Today is the festival of Imbolc, which is the first of the spring rituals. Here in Cheshire this morning, we had the wonderful, magical, sight of the rising sun and the setting (almost full) moon hanging in the frosty air at opposite sides of the heavens.
Imbolc is a celebration of the first stirrings of new life. ‘Imbolc’ is thought to be a corruption of i mbolg in Old Irish, which means ‘in the belly’ and oimelc which means ewe’s milk, and is a reference to the new lambs that are born about now.
The festival celebrates the return of the Goddess to the land and is dedicated to Bride. It is about now that the days appear to be getting longer and this return of the light and life is to be celebrated. Traditionally white candles are lit in a bowl of water, symbolising the birth of light and life from the feminine waters. Snowdrops, the first flowers are also used to illustrate the return of life in the midst of cold dark winter.
The return of Spring is also, of course, a time to plant seeds. The English agricultural year traditionally starts on Plough Monday – the first monday after 12th night when the plough would be decorated and processed round the neighbourhood, before work commenced. Providing the weather had cleared, the first seeds would be sown about now.
Imbolc is a good time to think about the year ahead and what you hope to achieve. Which seeds do you plan to plant, and how will you nurture them?