Reflection on Imbolc by Rev Mark Gallup

imbolc

Imbolc

February 2nd is Midwinter Day or the Celtic festival of Imbolc. It marks the turn from high winter to the warmth that will eventually bring spring. In this country, we know it as Groundhog Day.
“If this day be sunny and bright, Winter again will show its might.
If this day be cloudy and grey, Winter soon will pass away.”[1]

Whatever the weather of the day, Imbolc gives us reason to contemplate the changing seasons. Though the harshness and bitterness of winter is at its height, small indications of new life began to appear. So dress warm and go outside to sit in contemplation – in daylight and in darkness – on the changing of the seasons. See if the day be “sunny and bright” or “cloudy and gray”. Do this weekly and see if you don’t notice the mating squirrels chase each other, hear the territorial “phee-bee” call of the chickadees sound in the trees, and observe the northward march on the horizon of the setting sun. Plant a seed and watch it grow in anticipation of spring.

Imbolc has a Pagan pedigree with its ancient roots in the Celtic lands of Britain and Ireland. It is traditionally the time when lambs are born and ewe’s come into their milk. “Imbolc” comes from two words that refer to this lactation. This flow of milk foreshadows the turn of the seasons to spring when life-giving forces return.
Imbolc was also the festival of Brigid, the Celtic Triple Goddess.
“When she raised her white wand on this day, it is said to have breathed life into the mouth of the dead Winter and to bring him to open his eyes to the tears and the smiles, the sighs and the laughter of Spring.”[2]

Brigid is associated with wells and the healing arts, with poetry and inspiration, and with fire and smith-crafting. Brigid’s wells are scattered throughout the British Isles and are still visited regularly by those who continue to seek her energy and healing. On Imbolc, Brigid’s sacred springs and wells were cleaned and her shrines lit with candles. This is in part why the early church replaced this festival with Candlemas.

In Ireland this day commemorates St. Brigit, and there is considerable truth to this saint being derived from the goddess Brigid. By tradition St. Brigit is the daughter of a Druid and later became abbess of Kildare. Having been born while her mother crossed a threshold, she was said to be “neither within nor without”, between the worlds.
So take heart, observe the turn from winter to spring, and spend time in the outdoors connecting with the spirits of the natural world. And – should you desire Brigid’s or St. Brigit’s healing and blessing – leave a silk ribbon on your doorstep for her to bless when you go out.

[1] Eric Sloane, 1963, Folklore of American Weather, p. 39.
[2] Caitlin Matthews, 1999, The Celtic Spirit: Daily Meditations for the Turning Year, p. 103.

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Rev. Mark gallup is a Pagan high priest, interfaith minister, spiritual seeker, mystic, and diviner of the Natural World. Mark has been a practicing Pagan for nearly 30 years. He is a graduate of the College of Wicca and Old Lore as well as being trained in Feri. Mark was ordained in 2013 as an interfaith minister by the Chaplaincy Institute of Maine. Along with his wife, Mary Gelfand, he leads Earth-centered spiritual events and classes at 1st Parish UU Church in Portland, ME.

 

 

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