MERRY IMBOLC & BRIGHID'S DAY
As evidenced in the cool weather and much needed rains we are still experiencing, winter is still very much a part of our surroundings. And yet, as the Wheel of the Year turns, we are reminded that Spring will soon be upon us. As I walked through my garden recently, I saw the stirrings of plants and flowers who are beginning to wake up. A sign the sun will return once again and with it the warmth needed to entice the sleeping ones to find their way above ground from their winter slumbers.
The return of the Sun was critical to the health and well-being of the ancient ones. I can imagine my Ancestors sitting around a fire, honoring the return of the Sun as the days began to grow longer. A time to acknowledge they weathered the harshest months of winter and will soon take stalk of the tools needed to begin plowing the fields, readying them for planting. For the ancestors, it marked the beginning of livestock breeding as the ewes became pregnant, birthing lambs which afforded them wool to be used for clothing and bedding.
It was also a very spiritual time for my Ancestors. Celebrations honoring the return of the Sun were commonplace. As with Samhain and Bealtaine fire played an integral part in Imbolc celebrations. However, rather than bonfires being lit, at Imbolc the fire was centered in the home. The hearth was central in their homes and each home would have their own fire burning throughout the night. In some homes, there were fires in each room however, for many that wasn’t possible and, in their place, candles were lit in each of the rooms. This was all to honor the return of the Sun.
Holy wells also played a significant role at Imbolc. They were visited by many of the villagers. These women and men would walk around the wells three times in the same direction as the Sun traversed the sky praying for health and wealth for the year. Remember, to the ancestors wealth was measured in bountiful harvests and livestock that produced milk, wool and hides. Some were killed to guarantee the Ancestors’ survival through the harsh winter months. Offerings were left at the wells including food items, coins and pieces of cloth as gifts to the spirit world and Earth Mother as symbols of their gratitude.
Imbolc, was also known as, Brighid’s Day, honoring Goddess Brighid. She was associated with smithing, fertility, healing, tending to livestock, poetry and arts & crafts. On Imbolc eve, people would leave clothing, food and other trinkets out for Brighid. They were inviting her into their dwelling as they believed if she did enter their home, she would bless each member of the household. Her role as fertility Goddess was extremely important as were her healing powers and general protection and the Ancestors sought her blessings.
With the Ancestors’ connection to the Earth and her changes, they were keenly aware they couldn’t take for granted these changes would continue. Honoring each turn of the wheel reminded them of the intimate relationship they had with the land, the elements, with one another and all of Mother Earth’s inhabitants.
I invite you to call to mind what it feels like to walk outside and see the Sun high in the sky. Most of us comment on what a beautiful day it is and are grateful for the Sun’s rays to be evident once again. I believe many of us take for granted the Turning of the Wheel. That the Sun will always return, our crops will produce enough food to meet our needs, the harvest will bring the entrance into winter and that Earth Mother will once again go dormant to allow for healing and nurturing to take place. I invite all of us to begin marking these changes that take place all around us. How each of the seasons impacts us emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. To re-connect with Earth Mother and Father Sky and offer our gratitude for all that is.
With the last snowstorm that came through, we lost 11 trees in our forest. At first, I was saddened at this loss. Then I began to understand Nature was taking care of the forest for us. She was thinning out the forest making room for those trees needing more room, or who needed more space for their roots to find their way to the roots of their neighboring trees. I came to understand how these fallen trees are being used to benefit others and the land. The logs will be used for firewood; the tree limbs and slash will be used for compost. And the circle of life continues.
As the Sun’s rays begin to gain strength, stop for a moment and remind yourself how glorious it feels to have the sun’s rays once again on your face. And offer gratitude for the Sun’s return.