Today marks the Festival of Imbolc, one of the four celebrations that intersperse the four Equinoctial Festivals of the old Celtic Calendar. Imbolc was the Festival sacred to Brigid, a key aspect of the Triple Goddess. Her colour is white: white for the snowdrops that drizzle the woodlands at this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere. White for the White Goddess, muse and inspiration of so many poets.White for the virgin bride. And white for her crescent moon.
White too for the fleeces of the lambs born at this time of the year (the word Imbolc is said to refer to the lactation of sheep who so often give birth in the coldest months), symbols of the emergence of new life from the darkness.
The Anglo-Saxons called this festival Solmonath. It was now that they ploughed the first furrow in the fields, placing into the furrows either a cake or the corn dollies that were woven at last year’s harvest. It is a time of change, the midwinter-spring that TS Eliot calls “sempiturnal though sodden toward sundown”. There may be frosts in the morning, snow may even dust the ground, but things are stirring beneath the hard outer crust of the earth at our feet. Gentle tremors of new life are creeping along root and stem. Seeds are beginning to itch. The way is being paved for another spring.
The Church, following its usual pattern of creating a Holy Day to coincide with the pagan festival days, gave Imbolc the name Candlemas.
Whatever your religion (and wherever you are in the world), you might like to light a candle tonight. Watch its flame flicker and dance, knowing that the dawn always gives way to the day, giving thanks for the cycles of the seasons and the richness of the earth at our feet.
With best wishes,