Burns Season is upon us, and I am certainly celebrating the Scottish poet (come to Backstory this Saturday!), but something else happens this time of year, or did:
It was called Candlemas by early Christians, and Imbolc by the pagans. Both groups celebrate this day halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox by honoring fire and fertility.
Like last year, I am making a concerted effort to open myself up to beliefs and “faith” things that used to make me nervous or derisive.
Crystal healing, tarot cards, astrology, mediatation–yes.
Last year it worked for a few months then sort of collapsed from the weight of family concerns. This year, I hope to keep probing and testing my barnacled skepticism in hopes of more peace with less control. Dig me?
So I dove into the above rando arts, and may well write about those experiences, but one of the practices I’m incorporating this year that feel closer to my bailiwick are traditional Celtic feast days from The Wheel of the Year. Coming up is Imbolc:
Feb 1 is when ewes started giving birth, and therefore had milk that humans could steal. This was important for early agrarians’ survival, as late winter/ early spring yielded few other sources of nourishment. Recipes abound for Imbolc foods involving milk and cheese, which the Celts loved in many forms.
Brighid (for pronunciation help!) is a pagan goddess who was taken over by a Christian saint (#moted). The goddess had an eternal fire tended by vestal virgins, according to the legend in Kildare. The fire at Imbolc can represent the sun that is coming back to us, as the days get longer in the Northern hemisphere, and winter starts to lose its grasp.
So we’ve got a day when people used to start preparing the earth to be sown with seeds, when little lambs would be frolicking in the Celtic rain, when people would sweep clean the old dark energy and purify themselves for the new [agricultural] year. It’s like another New Year!
I like the idea of being more in tune with the universe’s changes. I’m trying to pay more attention to the Celtic Wheel, the moon’s phases, the weather. Why? I’m searching for a feeling of connectedness that does not depend on exclusion. Something that links us humans back before polls and gentrification and online personas.
It is also useful as research fodder to get into the mindset of someone who lives closer to the land and depends on its cooperation from year to year. The almanac used to contain all humans needed to be self-sufficient, provided they had land, seed, and labor. Nowadays, we don’t use them. We don’t ask elders for their experience, either. Our modern arrogance is astounding.
Which is why I love historical fiction! I’m not a Luddite, and I can be just as dependent on technology as the next guy, but I am striving for a better balance, rooted in real change, not just a flash in the pan. Why NOT adopt a goddess to keep yourself in line with your intentions for the season?
Don’t tell them I told you, but I’m going to be sneaking Imbolc practices into my Burns Supper reading on Saturday–cheese on oatcakes, candles, and poetical declamations–of the bawdy variety! 😉
Images via The New Pagan and my own