Winter is for women – the woman, still at her knitting… the bees are flying. They taste the spring. – Sylvia Plath

How beautiful it is to be like the bee, tasting spring even in the depths of darkness. Here we are in the midpoint between the winter solstice and spring equinox. Outside the ground is frozen stiff, and animal friends curl tightly in their dens, noses tucked into downy bellies. The windowpane is cold to the touch but through it, I see verdant stinging nettles, hopeful crests of vetch, and the green lace of California poppies braving the season. Soon, they too will bloom. 

This is the time of year when the British Isles traditionally celebrated Imbolc, the strengthening of the sunshine, and the resulting life it brings. The etymology of Imbolc comes from​​ the Old Irish word “Imbolg” meaning “in the belly”. An apt name, as it was celebrated when sheep were heavy with lambs. Their swollen stomachs were a signal to our ancestors it was time to plant seeds into the belly of the earth. As I’m not living with lambs, I’ll have to base my observance loosely around the Gregorian calendar date on or around February 1.

Like many of our forebears holidays, Imbolc revolves around a goddess. This time, Brigid. She’s a triple goddess with Irish origins who reads like a quintessential Renaissance woman. Brigid is the goddess of fire, transformation, fertility, poetry, crafts, inspiration, wisdom, healing, domestic animals, and prophecy. Her perceived powers and domain encompass many crucial elements to the lives our foremothers would have lived, close to the breast of nature. While I continue to explore my relationship with goddesses, I love having a name for the muse, especially in the realm of poetry. I’ve certainly met my share of women who are endlessly talented, multi-hyphenate marvels, that inspire wonder in me. To me, this is also a time to celebrate all the Brigids I know. Bless them for bringing me beams of light when I need it most.

Modern Christian celebrations have branded her Saint Brigid and hold many traditions in her name. I find these celebrations leave me wanting more room for the reverence for the earth’s cycles. I don’t embrace organized religion, so, these are my freestyle ways to reclaim my heritage and create meaning around the season. Principally, I look to nature’s wisdom: what animistic intelligence exists around this time of year? What do the elements tell me about how to live today? How can I remember that these bare branches will soon be heavy with fruit? It seems an unbelievable miracle if I only can see what is in front of me. Had I not seen it before, it’d be a struggle for my mind to imagine the splendid wildflower blooms that will carpet the land even as I hold the flecks of black seeds in my palm. So, the answer for me, this year is that Imbolc is the time to herald hope for new beginnings.

Citrus y Sea is my new fertile plot of the web to tend. As the inaugural post on my website, I am planting this small seed with so much hope, happiness, and possibility furled inside. I whisper peaceful intentions, curious miracles, and ample room for potential as I plant this into the belly of the web. May it, too, bloom into a thing of beauty that nourishes us all. 

While I anxiously await word from early readers, like the warmth of a spring sun, I find the best way to keep myself feeling nourished and connected to nature in this time is with my own Imbolc celebrations. This year I’m weaving it into my home life in the following ways. 

How I Celebrate Imbolc at Home

A Goddess Altar. I am privileged to have the space now to create a small altar to femininity and woman wisdom. In mine, I have a figure in the shape of a curvy woman, a Matryoshka (Russian nesting doll), pink and purple candles I’ve rolled in lavender, and a womb-like seashell filled with gathered rose petals. My ancestors likely would have made dolls made from corn husks to represent Brigid or woven wheat and oat stalks into a Brigid’s Cross. Perhaps, one year, I shall too. For now, I’m practicing contentment with what I have and have done at the moment, and that is a celebration and revolution in itself. 

Clearing Out and Cleaning. Spring cleaning was associated with Imbolc in Irish history. I imagine during northern winters the home and hearth would have accumulated much mud and debris. It would have been far too cold to open the doors and windows and clean it all out. However, around this time of year, they’d visit the local well for blessings. To bless the well, they’d walk about it in a sunwise (clockwise) direction making good wishes for the coming year, and take some water to bless the house in the same manner. I’ve adapted this by using my own sacred water. There’s no fanfare around this for me, but I have my personal ways of honoring my water. You can use moon water or whatever most resonates with you. Then dipping a bay leaf into it, I sprinkle it through the home cleaning all rooms in a sunwise motion. With all cleansing practices, I take care to cleanse myself first by emptying my mind, welcoming in strong peaceful energy, and then beginning. 

In the Kitchen. It seems that nearly every festival centers around feasting, no? Theoretically, the coming of spring would mean the beginning of nature’s abundance once again and the ability to let loose with the reserves. For this holiday, we think of foods that welcome and evoke the strengthening power of the sun. While my ancestors would have relied heavily on foods provided by (or even with the life of) their animals, I have the privilege of not. So I think of fluffy, round sun-like pancakes, brilliant yellow cornbreads, and tangy plant-based cheesecakes. I also like to preserve some of the gifts of winter, such as lemons! The lemon has strong associations with the sun, for obvious reasons. Brigid was meant to have descended to earth as a beam of sunlight. So, for Imbolc this year I made preserved lemons; a salty reminder of the changing seasons. 

While there are myriad ways to celebrate this and many other holidays, I think the most important part for me is to continuously bring myself back to the intention. Reconnecting to my heritage. The reverence of, and desire to live closer to, nature. The intelligence of choosing to be joyful even in the dark times, for light is coming. This holiday will forever remind me of the Brigids in my life; shining on me, keeping me warm, and feeling connected. 

8 Responses

  1. So, so much here: I felt touched, I was reminded of nature, the movement of seasons and how I am in rapport with nature and move to nature’s rhythms. And then I was inspired to eat healthy. And be creative. And feel joy. This was so moving; I felt my body, heart and soul responding to the lyrical prose and poetry. Definitely want more of this vibe in my life.

    1. Thank you, Erika! I do feel being in rapport with nature is our natural state, and all the things you mentioned help us get back there. I appreciate your time spent reading and commenting, thank you!

  2. I feel absolutely inspired. Reading this made me immediately start see through a different lens. The rhythm of my thoughts, the tone of my inner dialogue, the curiosity of my eye- all transformed as I read. Thank you so gently carrying me into that mind shift. This was a dance.

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