The snow came and with it a window of joy. Sophie Lutz explains about the Festival of Imbolc and the return to light as spring is close to hand.
Do you remember the snow? Do you remember waking up and all of the pandemic and everything bad just falling away? Because the world was so pristine and beautiful. And you watched it fall and you knew it wasn’t going to stay. But it didn’t matter, because in that moment of childlike delight nothing did. And you know we are ridiculous in this country, we get so overexcited about snowfall. And it’s one of the most loveable things about us. And we need loveable things about this country at the moment. And the whole of London it seemed came out and walked in the white snowy world. And threw snowballs at each other and their children. And made snowmen, big and small. With sticks and stones and carrots.
Just for one day, we got unadulterated joy back. A reminder of what that feels like. Laughter, light-heartedness, silly, giddy… beautiful.
Imbolc the festival of the promise of spring
Imbolc is like that. A moment of joy in the darkness. Imbolc the festival of early awakening. Celebrating the stirring of life, light in the dark, the promise of spring, the returning daylight and the end of winter. It is one of the great festivals of the pagan wheel of the year. Also called Brigid’s night, honouring the Irish goddess (after whom St Bridget comes).
The root word imbolg means ‘in the belly’ and the ground is pregnant with life at this time of year. The branches are bare but if you look closely, they are covered in buds. There is a birch wood on Wimbledon Common. A purple haze envelops the tops of the trees at this time of year because of the abundance of maroon buds getting ready to burst forth their lime green in just a few weeks time. Snowdrops pushing through the frost remind us that soon all of nature will be in bloom. Soon.
Imbolc is celebrated on the 1st of February. We need it this year: a reminder that better times are ahead of us, that in this unremitting darkness, there is hope and a small flickering light to guide us.
How to celebrate
Traditionally purification and fasting precede the celebration. If you can muster the energy, it’s a perfect time to spring clean. That sounds exhausting doesn’t it? Start with one drawer. You know the one. That one, the one that you can barely open and is stuffed with…miscellaneous. Empty it out, sort and recycle and find a place for it all. It’s such a satisfying thing to do. You can stop there or if you’re like me, you’ll get a taste for decluttering and will move like an organisational banshee through the house leaving a trail of order in your wake. Wash the floors in hot water infused with lavender oil, setting an intention for love and joy to fill your home as you do.
The gift of candles
Gifts of candles are exchanged. Is there someone that needs a boost? Maybe that’s you. Give them a beautiful candle. Or just light a tealight you already have at home and send up a silent gratefulness that we’ve made it this far. Lighting a fire or candle reminds us that the Sun and warmth are on their return journey to us.
Be sure to get out into nature on the 1st (and every day, it’s so important for keeping mind and body together at the moment). Traditionally sacred wells and bodies of water were visited and offerings left. Do you have a favourite spot you could walk to?
An Imbolc feast might be in order. Breads, cakes and dairy foods (vegan dairy alternatives too) are customary.
Imbolc is a great time to plant a seed or three in a pot, ritualising our certainty that the ground will soon be warm enough to prompt growth and life above the surface.
Find a glimpse of joy
Just like that magical snow day gave us a glimmer of celebration and delight, Imbolc is there to nudge us to remembering the same. Vaccine roll out, better medicines, we are going to get through this. We are going to laugh and dance and hug and kiss and celebrate again. Joy and light are coming.
Blessed Imbolc to you and yours.
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