As the light lengthens
So the cold strengthens
From sunset of Jan 31st to February 2nd, the first Sabbat and Fire Festival of the year is celebrated. Imbolc.
The name is believed to come from the old Irish Celtic word meaning "ewe's milk" or the Celtic Scots, Imbolg, meaning "in the belly". The ewe's are pregnant with their lambs, readying for lambing come Spring, just as the rest of nature is doing likewise; the stirrings of new life are happening below the still frozen surface. The wheel of the year turns yet again, this time to renewal.
It's not just for the flora and fauna to feel the change and sense the imminent possibilities that the new season brings. The whole New Year New Me stuff that blights our media channels in the first few days each and every January is misplaced; February is possibly a more appropriate time. The Winter Hag, The Cailleach, has now retired (at least until Samhain), giving way to the Maiden (Brigid) to take us gently into Spring.
This is the perfect time to sow the seeds of your dreams and plans to bring those dreams to fruition in this new cycle. To plant actual seeds to germinate indoors, with the intentions of dreams and plans. To taking those tentative first steps into your next chapter as we start coming out of Winter and into Spring. A time of new beginnings for all.
This year's plans have fallen slightly by the way due to Storm Henry battering the world outside my window for the past 2 days. This has meant no nature walk to find snow drops, and no time organising the tubs in the garden to get ready for planting (or even just tidying/cleaning out!). But all has not been lost - Spring Cleaning has begun, okay that is a stretch, even by my standards, my list of spring cleaning jobs has been written out - does that count as having started? Yes, I'd say it does... We have eaten good food (essential part of seasonal celebration is food. Lots and lots of good food - it nourishes the soul and the body.) Symbolic food such as dairy (ideally sheep, but I don't like sheep milk or cheese) and spicy (symbolic of returning heat of the sun) have been prepared and devoured - yesterday I made butter, and from that enjoyed scones and garlic bread. I also made sticky ginger bread (Nigella's Christmas recipe, but equally fitting for now with a pot of tea, or any other warm milky drink - in Kiddo's case it was hot chocolate) and tonight we had Mexican Quesadillas with plenty sour cream.
Candles have been lit morning and evening, in lieu of a fire, but also because they are sublimely cozy, comforting and calming, invoking a sense of peace at the start and end of the day. At these times, looking outside the window to the sunrises and sunsets (which last night and this morning where particularly spectacular due to the stunning nacreous clouds colouring the sky) you notice the lengthening of the days, ever so gently leading us once again out of the dark winter and into new light.