Celebrate Candlemas, Saint Brigid’s Day or Imbolc
February 2nd is Imbolc day, better known as Candlemas or St Brigid’s Day and can be traced back to Celtic and Pagan times when people celebrated the transition point between winter and spring as the sap begins to rise and the earth begins to stir.
You may not think it from looking outside but this weekend marks the transition from winter into spring when mother earth begins to awaken from her slumber. If you, like me, have been in hibernation mode, enjoying sitting by the home fires and staying snug under the duvet as much as you can, then you might feel a lift in your energy levels this weekend and a little extra spring come into your step.
Imbolc was celebrated as part of the Gaelic tradition along with Beltane later in the spring and Yule at Christmas. A look at some of these traditions and wisdom of the past can I believe help guide us ahead. Whilst many people have never left the strong pull of the earth and live by the small changes in the seasons and close to the land, there are others who have always been or felt increasingly alienated from nature. Some people like myself included are now feeling a yearning and urgency to get back in touch with nature, to put away their energy sapping technology and to get outside. The meaning of ancient festivals such as Imbolc can remind us of the rhythm of the changing seasons and marking this festival can help us to keep in touch with ourselves and the world around us.
This festival is traditionally a ‘female’ festival in that it is about celebrating the awakening of mother earth, fertility and fecundity as well as our inner energies. It takes place at the time of the beginning of the lambing season when ewes begin to prepare to lactate in preparation. St Brigid, a patron saint of Ireland is associated with the Candlemas festival on 2nd February. She is the patron saint of babies, dairymaids and midwives among other things. It has been said that a small doll made on St Brigid’s day can be put in the bed of newly-weds to encourage fertility. Valentines Day follows closely on the heel’s of this lesser known celebration, but must surely be related.
People are seeing where a lack of connection can lead and the impact it can have on our-selves, our communities as well as the planet as a whole. The growing awareness of the effects of plastic on wildlife and the environment as well as extreme weather conditions around the world have helped to drive home the current state of the natural world, as well as highlighting the social and political impact that these issues can have in a world of increasingly scarce resources and political turmoil.
A connection with the natural world is thought by many to improve mental health, helping them to deal with feelings of anxiety and depression. BBC Spring Watch up in Scotland this week discussed the impact of mental health problems on our lives and how getting out into nature can help.
The first changes from winter to spring are subtle ones as the weather is often still freezing and it can be the harshest time of year. But those first stirrings of spring in contrast to the bleak winter can give more joy and feelings of hope than any other time of year if you get out there, get your hands into the earth and get a deep breathe of the fresh spring air.
So how will you be spending Imbolc this weekend?
Here are some suggestions based on what I am planning to do:
Go out for a walk and see what signs of spring you can see – catkins, bulbs peeping through and snow drops as well as new buds forming
Get out into the garden – just sniff the air, walk around, see what you can see and do any garden chores that may need doing whilst thinking about what you may like to plant and grow this year. Don’t clear too much as birds and insects enjoy the shelter of dead leaves and wood as well as rotting undergrowth. Maybe your compost heap needs a bit of attention or you need to clear space around some bulbs so that you will see them when they come through.
If you have not done so already think about how to be chemical free in your garden in order to encourage wildlife, insects and good microbes into your garden. You can look up biodynamic gardening to find out more.
Plant tomatoes, chilli’s and peppers and put on a warm windowsill to nurture. These need long growing seasons and this is a good time to sow these seeds. Remember you do not need a large garden for these just a warm patch or wall and grow bags. You can always pick up plants at the garden centre later in the season.
Planning your planting calendar, go through your seeds and think what you may be planting this year.
Ensuring my goals for the year are ready in place both personal and business ready to act upon now the sap is rising
Cooking healthy meat free dishes with plenty of vegetables as well as fresh ginger, garlic, chilli and herbs to help stimulate and cleanse the system during this time of purification
Making a Kentish honey and almond cake to pray for the bees to fertilise the blossom
Planning some spring cleaning starting with the windows so I can let the clear spring light in