Celebrating In Season
As the Wheel of the Year turns, we encounter the quarter and cross-quarter days like clockwork. The quarter days of the Solstice and Equinox rest squarely upon the workings of the universe, while the cross-quarter days or fire festivals are geared towards agricultural timings, and generally fall equidistant between the quarter days. Before being standardized to a calendar, these cross-quarter celebrations were flexible, and took place according to nature’s timepiece rather than a set date. As such, cross-quarter days do not always align with nature’s localized rhythm – in the region I reside in, this is especially true of Imbolc, which generally falls within the depth of winter for my local environment, rather than the quickening which leads us on towards spring.
Imbolc is tradionally attributed to the spring lambing season, when the earth is pushing up its first fronds of green, buds are appearing on the trees, and warmth is returning to the land. While my current location is experiencing a lengthening of the daylight hours, it’s not particularly noticeable, and if by some odd circumstance there are buds on the trees, it is worrisome that they may not fare well when the next deep freeze hits.
So what is one to do when the season doesn’t match the festival?
The first clue can be found in the word seasonal – I long ago made the decision to allow the ebb and flow of the environment I inhabit to dictate the seasonal celebrations I’d like to take part in. While having a solid date is well and good from an organizational standpoint, I’ve never assigned the transitions of the seasons to any particular date other than the one where nature herself demonstrates it.
The Wheel turns at its own pace, it is not rigid or fixed to a certain schedule.
A friend and I used to know a certain house whose yard always showed the first snowdrops of the season, usually in late March. As the winter receded, we would make a point of passing the house and make a point of alerting one another when those first snowdrops had popped thier heads out. “NOW we are on the threshold of spring” we’d agree – in these parts, Mother Nature isn’t ready to peek a shoulder out of her winter coat on the first or second day of February!
Still, it’s nice to have a rhythm, and to celebrate on the same date when other like-minded folk are doing so as well. My personal method is to observe the holy day as it is scheduled, but to reserve my deeper ritual and celebration for the time of year where I feel it truly fits.
Lighting a candle to celebrate Imbolc’s themes of purification, growth, and light is an easy answer…
Yet this year I wanted to connect in a more meaningful way with that message, so this morning I began a 30-day commitment to the Embodiment of Light meditation as part of my shamanic studies. It seems a fitting tribute to the return of the sun, to the theme of growth, to the rebirth of enhanced awareness. While it may not be spring in the outside world, there is no reason I can’t bring about a thaw and resurgence in my own inner landscape.
As the snow lies silently blanketed all around me, I bring my light into the world and beyond. Celebrating the spirit of the season with other Witches and Pagans the world over and feeling the warmth, even while in the depths of a Canadian winter.
A blessed Imbolc to all, whether you celebrate today, tomorrow, or choose to wait for the physical harbingers of seasonal transition to arrive in your corner of the globe.