The Wheel of the Year Continues to Turn…
January is often described as feeling like the longest month of the year. After the fun and frivolity of Christmas and New Year celebrations, the first few weeks of the year in comparison can seem bleak and boring, devoid of anything to look forward to.
But, slowly we begin to notice little signs that the harshness of Winter is beginning to fade: the sun rises a little earlier and sets a little later, greenery starts to sprout in the soil and in the trees. Mama Earth is beginning to awaken.
In the Celtic calendar, this time of year, around 1 February, was known as Imbolc, said to mean “in the belly”, or pregnant. It is as if the earth is pregnant, expectant and alive with the promise of the coming of the Spring once again. Just like an expectant mother feels the quickening of the child in the womb in the weeks before its birth, there are signs of life stirring starting to emerge.
Those who celebrate Imbolc take this time to honour the Irish Goddess Brigid, particularly known as a Goddess of fire, the sun and the hearth, of healing, poetry and smith-craft. She is the Goddess of fertile lands and people, with obvious links to midwifery and newborns. She is the maiden of the Triple Goddess.
Traditionally in the farming calendar, this time of year was also known as Oimelc – ewes’ milk – because it marks the start of the lambing season, whilst in the Christian calendar it is celebrated as Candlemas. The Goddess Brigid was so popular amongst the Celtic people that she was supposedly carried on within the Christian faith as St Bridget.
Our ancestors would have celebrated this time as one of their several fire festivals held throughout the year as well as a time of renewal, dedication and purification, with feasting and decorating of their homes, particularly their hearths, with a Brigid cross or doll.
Ways for you to mark the promise of Spring might be with the planting of a few seeds, a cleansing ritual bath with salts and incense for purification or going on a nature walk to see what signs of the coming Spring you can spy! It could be a simple meditation or prayer of thanks, a goal planning session, wish-making or offering of dedications. Alternatively, you might choose to decorate your home and/or fireplace with a few white and green candles, snowdrops, daffodils or crocuses.
Whilst Winter is not yet fully behind us, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and for me this is what Imbolc is really all about – hope that warmer, brighter days are coming soon after the cold, dark harshness of Winter. Indeed, as John Steinbeck famously said:
What good is the warmth of Summer, without the cold of Winter to give it sweetness”.John Steinbeck
You may already have very own way of marking this “pre-Spring” occasion and if so I’d love to hear how in the comments below.
If you’d like to know more about traditional Celtic celebrations and how to get more in touch with nature and ways to celebrate it throughout the year, take a look at some of our other articles by clicking on the following links:
Until the Wheel of the Year turns again…