This weekend many Pagans will celebrate Imbolc, or Brigid.
Imbolc is one of the less emphasized Sabbats in our Wheel of the Year. We are emerging from the regular frantic holiday season, combining Yule with Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza and finally, New Year. The decorations have been put away and across our lives have returned to some semblance of their normal routine. This is as true for Pagans as anybody else.
I suspect this is why of all the Sabbats, Imbolc seems to me the least invested with ritual significance.
It may also be because so much of its symbolism no longer fits where we live. Our cross-quarter Sabbats are connected with the Celtic agricultural year, and as Samhain is the beginning of that part of the year where life is at its thinnest, so Imbolc marks its small return. In pre-Christian Celtic lands this was when the ewes were first milked. The return of new life was a Big Thing in pre-industrial climes.
But today sheep are few in most places, and February is the depth of winter with nary a sign that summer is coming except for increasing daylight.
One way of dealing with this disconnect is to emphasize the Cetic Goddess Brigid. A Goddess of healing and poetry, smithcraft and the arts, She is certainly most worthy of honor. I will never forget my encounter with Her. But I find it interesting that none of our other Sabbats are so closely linked to a specific deity. Perhaps She fills in for the lack of fit between Imbolc for the Celts, and for us.
To my mind, ideally our Wheel of the Year will ultimately be harmonized with the Wheel as it turns where we dwell. Here in northern California, the Celtic symbolism for Imbolc, if not quite the specific practice, works. The sour grass and wild mustard is bursting into bloom with their exuberant yellow flowers. But the floral gardens of our spring are yet to appear. Normally rains would be abundant and cold, though not so far in this drought year. Life is stirring, but not a lot.
But up north of the Adirondacks in New York, where I lived for some years, the snow still lies thickly upon the ground. It can fall into May. Still, the deeper symbolism is not totally absent. The light is returning, and the days are noticeably longer. That is why it is symbolically appropriate that Imbolc is celebrated with candles rather than more substantial fires.
Does this fit in Florida?
We have become a world-wide practice. Gardnerian circles, my own tradition, are celebrated in the most unexpected places. And in the broader NeoPagan tradition, we are everywhere.
As Pagans who find the Sacred in the rhythms of life and nature, we have the challenge to honor both what is universal, as symbolized in our Solar Sabbats where, except for hemispheric reversals, the patterns are everywhere, and the more particular rhythms of our own place. To see the universal in the specific. Only in this way can we truly connect with the powers around us rather than living our practice mostly in our heads,
I am curious who among my readers has tried to address this tension between the universal and the specific in their own celebrations, and how they have done so.