Imbolc is the time of hope for new life and the return of the light.
In the US, most people think of February 2nd as Groundhog Day, the portent of how many more weeks of winter are in store. However, for thousands of years, Imbolc, meaning “in the belly” was a sign of hope as there would be lambs born in the spring. In addition they saw the noticeable signs that the days were lengthening.
According to Christiane Northrup, many Americans suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or the “winter blues,” and 4 out 5 people who suffer from SAD are women. This type of depression is even more common the farther north you live but I see it even in San Diego.
I believe that our ancestors knew this “winter blues” well and created rituals to both acknowledge the feelings and allow the community to move into hope for the light returning. Rituals are meant to capture the sense of the shared trauma and then format a structure that creates movement, helping the participants release trauma and feel a sense hope for renewal.
What we know of the Celtic rituals of Imbolc is that the Goddess Brigid was said to visit each home and give blessings. The people would make a bed for her and leave food and drink (much like Santa traditions). In community gatherings, Brigid was invoked to protect homes and livestock. Feasts were shared and holy wells were visited, where divination was received. Today, Catholic traditions made February 2nd St. Brigit’s feast day and churches offer a Candlemass, lighting candles in order to lift spirits and stir hope.
We can all use signs of hope. So much fear has been evoked because of our political upheaval that is causing much trauma to many people at this time, in addition to the normal winter blues. I invite you to create your own ritual for hope, whether solo, with friends, or joining with a community that is dear to you.
May you renew your feeling of hope with the power of love,