I’ve known about Imbolc for some time–known that it was a festival/sabbat on the Wheel of the Year and, of course, knew about Groundhog’s Day. For some reason this year I researched it more, starting a few weeks ago. I think that I made a prenatal appointment on that February 2nd, which triggered a memory recalling that date was also Imbolc, so I looked it up.
Imbolc is a celebration of quiet a conglomerate of different things. The Gaelic speaking Celts celebrated the goddess Brigid and called the festival Oimelc, gaelic for ‘in the ewe’s milk’ or ‘in the belly’, since this time corresponding with lambing and the coming of an ewe’s milk. Brigid, one of the primary goddesses in Celtic myth/legend/pantheon, is the goddess associated with midwifery, poetry, smithing and fire.
In Christian times, the feast became St. Brigid’s Day, as well as the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin and Candlemas. It’s also a time for weather divination, thus Groundhog’s Day (in other countries they have used such animals as snakes and cats).
Also, primarily, Imbolc/Oimelc/etc. is a celebration of the coming of Spring and the end of Winter. Winter snows turn into mid-winter rains, snowdrops and daffodils begin to emerge, lambing commences and the days grow longer. After the darkness of winter the sun begins to emerge.
I noticed early on that my pregnancy and the Wheel of the Year corresponded and thought that it would be neat to make reflections at each Feast Day/Sabbat—just as a method of keeping track. I had no idea that—even at the beginning, at Yule—that it would offer me some kind of hope that I needed. When Yule came I had yet to be in the real throes of first trimester depression. It was the holidays, and though I felt something amiss, I thought it might just be writer’s blues or holiday stress.
After the holidays, though, I actually became depressed. Listless. Unmotivated. Melancholy. Tired. I know that a lot of this can be and is caused by hormones, but even so—as one prone to depression, I don’t take these feelings lightly. As a soon-to-be mother, even less so. Still, at times, it felt perpetual and endless. I didn’t want this baby. I felt put upon, and more so, completely out of my depth. How was I supposed to raise a baby? How…how could I? It seemed an impossible, daunting, awful task. One that, before I became pregnant, I looked to with joy. After…
For the sake of symbolism, November through January was a time of my winter. The days shortened and darkness fell. Even during Yule, which celebrates the birth of the Sun, I didn’t feel it.
However. Weeks passed. I journaled. I wrote. I have an amazing husband. I began a search for a therapist to begin anew work that never should have stopped. We bought a house. I cleaned my house, thoroughly. And, eventually, I began to feel better. I suppose the hormones began to ease, but something else happened. I accepted, at first mentally, but then spiritually that I am going to be a mother. I will give birth. I will have a child. And I am capable of it.
So when February 2nd came I knew that I would be giving thanks. I planned a small ritual, a token of gratitude and honor to the Someone I believe is Up There.
I haven’t done much in the way of prayer or ritual in a very long time. Advent and Christmas felt blank to me and neither did Yule inspire.
But Tuesday felt…amazing. I sat in front of the candles and just prayed to God(dess)/Brigid/Creator/Whomever/Someone for a while and told them all the things I was grateful for. I thanked them for the rains that have graced the Hill Country this winter, for the sweet anticipation of the upcoming wildflowers (can’t wait!), for my baby, for my husband, for hope, and yes…even for winter and depression. Sorrow is the salt to our joy.
I cried while I prayed. I ate bread with almond butter and honey, and drank milk, in honor of Brigid. She seemed very close to me—someone I wanted to honor for childbirthing and storybirthing. After about 45 minutes or so, I felt released from the ritual. Like I had housekeeping and hearthkeeping to accomplish—which is pretty appropriate given that in Scotland this day is a day of honoring the home.
I haven’t made any conclusions about this yet. But I know that it was important and I’m sure I’ll be mulling it over until my next post.
Until then, happy beginning-of-Spring.
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