Imbolc altar - simple and focused on the flame.
Imbolc altar – simple and focused on the flame.

February 1st, or 2nd depending on tradition, is the pagan celebration of Imbolc, which marks the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Groundhog day shares its origins with Imbolc – there are six more weeks before the start of spring, so using a cranky groundhog who just wants to go back to sleep for a while and runs away from his shadow is a predictable encounter. This article has a nice explanation for the origins.

Imbolc is a holiday that always slips by me. It’s quiet, subtle, and yet maybe I have missed that it’s one of the most effective. Imbolc turns up the heat inside towards spring. It banks the coals of a fire used to start the bonfire for Beltane in May. It holds all the memories of our hard winter, it pours all our intentions and desperation of surviving the cold dark nights into a solitary fire that needs our attention and care.

Imbolc is a time of quiet doing. It’s time to add tinder and fuel to the spark, to the coal that is hot to the touch but not giving off much heat yet. Those ideas, those projects thought about or hidden away in a drawer – now is the right time to nudge them, to develop those ideas, to build on the dreams and plans that lie within. They must be tended carefully so as not to smother it. Between now and Ostara, the spring equinox, concentrate on creating the fire that will not go out with a brisk wind. Protect dreams and hold intentions close. Move the fire if need be, if it started out in the wrong place, or if it’s too exposed. Now is the time to make adjustments, to experiment with how a direction feels – is it right? Building heart fires authentically, on solid foundations, and protect them from outside influences. Whatever the goals are, now is the time to get them right, without letting others dictate how to build the fire. Guard its small flames close. Burn within, and let it build.

I’ve had many around me commenting on the rush towards spring, escaping from the winter doldrums, calling forth the energy from the fire into leaping flames. Not yet, for me at least, my friends. The wheel of the year asks our patience a bit longer. Stay with the hearth and keep the fire burning. Tend to the home and loved ones. Don’t be so quick to escape into the cold, for winter’s grip still lingers.

Well, according to the wheel of the year, anyway. The groundhog’s kinda sketchy.

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