Imbolc (pronounced IM-bolg or IM-bolk) is Old Irish for “in the belly.” It’s also known as Oimelc, Lady Day, and, in Christianity, Candlemas or St. Brigid’s Day. Traditionally, Imbolc represents the beginning of spring… – https://www.pagangrimoire.com/what-is-imbolc-celebration/
I was raised in the Christian faith but became very disillusioned in my tweens. Part of it was all the “deal making”: do this, get this. It never seemed very spiritual to me. The focus on death also became pretty depressing. While Christians will argue that, actually, it’s about new life from death, “the afterlife” is one of the main things that tested my suspension of disbelief. As a person that doesn’t much like the world as it is, the idea of spending enternity in it… seems a bit shit. It seems to me, if you see the afterlife as more like a field of wheat at sunset, maybe you actually need a change in your life, not your death. Something about the dichotomy of the before and after never sat right with me either.
So, since my tweens, I’ve always felt a little adrift. One of the good things about faith is commonality: it’s something to share with other people. I was in the Cub Scouts, which is very big on God/faith, and St. George’s Day is a special day for them too. I liked being a part of that but as I get older and more cynical I see that faith separates us more than it keeps us together. Also, as I got wiser, I realised just how many existing “British” traditions/festivals had been co-opt by Christianity. As time has passed I’ve looked more closely at those traditions and festivals and I start to take some comfort from them.
Living in a country that invented the Church of England (basically so the King could shag around), not declaring yourself a Christian is almost as bad as saying you’re not interested in football. Plenty of people here identify as Christian but I guarantee they never go to church or mark more than two of their festivals. In the UK, “pagan” is a bad word. Pagans (and the like) are hippies and hippies are lazy. Despite the fact that we, as a nation, do love to knock off early on a Friday to go to the pub, being lazy (or jobless, or worse jobless and alcholic) is also a social crime. But, as I read and learned more about Paganism, some of the details resonated very strongly with me.
The first of those details is that Paganism is about life, not our lives and deaths. The death of any living thing is just part of life and, life goes on. Life is an endless overlapping cycle of birth and death, of which we’re simply a part. We all learn in school that this is a biological fact. Faith just seems to get in the way of this by throwing in arbitrary deadlines for us, despite the fact that, as mentioned above, Christianity is fundamentally focussed on rebirth.
I’ve never been one for arbitrary deadlines. Take New Year’s Eve for example. I hate it. What are we actually celebrating? The start of a new year? A new year based on a calendar that had two extra months added to it for the vanity of two men? Could that be much more arbitrary? It’s another line in the sand to me. This is before, this is after. It’s the most awful arbitray holiday.
The main Pagan holidays are often represented by a wheel. The wheel has eight points but none of these is considered the start. It is a circle after all. As someone raised on the Gregorian calendar, I tend to align the top of the wheel with the start of the calendar, and that annoys me. It defeats the point and I desperately want to shift away from this. Because, you see, all Pagan festivals are linked to the Sun. The main four being Yule (the winter solstice), Litha (the summer solstice), and the two equinox (Ostara and Mabon) in between. It’s funny how the Spring Equinox, Ostara, which happens in late March (Northern Hemisphere obvs), sounds a little like “Easter” and celebrates pretty much exactly the same things…
In between each of these four there are four more festivals: the cross-quarter days. These are also the Gaelic seasonal festivals. Imbolc is one of these and, for me, marks a very special time: the return of the Sun. Eminently noticable on a day like today, with clear skies and no wind. The Sun is in the sky and that just makes you feel great because you’ve got tens of thousands of years of instict telling you “more sun is good”.
And my message to you is as simple as that. I’m not going to say any more about what Imbolc means, I’m not here to proselytize, there is no need. I just want to enjoin you to be grateful for, and enjoy, what is literally all around you. I don’t call myself a Pagan or a Wicaan and you don’t need to either. Mark this wonderful time in your life, it’s much more worthy than New Year’s Eve, after all.