The Alchemy of Imbolc

St Brigid's Cross

Today is the day when the festival of Imbolc is traditionally celebrated.  This Gaelic festival marking the first stirring of Spring has long been associated with the goddess Brighid, who became Christianised at St Bride or Brigid, and the festival is known in the Christian calendar as Candelmas.  The alchemy of Imbolc represents a time of purification and renewal in the wheel of the year.  It is the time of the year when Nature is ‘cleaning up’, ready for a new cycle of growth in the spring.  At this time of the year we see the last of the Autumn debris of leaves and cast-off branches, the old, rotted fruit that was not destined for new growth or animal food has been washed away by the rain and snow.

Imbolc by Jennifer Galasso -

So as we learn from nature and respond to her rhythms and cycles, this is a time when we ourselves can be spring-cleaning our own minds and clearing out the deadwood from our lives so that we can receive the divine spark of new life, the creative fire that will burst forth onto the scene at the Spring Equinox in March.  Imbolc is often associated with nature’s quickening pulse, the first stirrings of life.  The celtic word Imbolc actually means “in the belly” and originally referred to lambing process, the lambs stirring with their own quickening impulse for life in the belly of the ewe.  There is a quickening too in the shift of light and dark and the light now grows visibly stronger every day, with the days getting longer at an appreciably increasing rate, as we make our passage from winter into spring.

Astrologically, at Imbolc, we are in the sign of Aquarius, the water bearer, the one who brings a new vision, within the constraints of a harsh winter, and offers the promise of spring rains, fertility and new growth.  In Egypt, Aquarius was known as “The Great One” and was associated with the annual flooding of the Nile, the most important event of the Egyptian calendar which brought fertility to the Nile delta.

Image by Mike Pitts -

For those in the UK who know of Silbury Hill, synonymous with the great earth goddess near Avebury in Wiltshire, this is a time where an extraordinary phenomenon occurs and the water from the nearby Winterbourne river Kennet (a river which is literally Winter-born) fills the ditch around the great earth mound, forming the shape of the squatting mother goddess.  The nearby swallowhead spring, it has been suggested, would have been seen as part of the great mother goddess and it can still appear, from above, as a squatting mother whose waters are breaking.  (See Michael Dames’ book, The Silbury Treasure, for more insight into this phenomenon).

So you might want to consider how, metaphorically speaking, the waters in your own life are breaking.  What might that creative spark of life be fror you?  How might you prepare the ground now, clear the way for the spark of more-than-human genius to enter your life?  What are you preparing to give birth to this year?

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