The problem of Imbolc

The problem of Imbolc February 1, 2013

Today is the Celtic Sabbat/festival/holy day/celebration of Imbolc. Traci wrote a great post about it yesterday; I recommend it for those that want to know more about the word and its origins, as well as the Irish experience of it.

I’ve never felt all that connected to this spoke on the great wheel of seasonal observances. While I feel connected to all things Celtic, I don’t know much of the history, and there’s so much to know! I wasn’t raised in an Irish or Celtic diaspora family (my closest Irish ancestor was sent to Australia as a convict in the early 19th century) and I grew up in Alaska, where spring lasts all of six weeks and doesn’t arrive until after Beltaine. In fact, I remember many times snow falling in the beginning of May. How could the coming of spring be visible in early February?? That’s crazy talk!

When I lived in Wales I was able to see how this festival links into the lambing season and the coming spring. I remember seeing crocuses, snowdrops and daffodils peeking up through the ground. The light lengthened and its growing strength was palpable. Honoring Brid/Bride/Bhride/Bridgit/Brigantia made a lot more sense.

Now in Washington state I also feel the days growing longer and see buds tentatively peeking out. The next 6 weeks or so are little bit like a seasonal no-man’s-land here, it’s neither winter — the temperatures have warmed up, we’re unlikely to get any snow, but it’s not spring yet either — still a bit too cold, windy and wet. I don’t feel the strong urge to hibernate, but neither is the strong sunshine energy urging me to get out and Do Things.

I wrote yesterday about how I plan to observe Imbolc this year. It will be quiet: with an outdoor offering and lighting some candles, with ritual tomorrow with my teachers. I’d like to develop this holiday into something more deeply meaningful, for me spiritually, for my family, and to break up the monotony of this part of the year.

Autumn is packed with holidays and then after new year…… nothing. Sure, in the US there’s Martin Luther King Jr Day (but who observes that? does your community? most people just enjoy a day off work), Super Bowl Sunday (this coming Sunday, I hear. I don’t observe this, as I don’t care for American football), Valentine’s Day (another one I skip), and President’s Day (another long weekend that no one I know observes in any meaningful way), St Patrick’s Day (another one I skip) and then….. finally the Vernal Equinox and/or Easter. Oy. That’s a long dreary void.

Traci talked about using Imbolc as a time of cleaning and cleansing. I associate the Spring Equinox with that. It’s time for me to grow this holiday and find a way to include it in my seasonal rhythm here. I wonder if there’s a way to observe this turning of the wheel without having to get too Celtic. Only time and getting outside and engaging with the Land will tell.


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