in the belly
of the mother
seeds are stirring
life is awakening
in the body of her
the sacred wheel
turns toward spring.
There is natural magic afoot right now. It is there, running just beneath the surface. Can you feel it? All winter long, Mama Earth holds the seeds of spring safe for us. As the cold wind blows and the snow piles up, the Mother holds them safe in her soil body.
Then, in early February, as the wheel of the year slowly turns towards spring, the seeds begin to stir. Life is reawakening in the ground of the Mother. Imbolc has quietly arrived.
Imbolc was a ritual feast time for the ancient Celtic tribes. Their legends tell us of the Cailleach — the divine hag Goddess who rules over winter and death. The Cailleach is said to gather firewood for the rest of the winter on Imbolc. If the Cailleach wishes to make winter last a lot longer, she will make sure that the weather on Imbolc is bright and sunny, so she can gather plenty of firewood. But, if Imbolc is a day of foul weather, it means the Cailleach is asleep and winter is almost over. This is the origin of modern Groundhog Day.
The Cailleach is the sacred Earth Mother Goddess in her bare winter form. She is is also the Bone Mother who collects the bones of the animals that die in the winter. The Bone Mother sings and prays over the bones of the animals all winter long. She does this out of love, so that the animals will cross over and be able to return as new life in the spring.
Spring is on its way.
Note: Imbolc means “in the belly”. It is an old Irish word that honors the pregnant ewes carrying new life in their wombs at this time of year. Imbolc is traditionally celebrated at the halfway point between winter solstice and spring equinox.
The seeds are stirring beneath our feet.
In the northern hemisphere, we are halfway to spring!
Light a candle
Offer thanks for the turning of the seasons and the return of the light.
At the beginning of February, we celebrate a strange and wonderful holiday known as Groundhog Day. We are told that if the prophetic groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, sees his shadow on this day and runs quickly back into his burrow, winter will last at least 6 more weeks.
The idea of waiting and watching for the first inkling of spring is not new. The ancient Celts celebrated Imbolc in early February long before Groundhog Day existed. Celtic stories tell us that the Cailleach—the divine hag Goddess who rules over winter and death—gathers firewood for the rest of the winter on Imbolc. If the Goddess Cailleach wishes to make the winter last a lot longer, she will make sure that the weather on Imbolc is bright and sunny, so she can gather plenty of firewood. But, if Imbolc is a day of foul weather, it means the Cailleach is asleep and winter is almost over.
The Cailleach was worshipped by the Celts as the sacred Earth Mother in her bare winter form. And she is not just a dark and evil hag who arbitrarily decides how long winter will be. The Cailleach is also the Bone Mother who collects the bones of the animals that die in the winter. The Bone Mother is said to sing or pray or sleep over the bones all winter long. She does this out of love, so that the animals will cross over and can return as new life in the spring.
The Celtic tribes lived in the far north where winter is a brutal season. They had to burn huge quantities of wood to keep from freezing every winter. They also had to rely on their own stores of food to get them through the long winter months when no crops could be grown or harvested. There was no corner grocery store to run to if they ran out of bread. Is it any wonder that the Celts were quite focused on the return of spring?
The Celts watched and waited for spring. And they noticed that the ewes began to lactate and prepare for the birth of their lambs in early February. The Celts saw this return of mothers’ milk as reason to celebrate. The flow of milk and the birth of baby lambs meant spring was definitely on its way. The harshness of winter would soon end. The Celts celebrated Imbolc because they understood that their lives depended on the grace of Mama Earth and her seasons.
There is a magic to Imbolc and the early days of February. It is there, running just beneath the surface. Can you feel it? Mama Earth holds the seeds of spring safe for us all winter. As the cold wind blows and the snow piles up, she holds them safe in her soil.
It is February, not quite time for the seeds to sprout. But the days are definitely lengthening. The wheel of the year is slowly turning towards spring and new growth. And beneath the surface of Mama Earth, the seeds are beginning to quietly stir. Spring is stirring in the ground beneath your feet. Listen with your heart. Can you hear the stirring?
Imbolc is traditionally celebrated at the halfway point between winter solstice and spring equinox. In 2017, this halfway point falls on February 3.
Want a simple way to honor Imbolc and the turning of the year towards spring? Light a candle or two tonight, and offer up a simple prayer of gratitude in honor of Mama Earth and the return of spring.
On Winter Solstice, we officially enter into Seed Time in the northern hemisphere.
Winter is the time in Mama Earth’s cycle when she becomes still and appears to be lifeless. But beneath the surface, our earthy mother is very much alive; she is quietly gestating seeds for the new year, loving and holding them safe in the dark. This time of holding in the dark ensures that when spring arrives, the new seeds will be ready to sprout and grow.
What is yearning to come into your life now?
How does the Universe want each of us to sprout and grow in the coming year?
Let’s get still and listen in the darkness…
“Creativity – like human life itself – begins in darkness.”