We all know that the light is returning, but on wintry days it can seem a long way off. As I look out of my upstairs window I can see the shining light of our recently erected lamppost that brought light where there was once dark. Like a beacon it shines out on a day that is struggling to find daylight.
Many struggle during these winter months and I think that is why celebrating/marking Imbolc is so important. It brings a promise of things to come and makes us look forward not back and invites us to bring light where there is dark.
Imbolc's origin's are from our isles Gaelic culture. It means 'first milk' and is tied up with our agricultural past and to times when fertility goddesses such as Bridgid were revered. First lambs are appearing in our low-fields just as they have for centuries and the stoic snowdrop stands fearless amongst the now icy snow. I think of them as the bringers of hope.
Christianity too saw the need for marking this time and so made Bridgid a saint and Imbolc became Candlemas -the purification of the virgin Mary- when the church bathes itself in candlelight.
And so on such days it is up to us to seek out the beauty, create warmth and light in our lives - that is what Imbolc is about. We don't have to do anything big - a walk into our garden or maybe into a park can provide treasures if we look.
Looking at the detail, the small, when winter closes our world around us, can bring lovely surprises such as the vibrant green patterns hidden within the pure white droplet of the snowdrop.
The Snowdrop in purest white arraie First rears her hedde on Candlemas daie; While the Crocus hastens to the shrine Of Primrose lone on St Valentine.’
Folklore says that the snowdrop should never be brought into a house for fear it brought death. This is because at the time of its flowering is often the harshest time of the year and was a time many struggled to survive and so it became associated as a harbinger of death.
Here is an extract from "Encyclopedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World." 1903
"It is unlucky to decorate your rooms with snowdrops. The snowdrop always blossoms on Candlemas Day The snowdrop will ensure purity of thought to the wearer If a girl eats the first snowdrop she finds in the spring, she will not get tanned in the summer. Snowdrops are so much like a corpse in a shroud that in some countries the people will not have them in the house, lest they bring in death."
We can thank this fear related to snowdrops by the Victorians for giving us churchyards adorned in them and parks where they have multiplied because they were left unpicked ! And after all they are at their best in communal swathes 'ribboning' the hedgerows and can be 'safely' admired.
It was once the tradition to leave Christmas decorations up until Candlemas until it became realised that people were keeping in the festive spirit a little too long and so it became unlucky to keep your decorations up after twelfth night (Jan 5th) giving a much earlier signal that it was time start to get back to work.
However if you have your fairy lights to hand, today is the day to light them up, along with candles, a fire in fact anything that fills your home with light. This gives us a visible reminder that light and warmth will indeed be returning as spring slowly makes progress on winters grip.
If you have chance to put your feet up and contemplate then Imbolc is the ideal day to do it. Let your mind wander and think about the things you would like to happen in the coming year. If you feel ready you can even start sowing very early seeds, but remember these seeds take a lot of care and nurturing and you may lose some along the way but the strongest will pull through ready for growing into something bigger. Its time to daydream and see where you arrive. You may want to wait awhile for your musings turn into seeds, there is still plenty of time, for now be content and dream of things to come.
If you feel anxious and have any negative thoughts or situations coming up now is a good time to make steps to resolving this. Try to use this time to be pro- active to begin to dispel those bad things. Writing your worries and problems down can help and some of them you may be able to banish by destroying the words you have written in a candle flame and literally watching them go up in smoke. (be careful doing this - have a bowl of water to hand!) However if you have problems that need addressing make this the day when you begin to consider ways of solving them - you could maybe share your problems with someone -' A problem shared is a problem halved' sometimes saying things out loud to someone else really helps.
Finally perhaps we can all make a little resolution to look out for each other and to try and show a little kindness each day and bring light into someone else's life- that way we can perhaps not only realise our dreams but help others realise their's.
Not too long 'till spring !
Should add today is the day we at Talking Trees Books traditionally start considering next years Country Wisdom & Folklore Diary - let's hope the folklore muse visits us !