Imbolc: Prepping for Spring

(Updated: January 29, 2022)

Imbolc is special at HHH in that I celebrate it solo. It’s the only holiday that we don’t both observe. It’s also one of the two holidays we celebrate that don’t honor the solstices or equinoxes. 

We celebrate Imbolc, Ostara (Spring equinox), Midsummer (Summer solstice), Mabon (Fall equinox), Samhain, and Yule (Winter solstice). If you’re thinking why 6 and not 8 holidays, we omit Beltane and Lammas. We celebrate the seasons by observing the Solstices and Equinoxes, and honor our ancestors by observing Samhain.

Why Solo?

Rimakej is the more spiritual of the two of us. She is highly attuned to the sun and it’s movements, marking the changing day lengths of solstices and equinoxes. These days are traditionally midpoints in the seasons. They mark the time when each season is at it’s peak.

Picture of a stone statue of a mother sheep and her lamb laying snuggled together in a bed of grass with rays of sunshine shining upon them through the canopies of the trees in the background. Photo by Rimakej Valentini.
Spring is Coming photo by Rimakej Valentini.

I am more practical and align with the moon and the changing points between seasons, both of which affect how I plan for foraging or growing our food. Since Imbolc is the midpoint between Yule and Ostara, it marks the actual transition of the season of winter into the season of spring.

What Imbolc Is for Me

Imbolc marks the beginning of the gardening season, and the end of my season of rest. Winter is wrapping up and it’s time to gear up for the coming spring chaos. Now is the time to walk the grounds and scout the areas I want to plant, jotting down what needs to be done. It is time to check for damage on, repair, and sharpen tools.

Picture of a rusted metal sickle with a short wooden handle laying on the carpet next to a bottle of rubbing alcohol and Q-tip.
Cleaning off the rust of an old sickle we got from the Totnes Market during our 2020-2021 stay with Rimakej’s parents in the UK. Had been looking for a good one for years. Took visiting England to find it apparently.

Imbolc is when I conduct my annual seed inventory and revise my garden plans after reviewing my season notes. I also start long season frost-sensitive transplants like tomatoes. 

When Is Imbolc

Traditionally (in the northern hemisphere) Imbolc is observed on February 1st and can vary from an overnight to an entire week of observance. Other observers celebrate on February 2nd, and others do so at the first signs of spring in their local area. 

Since our spring tends to start rather close to the beginning of February, I observe it as the midpoint between Yule and Ostara, which usually falls somewhere around February 3rd.  

My Traditions

Imbolc for me is less of a spiritual observance and more of a practical one. So, I’m fairly flexible in my celebrations. Rimakej normally guides our other holiday traditions as she’s been observing them longer than me. But since she doesn’t celebrate with me, I haven’t really formed a ritual for this holiday yet. Besides, it seems every Imbolc has something new in store for me. 

In previous years I’ve prepped garden beds, laid out seeds to bask in the moonlight, begun transplants for an early start on the season, or even planted directly out in the gardens.

Adapting Change

We were in England for Imbolc 2021. But, not long enough to see fruit from the crops I would have normally been planting. And in my father-in-law’s tiny garden, space was at a premium. There was simply no room to plant things that we would have used during the remainder of our stay.

Instead of planting that year, Imbolc was a time of foraging and discovery. A chance to gaze in wonder at the abundance as the land began to flush out with fragrant flowers and new growth. And of course, at the reemergence of maligned but delicious “weeds” of some amazing medicinal plants, such as chickweed, cleavers, and dandelion.

Small patch of cleavers sprouting out from under the leaf litter, with their bright green stalks supporting small leaves forming repeating star-shaped circles around the stem, rising above the other wild plants growing among them.
Patch of wild cleavers sprouting up along the pathway by my in-laws home.

This year is another Imbolc where I will not be living in the same place shortly after it. There is no reason to begin garden work for a spring we won’t be here for. There is also very little to safely forage in such an urban area. My celebrations will be different yet again. Since Imbolc represents the dawning of spring: growth, life and light returning to the land, my celebrations this year will center on returning light to my soul. It’s no secret that I did not have a supportive childhood. I have quietly spent much of the time since we left our previous homestead doing shadow work and the deep healing that I have needed.

Recently we’ve been hinting at a big change coming up, and we’re finally ready to start gearing up for it. This change is a step toward building the life we want, including supportive community, celebrating our differences and building our own happiness. So Imbolc this year will be focused on cultivating Joy and returning that happiness to my life.

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