Sunday, January 31, 2016
Imbolc - Spring Towards Light
Good day and welcome back ... to all of us! You'll notice a new title to this blog, a start to several changes, as I consolidate the past few years of travel. WildWise came to me as I was writing my latest book, The Wild Road Home. It represents a body of information that stems from the wisdom I have gained through decades of retreat and spiritual practice, including ritual with Native medicine people, Buddhist mentors, including Thich Nhat Hanh, and o-so-many wise women, including Starhawk and the Sisters that inhabit my daily world. One's evolution, however, is multi-faceted. Wisdom gleaned could not have been possible without the courage to quest ... my push to leave the security of traditional roles behind and head into the unknown to witness, write and photograph. Whether years of cabin solitude at the edge of wilderness, solo travel to Guatemala Mayan land and a jaguar initiation, or over a decade full time on the road from Alaska to the tip of the Baja, ultimately, it was the wild lands, feral beings and fauna -- including very influential trees -- that delivered me home. It's good to be together again.
Imbolc. Why should you care? The olden holy days, of which Imbolc is one, are relevant because they relate to the natural cycles that live within our bodies. There are eight points on the wheel of the the cyclical calendar, four you probably know: Winter Solstice (December), Summer Solstice (June), Fall Equinox (September) and Spring Equinox (March). The mid-points in between these major days are less known, or known as something different from the original intentions: Imbolc (Groundhog's Day), Beltane (May Day), Lammas (county fairs), Samhain (Halloween). These eight seasonal points were acknowledged around the world for eons. They reflected survival of the human species through seasonal adaptations, fertility of body and field, and spiritual exchange.
Imbolc has everything to do with light, the point when we actually feel sun's heat against our flesh, the largest organ in the body. An old gaelic word, it is derived from i mbolg, "in the belly." Metaphorically, the light returns to our womb, the place where new birth dwells. What germinates within? What creations seep from winter's dark gestation?
The Celts celebrated Imbolc as the Feast Day of Brighid, the goddess of poets, healers, smiths and midwives. A strip of cloth or ribbon was hung on the door or upon a tree to receive Brighid's healing and protective powers. Imbolc was also known as Candlemas. Candles and fires were lit to coax and welcome the sun. Candles were made from bees wax. Bees wax was a source of light as well as a preservative, essential to humans. Thus, the holiness of bees.
My Imbolc rituals include burning my solstice tree. I like the double significance of burning a hearty ever-green symbol - goodbye winter! - and beckoning the sun. I also burn yellow candles. I acknowledge that stronger light hits my retina and changes the brain chemistry, opening pathways to creativity. I drink from a special glass adorned with three-dimensional bees. I take down the colored lights of winter that buoyed my soul through winter's deep darkness.
Punxsutawney Phil may or may not crawl out of his hole and see his shadow. It matters not. I will drum with friends and bid winter's deep dark goodbye. Give thanks; feel the infinite potential of dreams. Hallelujah! Days lengthen, shadows shorten. New bird songs fill the air.
Step into the flow. Bee real.