The wheel of the year turns in its own time. Sometimes it seems not fast enough for us, and others it seems to speed along at breakneck pace. By our human nature, we’d all like the season we most enjoy to last the longest. For me, living in northern woods bordering Canada, that season is summer. I want it to arrive sooner, stay longer and take slow leave.
When I want to understand the wheel of the year, I think of the ancient peoples who followed it.
Based on the seasons, it marked the times of darkest winter, when survival depended on warm shelter and stocks of food, on trapping or hunting—or perhaps migrating to warmer climates for nomadic tribes. It followed the cycle of growth in the return of vegetation, foraging and gathering. Later it marked the times of cultivating and planting, then harvesting, of tending stocks and the timing of breeding.
Spring and fall are what I think of as in-between seasons. We watch the signs, consumed with anticipation of longer daylight and warmer weather, or filled with urgency to prepare for the dark and cold half of the year.
Imbolc marks an in-between time. The sap begins slowly rising up from the roots into the tree trunk, making it’s way to branch tips. We cannot see it, nor hear it, but we know it’s happening and that it will soon be time to tap the trees. This is the time of the earth’s quickening. Any woman who has borne children knows that time, when the child growing in the womb first begins to stir, as gentle a touch as a fly lighting on your arm.
Spring is stirring in the womb of mother earth and soon, like a woman whose belly swells round with life, the signs of the new season will burst forth around us.For now we wait, we anticipate, like zealous detectives we scrutinize the earth form for visible signs of spring’s impending arrival. When it seems there are none (or none we can yet see), we create celebrations to honor them, perhaps to coax them along.
Imbolc is more widely known as the secular holidays of Candlemas Day and Groundhog Day. A folk rhyme told, “If Candlemas Day be sunny and bright, winter shall have another flight.” Of course we know if the groundhog sees his shadow on February 2, we are in for six more weeks of winter.
Even during my lifetime these predictors once seemed reliable, but in recent years, the weather patterns seem to fluctuate wildly within all the seasons. Those of us connected to the planet and nature in our spirituality, see this subtle and have no doubt the climate is in upheaval—a transition phase marking a change.
This Imbolc, spend time in nature wherever you are living. Connect with the Earth Spirit through the souls of your feet walking her surface, through the scent of the air in your nostrils and the feel of it on your skin, through the vision of the landscape beyond your doorstep. Look for the signs she is giving you. Listen to what she has to say. Honor her as Mother and thank her for the life she gives.
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