I just don’t get it.
Imbolc, that is. Whenever I read anything about what Imbolc is supposed to signify, I have to laugh. For instance, descriptions of Imbolc tell us that at this time of year, fishermen start taking their boats out again, the first flowers appear, ewes begin to lactate, and farmers begin to turn their soil to prepare for seeding.
Here in Canada at this time of year the land is buried in ice and slush and snow and the lakes are frozen solid. It is in many ways the most miserable time of the year, when people are sick almost to death of winter but there is still at least one more full month of it before even the smallest omens of spring can be hoped for. And what a month it is! February is often the coldest month of the year, with air masses blowing down from the arctic and bone-gnawing wind chills.
And, you know, the fact is that the other cross-quarter High Days do make sense even in the Canadian climate. Beltane marks the last day that we can fear frost, and therefore we can start planting most crops. Lughnasadh shows us the first harvest, and Samhain the last. But Imbolc isn’t even close to what we are told to expect. So.. hopefully you’ll forgive me if I just don’t get Imbolc.
As a result, I’ve rarely done much to celebrate this particular High Day in the past. I’d like to, but I think I need to look beyond the “first portends of spring” theme. So, what does Imbolc mean to me?
It is, of course, the festival of Brigid, and I am well thankful to Her for fire, which is my primary means of heat during the winter. As for the seasons themselves, I can say that by Imbolc the days are starting to get noticeably less short, and that is not nothing. Additionally, this day is traditionally associated with weather prognostication with Wiarton Willy and Punxsutawney Phil typically monopolising the headlines in North America on this day. It would seem an ideal day for divination, then.
I’m going to make an effort to better understand Imbolc within my environment. One thing I plan this year is to incorporate the idea of seed blessing. As it happens, this past Autumn I harvested a large number of acorns from which I plan to plant oak trees. Imbolc does happen to fall just about when I should take them out of cold dormancy and put them into a cold but wet environment to germinate before planting at Beltane. Look for that as part of my Imbolc ritual.