We are entering the season of Imbolc, a liminal time of year in which we turn the Wheel from winter to spring. Depending on where you live, it can be very difficult to see this change. In colder climates, winter is not over. Here in South Central Texas we can have snow and ice as late as the end of February! I have memories of living in cold climates where winter often continued on into May. What triggered me into an awareness of the coming spring were the beautiful crocus blooms peeking up out of the snow! Seeing that filled my heart with joy and the promise of spring.
Traditionally, Imbolc is associated with many customs. In old Ireland it was a celebration of the first signs of spring. It was a festival of purification often celebrated as a festival of the hearth. It was a time to sweep out the old and prepare the home for the coming spring. In these modern times it is often the time when pagan groups hold their initiation ceremonies. The name Imbolc comes from the word Oimelc which refers to the lactation of ewes; their flow of milk that heralds the return of the life-giving forces of spring. It comes just before the birth of the new lambs, hence the udders filling with milk. It was a time for preparing the fields for spring sowing as well as when they gathered in extra help for the coming growing season.
To me, it is when the Earth, in Her stillness, quickens. When the unborn child in the womb first moves, it is called quickening. I love to think of the pregnant possibilities coming to us soon in this quickening.
In Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man, the mythological story behind this liminal time is the story of the Cailleach and Brigit. The Cailleach is an ancient Winter Hag, clearly a giantess, as her apron held the rocks that when dropped, became the mountains. It is the Cailleach who stirs the clouds and dumps the snow, who whips up the storms and the strong winds of winter. As the Winter Hag, she contains the seed of promise. While she is clearly a dark goddess of destruction, at Imbolc she returns to us as Brigid, the Goddess of Spring.
Many Imbolc customs center on Brigid such as the making of the Brigid doll and Bride’s bed. One thing I do every year is to create my own Brigid’s Mantle, by hanging a piece of cloth outside on the Eve of Imbolc (Feb. 1st) and leaving it there overnight. It is said that in the night Brigid blesses your cloth as she passes by. This piece of cloth is now imbued with the healing power of Brigid. This was a favorite of the midwives of old and still is for many who use alternative healing modalities today.
This is an opportunity for transformation in our own lives. As the earth begins its own transformation, we too, can change our lives. Brigid offers us the opportunity to drink from her Sacred Well. In the drinking of her Sacred Waters, we may choose how we wish to transform our lives.
No matter what path we walk, whether we honor the Cailleach and Brigid or not, we can all drink from Sacred Waters. Water is made sacred by our own intent. Should you wish to do this yourself, first you must prepare. We have one week to be ready by February 1st. It is good to first clean and prepare a sacred place in your home – preferably the area you feel is the “heart” of your home. Sometime between now and February 1st, sit within this space and write down all of the ways in which you wish to transform your life. Write these changes down with positive statements, as if these changes already exist. You don’t want to say, “Abundance is going to come to me.” You want to say instead, “Abundance flows in my life.”
So make your list. Then create a ceremony in whatever way feels right to you. It is up to you who you invite to your party! You might want to light a candle to set the mood. Fill a glass with water and sit in your sacred space, thinking about how your life looks with all of these changes in place. Really try to see yourself transformed! Take time to be still and quiet with your thoughts. Then, when you are ready, read your statements out loud. You can even shout them if you feel like it! Sometimes when I do this I feel like a cheerleader – cheering myself on! When you are finished, pick up your glass of water and drink it – all of it! Your positive statements have transformed this water and it is sacred. You are now taking that sacred intention and making it a part of you. Step into your own transformation with the Birth of Spring.
Bendis ~ 2014