Ah. February. It’s a funny old month. On the one hand, everyone is SO glad to see the back of January. Poor old Janus. For a God of new beginnings and all the hope and joy that brings, his really is the most unloved month of the year. But then February rolls around and ta da! It’s like we expect spring to suddenly appear and we’re left disappointed. Thank goodness we have Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year to inject some fiery red heat into our lives.
Total aside, but were you lucky enough to see yesterday’s lunar trifecta? January sure tried hard to win us over this year! Sadly for us Brits, the Blue Supermoon had already dipped well below the horizon by the time the lunar eclipse got underway, but I hope you guys across the world had the most spectacular view. I hear Hawaii was one of the best vantage points; just don’t tell Beloved, he’ll be gutted to have missed yet another opportunity to return to our favourite islands.
Anyway, back to February.
After what already feels like an interminably long winter, we look to the second month of the year with such optimism, such is our desire to feel the warmth of milder temperatures. But no matter how hard we try to urge on spring, February is notoriously the UK’s coldest month of the year. But never fear! Our optimism is well founded. All around us, there are signs of spring.
You just need to look for them.
Newborn Lamb: Pixabay
Imbolc (pronounced “EE-molc) occurs on 2nd February and is one of the 8 Sabbats or seasonal points on the Wheel of the Year, along with Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lughnasadh, Mabon, Samhain, and Yule. It’s a Celtic fire festival that welcomes the return of the sun and marks the changing of the Goddess from Wise old Crone to Fair Maiden. Imbolc is a time of new beginnings and of hope that spring will return.
The meaning of Imbolc, Imbolg, or Oimealg is “Ewe’s Milk” and celebrates a time when life is returning to the fields as livestock begin to give birth. There are also several other names and festivals associated with this time of year.
In Ireland, February 2nd is the Feast Day of Saint Brighid (pronounced “Breed”) – the Celtic Fire Goddess of healing and inspiration.
In the Christian faith, it’s Candlemas – the Festival of Lights, where candles are blessed for the coming year. Like many of the Christian festivals it has echoes of its Pagan past, in that it marks the halfway point between the Winter Solstice (Yule) and the Spring Equinox (Ostara).
Meanwhile across the puddle, it’s Groundhog Day – a tradition that also has its roots firmly embedded in Imbolc (the celebration, not the film).
Borne of Germanic weather lore, it is said that if the groundhog comes out of his burrow and the weather is clear, then winter will continue. But if he emerges and it’s cloudy, spring will arrive early.
Come on Mr Groundhog!
As with all the Sabbats, Imbolc is a time to celebrate another turn of The Wheel and to appreciate the seasonal changes going on all around us.
Now is a time of increasing light and renewed energy. Despite more chance of snow this month, the days are getting longer and when the sun does shine, you can really feel strength returning in his rays.
Here in Staffordshire, the golden orb has begun his climb over the houses opposite and I often find myself pausing to bathe in his golden glow as it pours through the kitchen window.
As with all the Sabbats, Imbolc is best observed outside. They are all celebrations of nature, after all.
If you can, go for a walk and see if you can notice the changes all around us.
Look for the trees whose buds sparkle with ice and whose early leaves provide a shot of bright zingy green in a still bare backdrop.
Spot the snowdrops, the flower of Imbolc and one of the earliest spring bloomers, poking their nodding white heads through a blanket of snow.
Look into the fields for your first lamb of the year. If you’re lucky enough to spot one, make a wish.
As a fire festival, an easy way to celebrate Imbolc is to light a candle and spend some time looking into its flame and feeling the warmth of the returning season. In some circles, it’s traditional to turn on all the lights at sunset for a few moments in honour of the returning sun.
However you choose to celebrate, I wish you a blessed Imbolc. May the light of the new season bring you and your loved ones bright new beginnings.
A hui hou,