Imbolc Awakenings

Imbolc Awakenings

Imbolc, the return of the light

Winter is still with us, although is now entering a moody phase. One day it is frosty, stormy, and inhospitable, and a couple of days later the sun pops out to tease us. But there is one sure sign that things are beginning to shift, ever so slightly – the days are beginning to get noticeably longer again.

Imbolc is the season of the light maiden Brighid, a virginal Goddess, who appears to us as the returning light. As the sun climbs just a tad higher in the sky, it adds a few minutes of light to each passing day.

Nevertheless, it is still the middle of winter. But, if you look carefully, the buds are beginning to swell. Some precocious little flowers defy all the odds. Some particularly perky ones are pushing their way through the snow, or old leaves:  snowdrops, winter aconite or dwarf crested irises are among the earliest and bravest. Unmistakably, the life force deep within the earth is stirring. Last season’s seeds are preparing to germinate. The wheel of the year is turning, and the sap is rising once more.

Purification and Fasting

Imbolc, or ‘Candlemas’ in Christian terminology, is the festival of growing light, of cleansing, and purification. It prepares us for Lent, the time of abstinence and fasting intended to purify body and soul.

In the past, fasting was a way of cleansing the body of the residues of heavy winter foods. Spiritually, it is an act of mindfulness and a way to prepare the body and mind for the spring and a new cycle of growth.

Envisioning the future

Imbolc is a time for visualizing in your mind’s eye the possibilities that lie ahead. Some people use divination, others use affirmations. Take some time out to prepare yourself for the challenges and opportunities yet to come. Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses, on good and bad habits, and make a commitment to your soul’s journey.

What kind of nourishment does your soul need? What are your intentions and purpose? How do you want to give back to life?  Are you walking your talk?

Imbolc is a good time to charge the seeds with intention and to foster your inner flame. Take care of that light through the dark of the night. Soon the sun will soon rise and grow strong again.

 

Samhain

Samhain

At Samhain, the Goddess retreats into the deep vault of the earth to join her dark lover in the Underworld. Life withdraws, and the landscape turns bleak, cold, and grey. There are no more fruit or flowers, and the birds have left on their journey to the south. We mark this time of death and decay by remembering and honouring those who have gone before us. Death is but a stage of the wheel of life. Far below the surface, the Goddess sheds her old cloak and falls into a deep meditation that regenerates her vital life-giving energies.
We face the darkness of the cold season, as the Sun grows weaker and has little power left to warm us.

At this time, remember that life and death are aspects of the same eternal cycle. One cannot exist without the other. There is no light without darkness. This is a time for reflection and reminiscence, and for gathering our inner strength in contemplation – for soon, the wheel of the year will turn again, and the Sun will be reborn once more.

Lughnasad

Lughnasad

The time of the grain harvest

Lughnasad marks the beginning of the harvest season. The fruit and vegetables are ripening, and the grain is turning golden. It is an intensely busy and happy time, especially for gardeners. The efforts of the early part of the year are paying off.

 

The growing period from spring to harvest is fraught with danger: Late frosts can kill sensitive starters, and summer storms can ruin the crop in just a few minutes. The harvest is by no means guaranteed. But once the grain has been cut, we reap the efforts of our labour. It is time to celebrate. 

 

Lughnasad is called Lammas in the Christian tradition, which comes from the Anglo-Saxon ‘hlaf-mas’, meaning ‘loaf mass’. Bread and wine are the traditional sacraments of the Eucharist.

 

But harvesting the seed is only one of the stages of the perpetual cycle of life. The harvest does not only fill our bellies now but must sustain us through the dark season and provide the potential of growth for the year ahead. We reap as we sow, but we also sow as we have reaped.

 

In the face of the unfolding climate catastrophe, it is especially important that we not only give thanks for the gifts of today, but that we also reflect on what we wish to reap in the year(s) ahead. 

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