I love February, primarily because it is my birthday month, though I chafe about how it got short-changed in days. But given that it is often the coldest, most bone-chilling stretch of the year in the northern hemisphere, I do not mind cutting it short and rolling into March.
Throughout the ancient world, the month of February was rich with tradition. Its name is derived from Februalia, which was the period set aside in ancient Rome for purification rituals. From that tradition, we have the celebration of the Purification of Mary, which came forty days after the Nativity in accordance with Mosaic Law, and the blessing of fire — Candlemas — on Feb. 2.
Those sacred celebrations happily coincide with Imbolc, which marks the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox. For many in the pagan tradition, Imbolc marks the first day of spring.
It is striking how two disparate ancient cultures, Greek and Celtic, both correlated the sun and poetry (a decidedly right-brain process) with the creative process. At Imbolc, the crone gives way to the maiden in anticipation of giving birth, and young Apollo, god of the lyre, poetry, and intellect, rides his chariot in increasingly higher arcs across the firmament.
In the Celtic tradition, the goddess Brighid, who morphed into Ireland’s Saint Brigid, is prominent at Imbolc, which is known as Saint Brigid’s Day. As with Apollo, she is the deity of poetry. She is also the goddess of smithcraft and healing, making her a goddess of creativity and energy restoration. And like Apollo, she is a solar deity.
On Mother Earth, little or nothing appears to be happening in terms of new life. But beneath her skin, roots are awakening, getting ready to grow and spread hair-like tentacles. Crocuses and tulips are awakening from hibernation. For those into gardening, this is the time for planting seeds in hothouses or solaria to incubate and then sprout as seedlings and mature sufficiently in anticipation for their opportunity to bloom in the natural world.
Seeing that aspect of the natural cycle as a metaphor, February is the perfect time to reflect or meditate on what is happening underground in these northern climes and relate it to your ideas. Imbolc is an ideal time for imagining, a time to shake free of winter doldrums. Idea seeds lying dormant in your subconscious await to be brought into consciousness, into the visible, vibrant world.
Those idea seeds might be floating as inclinations, urges and gut feelings or may be moving past what you have said or thought you always wanted to do but for one reason or another delayed or postponed acting on. Perhaps you might want to use this time to begin planning a trip, painting a canvas, or writing. Or planting a garden, literally or metaphorically. Imbolc is a perfect time to allow those nascent ideas to germinate so they can then grow and manifest themselves.
When one ventures past planning a trip to actually making the journey, occasional forays on side trips of some sort are requisite. They provide an opportunity for individuals to take a time-out, separate themselves from their tribe and setting, and be alone with themselves.
I recall two friends who trekked in two different ways. One set out with a plan that did not unfold as intended. Instead, it became a grand adventure into self-learning. Consequently, he returned with a deeper understanding and insight into himself and a clearer perspective about what to write about next. The other friend was quite sure about her reason for leaving. She simply felt the need to go. It took her out of her comfort zone, which is always a grand place to be, for that is where true learning and adventure takes place. The beauty is that both listened to and honored their inner selves. That is the spirit of Imbolc.
So do not dawdle until you see literal blossoms and green grass appearing. As the stock line goes, “Life is what happens when you’re planning.” Your task at Imbolc is to start on the underground, preparatory back work of future creations to ensure that when your project becomes truly visible to the world around you, it will appear with radiant and luscious beauty.
Jerry Fabyanic is the author of “Sisyphus Wins” and “Food for Thought: Essays on Mind and Spirit.” He lives in Georgetown.