from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Friday, 1 February 2013

Imbolc, candlemas & the feminine principle of the Mother

The Celtic year, which begins with Samhain on 31st October/1st November, is divided by the quarter dates marking the four seasons: the equinoxes and the solstices. It's further sub-divided by the cross-quarter dates, occurring at the midpoint between a solstice and an equinox.

Since the year traditionally begins with Samhain, between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice, we can see how significant the cross-quarter dates are. Although they have an equivalent in the Christian calendar (eg think All Hallows for Samhain, Candlemas for Imbolc, Lammas in August; for a moment the Christian equivalent of Beltane, May 1st, escapes me – perhaps because there is not a fixed Feast day on this date in the Christian church; but the Ascension [of Jesus into heaven] occurs any time from May 1st onwards, depending on when Easter – Eostre, the spring equinox, itself determined by the phases of the moon – occurs).

Imbolc is a lovely festival – an inward, quiet 'white' time when the feminine principle and its soft light illumines gently what it is that needs cleansing or purifying in our lives and homes.

It's a time for candles in the doors and windows (like Samhain, too), welcoming the transition from the Cailleach (the Crone or Hag)'s iron grip of the land, to the Great Mother aspect of the feminine principle; in this case Brighid. She starts, in the northern hemisphere, to sprinkle the land with the white of purification ready for new life here: snow, maybe; snowdrops heralding spring, certainly. We could see her too as a kind of midwife, overseeing the maturation of young women into the fertile Maiden. On a soul level, perhaps she is overseeing the culmination of an inner process?

There's an association between Brighid and milk* – that white nourishing substance provided by mammalian mothers everywhere. Caitlin Matthews tells us that the name Imbolc derives from the lactation of ewes, who traditionally start lambing this time of year. Brighid is also associated with cows, and very occasionally horses – usually white ones.

Matthews also points out that Imbolc is exactly nine months from the high lustiness of Beltane, with its fires, couplings and fertility.

So at a time when the feminine principle and everything associated with that is uppermost, we could consider what it is we have incubated and nourished since Beltane, and are ready to bring into the world – whether on an inner or outer plane.

And perhaps we might bring indoors a snowdrop or two, a small spray of hazel catkins or 'lambs' tails', and light a white candle...

* and possibly the Milky Way, according to some sources...


  1. Very interesting blog, Roselle. It was new information for me. Thought I'd light a white candle because our snowdrops (planted in autumn in a pot) aren't out yet. Looked, and one has flowered since this morning. A little white blob like a cotton bud. So timely!

  2. Hello Marg - lovely to 'see' you here again! I send you soft Imbolc light from the southwest, to add to your white candle. And - yes - how timely the snowdrop! Rx


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