Imbolc – when the first signs of Spring begin to appear after a dark winter on these British Isles. I have always found this seasonal celebration to be one of the “softer” celebrations – the quieter, more solitary of the rites from the pagan Wheel of the Year. Usually, any snow that we receive in January is long gone, those one or two brief weeks of the year when a beautiful mantle of white covers the ground, allowing a period of rest and quiet. In Suffolk, the snows melted over the weekend with the sun and the rain, and the birds, especially the great and blue tits have come out in full force, their songs echoing through the little streambed valley behind my house. The blackbird cocks are fighting over the food supply, expending far too much energy when they could simply share and all eat a fine meal – instincts are hard to overcome. The little muntjac deer are often in the garden, day and night, eating birdseed and the first green shoots from various places in my garden, leaving their fertilising little pellets everywhere – a fair exchange, in my opinion. The air is warmer now, the sun holds some strength when it is out in full glory, the pond is thawing and the first signs of new growth are slowly appearing.
Many Druids celebrate Imbolc as the festival of snowdrops, when these seemingly fragile little flowers first appear. Others celebrate when the ewes begin the lambing season, and the lactation cycle begins. It was an important time for our ancestors, as this time of year was the hungry time – the winter food stores were running low, and the flow of new milk a welcome and necessary part of survival. Cheese could once more be made, to accompany the last of the supplies until the first wild food and crops came into season.
I normally celebrate Imbolc when the first snowdrops appear, but I fear my little deer friends may have eaten the first shoots, and perhaps my daffodil bulbs as well. This year, it is the softness in the air that alerts me to the coming of Spring, to Imbolc. The birdsong has changed, the snows have melted and everything is slowly awakening from a long slumber. Imbolc comes in the warm southerly breezes, a festival of the element of Air.
With gifts of bread, milk, cheese and song, I give back to the earth, nourishing the little creatures that share the place where I live. It is a time of reflection – a time to recall the dreams that we dreamt over the long winter, the ones that appeared to us at the winter solstice in the darkest time of the year. These dreams, like everything, require nourishment, especially at this time of year, or they will fail to come into reality. And so, at this time of year, we focus, we concentrate our energies into making these dreams come true – we plan, we figure out the logistics, and we celebrate.
It is not yet time to plant these dream seeds, however – February and March can be difficult months, both in the natural world and in the human environment. Outside, the weather can change in an instant, and we may get more snow, or thick frosts – our seeds would quickly sprout and then die. In the human environment, February and March are, for many, a financially difficult time of the year. Bills from the holiday season come in, fuel bills and other heating sources must be paid for, and work shifts can decrease due to the slow months after the January sales for those not on a permanent salary. We must carefully look at our resources, and our dreams, to ensure that they don’t fail in these hungry months ahead.
So we plan, and we patiently await the time until the tide turns, at the Spring Equinox, where the days finally become longer than the nights, and our dreams finally emerge from hibernation into the light of reality. So too do our bodies respond, like the snowdrops and daffodils, to this increase of light from the winter solstice – if we can just make it through to Imbolc, we find that the darkness is in fact receding, that our moods, our bodies, our finances are recovering, and we wait in anticipation for Spring. We need to focus, to concentrate, on making them a reality. The intention is everything.
May you hold your dreams with nurturing love, and may they be blessed by the coming of Spring.