From the Solstice to Imbolc

From the Solstice to Imbolc

I confess that I have always found January to be the hardest month of the year. Named after the God Janus there is a real sense of things not quite beginning yet, with the God’s faces seeing both back to the old year, and forward into the new. The festivities of Yule and the New Year are past, the decorations now back in their boxes for another 11 months, yet the light is not visibly growing just yet – by the end of January, yes, but right now the nights are still falling before 5pm. It’s a strange time of limbo, and one I’ve never particularly enjoyed. But… Last year I said that I would try to embrace all aspects of the year, and that is what I’ve been trying to do. Admittedly there have been some days when all I could come up with as I walked Oscar along the Adur river in ice-cold winds, greyness and damp air was, “well, it’s nice and quiet”. But on the whole I’ve been doing much better.

So what of the time between the Winter Solstice and Imbolc? January, that lies in between, like the dark lines between tracks on an old LP record. What do you show me? It is true. It is quiet, and that is a blessing. As I walk through the countryside the trees are sleeping, some of the plants a sending out fresh green but most rest beneath the earth, not fooled by the occasional temperate air above. The air, when it’s not bitter cold and windy, has a joyful crispness and freshness to it – the earth not always muddy, and sometimes hard with ice. As I look across the fields they are open and bare. But instead of the silence between the songs on a record they are more like the emptiness of a blank page of paper. The paper is there, empty and waiting, and what could be written there? A song, a poem, a letter of love, the first words of a tale. The field lies empty and waiting, just like that page, empty, yet full of potential.

Our Grove marked the Solstice this year by splitting up and taking torches to the peaks of seven of the hill forts in Sussex. There at 7pm on the night of the Solstice, in the darkness of the longest night, we all lit our torches and held them to the sky, symbolising the Sun reborn, creating a pattern of light across the land. The seven hills we stood upon form a rough pentagram  with one in the centre, and an eastern outlier. I was at the central hill with a few others, and we saw 6 of the other torches lit upon those other hills. It was a magical night, and maybe we had a peep into how those who lived upon the hills 2000 years ago would communicate between each other with their beacon fires.

So with the Solstice marked January arrived. There is a tangible feeling of both peace, and tension, as the buds of Spring wait for the warmer air and longer days. Yet if the plants sleep, the spirits of the Otherworld certainly do not. I know of their love of Beltane, but it seems to me they are very much present at this time. Maybe, just as the red breast of the Robin is here all year, yet is more easily seen in the greyness of Winter, so the Fair Folk are also more visible, in their cloaks of green. Maybe when the fresh green of Spring arrives they blend more easily with the leaves of the greenwood. Yet now they stand between leaf-bare branches, their music playing upon the chill winds, and their feet dancing upon the wild earth.

And I listen.

There is beauty in Winter after all.

11 responses to “From the Solstice to Imbolc”

  1. Hay Dave,

    The silence in winter reminds me always of the transformation of the
    Goddess, first before the solstice from crone to monther and after, now,
    from mother to maiden. Nature is holding her breath while this
    mystery is happening.
    Winter to me is a blessing!

  2. I used to really hate winter with it’s grey, leafless trees. But then my friend the Apple tree showed me how lovely trees truly are in winter. Instead of cold, brittle branches, I learned to see dancers raising their arms to the sky. I saw the true beauty of trees with new eyes. It was a profound awakening for me. Plus, I like to count the hawks I see hiding in the branches. Never mind all the beautiful sleep. And stars? Oh my. How beautiful the winter sky is. If I was there with you, I’d go on a winter walk and show you the true beauty that is winter. Oh, and vitamin D will help you with the SAD.

  3. So beautifully written and so true. I wish, I wish, I wish, I could be in England and go to your Druid gatherings. I can only imagine the torches burning on the seven hilltops signalling the promise of light. Wendy

  4. Inspiring thank you. Awen to the beauty of Winter. As I disrobe the decorations on my Yule log all is quiet, my senses still cling to the magic in the air. This season seems to show us how to go deep into Mother Earth. I feel there is a reason winter is quite different to the other three seasons, they seem to ebb and flow without the dramatic deepness of Winter.

  5. It definitely is a challenging time, I find myself wishing for the spring and the warmer days to come… however… I do love bare trees against a winter sky, the sunrises that I get to see on my way to work, the crisp frosty days at the weekends when I can walk my dog, and the smell of woodsmoke coming from the boats as I walk along the canal. All of these things make up for the grey damp days in between (just about! )

  6. I read somewhere that the 12th night was a time that new warriors were armed and named. When you think of it this would make sense as the season from Samhain would have been the ideal time for practicing battle skills. In the depth of winter there would unlikely be raids till things warmed up and travelling became easier, you’d need defence as all winter stock gets low and raids more likely, especially in poor harvest years. Maybe fight training was part of the mid-winter entertainment to see who was the champion of the tribe, wagers may even have been laid. All in all it would unite the tribe with bonding and comfort the tribe that their warriors were up to form and perfect for protecting them. Comforting when you know hungry wolves will soon be at your door. So whether this naming/arming time was a part I believe mid-winter would have been busy with preparations of defence amid the feasting and not as quite and idle as one would imagine.

  7. Thank you for your well timed Blog it resonated with me as I have just entered the Final Year of my Seventies, I am in the second half of my Ovate course which involves much thought and concentration and therefore the feeling of continuation and progress -even if slow – which you write about is both encouraging and fortifying .Happy New Year

  8. At the end of December the snow drop spears are some way above ground with dots of white at their tip. The Mistletoe is full of its abundant green and golden glory and the Holly, the Ivy and all the evergreens are bright and shiny, full of light. And if you listen very carefully, Brighid’s soft footfall can be heard approaching.

  9. For me this year I am excited as my path takes a new turn, Life is throwing challenges once again and it is a rocky start to the year but I see spring beginning in buds and shoots and I look forward to Imbolc and the chance to strengthen the fresh starts. If snow falls between then and now the beauty will be totally changed, different but equally lovely and a reminder also of difficulties being overcome.

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