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Imbolc or Brigit is fast approaching. My Wicca 101 group will soon learn
about candle consecration as we prepare new quarter candles. This year we’ll do the altar candles as
well, for there isn’t much left of them.
While most of the country is still deep in snow, the days
have grown noticeably longer since the depth of Winter’s darkness. In California the first flowers of the
year are already blooming. Up
here, north of San Francisco it’s mostly not natives. But the ubiquitous wild mustard that has naturalized so
spectacularly out here is already covering fields in yellow. A few eager natives are adding spots of bright orange, just a hint
of what’s to come. But the
wildflower spectaculars of Spring are still many weeks away. That fits Imbolc, but it’s subtle.
Imbolc is one of the less intensely celebrated Sabbats, I
think because it has fewer real world connections in our lives. In most places the coming Spring
Equinox, Ostara, is well suited to its symbolism of the triumph of the sun and
powers of growth and regeneration. Yule, our previous cross-quarter Sabba,
celebrated the Winter Solstice, and the wealth of meaning it carries
symbolically and experientially.
Both are Solar, and the sun ‘s cycles are the same everywhere in this
hemisphere. Beltane to follow is,
well, it’s Beltane.
I think its invisibility may be fitting. The first sprouts of new growth are
invisible to those who do not look carefully, and sometimes even to those who
do. One of its major early meanings,
celebrating ewes beginning to lactate for the new year, is far removed from most of
our experience. Perhaps the slow emergence of the first buds are California’s equivalent, and there are sheep out on hills near the coast. But we rarely see them.
I prefer the name
Brigid (or some alternative spelling- there are many). Brigid is a fire Goddess. She has
also given us Her name, and for this time of year in California, it’s
So far we’ve not had serious flooding, but the past two
weeks have been of almost constant rain.
I had to take some geraniums, succulents, and cactus inside as they
started showing signs of drowning and rotting. This year’s rains would quickly drown any fire that dared show its
face, and back east of the Sierra the snows of winter promise to last for quite
a while yet. Not much sense of
fire there, either.
It seems crazy that a fire Goddess be the alternative name
for Imbolc. But at least for
coastal Caifornia, She might be the perfect patron for what this season
signifies. Looking around at the
rushing streams, moss growing everywhere, and leaden skies, one could scarcely
guess that much of California’s landscape is dominated by fire, by the fact it
burns regularly, and that dousing the burns simply guarantees they will be all
the worse when they come again. As
Fire in California really fits NeoPagan symbolism. Left to its own devices, or employed
carefully as the Indians used to, fire is a force for life and renewal. In its destruction the seeds of future
growth are planted, and here, when it seems farthest away, the growth that will
feed future blazes is stirring.