In Christian circles we might call this time Candlemas, or in my recently-departed home Gŵyl Fair y Canhwyllau: Mary’s Festival of the Candles in honour of the Virgin Mary. But this season of passing is also rich with connotations of candlelit preparations, purification’s, and hopes for the coming spring. Before the coming of Christianity it was the time to honor the dawn goddess, Bríg, whose provenance included inspiration, poetry, cleansing, smithing and fertility – arts of making and hoping.
I’m touched that in Cymru in particular, Imbolc marked the end of the period of time known as the amser gwylad – the time of keeping vigil through the dark months.
For my own Imbolc, I found myself walking in good company amidst bracing and challenging winds. Mud schlocked thick to my boots, and my head still felt heavy and dark with the amser gwylad. It’s hard to shake off the blanket of winter sometimes – perhaps that dichotomy is something that cultures older than our own knew, as February (in Roman times) was the time that celebrated both the Lupercalia – the festivals of springtime fertility, with the Feralia – the honoring of our dead, and the silent goddess Tacita.
A time of mixed blessings, honorings, and hopeful preparations then – an impulse I feel keenly as we dont so much throw off winter or give up the griefs and stresses of the dark…but instead give them their due, and ask them to move forward with us, into spring. In British traditions, Imbolc was the time that the divine hag and bird-lady the Cailleach, or Caillagh ny Groamagh, walked abroad to collect her firewood.
So, I hope I can be kind to the winter parts of myself, for it too is only seeking warmth.
Happy Imbolc, friends and comrades – i hope that the seeds and projects you have started grow strong.