First Stirrings of Spring — Welcome Imbolc
With Imbolc (im – blk), or Candlemas, on February 2, we reach the mid-point between the December solstice and the March equinox. Life begins its slow, quivering rise north flowering in swathes of blue bonnets in the hills of Texas and shyly appearing in snow drops in Massachusetts. In Irish tradition, the goddess Brigid, triple goddess of the forge, poetry and healing, returns with the growing strength of the sun. Lambs are born, and the burden of winter becomes a bit lighter where the goddess passes. For many cultures this mid-winter season is a time of renewal and new beginnings. Lunar new year begins with the second new moon after the winter solstice and results in the world’s largest ever home-for-the-holidays migration. Locally stores flash hearts, flowers, and chocolate for Valentine’s Day, quickening our longing for connection and the creation of new life.
Now, a week past Imbolc, a full snow moon sails above the horizon at sunset. On my desk, paperwhites or narcissus flowers bloom in clusters of six-petaled stars spreading perfume on the waves of moisture pulsing from my room humidifier. The daylight is longer and spreads out to welcome the evening. Hope is in the air. Yet, even as we spin out dreams in the winter twilight, we have learned to accept and cope with whatever comes. Brew a cup of tea, have a bite of chocolate, and get on with it. Whatever we are planning, life will have its say.
Destiny! Those moments in our life’s passage when we are confidently going in one direction and the fates spin us round backwards to Sunday in another. In John Waterhouse’s painting “Destiny” a young woman holds a blue glass bowl from which she is about to drink. How will that fateful sip alter the course of her life? Happiness can morph into sadness and sadness into transcendence. All life is in motion. No life is untouched by events wildly beyond our control. What fateful action still has resonance in your life? What does it call you to do now? What possibilities linger in the final chapters of your life?
Mystics challenge us to die before we die. What does that mean? It requires seeing ourselves as something more than just our egos. If we relinquish all our ideas about who we are, all the things we think of as uniquely ours–our appearance, our stories, our personal desires and needs—and let them go, what remains?
In a Sumerian myth the goddess Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth, hears the groans of her sister Ereshkigal, the goddess of death. “What ails her?” Inanna wonders. To find out, she descends into the underworld. Along the way, Inanna must pass through seven gates where she is required to leave behind some piece of clothing or insignia of her queenly rank. She enters her sister’s throne room, naked and bowed low. Who is she now? Inanna has not ceased to exist, but her powers are gone.
When we travel beyond the boundaries of time and space, we can take none of our self-identifying trappings with us. The soul travels light. Perhaps, to die before we die involves loosening our grip on the familiar and the illusion that we are in control and opening to the mystery beyond what we can know.
As crones preparing for an unknowable future, we may wisely include time for meditation, religious services, goddess rituals, or spiritual retreats. Listen for spirit’s call and choose how you will answer it. A time may come when life is less about goal setting and more about cultivating awareness of how simply to be in the world at peace with ourselves and in community with others. The ego makes distinctions, but the soul makes connections. We are not so different from one another. In spirit we are all connected. Inanna and her sister are two sides of the same energetic force. Brigid too has her winter, hag goddess counterpart. The powers of the divine clothed in female attributes represent the total cycle of existence–life, death, and rebirth.
At this season, with its stirrings of spring, allow yourself to stretch into life, exploring it in a new way. Allow your spirit to quicken. Allow the energy of life which is perpetually in motion to move in and with and through you until you and it are one and the dancer becomes the dance. May Brigid strike a spark of hope in your heart.
Warm Imbolc blessings,
Create something using fire. This can be as simple as preparing a cup of tea, cooking a meal, lighting a fire in a fireplace or a candle in a dark room, or as elaborate as crafting a metal object in a forge. As you engage with fire, consider its power to transform your life and engage your creativity. Offer a pray of gratitude to the goddess Brigid, who comes in an instant and can transform a lifetime.
We are shaped in your fire
We are cooled in your waters
Oh Brigid, Brigid, we call your name
Brigid, Brigid, we call your name. – Apara Borrowes