Imbolc Valentine Moon
Today is the official opening of this new website, ancientrailsgreatwheel, or, simply, Great Wheel.
It comes onto the web honoring Brigid, the triple goddess of the old faery faith–the Celtic understanding of how to honor the relationship with the natural and supernatural worlds.
Imbolc is her feast day, her market week actually, since all of these holidays coincided with markets, making them special points in the year when transactions of all kinds took place.
Imbolc itself means in-the-belly and signifies the time when, in preparation for lambing, ewes began to freshen and milk came back into the diet after the long winter. Freshening, usually six weeks or so before the birth of the lambs around the spring equinox, signaled the emergence of new life, both animal and vegetable.
There was an ancient belief that the sun began to dominate on Imbolc and though this was a truer reference to the Winter Solstice, it did reflect the evident increase in daylight that had accumulated since the Solstice and, in combination with the freshening of the ewes, promised another growing season was not far off.
(Brigid as Lady Green)
This was important because in Scotland and in other Celtic lands, February came at a dismal time, bleak and cold with last fall’s stores dwindling. The Scots called the time around Imbolc the wolf-month and others called it the Dead Month.
Brigid, the triple goddess of smithy, inspiration and hearth was at the core of ancient Celtic domestic life, poetry and iron working. She was also a goddess of healing, regeneration and abundance, and closely connected with cattle and other domesticated livestock.
She was the central deity of the ancient Celtic pantheon in many ways and honored by many sacred wells and sites of worship, among them the eternal flame at Kildare, a place of high importance on Imbolc since it is a fire holiday. In later years, after the Roman Catholics absorbed Brigid as a saint, Saint Brigid, there was a double monastery at Kildare, both men and women in residence and 19 nuns kept the flame alive, tending it at night one at a time, with the 20th night left to the Saint herself. It burned from the 6th century to the 16th, or so the old books say.
Brigid is also associated with the Bride who appears first on Imbolc. One account says that Old Woman of Winter, the Cailleach or the Crone, goes off to a sacred well and drinks from a fountain of youth, coming back from the well as the Bride, the virgin who will later enter into consort with the Horned God at the festival of Beltane, thus assuring an abundant year for crops and animals alike. This is a three fold division of the year which gives one third to the virgin maid, in this case Bride, another third to the Matron or Mother, and the final third to the Crone, the Old Woman.
(John Duncan, The Coming of Bride)
So today can be a time to look into your heart, into your relationships, into the projects and work aspects of your life and find what needs inspiration, what could use a spark, a new flame. You can also look for those aspects of your life that have begun to flourish, perhaps with only slight signs, like the freshening of the ewe or the advancing daylight.
This is a holiday for them, a time to find in your own well of inspiration, of home making and family building, of creative work the new and hopeful, a time to encourage them and yourself, remembering that a new growing season is not only promised, it is already underway.