Wheel of the Year: Imbolc (Feb. 2nd)
Imbolc: An Opportune Moment!
Celebrations of Growing Light
Around February 2nd is the half way point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The earth reaches the point in its orbit between the longest night of the year and when day and night are equal length. The northern hemisphere finally reaches 10 hours of daylight. Because of this it is cause for celebration in many traditions, like the Christian Candlemas and St. Bridget's Day, Mexican Dia de la Candlelaria, Groundhog's Day in America, and Imbolc in the Celtic/Gaelic traditions, a celebration of flowing ewe's milk from the year's first births. Though each with different celebrations, stories and lore, all are tied to the Earth and her people patiently waiting through half her resting season. The slightest bit of noticeably longer daylight, a whisper of the redeeming power of innocence, and the first trickles of nourishing sustenance rouse us ever so gently six weeks before the planting season. We are well-rested, peaceful, quiet, and called by hunger to arise, look around, and begin planning what actions we will take when the time to take root befalls us on the equinox.
We are hungry because winter is a frozen time of quiet contemplation and slow-flowing resources. We as humans desire change, even the most timid of us - after being restrained for so long we have a driving need to MOVE! The mere action of arising scatters sparks which will soon light our motivative fires. We are also hungry because our canned and preserved goods from last year's garden are depleting, if not completely depleted by now. Being called by these pangs of hungers and fueled by tiny, hot, passionate sparks of inspiration (see "Valentine's Day"...), Imbolc is the perfect time to begin planning our gardens. Whether we are growing food or pursuing goals, we must first decide what they are going to be. Today is the day we choose.
We'll Reap What We Sow ... AWESOME!
The Farmer's Almanac at almanac.com recommends these timely gardening tips for Imbolc:
- Start onions from seed now - they will be firmer and last longer.
- Test sensitive fruit trees like peaches for freeze damage by cutting off some twigs and placing them in water to see if they bloom in a couple week's time.
- Spread wood ashes around lilac bushes to encourage blooms.
- Prepare poles for beans and peas by peeling bark off of sticks now and letting them dry until needed.
- Take an inventory of frozen and canned goods to decide what seeds you need to order.
Traditional celebrations on February 2nd generally incorporate fire, a purification element, and the idea of a virgin purity with blessings of future fertility. Some celebrations use last year's garden stalks to make dolls or light hearth fires. Farmer's begin to plow their fields, churning old stalks into new fertilizer. No longer producing food, these crops and these fields now move on to enriching our homes through meaningful decorative symbolism, warm fire fueled from a cleared land, and the fertile ability to nourish and sustain the land that will do the same for us come harvest. Regardless of the details, these celebrations mark the point of moving forward with what we have. They recognize that last year's actualities are no longer the same, if they even still exist at all. We come through our darkest days leaving them there, or if they still remain using them anew for our upcoming endeavors, whether in our garden of vegetables or our garden of life.
This is a day of refreshing renewal, like waking up to a nose full of cold, crisp mountain air, seeing the orange hues of the sun for the first time in months, and feeling our frozen motivation finally want to thaw. The time for "saying goodbye" to, appreciating, and letting go of dead plants, to old habits, has long since past. We awake today on the horizon with a clean slate, an empty plate, and a year-long journey awaits.
So on this Imbolc today let us plan our gardens and pick our goals; select our seeds and serve our souls...with a conscious participation in our creation endeavors.