Winter’s medicine is about rest, recovery, and withdrawing inside ourselves. When we rest as we’re called to during winter, we have the energy we need to sustain us for the remainder of the year. Imbolc is a holiday of hope – the first signs that the icy momentum will soon change as life stirs deep within. Imbolc is a last call for Bear medicine – the days begin to grow longer and barren trees shift with new life. If you haven’t rested enough, take this time to honor the cycle. Learn from the bear and hibernate sufficiently to restore yourself ahead of the busy warmth of the waking seasons.
Celtic practice honors a time when life centered on the crop cycles. Our ancestors’ lives revolved around the growth and harvest of crops they grew. They celebrated the first signs of spring on Imbolc and gave thanks for the coming of crops that would bring abundance, opportunity, and nourishment. Spring brings growth of our hopes, nourishment of our dreams, birth to our projects and offerings in the world. Imbolc falls mid-winter and is time to celebrate the harbingers of spring, such as crocus sprouting through the snow. In Celtic tradition, this festival also celebrates the triple goddess’ transition from crone to maiden – she is ever-changing through her cycles.
Pagans honor the Celtic goddess Brigid during Imbolc, who reigns over hearth and home. Tending to your home in Imbolc honors her legacy. This ancient holiday was later interpreted as a day to feast in honor of the purity of the Virgin Mary (who supplanted Brigid as the figurehead), and candles are blessed during “Candle Mass”, hence the other name of this day in modern Christian traditions, Candlemas.
Brigid, like Hestia and Vesta, is a goddess of the eternal flame – the fire within that burns even in the darkest of places, on the coldest of nights. In the olden days in Europe, they would light fire in every form on Imbolc, creating huge blazes. That’s what Imbolc is to me – the fanning of my flame, the reminder of my inner fire, and a burst of energy to clear out and clean up. The besom or broom is one of the symbols of Imbolc because it’s figuratively a time of sweeping out old patterns to usher in what is new, fresh, and productive.
I find myself longing for a Great Return to what is pure, clean, and nourishing – whole foods, long walks, organic products, deep meditation, and relaxation. I treat myself to alone time, unaccounted space for myself to breathe, soaking in warm baths, surrounded by gentle candlelight. My life is no race to the finish – it is a winding road with luscious turnouts and sweeping views.
Thank you, Brigid, for your invitation to the Great Return, for simplicity and beauty, the flowers that grow under your feet – the still waters, the wide rivers, and the flowering blossoms of spring that will eventually yield their bounty of fruits. A’ho to your flame and your courage. I encourage each of you to embrace the warrioress within and explore the uncharted expanses of your heart without fear. Sweep out what isn’t serving you, and get ready to welcome the promise of spring with a spirit that is energized from winter rest.
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