The Wheel of the Year turns once more and now we, in the Northern Hemisphere, are awakening to the first rustlings of Spring and the Sabbat of Imbolc.
As the light lengthens, so the cold strengthens
Depending upon your point of view, Imbolc represents the start of Spring, the inbetween-ey time between Winter and Spring, or consider it be to very much a Winter festival with Spring still a while off yet.
Regardless of how the Sabbat is considered, it remains one of the least celebrated of the 8 seasonal markers, to be honoured in the natural year. This is possibly due to people not understanding its significance or unsure of the associations with milk! So what on earth is Imbolc?
Imbolc, or Imbolg or Oimelc depending on your Celtic heritage, generally means “in the belly” or “ewe’s milk” – the ewe’s are lactating, we have milk once more and deep in the belly of mother nature, life is stirring and awakening. This is a festival of renewal and purification and as such, a far more appropriate time for making and sticking to new resolutions and goals. January is still very much a time of hibernation, darkness and heavy soul nourishing food not about diets and lack, but February with its longer and lightening evenings has a more spritely feel; a lighter feel both in the sky and in mood.
We are familiar with the solar festivals which quarter the year into the seasons : Spring / Autumn Equinoxes and Summer / Winter Solstices, but there are 4 cross quarter fire festivals which complete the 8 Sabbats on the Wheel Of The Year: Imbolc / Beltane / Lammas / Samhain. The solar markers are masculine energies while the fire festivals are very much feminine. Imbolc has an incredibly feminine feel to me. All that is happening on and around Imbolc is happening down here on and in the earth; Mother Nature, Gaia, Earth Mother. It is also the first festival in the cycle where the Maiden aspect of the triple Goddess is honoured. She is also known as Brigid, Bride, Brig and is associated with poetry, healing, fertility, fire energy (and skills relating to fire home hearth or forge), inspiration and muse.
Imbolc is absolutely a time for women; mothers & daughters, friends, female family members spending time together, perhaps learning a new skill or just enjoying being in one another’s company, outwith the daily chores of home. Last night after the sun was down and the moon was high (made all the more magnificent by the fact she was a super blue full moon) I gathered with 3 other women for an evening of Ecstatic Dance, a new experience for me and one which I will definitely be repeating.
There are many ways to honour this sacred time, whether you celebrate it as I do from sunset on 31st January, or the 1/2 Feb or around the lunar Imbolc or just when you feel the season start to shift, the actual calendar date is not important, there is no dogma dictating set times for the cross quarters, just what feels right for you. Alternatively you may not consider Imbolc at all, and look upon Candlemass as a marker in your year, or may not have anything at all and the start of February is the start of a new month as per any other. But if you wish to celebrate Imbolc you may wish to stock up on the candles (symbolic of the returning light, plus it is a fire festival), gather your girlfriends or relatives for a meal or a sacred circle, go out into nature (even if that just means your garden) and observe it; what do you notice, smell, hear, feel? Begin the purification of your home and by that I mean Spring Clean!! But go gently, a little at a time, just like nature, not a full on KonMari over one weekend or scrub the place from top to bottom until it stinks of bleach, easy does it (and hold back on the bleach, not good for nature or for you). Cultivate your own rituals and practices that you can revisit each year and reflect on the previous one. I have a bag of snow in the freezer that I collected the other week when it was lying thick in the ground. I will place this in a bowl with a candle to gently melt, taking with it the last of winter as the heat and light of the sun returns. I also make my own butter at Imbolc and use the butter milk to make scones. If you want to see my previous Imbolc celebrations, you can here.
I hope you have a wonderful Imbolc, Imbolg or Pinch Punch First of the Month.
White Rabbits White Rabbit White Rabbits.