’t really anywhere, it’s somewhere else instead.