“Imbolc is coming.”
I’ve been saying this pretty often to myself, really since just after Samhain of last year. The time of springs is coming, the time of new light. The thaws, the re-awakening of the earth, the re-awakening of the soul.
It’s strange to think about winter and what winter is in light of what winter has become, now in the time of our warming earth. A man I talked to here in Luxembourg told me how winter was once all snow, how as a child he’d play in for weeks, eagerly waking to learn school was canceled or postponed because of the white stuff falling past his window.
It’s true, it appears. It used to snow much of the winter here in the Ardennes, but it doesn’t any longer. It’s snowed once this winter so far, and that was a mere light dusting. Others have told me the same; the winters of their youths (in some cases only 20 years ago, some longer) were cold and snow-filled. Winter now is just a long chill broken by multiple days of temperate weather, fooling many of the trees to begin their spring budding in early January.
Luxembourg’s not different from the rest of the north. The general warming “trend” affects most of Europe and will continue to do so, though some places (like Britain, Ireland, and Iceland) may eventually get even colder winters as the Gulf Stream (which brings warm water/air up from the Carribean) slows.
So what “winter” is has changed and will continue to change. And what Imbolc is, and what it means, might also change for many.
But not for me.
“Imbolc is coming,” I’ve told myself repeatedly, because I need Imbolc to come.
I think it’s been almost 7 years ago, I had a pretty hard winter. It wasn’t particularly colder than others, though the rains in Seattle that year were really intense, more like squalls or Nor’easters than the usual long, steady drip of water from a very close sky. It wasn’t the rain or cold though, but my heart, broken and confused and scared by the ending of a relationship and the sudden seizure of sorrow and fear that came with that end. December and January of that winter were one long, steady, deep sadness, days I could barely leave the house to go to work, days of work where I barely could imagine leaving after to return to an empty home.
And suddenly it was Imbolc, and life returned.
Back then, I hadn’t really talked to gods, maintained much of an altar, or even given much attention to the days or the moons. That day, though, I did, and I lit a candle to a Brigid I wasn’t certain existed, and cried, and said some things that ended up becoming prayers that also became oaths, and everything changed.
This winter’s been even harder than that other one. December and January, just as the other, and the ending of a relationship, just as that other. But this is one I chose to end, needed to end, needed to flee. And the land below me is different, the languages around me different. Everything is different, just as winter has become different; yet everything is also the same, because winter is still the same, and so is Imbolc.
“Imbolc is coming,” I keep telling myself, and the closer to Imbolc I say it, the less frantic, the less pained, the words sound in my ears. The day I began saying this, I walking through the darkness of an early rainy morning to a bus station, hauling on my back everything I could fit into my rucksack. I was crying, I was scared, but my feet and my back knew the way my heart wasn’t yet fully certain of.
“Imbolc is coming,” I said when I arrived to what’s now my home until I find something else, lighting candles and incense and holding myself in the room where I’m staying, barely leaving it those first few days for fear and sorrow.
“Imbolc is coming,” I whispered to myself, forcing myself finally to leave, to tread with leaden steps the paths through the ancient gorge gouged through the heart of this city, following streams and wind-carried leaves and the cries of ravens.
“Imbolc is coming,” I said, a little more certain, peeling off my sweat-soaked clothes in the locker room of a gym here, my muscles tired and burning.
“Imbolc is coming,” I smiled, watching my nephews jump and run on the stones of an ancient cathedral in Belgium, their joy contagious.
“Imbolc is coming,” I laughed, convincing myself to accept an invite from a dear friend to his villa in Burgundy, telling myself all my timidity and fear would transform later into something powerful.
“Imbolc is coming,” I am writing now, because it’s true and certain, and that’s where everything begins again.
That first Imbolc changed the very direction of my soul. I suspect this next one may do the same. I’ve gotten turned around somehow, a little lost, a little confused. I’m where I was going, here in Europe, here with my words and magic and gods. But I don’t remember where I was going after that, once I got here. Like a traveler visiting a friend, arriving at the station of the city they inhabit, the longest part of the journey complete. But there’s some walking to do from here to there, transit to negotiate, a specific address to find.
That’s what Imbolc’s always been good for. Under the earth roots have been sleeping, seeds waiting. They’re were they’re supposed to be, have done what was needed. But there’s always something next, another destination, another role. From the ground they’ll soon begin to waken, stretch out their tendrils and shoots like we stretch our bodies after slumber, reaching towards the light.
Imbolc is coming.
Despite a hard winter, I find I’ve finally been able to write a lot more and will continue to do so. Here’s a few recent pieces (some of them supporter only) that you may not have seen:
STARTING FROM THE END, 6: The Last City. This is a public essay in my otherwise supporter-only series, “Starting From The End.” That series is where I do my most intimate writing, and also write a lot more about magic, gods, and the other more esoteric things that are my preferred subjects. This one was inspired by a day visiting a ruined castle in the north of Luxembourg while watching hundreds of ravens fly from tree to tree to tree.
STARTING FROM THE END, 7: The Source (Supporter-Only) I was at a druid friend’s villa for five days last week attending a spiritual retreat. I spent much of the time crying by an ancient fountain, and this essay was inspired by those tears.
THE PROVISIONER, Chapter 9: The Provisioner is an erotic fantasy novella-in-progress. I post the chapters here as I write (and briefly edit) them. Each new chapter is supporter-only for several weeks before being made public, so though you’ll need a supporter password to read the latest chapter, all previous chapters are public and available at this link. Once it’s all finished, it’ll be published as a serial novella, though I’m not sure where yet.
In order to get access to my supporter-only writing, you’ll need a password which is available by becoming a Patreon supporter. It’s pretty simple–you can support me at any amount per month, and Patreon charges you that amount monthly. To join the many really amazing people who’ve supported my work over the years, see this link.
In addition to this writing, I’m also instructing the course based off my book All That Is Sacred Is Profaned again. It starts the day after Imbolc (2 February) and lasts for five weeks. For this installment, I’ve waived my instructor fees and enrollment is 100% pay-what-you-can (including $0, if that’s all you can). All enrollment fees collected go directly to Gods&Radicals Press to help pay our writers. To enroll, see this link.