For most of us reading this, we are generations removed from a truly meaningful connection with the land. Gone are the days where stocking a larder meant the difference between life and death. We no longer spend long hours huddled around the hearth, connected to the flame for vital warmth throughout long winter days.
We are no longer wondering if there is enough food and fire to ensure the elders, infants, and breastfeeding mothers can make it through the final months of cold, dark, winter.
For these reasons (and more), we have lost touch with the spirit of this season. We no longer remember why this day (February 1st or 2nd depending on the year) is a time for pause, a time to celebrate, and a time to rejoice.
The Wheel of the Year
At one point in time, all human holidays would have been based on the cycles of the Earth, the positioning of our small planet in relation to the sun. Solstices and equinoxes would have been major calls to celebration, but even halfway points represent big changes in the natural world that would have been keenly noticed by our ancestors.
Imbolc is one of these halfway points. Halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox, we have reached a new turning of the Wheel of the Year. In nature, if we are aware and paying attention, we have definitely reached a new point in our journey toward spring, and traditionally, this is seen as a day for celebration because signs that spring will return are indeed all around us.
Although we are far removed from seeing this day in quite the same light as our ancestors who would have been far more reliant on the coming of spring to ensure the continuation of life, we can still embrace the spirit found this time of year.
The natural world mirrors our inner world and this is a time to embrace the returning light, to enjoy the gifts of reflection and quiet that the last weeks of winter offer, to clean and purify our homes, and to really get clear about intentions for the year ahead. January was practice, now we get serious.
Notice the Changes Around You
I walk down to the barn a little later each night as the sun sets farther and farther into the evening hours.
I look up to hear the honking of geese returning, their flying V formation a sure sign that we are pointed in the direction of spring.
Buds swell on tree branches while a feeling of hope swells in my chest as my energy levels and desire to move my body grow each day.
And yet, this time of Imbolc is also a reminder. The long nights, snow days, and unworkable land are fleeting. This is the last stretch of time to embrace the hearth, the home, this time of quiet dreaming, inner reflection, and planning.
Soon I will be pushed to the limits with outdoor work. Soon I will feel the pull of perpetual motion, of planting seeds, of moving dirt, of growing, stretching, and eventually harvesting. It will be long and it will take endurance.
So for now, I must rest. I continue to dream, planting seeds in my mind, whispered into the wind, that my dreams for this spring and summer come true.
That is the gift of Imbolc.
Looking for ways to celebrate?
You don’t have to feel pressured to celebrate Imbolc only on one day. I’ve been feeling the presence of Imbolc for about a week, and I’m sure this transitional time will be around for a week or two more. So even if you don’t get around to celebrating today or tomorrow, you can still take time to use some of these suggestions in the days ahead!
Make candles. This is a wonderful time of year to make and bless candles for the year ahead. February 2 also has links with the Christian holiday of Candlemas, and in general, candles are a wonderful way to celebrate returning light.
Set intentions. Imbolc is a great time to set some intentions for what you are hoping to manifest this spring and summer. One way to set a symbolic intention at this time of year is to write your intention on a piece of paper and then bury it in the Earth like a seed that can grow with you this year.
Make Brigid’s crosses. Imbolc is hard to discuss without mentioning the Goddess of hearth & home, smithcraft, poetry, and healing: Brigid. Brigid and her fiery awesomeness was so powerful that she was incorporated into Christian mythology, and is still celebrated fiercely in Ireland (and elsewhere) as St. Brigid. This is the easiest cross tutorial to follow.