The sap is rising in the trees. Leaf buds are ever-so-slightly swelling. Under the snow-covered belly of the Mother Earth, the faint stirring of seeds has begun. Bulbs are pushing up. Snowdrops and crocuses are breaking through the snow. You can hear the difference in the chirping sound of your backyard birds, and you know they are building nests. Ewes and nanny goats are ready for lambing and kidding. The Wheel of the Year has turned once more.
Imbolc marks the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox. It is hard sometimes to think of Spring in what feels like the depths of Winter. But if we look at the ground, we can see the first shoots of green beginning to reach towards the Sun. It is the true start of Spring — a new awakening under the sparkling frost of the slumbering fields.
Now is the time for the banishing of Winter and the welcoming of Spring. This is the time when the waters begin to melt and flow, a time for cleansing and purification. It is the time when we notice the sun’s light lengthening and our own spirits growing brighter as well. This is the time both of water (the melting snow) and of fire (the growing light and warmth). This is a time of hope and preparation. It’s time to creep out of the hibernation of winter, cautiously, like the Ground Hog who emerges on this day to check his shadow. It’s the time of germination, the traditional time for new beginnings. This is the time of the growing of the Light. It is a time to go to the well for healing, and to the fire for inspired creativity. It’s the time of soul-stirring, when we begin anew.
Now is when we start our Spring cleaning, not only of our homes, but also of our bodies and minds. It’s a good time for purification diets (particularly for the liver and gall bladder) and for new perspectives, ideas, plans and goals. It’s the right time to do a thorough house cleaning, banishing the gloom of winter and creating a sparkling, shiny new setting for spring. We give life and light to our own visions and wisdom, and take the first brave steps toward manifesting them into reality. We sweep away the cobwebs, not only from the corners of our rooms, but also from our minds, and clear space for the newness that is blossoming within.
THE STORY OF THE GODDESS AND GOD
At Imbolc (February 2nd), the goddess has become young once again, and is recovering from the birth of her son. She delivered the Light from the darkest of the dark days. She has nurtured the child and now brings him forth as the new hope. The lengthening periods of light awaken her. The little god feels his strength increasing day by day, as the days grow longer with the power of the waxing sun. The warmth fertilizes the Earth (the goddess) and causes seeds to germinate and sprout. And so, the earliest beginnings of Spring occur.
The promises of the return of the light and the renewal of life which were made at the winter solstice are now becoming manifest. It’s the dawn of the year.
Imbolc is also known as Candlemas. In times gone by, it was the day when the fireplace and hearth were completely and thoroughly cleaned. All the lights in the house were extinguished and new candles were made for the entire year ahead. It took hours! At the end of the day, when the sun went down, the first new candle was lit in honor of the returning light with its promise of the warmth and abundance of Summer’s fruits and Autumn’s harvest.
If you have a fireplace, go ahead and clean out your hearth, and then light a new fire. Sit around the fire and reflect on your hopes for the coming year. What do you hope to accomplish? What are you passionate about? What seeds do you wish to plant? Discuss these ideas with others or write them down in a journal, but make them concrete in some way so that on Lammas (August 2nd, the festival of the first harvest), you can look back to see what progress you’ve made.
As Imbolc marks the dawn of a new Spring, seeds are a third symbol of the season, along with Water and Fire. If you like, you can make a simple ritual of taking a seed and “planting” a project, goal or pledge. Whisper or breathe it into the seed and put it into a pot with fresh soil. Nurture it, water and feed it, maybe plant it in your garden when it’s ready, and help it grow strong and healthy for reaping at Lammas.
For myself, I like to go from room to room in my home, lighting a candle in each room as I go, and chanting. I don’t remember where this chant came from, but I find it to be lovely and completely within the spirit of the emerging Spring.
To the divine inside me
To the sacred Light
May you find strength and warmth in the returning light of the sun.
I wish you illumination and inspiration.
I wish you love and light.
I wish you a blessed IMBOLC!