It finally feels like new year to me! I think, once January is over, I can warm to the idea of a fresh start and let some of the slugglishness of winter begin to be shaken off. It has been a month with some tiredness and illness and wet and…a great deal of mud. We did have two very short-lived little snowfalls up here on the Sheffield suburban mountains. The going got tough occasionally in January. It always does but being busy with work, play, children and friends has helped. Getting outdoors, amid the bad weather, for 3 goodly walks in the sunshine in the last month was the excellent antidote to low levels of oomph.
One thing I always do to perk myself up a bit is put up winter pictures on one my kitchen cupboard doors. I have pictures for every season but the winter ones are especially important. Excuse the bad light reflection on the photo here, but you get the idea of a winter collage.
The New Year type energy is, in part, due to the fact that I recognise and welcome celebration of a festival called Imbolc. As one of the Celtic 8 festivals, it is one of my favourites. It’s a quiet one but one nevertheless worth celebrating. Meaning ‘in the belly’ Imbolc (pronounced Imolc) falls on Feburary 1st/2nd and it is imbued with a sense of life within or perhaps pregnancy. Quite literally, within the earth, the seeds are in a state of preparation and the slow warming of the soil from the sun is beginning now in earnest. Celts and Pagans would know that it was a time of earth awakening, and spiritually and practically it would be seen as a good time to start anew and gain some of the imminent springtime energy to start new projects or draw some strength for the year ahead.
Think of green to signify fresh life; yellow, gold or red would represent the sun’s spark and the earth’s fire within; white and silver are for purity and newness – the colour of new lambs and of snowdrops.
Think ginger root as a warming plant of the season to kindle a fire inside and ease the ailments of the winter. And think of willow as a quick-growing tree that can almost spring out of nothing when a willow whip is planted (February is ideal for planting willow hedges and for starting sculptures in the garden). Light candles to acknowledge: the spark of life, the new brighter days coming and the Goddess of the season (if that is your thing). She is Brigid (Brighid, Brigit or Bride), a maiden of fire, poetry and healing and of fertility – a representation of female intuition within. The same energy is evident within other cultures; such as the Nordic Goddess Freya and the Romans’ Juno Februata (a goddess of the febris or fever of love). You start to get the Valentine’s Day drift now too….
Others, at this time of year, go for the Christian festival of the purification of the Virgin Mary. This time is called Candlemas and, again, the fire and the light are key to this time of year. My friend Glennie Kindred notes that ‘Cande’, (Anglo Saxon) and ‘Candali’,’ Kundali’, ‘Kundalini’, from Sanskrit are associated with the rising of life force and of sexual energy. The Serpent or the coiled up energy (Kundalini) is another aspect or characteristic of the Imbolc festival. It always interests me that so many festivals and subjects for worship or respect have cross overs somewhere in their long histories; they have side alleys and detours that might take us back to similar starting points.
It could be that new intentions, images of coiled serpents, sleeping seeds, pregnant bellies or fires within may make sense as a metaphor for this time of year. Or perhaps it’s simply the sign of the spring bulbs extending little green shoots or the prospect of lambs that appeals most. For some, it’s just a good old spring clean that is needed, mentally or domestically. I personally think it’s worth giving this quiet slice of winter a second look. It’s more than the drab little bit before spring. Look how this ‘dead’, cut dogwood has sprouted and even flowered after being brought into our house at the Winter Solstice. It reminds us of what wonderful energy lies within the earth right now:
How grand it was to acknowledge a bright winter day and a quiet festival by having Chris and his family over today; we made a little fire in the back garden and drink a spot of ginger wine (sans alcohol which felt extra purifying). Chris has long been wanting to share a new-found winter activity – making delicious Danish ebelskivers (pancake/doughnut type delights – oft filled with spiced apple but jam or chocolate is good too) in his special pan.