This is your official Imbolc post for 2017, right on schedule, just over 9 days late.
I often say to my wife, when making excuses for being behind on things or being confused as to how it is already the date that it is – both of which are nearly daily occurrences, as you might guess – that “time is accelerating.” Obviously, I’m making this fact up, but I have no idea if I’m right or if I really am just blowing smoke. (After all, at least half of being a wizard is making things up and turning out to be correct.) It’s possible, isn’t it? I know I’m not the only one who says it. And there’s also a growing chorus of voices asking the question of if perhaps the whole December 21, 2012 anticlimax wasn’t actually a dud after all – that something fundamental and significant actually has changed, that it’s normal under circumstances of such change for it to come on with subtlety, in ways we can’t recognize right away. Perhaps we’re just beginning to sense some of these changes at the corners of our perception.
Or perhaps this is all just an elaborate concocted scheme to compensate for the real truth, which is simply that the experience of time by mortal creatures is a difficult thing to pin down and wrap oneself around.
So it goes, as the old guy used to say.
What I’m getting at, as you might imagine, is that I can’t believe it’s February 10, and I can’t believe we’ve already passed Imbolc. Maybe you’ve seen my desperate posts in recent days, with references to the coming of spring contrasted with photos and video of cold temps and heavy snowfall.
In making these flippant comments, I’m not just trolling my followers or teasing the local among you with the fact that winter is still in full bloom and the damn groundhog ruled against us – the reference is indeed to this holy day of Imbolc (which was February 1), falling precisely halfway between the winter solstice and spring equinox. Now, if we’re going to put our emphasis, as we so often do, on the solstices and equinoxes, we would rightfully consider Imbolc to mark the precise middle of winter. In a sense, of course, it is exactly that. But the Celts were known to actually emphasize these in-between days over the “major” four. For the purposes of their holy calendar, this marks the first festival of spring.
Which, yeah, that seems crazy when I look out my window and I see all this snow and think to myself that I’m pretty sure the Celts lived mostly in places where it’s still cold as shit in February. (I recognize I could be way off on that – I’m pretty sure I don’t even pronounce “Imbolc” correctly.) But one way to look at it is that even though we can’t see the spring or feel the spring, and it really doesn’t seem like spring in any way, spring is already here with us.
It’s a concept I encounter again and again in both the I Ching and the tarot – in the time before something is settled and manifest, we typically experience a fair amount of chaos, confusion, and uncertainty, but within that chaos somewhere lies, implicit, often disassembled, the order that is to come. In other words, what we’re going to experience as the emergence of spring in a month and a half is already here waiting in line, waiting for winter to die.
Of course, that’s cool as hell to think about, especially if you loathe the winter the same way I do. But it’s also a pretty good reason to panic – again, if you’re anything like me. I’m behind! I might want it to be spring, but I’m not ready for it to be spring! How the eff can we already be halfway gone from the solstice?! It was just here a minute ago. For crying out loud, I have a prepared magical ritual experiment involving mass sigilization that I intended to execute way back at the winter solstice. Here we are at Imbolc and I keep putting it off! We’re past Imbolc now. I’m intransigent.
Sure, I’m being a little hysterical/dramatic there. The nature of the ritual is to set intentions and purpose for the year to come, and whether we’re following the Celtic model or the more typical pagan Monadnock Wizard version of the calendar, the deadline for identifying and preparing our seeds for the year is not until the equinox, and the cutoff for planting is not until Midsummer itself. But it’s always good to do these things as soon as possible, and even acknowledging that we’re halfway to the spring indicates to me that we really have to get our shit in order, as soon as humanly possible.
Doing a Couple Things Right
That’s actually what Imbolc is about in a lot of ways, and I don’t think Saint Brigid really minds – at least at this point, in 2017 – if we take care of these things a little behind schedule. That we do not let them go altogether is really the main thing. It’s about purification, cleansing, getting the house in order. (Side note: stay tuned in the next couple days – I’m going to release a special wizard video demonstrating a practical method by which you, even you, can commemorate and honor Imbolc easily within your own home.)
We actually initiated some pretty hardcore spring cleaning in our house last weekend. This is right in line with the nature and tradition of this holiday, although I can’t honestly say I planned it that way. Mostly, I was just thinking along the lines of, to paraphrase Michael Scott, if you do your spring cleaning during the winter, “you know what you don’t have to do in the spring? Anything.”
In the process of these very early attempts at cleansing, purification, ordering of affairs, and, not least of all, writing this post, I was reminded of something I wrote three months ago around the previous one of these Celt-heavy holidays, Samhain. See, even though we can utilize a conception of the spring/pre-spring preparation for the year that is similarly oriented regardless of which type of calendar we choose to embrace, there are overall some pretty big differences when it comes to the Celtic calendar.
In our typical approach, we go solstice-to-solstice, with equinoxes splitting each period. From winter to summer, it’s the period when light increases. The summer solstice is the peak of the light and the most magical time of all. Then from summer to winter it’s the time when the light decreases. We start off slow at the beginning of the year, crescendo our efforts until Midsummer, then we spend the rest of the year riding out the consequences/harvest bounty from what we did in the first half. And we wind down at the end, the dark time on either side of the winter solstice being restful, almost a time of hibernation. Cool – I mean it works for me, it’s a good framework, and I’ve come to believe that mastering cycles like this is key to maximizing, well, our lives themselves.
With the Celts, we have something totally different. They identify Samhain (Halloween) as the time of the greatest magic, and as the beginning of the “dark half” of the year, which ends at Beltaine (May Day). While the former model essentially splits the period of light and darkness evenly between the two halves, the Celtic model actually splits the darker months from the lighter months. Without the built-in crescendo and decrescendo, both the dark side and the light side end up having their own self-contained arcs and plots. It’s almost as though, instead of one big long annual cycle, there are two separate annual cycles, one for light and one for darkness. And while I am still not sold in terms of switching models, it occurred to me three months ago that there might be a way to cheat the system a little bit, to avoid the period of hibernation between December and March, make a sudden shift to the Celtic model in November and just plow on through the winter, switching back – oh, perhaps around this time. Maybe at the equinox. As I put it at the time:
All year, I orient myself around the harvest cycle, planting in the spring and tending in the summer and harvesting – well, harvesting right now. But if we know the way to do it, there’s a mirror-image cycle we can also utilize to our advantage. That’s what this is all about, right here. I lit those torches in the darkness, placed that bowl of nourishment down so solemnly, out of a totally sincere and humble desire for a productive, pleasant Dark Season filled with joy and conquest. I really need that – perhaps more this year than usual.
The way I was feeling at the time, I was truly in no mood for any months of hibernation. Even before many of the external, worldly events that have since occupied much of my attention, I just had the feeling that I couldn’t afford that kind of rest and dormancy. So I was gonna try to use this mentality shift to bypass it altogether. Without going into all the specific details, which would require me to talk mostly about political subjects that I’ve sworn to keep out of this space as much as possible, let me just say – it worked. I’m not going to say I think it’s a good idea, or that it’s something I will commit to doing every year. The truth is that it’s mid-February and I am very much lacking in rest. That’s something you can only push so far before something snaps (although as someone who kinda hates rest, I will attempt to push it just prior to that point).
But productive, pleasant, filled with joy and conquest? Damn. Check, check, check, and check. No joke. This has been a rippin’ three months, and it’s actually short-changing myself to dismiss these triumphs as existing solely in the political sphere – the quality and quantity and amount of progress experienced in my wizard work (including the content you see posted publicly but also much personal work behind the scenes) has just been both outstanding and unrelenting. So while I can’t give an unqualified recommendation, I am throwing this out there for your consideration.
But all right, you might be wondering what we want to do now. It’s too late for you to recalibrate your winter Celt-style – you’ll have to try that next Halloween if you’re up for it. And maybe you don’t even want to wait for the hilarious ritual instruction video. I get it – and my recommendations to you are not really going to contain any surprises.
- CELEBRATE AND DO RITUALS!! I don’t know how many times I can repeat the fact that we do not celebrate enough and that rituals and traditions can center us and provide structure and meaning that our spirits require. Doesn’t matter what kind of celebration or rituals you do – sure, at a certain level, some are better than others, but the important thing is that they get done.
- Get your shit together! There’s less than six (6) weeks to get caught up ahead of the equinox. Don’t blow that off. Clean up, purify, get your mind right and settled, and charge ahead.
- Take heart, for there’s meaning and life all around us. I was really inspired by the conversation I had with Derek and Johnathan in Episode 3 of the podcast, talking about the meaning of life and if we need to look to the immaterial for our spiritual salvation. Derek talked about prioritizing spiritual health as maintained through disciplined practice, but also through both discovering and creating meaning through a soulful orientation and the actions we take within that orientation. Johnathan expressed a more chaotic, doubtful outlook, suggesting that new experiences and growing knowledge provide meaning and motivation, but that those are mostly material things and also don’t always satisfy, never mind provide salvation. I found myself somewhere in between. For a while, it looked like we would end the conversation like that, Derek on one side, John on the other, and myself in the middle, agreeing with both sides in a lot of ways but unable to choose (which is even more hilarious given the extreme personal revulsion I have towards centrism and moderation of any kind). But then as we kept going, things changed. You’ll have to check out the episode to get the full scoop (it’s worth it, I swear to you), but the point of the story is that Derek totally won, full victory. He got me leaning heavy and then Johnathan just straight-up changed his answer and this settled the whole thing: he said that salvation can be found in the ways that human beings can connect with one another on a higher level, just as we three were doing at that exact moment, and that we can find these points of connection that serve as a form of transcendence, all throughout our lives, in all corners, in all we do. That’s so damn inspiring to me, and I hope it lifts your hearts as well. No matter what goes on out there, the connection, the transcendence – as human beings, that’s ours to claim and that salvation, that meaning is nothing less than our birthright. Life is all around us, and always has the potential to grow, even in the darkest, coldest, snowiest of times.
- My position on the nature of this year remains utterly unchanged 1/8 of the way through 2017. There’s an extremely good chance that this turns out to be an unexpectedly good year for all of us, so long as we put our heads down and do what we – as people, not as employees or subjects or subordinates, but as human beings standing tall and proud in our full spiritual manifestation and potential – are duty-bound to do. Take on the mighty role you’re intended to play and live that out as hard as you can between now and the end of this trip around the sun, and you will be astonished to see how it all plays out.
I may be very wrong. I’ve been wrong before. But I will say that I am finding myself, when I’m being completely honest, to be correct almost more than I even expect to. And I’m putting my predictions out there, you can totally come at me with torches and pitchforks in a few short months if I turn out to be full of shit.
Anyway. Happy Imbolc. Thanks for stopping by. Go do your thing.
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