09 February 2011

Reflections on Imbolc

It’s been a week and a half since Imbolc and I’ve had the hardest time figuring out what to say about it.  Imbolc has never made much sense to me and I’ve always had a bit of trouble celebrating it.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Celtic Wheel of the Year, Imbolc is the first or second of February and it represents the transition from winter to spring.  Those of you suffering in the snowpocalypse back east are probably laughing your asses off right now at the thought.  Until today I probably would have joined you.

However, today I found a story that actually made Imbolc make sense to me.  I’ve always enjoyed surfing the Internet Sacred Text Archive and I took a break to read some Scottish folklore.  Today I found the book Wonder Tales from Scottish Myth and Legend By Donald Alexander Mackenzie on the Sacred Texts site (hooray for the public domain) and the story “The Coming of Angus and Bride.” 

This story is about the winter Hag, Beira, and the King and Queen of Summer, Angus and Bride.  The story begins in winter with Beira holding Bride prisoner because Beira knows that when Angus and Bride marry it will mean the end of winter and her time of power.  Eventually Angus manages to free Bride from Beira and they marry – Imbolc is the day of their marriage.  When Beira finds out she’s furious and vows to wage war against them, against the coming of the spring.  Beira then sends out her hags to send storms and frosts against the coming of the spring.  This battle between the winter and the spring rages on, dumping snow, killing new early growth, etc., until the spring equinox, called Ostara.  It’s not until Ostara that winter’s power is truly broken and the Beira retreats to hibernation to wait for the next winter.

Now this is an Imbolc story that makes sense to me.  Spring tries to come on Imbolc and it’s the first glimmer of hope that winter will eventually end.  Winter then retaliates with more bleak weather until it blows itself out and gives up a good month and a half later.  So, Imbolc isn’t really the coming of spring, it’s just the hope of spring in the darkness.


  1. "...the hope of spring in the darkness."

    That's why I did a ritual geared towards the alchemical Peacock's Tail on Imbolc. It's the flash of color that shows in the black.

  2. "the hope of spring in the darkness" is exactly how I presented Imbolc at my Seekers meeting last month. It's just the promise that the sun will come back just not quite yet.