Imbolc: from maiden to mother
There are many reasons I celebrate Imbolc annually coming up on ten years. First of all, what is Imbolc? In the Old Religion of Goddess worship, February 1st was always celebrated as the birthday of the triple Goddess Bridget and was considered to be the first day of Spring. The Irish would wait to see if they would see a snake crawl out the ground on that day to determine how much more winter there would be to come, by wether or not the snake saw its shadow, (sound familiar?). And the Christian church adopted Candlemas to incorporate the worship of Saint Bridgit, Saint of the Hearth and Poetry.While my table has expanded to include more friends for the evening’s festivities, my own tradition of celebrating Imbolc started in 2006 with a humble group of 6. Since then, so many magical happenings have grown from that.
I grew up in Texas, so after moving to (south) upstate New York, I had to find a way to survive the winters besides painting everything in my house white and sitting around crying because I missed the heat.
There was no particular emphasis on any one religion in my family growing up. While I attended an Episcopal school and church, my pastor drank beer and his son deflowered a girl in our R.V. at half time at a Baylor football game. So I guess I just assumed God was very casual. It wasn’t until I started coming home from boarding school in Dallas to my parent’s country home that my need and connection to Nature grew very deep. I would take long, solitary walks and admire the eagles, deer, even the scorpions that I would find. I discovered peace in the stillness and quiet of the Texas hill country and it rooted itself into my being.
Not really knowing that many people yet, and still not having found my church community, I wanted to honor the season of spring coming and do something “spiritual.”
So for the first Imbolc, I invited all five of my lady friends, including my sister. We gathered in my then carpeted living room , stood in a circle and held hands. We asked the eldest of us, to start first, maybe stating an intention.
After awhile she yelled out, “FOUR!” or maybe she was saying “FORE!”
We were all a bit awkward. SO I then asked everyone to instead write their intention on a piece of paper. I had made an altar out of an old planter, and stuck a bunch of candles in the dirt, thinking how very clever I was.
We burned our little papers off the candle’s flames and continued eating and drinking in the kitchen. A few hours later my husband came home with my children. The kids RAN upstairs and he looked around. Without saying a word, he counted all the wine bottles on the table, and then walked into the living room where he picked up our smoldering altar, placed it outside and then upstairs to bed. Brigid sent us a man to save the day!
The following year, I upped my game a bit. With a few new solid friendships, I think I may have doubled the guest list! Being the closest Saturday to Feb 1st each year, however, you never know what Mother Nature will have in store for you.
I dutifully tied my ribbon on my door for Imbolc’s eve and then tied that ribbon on a pen that we would again write down our intentions, but NOT burn them this year. (Apparently Bridgit is meant to come to all the houses with a ribbon on the door and bless them). Because my mom use to go to a lot of auctions I have random things laying around, like incomplete tarot card sets. So for this year, I set the table with a tarot at each plate and a shell with Rilke’s poem:
Spring has come once more;
earth like the double of a girl who has memorized
many, many verses… For her trouble
and long study she earns the prize.
Her teacher was strict. We liked the white
in the whiskers of the old man.
Can she tell us the name of the greensward light,
now, the meaning of this blue? She can! She can!
Lucky Earth at liberty, play tag with youths
who long to catch you. Will any succeed?
Only those most happily delighting.
Of what her teacher professed, manifold truths,
what is imprinted within the roots, the seeds,
the long, demanding stems: she sings, she sings!
Due to an ice storm, only 4 people showed up! Even less than the previous year. We made the best of it however. I had a potpourri of rose petals, cut up peacock feathers, lavender, and sage and we made our own bundles. And everyone was gifted feathers from the grouse and morning dove I found that year.
More to come on other ideas, but I share this for all of you: invite friends over and ask them to read a poem. It makes for an intimate evening. We have become lost from words and poetry in this fast paced world. It is the one constant ritual I have required every year, and we all look forward to it. An unleashed poem captures a moment into eternity.
I have to say that without my husband supporting me and my crazy ideas, without judging me, and giving me complete free rein, I don’t think these evenings would go as beautifully as they do. He must recognize the strength I garner from my female friendships. My children have received his sweetness and that is my greatest joy. I pray that their lives be paved with amazing experiences and awesome amounts of Love.
I think by gathering, and sharing, and relieving myself of the burden of life by sharing it with my close friends, I am able to be more present for my family. It is because of nights like Imbolc that my Love deepens for them and the profundity of that bond is deepened. Men, be patient and trusting of your women and they will Love you to no end. Women:when men treat you well, praise their efforts and feed them well.
I assure you that magic will happen.