January seems to be the darkest, longest month.
Bitterly cold temperatures and blowing snow can make even the sunniest days appear shorter. But the end of that — believe it or not — is near.
Last year, to mark the start of the lengthening of daylight, Diana Walter, owner of Padma Mountain Studio, created the Teton Festival of Light.
This year’s festival will be held Saturday evening at Snow King Sports and Events Center and Sunday at the National Museum of Wildlife Art during its monthly First Sunday event.
The impetus behind the decision to hold the festival was based on observations of women who came to Walter’s studio for enlightenment.
“I noticed in my own practice as a yoga instructor and counselor that all my classes would fill up in the early spring,” Walter said. “One spring 56 women called, interested in being in a metaphysical group. It struck me that we are all hungry for some inspiration and light after the darkest part of winter.”
Walter said that in Jackson there is deep snow at this point in the winter but that the light has changed.
“Everything is encased in ice as the melt starts,” she said. “We get the first sense that there is life under the snow. That is what this holiday in ancient tradition was all about.
“Imbolc or Candlemas — a festival of candles — was often represented by crocus poking up out of the snow saying, ‘The winter will not win. Spring is definitely here, even if you can’t see it yet.’”
Her vision with the Teton Festival of Light is to present a rousing community celebration that can wake up and nourish the mind, body, emotions and spirit.
This year the wildlife art museum’s First Sunday falls on Feb. 1, or Imbolc, a Gaelic holiday midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, according to a release.
“We will be celebrating ancient traditions and the continued lengthening of the days,” said Becky Kimmel, the museum’s director of programs and events.
This particular First Sunday is tied to “Tusk, Horn, Flesh and Bone: Graphic Design by Asher Jay,” in the Wapiti Gallery.
Activities from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday include yoga, children’s mythology arts and crafts, and storytelling and presentations on consciousness and sustainability and frequencies of light.
Walter said that last year the Festival of Light was celebrated as Groundhog Day. The focus this year will be on humanity’s relationship with nature.
“Our speakers will talk about how animals are our healers,” she said, “and how nature shifts our consciousness and about our responsibility to expand human consciousness with an elevated perspective.”
Talking about animals as healers will be Carol Ogle, of Jackson, an animal massage therapist and owner of Healing Hands for Animals.
“I attended the festival last year,” Ogle said, “but this is my first year presenting at it. I offered because the topic of humanity’s relationship with nature is an intriguing one, open to many interpretations and perspectives.”
Walter said that when she first envisioned the event she saw it happening at the wildlife art museum.
“The museum has a strong mission to honor and respect animals and nature through their education and programming. This is exactly in line with our annual celebration of the return of spring.”
Kimmel said the museum is excited to again participate in the festival, which last year attracted more than 400 people.
“It is important that the museum reaches out to this different demographic that might not ordinarily come to the museum,” she said, “such as yoga practitioners and people who are interested in the crystal ceremony, meditation groups, etc.”
A Crystal Medicine Wheel Ceremony will close the festival at 4 p.m. at the totem pole in Johnston Hall.
The ceremony will be led by five women: Lakota tribe member Brandy Armajo, Lucinda Abbe, Daniela Botur, Barbara Merkley and Walter.
Attendees are invited to write their wishes or prayers for the earth and to put them in a crystal medicine wheel. The ceremony will include drumming and singing by Armajo and the crystal sound bowls of Botur, owner of Intencions gallery.
Another event of note in the festival, Walter said, is the Deeksha Blessing Circle that will take place at the Energy Wellness Boutique, 150 Scott Lane. It will be led by Lori Reetz and Dan Hady at 5 p.m. Saturday. Deeksha is a gentle transmission of energy and grace.
Also included in the weekend is a Dance and Drum Fest on Saturday at Snow King Center from 7 to 10 p.m. Four experts will lead singing and drumming around a big powwow drum, to offer wisdom of the Lakota ancestors and the Q’ero tradition of South America and to teach simple circle dances known as Dances of Universal Peace.
All ages are welcome. There is a $10 donation requested at the door.
A schedule is available at Festival-of-Light.com.