It’s easy to understand why in Scotland prior to 1600 CE the New Year wasn’t celebrated until the end of March. The cold, short days and long, black nights of the Yuletide months are not practically conducive to energetic movement and lively social interaction.
I have long talked of the need to embrace the darkness of the winter months. We may not require full hibernation as the dormouse does, but our psyche and our biology benefits greatly from a conscious, quiet, hunkering down.
In terms of our creativity, this time of stillness is imperative. The lifecycle demands it, for only from a fertile well can healthy life spring and the fecundity of our well is determined by the nourishment and replenishment it receives.
To stay quiet in the dark requires a great deal of discipline, though, for in our contemporary environment the demands for interaction are great. The discipline required of us to stay true, be patient, and gift ourselves the nourishment we crave is for many of us more difficult than it is to take action!
Somewhere between the polarities of action and stillness, determination and compassion, there resides a softness of being that allows the opening of a doorway to the path ahead. This is precisely what occurs in the cross quarter days of the eight-fold year. With the arrival of February, that doorway is here.
For now we find ourselves at the feast day of Imbolc and those of us who move with the natural rhythms of this island can likely feel a shift. It’s a gentle stirring, like the moment between sleep and waking – a stretching out to test the temperature outside of the duvet.
Often fluid and fleeting, this stirring can also feel luxuriously languorous. The lengthening of days is slight, but impactful and if we stop and activate our inner eyes and ears we can feel the difference. Perhaps our dream content is more obvious, or our waking consciousness feels slightly more focussed. Whatever is occurring for you, there’s no need to label it, or pin it down into submission.
Symbolism and mythology is helpful in these instances, providing us with an understanding beyond common comprehension. In Scotland, we find in the folklore many tales of Bride associated with this time. Legend, myth, or religious figure – it is the symbolism of Bride and her counterpart ,the Cailleach, that is useful to us.
In the old tales, the character of the Cailleach is the ‘genius of winter and the enemy of growth’, orchestrating weather to prevent man and beast move about the landscape. Whether presented as enemies, or as two faces of the one personality, it is said that at Imbolc, the Cailleach makes way for the appearance of the youthful maid, Bride.
In our either/or contemporary culture, this division between the rule of the wild and fierce Cailleach pre-Imbolc and the fair and beautiful Bride post-Imbolc is absolute.
Yet, we know this to be a falsehood. Just a few days ago, I was marvelling at the brightest of blue skies, the sunniest of days and an increased outwards energy. I could feel the power of the light wash over me, watery and diffuse as it was, and responded to it immediately. My mood was effusive, optimistic and energetic and I felt like a teenager. Bride was here and oh, she was welcomed with open arms as I ventured about the capital city.
That afternoon, the Cailleach returned and the skies were full of snow – dark, brooding and oppressive. My mood changed, the longing to be home by my virtual hearth overtook all notions of adventure and I hot-footed it to the train station.
At Imbolc, the transition from winter to spring is not a done deal!
Once again, in the old tales we see this knowledge laid bare, as the Cailleach is said to rage at the end of her reign, orchestrating storms before her final overthrow on 25th March, or Auld’s Wife Day (our pre-1600 New Year’s Day.)
The weather is an easy analogy here in these isles, but these cycles and transitions also apply to the creative life-cycle. Don’t be too disappointed if the brightest of creative ideas lands upon you, only to weather itself out the very same day. Hold on to the time-old knowledge that whit’s fur ye’ll no go bye ye and the ideas will continue to land, if only you make ready to receive them.
Such is the relief (for many of us) to be emerging out of the darkness, that our challenge here at Imbolc is to not venture out too far, or expend too much energy just yet. Instead, we can practice allowing ourselves to enjoy this time of fertile awakening, stretching up and out when the need arises and venturing back often to the bear cave for additional nourishment and good care.
For me, this is very pertinent as my dark winter of completion has generated the most massive list of fresh project ideas for consideration – such possibilities! However, my reality sees me unable to plough through these as I once was able, especially with an emboldening of perimenopausal symptoms. In itself, this is a valuable gift, tempering the youthful eagerness of my inner Bride with the age-old wisdom of the Cailleach and so I find myself unhurried even as I am impatient, inspired and at the same time well-worn.
The world in its current shape and form requires of us a new set of responses, for the current situation is most certainly untenable. If culture is the response of a community to its environment, then we, as culture-makers (for that’s what we are) need to slow down enough to listen to what the world is asking of us.
Perhaps at Imbolc we can engage our listening to help us discern what possibilities we engage with to serve more than our personal interest. Perhaps we can look to the inter-relatedness of all things, not as a transcendental idea, but something material, grounded and experienced in the waking consciousness of our simple everyday.
How does Imbolc find you and your creative wonderings and practices?
Where can you continue to provide nourishment for yourself as you emerge into this time of gentle awakening juxtaposed by the harsh realities of environmental crises, political chaos and social and cultural colonisation?
What tender ideas can you breathe into life to best serve what is being asked of us in these times of trouble?
Thank you for this insightful sharing. Im beginning my journey on being more aware of the moon and planetary cycles and im loving it!
Its a new moon on monday and wonder what you think and feel
at this juncture?
Greetings Tina – thanks for visiting! For me, this New Moon represents Lunar Imbolc, so contains many of the same qualities as those we celebrate on the calendar days. Enjoy your exploration into the cycles. Hopefully they will leave you better prepared to experience the world today xo
How could you have known how prophetic your words would be in our current world; 36 months ago it was difficult to imagine how quiet and strong we would need to be. With much love, L
So beautiful so timely so wise and inspiring… so glad I found you years back when searching for my own name ( gibbons) and art therapy as I was evolving some of my own work and looking toward domain names available… since then I’ve so enjoyed all you put out there and even participated in a free mandala mini exploration you offered then that stays with me still – it included videos and I felt like we hung out I found I was easily vibing with your way your words your guidance and insights and am feeling your rhythmic attunement now. I was moved to sgare a moment of reflecting back and looking foreword as these energies of completion and beginning are Alive and awakening in my world as well Looking forward to the new offerings that are revealing themselves gently and intermittently now
Thank you for sharing the creative journey as you do !
Another Gibbons in the world is never a bad thing, I’d say! Hello dear Karen and thanks for visiting here. Lots of reflection built into the forward planning here also. It’s interesting to see my wee eager self want to go running off with the latest evolution of thinking, only to hear the wiser sage within beg some patience for proper consideration. xo
Love this Julie, speaks to me so clearly of the and/and, the strength and tenderness of where we are…
Indeed, Viv – glad to see the and/and referenced – such an importance truth of our existence + experience! Love to you xo
How wonderful it was yesterday to find myself snowed in. No electricity or internet. Flickering firelight and candles. Snuggled up in a blanket with my wee dog. Resting in the moment.
Today the sun has lit the snow capped trees and bushes, each one sparkling, each a beautiful Bride. Blessed be All Beings.
Thank you for your words dear Julie.
Beautiful, beautiful Lettie. So glad you found the wonder in the moment. But of course you did, and would. Thank you for sharing here xo
I love the inspiration
Glad to provide something to resonate, Brenda. Thanks for commenting just so xo
So, so comforted and nourished and reassured by your words, Julie! Yes, this time, I feel the push-pull, of OH, I can do This! Oh. But not quite yet. Or at least more slowly. Love the and-and reference, too. And yes! Perimenopause. Whew! I suddenly feel inspired to play that Meredith Brooks song…. Many thanks!!! xoxo
Glad you found it reassuring, Chris! Push-pull is strong for me right now! xo
Hi Julie, its been awhile. I love what you have written and it has prompted me to share a story’ Its very different here, in the far, far south coast of NSW Australia. (Imbolc is still 6 mths away)
February is the the hottest month of the year here, normally the paddocks are golden and dry and what little grass that is left crunches underfoot, the garden relies on the little bit of water I can give it from the tanks. Up until January the dam had little water in it, we had had three years of little rain, I despaired for my beautiful oaks and amber trees, (I have small a grove of twelve of sacred trees) they had been loosing their leafage for months and months, the Earth was so dry. I hated that I might loose my beautiful garden and trees would not survive if it went on too long. It was my 60th year last year, I had thought it would be the most special time, but things do not always go the way we imagine. It was at the beginning of winter (June) when I began to loose what seemed to be so much, a mother, who I never really knew, I despaired for what I never had and would never have, a tiny grandchild and who did not get to 20 weeks in the belly, the loss of my beautiful old collie dog, Sebastian and other issues that created intense emotional turmoil.The dryness and sadness drained me, I was in pain inside and out I spent the cold winter months hibernating trying to comfort my aching limbs and my aching heart, not prepared to leave the warmth of the fire. Finding it hard to deal with pain and not succeeding……..
The drought continued.
Then in December the drought began to break and I have never seen a summer like it, its green, the weather is monsoonal, the dams are slowly filling up, its crazy weather, and me, I feel alive!! its the water, its everywhere, I am an Aquarian in the truest sense, when there is no water, its like the tide has gone out, leaving me drained and empty I realize now how far my tide had gone out, how much I needed the water to cleanse the wounds and purify my soul, Water, its the thing that keeps me moving, creating, studying and above all, alive, so much has changed now. I will be sixty one on the 7th february, I have signed on for university studying philosophy and classics, I am creating a beautiful lead light window for my new room, and above all a brand new grandchild (not the same daughter in law) will be arriving in April! and I will have two beautiful grand daughters to share my knowledge with. (maybe) How life can change. My awakening did not begin with dawn of Spring, I had been carrying too much pain, but its here now, at this time with the rain. X
Water is ever so nourishing, Eve – and it sounds like everything needed some extra moisture to kick-start more life!
The opposite of Imbolc is Lughnasadh and although that time can be dry further south in the island, here in the north it isn’t usually much of a problem. Whichever, the life that abounds at Lughnasadh surely is plentiful!
So glad your well has begun to fill again after so much loss. Many blessings to you and your family. xo
Thank you so much for this beautiful insight. I have been in a very dark place for a while and I have been connecting with my highest self through writing for the last month or so. It’s been a nice slow awakening and I appreciate the three last questions you asked. I will be focusing on those in my writings tomorrow. Thank you so much.:)
Ah, Dolores – hoping the prompts helped your writing project. I’m a wee bit out of touch with my writing practices this last few months, although I know it’s so helpful! Wishing you the gentlest of awakenings…. xo