Winter seems to be the time for celebrations. All over the world, people focus on festivities around both the Winter Solstice and then the Spring Equinox. These are the celebrations of the Great Mysteries — the coming of the Light, the birth of Diety, magnificent miracles, overcoming death – that happen in the realms beyond our everyday senses, in the great cosmos, as we watch from below in awe and wonder. I enjoy these holidays, but they always seemed a bit too far above my day-to-day life for me to really understand and be an essential part of.
Imbolc, which falls between the two celebratory seasons on February 2, always seemed to me to be a somewhat outdated holiday. In the Celtic cultures in which it was celebrated, it was the early spring holiday when the lambs began to be born and the first plants began pushing up through the soil. Where I live, it occurs in the deepest of winter, when the snow is three feet deep and the first crocuses are almost three months away.
But, if we look at it differently, perhaps it could become a third holiday that celebrates the Mysteries that occur in everyday life, the “kitchen mysteries” that do not originate in the heavens, but on earth; that we help create with what we always do after getting up in the morning everyday; that are not celebrated with global festivities, but at our breakfast tables and in our gardens.
Though I cannot see the seeds of rebirth preparing to bud, it is happening all the same in this most basic manifestation of the Great Mystery of the coming of the renewal of life, of light’s return, of the earth and Divine joining to make the world anew. This coming back to life or into life occurs each day as our children grow from babies into full-grown adults with lives, spirits, and personalities of their own. I see it in all of our creative endeavors that begin with the smallest of ideas and transform into books, paintings, quilts, organizations or businesses, and so many things.
Perhaps we can make Imbolc a time to celebrate those Mysteries in our everyday lives the same way we do the other holidays, with decorations, foods, and activities that symbolize the message of this time. Just as we begin to prepare for those other holidays for weeks, I plan to get ready for Imbolc starting now. What might we do to honor those seeds of so many things that are the bridge between the winter and spring, a wasteland and abundance, the old and the new?
I have already begun watering a planter full of crocus bulbs and their little heads peeked through the soil yesterday. If I had enough light in my house, I would plant more seeds for flowers, vegetables and herbs. What can you begin to plant?
We can make an Imbolc mix of seeds, nuts, and dried fruits to put out for snacks during these weeks ahead. We can serve meals to ourselves and our families that are high in nutrients, full of the life of the seed as it prepares for its journey to the upper world, and that are full of the spirit of the earth. These might include more seeds, lentils, beans, root vegetables and, to celebrate the coming abundance, grains.
We can read or listen to a retelling of the story of Innana. This story is, to me, a perfect Imbolc tale because it recreates the journey of soul to the underworld where she is purified and made wise so that she can re-emerge into the earth better able to serve.
We can find ways to nurture children and help them bring forth their own inner powers. We can spend more time with our own children or others for whom we have caregiving responsibilities, asking more questions about their interests and dreams. We can volunteer or donate to organizations that work for children with special needs, education, or other similar causes. We can share our skills and experience to benefit children who may come across our paths at this time and throughout the year.
We can spend some time doing at least one creative project that has lain dormant for whatever reason. It may be writing about a subject that scares us. It may be trying some new media – if you are a writer, paint; if you bead, make something out of clay; if you are a singer, try cooking.
This new kind of Imbolc is a holiday that you can make your own. What does it mean to you and what would you like it to be?
The Richters Seed catalog arrived yesterday. Plus I bought yarn for a new sweater (and more difficult pattern). You’re so right, it is a FINE time to think about those creative projects!
Happy New Year my friend!
Happy New Year, Denise! Thanks for visiting!
Thank you for your beautiful post on the meaning of Imbolc and ways to celebrate and commemorate it.
Nourishment, nurturing, birthing, sowing, renewing, giving, gratitude…all speak to me.
You’re such a gifted writer, perhaps you would like to try your hand at the Personal Mythology I posted about via May in the South. She wrote a loVely “Myth of May” I think you will enjoy reading.
I just read it and left a comment for you. It is a wonderful myth! I cannot wait to read yours!
Thank you for this lovely post, carolyn! Imbolc is one of those holidays that, for me, seems to get lost. I just bought the book Circle Round, actually for children but it was recommended to me by signmom as a great means of increasing my attention to the wheel of the year and the relationship between Divine Feminine and Masculine. You’ve inspired me to go hunt in it for Imbolc and start planning things to do to celebrate this holiday and season. Many blessings to you, lady!
I’m so glad you liked the post. We have just started to see the “Imbolc” sky here in the past week or so — that brighter, yellow sunshine that indicates the first stirrings of spring. Circle Round is a wonderful book! Thanks for mentioning it!
I really love this interpretation of Imbolc. I’ve always had difficulty with this holiday, largely because, like you, I live someplace where early February is the coldest part of winter. It’s hard to imagine life stirring in below freezing temperatures and frozen earth (even if it really is, somewhere). But Imbolc as a hearth holiday…. that is something that I can appreciate.
Thank you for helping me better understand this difficult Sabbat!
I’m so glad you liked it! It’s hard to believe, but nice to think about, that Imbolc is almost here!
Even as a child Feb 2nd was a very exciting day for me. I don’t like the winter, and look forward to the day when it’s half over. Only 6 more weeks and the light wins over the darkness of the year, everything begins to wake again. Happy Imbolc to all!
And Happy Imbolc to you! Yes – here in New England you can almost feel all of nature sighing with relief on Imbolc after 6 weeks of our winters (though this winter has been quite mild!)