As the Wheel of the Year turns, Imbolc marks the coming of Spring time. Names for the moon during this time of year given by the Celts and Medieval England are Snow Moon, Ice Moon, or Storm Moon as this period of seasonal shift brought the heaviest snow storms, or signs of an early spring time would appear with early lambing and budding snow-drops and crocuses. With many animals still deep in hibernation or not yet returned from their winter migrations, hunting conditions are harsh and the ground still too cold for planting crops which is why Native Americans traditionally call this the Hunger Moon.
Imbolc means “in the belly” which refers to many ewes being pregnant around this time, and in a mild year the first lambs are being born. Sheep, especially lambs, have strong links to innocence, and the gentle, child-like qualities in our lives. As a herd animal, sheep can reflect our feelings of acceptance within a flock or to rebel in the style of the “black sheep”.
Over the fields, the land is beginning to thaw and recover from the frost of winter and agriculturalists prepare to plough and sew seeds for the next season of crops. Early Spring bulbs and shoots begin to appear, and trees also start to bud as the sun returns brighter and warmer. Snowdrops and crocuses are popping up through the melting snow. As shoots begin to grow with the nurturing Earth, as do we grow our own spiritual roots to reconnect with ourselves and Nature. We recognise our potential to grow in our own time, to bloom unique in our right. In order to grow to fulfil our own potential, we must also acknowledge that we need careful nurturing of the energies for our physical, metal and spiritual wellbeing, just as a young seed needs a balance of soil (Earth), light (Fire), oxygen (Air) and rain (Water).
Imbolc is the season in which we look outward again after long nights of Winter; it is a celebration of light returning and the days growing longer as we welcome the coming of Spring. The streams, lakes and rivers of our lands begin to melt during Imbolc. During the time of thawing we can experience Nature’s energies and reflect the Law of Flow. The Universe we live in is made up of energy, which is constantly shifting, changing and fluctuating, flowing like a river. Nothing is static, it is constantly moving. Nothing and no-one is untouched or separated by others. A single drop of water causes ripples in a still pond that turns into tidal waves on the other side of the world; an act of kindness for a stranger inspires them to perform a good deed of their own.
If you can, try to visit a natural body of water such as a local stream or river, and observe how the fluidity of the water fills empty spaces as it flows down the bank. If the flow of the river is disturbed with obstructions, the river will eventually overflow. Water represents our emotions; we shed tears of great joy and deep sadness. If something blocks our natural flow of energy, our emotions may bubble up and spill over. Relationships with our family, friends and loved ones may also become stuck if our emotions are blocked and become a stagnate pool of emotion. If our emotions are blocked, our creativity flow may also feel dammed up.
Does your creativity feel blocked? Does it feel as though your ideas or passions have become stagnant and stuck? Or does creativity seize you, your inspiration coming in torrents and bursts, sometimes leaving you feeling like you’ve crashed on the rocks?
When we feel balanced, creative energies flow serenely at a pace we can handle without feeling dried up or flooded with energy. If we hold onto old emotions, the old negative memories may prevent us from filling the void with new happy memories and experiences. As soon as we clear our blocks and let go of what no longer serves us, the Law of Flow will ensure something fresher will take its place. It is our choice whether we replace the blocks with more obstructions, or if we shift our awareness to attract something better to flow in. If we have the same thoughts then then same blocks will appear again, but if we start making changes, even the smallest of differences will encourage a different energy to come in.
“Relationships prosper when there is an open flow of communication…Prosperity results when we balance the inflow with the outflow…Go with the flow and you will reach the source.” -Diane Cooper, 2004
Imbolc is also known as Candlemas, an ancient Celtic fire festival which honours the Goddess Brighit; this Celtic deity also goes by the names of Brighid, Brigid or Bride (pronounced ‘Breed’) which means ‘arrow of fire’. Brighid is the Goddess of Fire and Healing, of Smith-craft, Poetry, and Child-Birth. This Celtic Goddess had a reputation for justice and was fiercely protective of women, children, and newborn animals.
The Christians adopted this Irish deity as Saint Bridgit who is believed to have been born near Kildare, and reputed to have died around 525 CE. When Pope Gregory the Great ordered for monasteries to be built on pagan sacred sites, the monastery at Kildare was founded, where a shrine was dedicated to Saint Bridgit and nuns tended to her sacred flame, never letting it die out for centuries to pass. In many parts of the British Isles, Ireland, Wales, England, Brittany and Scotland wells and their special healing properties are dedicated to Brigid.
In pre-Christian times, people would honour the spirits of the place- springs and wells were considered sacred. People would come to these sites to leave offerings to the Goddess in hopes of having their wishes granted. Tree dressing is an old custom of tying strips of cloth to trees on sacred sites, where people would request healing from the spirits of the place. Tree dressing might also be used to ask for mercy and justice by offering a token to the elements of sun (Fire), rain (Water) and wind (Air) bringing their wish into the great web of spirit where all things are balanced out. Brighid is not a Goddess of revenge, but about resolute justice.
Many who follow a pagan path honour the Gods and Goddesses, honouring the creative energy and polarity between male and female. During Imbolc, the Goddess casts aside her dark Crone robes and is re-born as the Maiden. In the past, a girl was considered a maiden until she gave birth to her first child. The Maiden is traditionally represented by the waxing (growing) crescent moon and is the embodiment of youth, enthusiasm, new starts, fresh beginnings, planning and preparation.
At Imbolc the God is now seen as a young man, the Hunter, who rejoins the Goddess is her Maiden aspect and begins his pursuit to court her; at this time of year the balance between light and dark shifts with daylight becoming stronger as the Sun strengthens, and as the Sun returns to the land, the Earth becomes fertile once again.
This time of year carries the themes of “out with the old, in with the new” so why not have a spring clean to free yourself of the clutter you no longer need to freshen the energies of your home, to make way for new and positive energy in your life. Clear out the clothes you no longer wear, the books you no longer read, the clutter you no longer want and donate it to a charity shop.
Make time to go on a short walk every day to observe Nature’s changes at this time of year. What trees and flowers are beginning to bud? What birds have returned from migration? What animals have come out of hibernation? You may like to make animal feeders from seeds and lard to hang from trees to help the wildlife though the last of winter.
You could make plans to start a new project beginning at Imbolc where seeds are sewn and continue working on this through until Ostara (Spring Equinox) at the time of year where flowers come into bloom. Or you may like to plan your project to coincide with the lunar cycle beginning at the new moon, working through the Full Moon and finishing at the time of the waning moon.
If you are lucky to have a garden, why not start preparing the outside space for the next planting season? Turn over the soil, rake up the leaves, dig up weeds and trim back bushes. If you do not have a garden, you could start a small window box for herbs. Look into the traditions, lore and properties of the flowers and herbs you want to grow.