Sunday, February 2, 2020

Imbolc is upon us.

While y'all are busy with your sportsball game (I'm rooting for the team in red*), I'll return to a topic that I've written about a couple of times before: the Pagan sabbat of Imbolc.

You may have seen some stuff on Facebook that yesterday was the day. And so it is, I guess, in Ireland, where the whole thing started. And the Catholic Church celebrates St. Brighid's Day on February 1st. But I'd always thought the Pagan holiday was the 2nd.

By definition, Imbolc is the day halfway between the winter solstice, otherwise known as Yule, and the spring equinox, or Ostara. It turns out that if you're calculating the exact midpoint between the astronomical winter solstice and the astronomical spring equinox, the midpoint can be anywhere from February 2nd through the 7th. Last year, according to this website, it fell on February 4th in the UK; this site has an interactive chart that shows Imbolc was on the 3rd last year in North America and on the 4th this year.

We Americans like to keep the dates of our holidays simple, though -- which is why, long ago, we moved every public holiday we could to a Monday. So let's just pick a day, shall we? I'm calling it Imbolc today.

Spring, by Giuseppe Arcimboldo | Wikimedia Commons
Another oddity: In Ireland, Imbolc is considered the first day of astronomical spring. Ireland's weather benefits from warm ocean currents that bring a lot of rain (and here we all thought Ireland was so green by the grace of God) but also mostly mild temperatures. So while a lot of North Americans are usually shivering in our boots and parkas in early February, in Ireland the snowdrops have begun to bloom and the ewes are pregnant and getting ready to give birth. The modern name for Imbolc derives from the Irish word imbolg, which means "in the belly."

That gives me a natural segue to Brighid -- who, after her saintly remodeling, was said to be the midwife at the birth of Jesus. As amazing (and very likely untrue) as that is, the Irish pagan goddess was pretty amazing in her own right. Goddess of medicine she was, and of poets, and of smithcraft. And like the Greek goddess Hecate, Brighid is also a goddess of crossroads.

I was thinking earlier this week about how well all those things fit together. When you get right down to it, they are all creative paths. Smiths use fire to transform raw metals into useful and beautiful things. Poets and writers use the "fire in the belly" to fuel their creative endeavors. And midwives ease the births of new humans, each possessing their own spark of life.

Are you sensing a theme here? Have I mentioned that Brighid is a fire goddess?

I'm honestly not sure how the crossroads thing works into the legend. But if you're at a crossroads in your life, you can ask Brighid in meditation for help in deciding which way to go. I've done this a few times over the years and I can tell you it works.

Blessed Imbolc, everyone.

*(Both teams this year have red uniforms. It's a joke, people.)

I've been pretty fired up lately over making new covers for the Elemental Keys series. The books will all have new titles, too. I'm hoping Amazon will let me keep the series title, but we'll see how that goes. In any case, stay tuned for the relaunch and the release of Book 4!

These moments of fiery blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

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