The Days of Imbolc

by Beth on January 31, 2013

© Sulamith WulfingThere, at the foot of the tree, belonging to no man,
A silver apple falls.
There, amongst the branches, the mother sits.
Weaver of dreams against the weft of the wood,
Insight falls like gentle rain on a moon-bathed garden.
   ~ Song to Hecate, by Alison Jones

Now is the time to get ready for Imbolc, sometimes called Candlemas or Brigid (Brighid). In many places, the dates that roughly correspond to Feb. 1 through the 3rd are celebrated as the midpoint between the darkest night at Yule and the perfect balance of light and dark that comes at Ostara, the Spring Equinox.

The Sun’s path has returned to where it was at Samhain. Take some time to notice the quality of the light, for it is the same now as that shimmering magical glow of late October. But instead of the season of dark and silence before us, in the Northern Hemisphere, the season of light and growth lies ahead.

And so we prepare ourselves with rites of renewal, cleansing, and commitment. We celebrate the first stirrings of Spring.

The days are noticeably longer, and life awakens all around us. While some of the fiercest Winter weather may still lie ahead, listen! The birds are already beginning their courtships.

Look — cold-hardy sprouts are poking from the earth, and the first lambs are being born (hence the name Imbolc, which means “ewe’s milk,” referring to the nursing mothers). For our ancestors not so long ago, having lived on only the stored food of Winter, the first fresh milk returning was a tremendous blessing, often meaning the difference between survival or death.

Imbolc is a traditional time for dedication, or beginning a new path of initiation and spiritual study. The commitment that students of the Craft make to “a year and a day” traditionally begins at this time.

Today is sacred to the Norns, in the Norse traditions. The Norns are the Norse Goddesses of Fate. Also in the Norse traditions, today is sacred to the Valkyries, Odin’s maidens of Valhalla. They are the fierce ones who choose the winners and losers in human battles, and carry the heroic dead to final glory.

Hecate carvingToday is also, of course, the last day of the month, and so is sacred to Hecate. One of the Great Mysteries at Imbolc is that of the Triple Goddess, as She changes from Her Dark Mother and Crone aspect to the Maiden once more.

And so on this last day of January, as on all final days of each month, we honor the Great Triple Goddess Hecate, Goddess of Witches, She who guards the crossroads. It is Hecate, Queen of the Night, who teaches us the ancient Mysteries. She has walked with us as the ancient Crone, guiding us through the deepest dark of the year.  Now we  prepare to honor Her mighty transformation and renewal.

What transformation are you in the process of creating? I invite you to use this time before the purification and dedication of Imbolc to consider what you wish to give your attention to, over the next year and a day. A new skill? A special healing or gift for our planet? Has a special God or Goddess called you to service?

Listen with your heart, and as you consider what is next for your soul’s journey, may insight fall upon you like gentle rain on a moon-bathed garden.

Blessed be.

Anna January 31, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Thank you for the wonderful and wise words about Imbolic. I am new to your blog, and the past few posts have given me much-needed gifts of insight.

Indeed, I know what I shall dedicate myself to for the next year and a day, and now have a sacred threshold to help me cross into the birth of exciting, scary newness.

Thank you!

libramoon January 31, 2013 at 4:45 pm

My contribution to the 8th Annual Brigid Poetry Festival:

Brigid’s Way

With passion
Outpouring care feeds our mythic spring.
Sparkling flame of peace abides within,
melts forbidding.
Not fools,
no pleas for altruist beliefs.
Why ought Compassion be measured out
in play at “who deserves” (moral scores)?
Need reaches to heal through magical
interchange.
Because relief of hunger
feeds us,
cunning deceivers arouse no fear.
Who could unfairly take advantage,
steal our good?
If energies are not replenished, the giving
stops;
but to make use of flowing contribution
is no drain. It is the focal point of our
outpouring.
Fed by the blessing
of sacred vessels aching to be filled,
we who come upon this gift of fortune,
this well neverending revealed,
dip in with grace, good will,
self-rejoicing wisdom.
This is not belief or even knowing.
This is breath of awe in motion.

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