We’ve come to the middle of New England winter. We’ve come to a cross-quarter time—halfway between solstice and equinox. In the ancient Gaelic calenders, this is the time for the feast of Imbolc or Oimelc. Imbolc meaning ‘in the belly,’ pregnant, ready to give birth; Oimelc translating as ‘ewe’s milk,’ because the milk is beginning to flow, because the sheep are pregnant and ready to give birth. Because spring, we know, is coming.
This is the time of Brigid’s night—Brigid the ancient Irish goddess, exalted one, keeper of the flame, guardian of home and hearth, patron of bards and crafters, three in one, daughter of the Dagda, blood of the Tuatha Dé Danann.
And this is the time of St. Brigid’s Day. Because the people would not give up their goddess, the church brought her into the fold, though the more ancient patterns and meanings remain even to this day. The people celebrated and worshipped, because they knew spring was coming.
This is the time of Candlemas, the Catholic feast of the purification of the virgin, the ritual time for the blessing of the candles for protection from illness. And beneath this blessing, speaking to us from the deeper reaches of human history, lies a recognition that spring is coming.
This is the time for the blooming of the blackthorn and the snowbell. Spring is coming.
This is the time for rituals of purification, for spring cleaning, for bonfires on barren, windswept northern hills, and for four-legged furry friends (badgers and groundhogs) practicing weather divination. Spring is coming.
From time to time we get a glimpse of something else—some other world, some other realm, some other reality. Maybe we don’t see it with our eyes—maybe we feel it, we sense it, we imagine it, we dream it. Maybe it comes to us in our quiet, contemplative moments—our ocean wave moments, our mountain top moments. Maybe it comes to us in our moments of great celebration or exertion when we’ve danced, sung, run, whirrled or stretched our bodies so far beyond their normal positions that somehow we open ourselves up to a world of power and magic, connection and sacredness waiting, always, just beyond our regular lives.
Perhaps this cross-quarter time, drenched in layers of ritual and history, is one such moment when we can pierce the veil and know a greater reality. Perhaps. But even if we can’t pierce it, we can nevertheless pause, lean back, and open ourselves up to the ancestor cry, echoing across the generations: The fires are burning! The ewe’s milk is flowing! The light is returning! The earth is breathing. Spring is coming!
Amen. Blessed be.