February 1, 2018
I almost feel disappointed that the sun now sets as late as 5:13pm. The sun was setting at 4:29 ET only a few weeks ago. At first I struggled to adapt to the colder, shorter days. Then I began to follow the seasonal command to snuggle into a ball, eat warm food, and be motionless inside pockets of light and warmth. Now the light is longer, the air sneaks toward warmer, and I realize this: It’s time to start moving. We’re doing this whole thing over, from scratch. We’re taking this whole ride all over again.
Today is Imbolc (pronounced “IM-bulk”), a pagan holiday I first wrote about two years ago. The name comes from the Old Irish and means “in the belly,” or “ewe’s milk.” It’s a quiet little day in the middle of midwinter, right between the Winter Solstice in December and the Spring Equinox in March.
On a day which is a likely forerunner of the North American Groundhog Day, it’s funny to feel so “Groundhog Day” at the same time the groundhog is due. I know how this all plays out: Next, the snowdrops will bloom, and our Brooklyn street trees will sport those slick little barely-there buds at the end of each reaching twig. The days will grow slowly longer. The temperature and precipitation will infuriate everyone by constantly changing. There will be daffodils in April, blossoms will become green leaves, the air will warm, vacations and beach dates get planned, and before you know it, we’ll be knee-deep in the ocean under a blazing sun.
That’s just the peak, the story keeps rolling. Summer will gradually wane, even if we’re too busy eating outdoors to notice. Vegetables will overflow the market. We’ll lament the coming cold while we plan harvest-dinners in advance and pry portable air-conditioners out of our drafty apartment windows.
But back to the beginning:
Imbolc marks, for me, the silent, invisible shift, the first movement, like when the leaf first stirs or the fetus forms. Symbols of Imbolc include seeds and milk and germinating life, everything to come, invisible but forceful. Traditional observances revolve around initiations and spiritual dedication. Imbolc is pregnant, but the pregnancy hardly visible. It’s time to furnish the nursery! We all know how this story goes. We all know life’s insatiable drive to expand.
As I stand up and stretch, I realize that, yes, the cycle is repetitive, but maybe each turn of the wheel is one more chance to perfect the movement. Imbolc is also a day of divination and omens, maybe a quiet day to focus, a chance to set our minds on shaping the inevitable journey. Traditions also include cleansing and purification, discarding old things to make room for the new. If we make like the Groundhog and foretell what’s coming, maybe we ask ourselves this: What’s different this time? What destiny is asking to be fulfilled? How can we properly encourage it?
My favorite part of this day is its connection to the goddess Brigid. (Or Saint Brigid: the Christianization of the holiday is called “Brigid’s Day”). Brigid is the patroness of poetry, smithing, medicine, arts, crafts and livestock. She is the goddess of wisdom, excellence, intelligence, eloquence, craftsmanship, healing ability and skill in warfare. She’s got everything we’re going to need for this ride around the sun! Maybe today is a day to affirm our inner-goddess, our creator/artist/innovator within. Forecasting our potential, maybe we embrace this pause to purify, initiate and dedicate. What might we get rid of to make room for the what wants to come? How might we apply calm, fearless energy to the newly familiar path? How might we sharpen our tools and dedicate ourselves to fresh visions we’ve conjured?
It’s coming, and we can’t stop it. Let’s take the ride, then, just because it’s there, as basic as the later-setting sun. For my part, in addition to the little feast I can’t help but prepare, I’ll also clean the house, throw out old stuff, light some candles, and dedicate my surroundings and myself for another journey through the seasons, physical and spiritual. I’ll take a deep breath, and quietly commit myself to growth and fruition, setting a place at the table for life, and thankful for one more chance to take the ride. You got this, psycho-girls! Blessed be.
Other names for the traditional festivals this time of year: Candlemas, Oimlec, Brigid's Day, Groundhog Day. Per the Groundhog, here's what today's weather portends:
If Candlemas day be sunny and bright, Winter again will show its might. If Candlemas day be cloudy and grey, Winter soon will pass away.
Imbolc this year roughly coincides with the Super Blue Blood Moon! Did you see it yesterday morning? It's a once-in-a-hundred-and-fifty-years experience that some astrologers feel provides a lunar boost to the setting of goals.
I'll take it!