Imbolg can be considered the beginning of the annual cycle, inasmuch as a cycle has a beginning or an ending.
The sabbats equally divide the year into eight parts: the points of longest and shortest daylight, and the midway points of equal day & night mark the four quarters, and then the midpoint between each of these make up the four cross-quarters.
They are eight small, even stitches in time which serve as ideal points to step aside, out of the path of regular life, and reflect. These points have also been connected to the human story writ large, the one you have to step back to get the big picture of – beginnings, growth, wisdom, endings – happening over and over again throughout each lifetime. While the eight points highlight the cycles in nature, they also reflect the cycles we experience in life – stitches connecting our concrete reality with abstract reality.
All of this by way of exploring, why am I coming to you, snow piled high outside, calling it a seasonal beginning!?
We are poised mid-way between two big flashy sun-points: shortest day and equal day-night, Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. In fact, I might expect Spring Equinox, when the idea of SPRING is celebrated (if not the reality yet, on the cold, frozen northern prairie!), to be “the beginning,” but the image of spring is one of lush, verdant shoots, bright flowers in bloom – life already in full swing, springing into action under the warmth and light of the sun. The real beginning is quiet, below the surface: the planted seed, the waiting bulb. Winter followed by Spring – the seasons now poised on the brink of that invigorating, inevitable roll into warmth and growth and abundant daylight.
It is the waiting in the wings time before Spring dances onto centre stage for the first act.
Imbolg translates as “in the belly” – womb-time, which feels right for this season – still the deep heart of winter, time of hibernation, the ground hard and unchanging, but holding within it the roots and bulbs of life, potential in stasis, waiting for the right time for growth and emergence. A time of candles, symbol of inspiration (not to mention a seasonally welcome activity!), this particular stopping point in the path can be devoted to reflections on inspiration, attentiveness to new ideas forming, making mental space to allow awareness of creative (ad)ventures lurking beneath the surface of conscious, day-to-day living. Inspiration – the very earliest stage of new growth in our lives.
I was reminded today that Chinese New Year, also this weekend, is really Spring Festival, also connected to sun and moon cycles, and that many cultures have a celebration at this time. I’m curious to learn more about the global connections in these celebrations. What fascinates me, too, is the continuity from centuries past of the Chinese celebration. What does a tradition look like that has had that long to steep, continued unbroken, evolving through the ages into modern times? I’m intrigued to learn more…
- The Spiral Dance, by Starhawk
- The Everything Paganism Book, by Silverwind