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Groundhogs, Fires and Hints of Spring

January 31, 2012

Imbolc – February 1, 2012

The storms of winter have receded for the moment after inundating us with snow and buckets of rain so I can wander the woods with my deer friends, put my hands on the ground and feel it. In the veins of the trees and the belly of the earth, there is a tiny, slight stirring. There’s a wee bit more light today than there was yesterday. It appears Grandfather Sun is firmly on the track that will bring his blazing glory back to us in the frozen north.

That’s the theory, at least. This year, with high temperatures and low snowfall across much of the Northern US, one might wonder if Nature is confused and whether we humans in the future will need to adjust our festivals to changing cycles. For this year, we’ll stay with the traditional patterns, which means it’s time to welcome the fire festival of Imbolc.

Imbolc (pronounced “im’olk,”  “IM-bulk,” “EM-bowlk” or “IM-mol’g), comes from a word meaning some version of “milk in the belly.” The ewes’ milk is coming in as they get ready to bring new lambs into the world. Traditionally, snow and cold still reign but renewal slumbers just under the surface as new growth prepares to burst forth into the exuberance of Spring.

Wait! Is that bud on the apple tree plumping out just a little? There! In that spot in the garden where the sun has melted most of the snow, is that a tiny hint of green? Will the first warm breeze come soon? To answer that age-old question, the Maiden Goddess Brighid calls her snake to rise from its earthen mound to test the weather and divine how much Winter is still in the air. [Yes, Groundhog Day has a Pagan origin.]

In Faerie, Imbolc, this mid-point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox is an alarm clock. The Fairies have been dreaming through the Winter, nurturing seeds, flying on the root roads with their friends the trees. Some have burrowed into the hollows of trees or into dens with snakes or bears to dream through the weeks of dark and cold. Now, it’s time to return from their slumbers and get ready for the eruption of newness that will soon come.

Light the Fires to Celebrate the Waxing Light

There are many ways to participate in the festivities of Imbolc. Clean the house, clean the hearth, light the fires anew. Sweep away the old from every corner of your life so that you can meet Spring with a clean slate. Set a lighted candle in each window of your home and keep it burning until dawn to light your way into the future. Open the windows, even if only for a few chilly moments, to allow the promise of the new season to touch your senses and seep into your heart. If the snake, hedgehog, badger, groundhog – choose your favorite weather prognosticator – sees its shadow and dives back into its hole for another 6 weeks of winter, don’t worry – you’ve opened yourself to the verdant thread of Spring and, no matter the distance between now and then, one day soon a robin will land on your doorstep carrying sun and warm breezes on its back.

–Bridget Wolfe

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Abby Rose Winter permalink
    February 1, 2012 4:12 pm

    You’re right, Nature’s very confused.
    I saw flowers on an appletree near my house (I live in Le Mans, France). Of course, they are frozen now… :-\
    I like your blog and the photos. Thanls for sharing, and Merry Imbolc.

    • February 1, 2012 8:06 pm

      Hi Abby. Thanks for the report from France. I’m afraid we’re going to see a lot more confusion in the natural world as the planet warms. Grandmother Earth herself will be fine – it’s all of her children, the plants, animals, humans who will have to learn to adapt to the changes we humans have created. The apple tree you write about probably won’t make apples this year, if it’s blossoms have frozen. Let me know if the tree manages to pull off a miracle. Please stay in touch.
      Bright Blessings,

  2. Abby Rose Winter permalink
    February 2, 2012 12:29 am

    I’ll keep you posted, Bridget. Yep, probably no apples. :-\ All this week, French people are gonna shivering, because the Russian Ol’Man Winter is sending us his icy winds. This means 14°F or so for a few days. But the sky’s so blue…
    We’ll see what Punxsutawney Phil has in store for us !! :))
    Brightest Blessings, Bridget.

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