Today is Imbolc, which is “ewe’s milk” in Gaelic. It is a cross-quarter Sabbat, and marks the beginning of Spring. The picture in the header was taken yesterday about 2PM. I had been noticing the crocuses beginning to stick their little leaves up, and knew that Spring will be here soon.
From now to Ostara, the vernal equinox, the days which have been gradually lengthening will seem to rush toward the light. The sun is at the same angle now to the earth that it was at Halloween. It is like a creek gradually thawing, soon rushing faster and faster. The crocuses barely poking out of the ground will soon be blooming.
Imbolc is dedicated to the Goddess Brigid, she who is my matron. She is a very creative goddess, one who is a poet, a smith, and a healer. She is also associated with the crafts of dyeing, weaving, and brewing. With the coming of Christianity, she was transmuted into a saint, said to be the abbess of Kildare, where coincidentally, the goddess is said to have resided with nineteen virgins. Virgins in the Pagan world only meant unmarried, not necessarily never having had sex. She is also associated with domesticated animals, most often cattle.
Imbolc is a time of dedication in the Pagan world, a time to deepen any spiritual practice you have. It is a time to ask who are you to serve in the coming year and a day.It’s always been a special time for me, because of my affilation with Brigid. It’s a time to clean things, and to start new things.
The significance of the ewe’s milk for which the feast is named is that this time of year the rural people would be nearing the end of their winter food. The addition of ewe’s milk to their meals would tide them over until fresh food became available. In these days of supermarkets, and out of season food being readily available, we have forgotten what winter meant to the agrarian society. Imbolc was celebrated with a feast that marked the end of that privation.
I know some of you who are freezing your tushies off in the mid-western US and Canada see Spring as far away. But the climate in Ireland, where the feast originated, more closely resembles the climate in Seattle. Here, the primroses will appear at the grocery stores any day. Pansies overwinter, some are blooming now. (Perhaps it is a mistake to call weaklings pansies.) The very air changes around this time. I am glad that Spring is here.
And now, dear friends, I must go clean and get ready for this evening’s ritual with The Boyo.