Imbolg was last Thursday, and I’ve been doing “halfway through the winter” and “wake up, shake up” stuff for about a week now. Culling books, clothes, and housewares, reorganizing the heavy duty shelving in my kitchen so that things are easier to find and use (and use up), doing energy work for chakra unblocking and otherwise trying to change up some persistent patterns, even timing a job application (that would mean big, largely positive changes for us) with the Moon in Leo turning full yesterday morning.
Today I finally made it to the Winter Stone. I brought a mix of whipping cream and maple cream Sortilege, a jar of sunflower seeds mixed with basil, blue vervain, and mugwort – all reminders of summer that was and summer that will come again – and a soul cake made with melted chocolate and cream steeped with licorice root and warming spices and sang little bits of SJ Tucker’s Imbolc Song for Offerings after brushing about a foot of snow off the stone itself.
Around here, Imbolg doesn’t mean crocuses and snowdrops like it does in Vancouver and DC, even when the temperature is as chaotic and weird as it’s been this year (swinging from -41C a couple of days ago to an expected +3C this coming Friday). Around here, Imbolg is the half-way point. Whether you count “winter months” as December through March, or push all the way from Samhain to Beltane, early February, with its groundhog watch and its pharmacy shelves lined with heart shaped boxes, is the point where Winter starts turning towards Spring or, as the local Druid Grove puts it, “The evidence based belief that Spring will come again”.
Decades ago, when I was both new to living outside of my parents’ house and still fairly new to being Pagan in a “regular religious practices” kind of way, I was trying to figure out what Imbolg meant for me, how I could mark it when most of the books I was able to find had been written by people in California or other warmer climates where you could at least see Spring coming in early February, even if it was only because the snow was noticeably staying melted. At that time, I was doing regular rituals with a few friends – some my age, some a decade, or even a generation, older – and the “mother” of the group had us over for an Imbolg ritual that involved a celebration of femininity and sensuality, of flavours and smells and textures and movements that made your senses wake up and feel alive again after months of cold and dark and, given that we were all involved in Academe at the time, the looming spectre of midterms hanging over our heads on top of that.
These days, Imbolg is the time when take down my Solstice decorations and change out the wreath on my door. But it’s because of that ritual that my February-to-May wreath is all jewel-tone ribbons and cinnamon sticks. It’s because of that ritual that I make my Offering soul cakes with chocolate and cardamom and star anise alongside the warm, sweetness of licorice and sarsaparilla roots. If High Summer is the pause point, the indrawn breath and sultry sigh before the work of the harvest starts, if High Summer is “Glammas” and a chance to painted toenails, skinny dipping, and blessing the harvest that will come, then Imbolg is it’s opposite number: Seed packets and dreaming, soaking in the cauldron of creation that is your own bath tub, a time for intention-setting and putting plans in motion.
The sun set at 5:11pm on February 2nd. Today it sets at 5:17. Six weeks from now it will still be light out after 7pm and we’ll be hearing the geese coming home, maybe even seeing snowdrops starting to push through the soil against sunny, south facing walls. Maybe it’s just because it’s a bright, BRIGHT day today – only -4 with a light breeze and the sun feeling warm on my back – or because there was a crow visiting my back yard when I stepped out to make my offerings, and a chickadee checking out the long-abandoned blue jay nest at the corner of my house, but I’m feeling hopeful today in a way that I didn’t yesterday. Roll on Spring! I know you’ll get here eventually.