‘It will be ten degrees below freezing,’ they said on the news this morning. ‘For the first time since it was devised, the government is calling this a Level 3 alert.’ Looking out of the window I saw the sun rising over the frosty meadow, a peach of a morning.
There didn’t seem to be anything in between the end of autumn and the beginning of spring. It happened sometime over Solstice and Christmas, a brief token winter put on for the occasion. As the days began to lengthen, so it warmed and in the last couple of weeks squirrels and hedgehogs have come out of hibernation saying they’d had bit of a bad night when they couldn’t get to sleep properly, so they thought they might as well get up. Where are they now, poor darlings?
Unaware that the seasons have changed their order, the snowdrops and primroses have come out, hazels have their catkins and the great tit is proclaiming spring throughout the woods. Equally unaware is Brigit, the Goddess of the Returning Light, who arrived this morning in that dazzle of sun and winced when her bare, dancing feet landed on the frozen ground.
Like it or not, O Weather, by the clock of the cosmos and the beams of light falling through the doors of neolithic long barrows, today is Imbolc and the beginning of spring.
It was a very potent time in the ancient calendar of the first farmers, the time to begin sowing, at least of the hardier plants like beans and peas. Because I’m doing my veg biodynamically this year, I sowed mine last week, but then in ancient times, this festival of light would have probably been held last week, because then they followed the lunar calendar and not a set of dates thought up by the Romans. That’s when everything began to get mechanical, when we gave days numbers. We stopped looking at heaven to know where we are and started looking at almanacs.
The festival was so potent that it was adopted by the Christians as St Brigit’s day. For Brigit and Bride, see The Wheel of the Year for an excellent article on ‘The Exalted One’ (woman of wisdom… goddess whom poets adored). Soon it becomes evident that with Brigit we are touching the pulse of our earliest ancestors.
In the article it says some scholars think her name originates in the Sanskrit word brihati, ‘an epithet for the divine’. Here is the definition of brihati from Monier Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary: lofty, high, tall, great, large, wide, vast, abundant, compact, solid, massy, strong, mighty. (What’s that if not a perfect description of Earth? But there’s more…); extended or bright (as a luminous body).
Go back to the age before any European language, back to earliest times when we were closer to our source, both human and divine, and there was a word that became the name for the Goddess of the Returning Light. Her name lingers still in our English word, bright. Doesn’t that make you goose-bumpy? It does me.
Happy Imbolc and may all your sowings bear glorious fruit.