Today is Imbolg.
This year we celebrated with storytelling round a firepit outside. Imbolg marks a transition from winter towards spring, and is part of the observation of the revival of the world following the winter solstice.
I don’t think that anyone knows how Imbolg (or Imbolc) was celebrated in centuries past, but it is associated with St Brigid, who still carries many associations that pre-date her Christian persona.
Last night on St Brigid’s Eve I made a St Brigid’s Cross. It didn’t go brilliantly, but I did my best and I got something vaguely resembling what I was aiming for. I used rushes that my Dad had collected from Ireland a fair while ago, so they were quite old and needed soaking, but it felt kind of right & proper.
At this time we also see an association with the Cailleach – a hag character from folklore.
Unlike mythical wise women or witches, the Cailleach is a figure that we can access only through folk stories, meaning that she is more elusive and subject to the changing attitudes of the years than a figure like the Morrigan for instance, who is (only vaguely) more established from the medieval records of Irish myth. That’s not to say that the myths are any more authentic – they were written down by Christian scribes, albeit ones who had a clear love for their native stories and beliefs – or that the folktales don’t reveal glimpses of stories and characters that are potentially as old as those we see in the myths.
Anyway, the Cailleach is a blue-skinned, red-toothed creature, bitter and cruel, who shapes the landscape, lives atop a nearby high peak, and usually brings terrible weather with her. In her most famous story, she holds hostage the Spring, in the form of Brigid, who must escape in order for the natural cycle to continue.
So I told a story about the Cailleach (which I hope doesn’t give Erin nightmares) and a girl called Spring with tattoos that come alive and help her on her adventures. And Erin told a story about a boy who had a nightmare about monsters.
May the coming Spring bring you all a little more hope and peace.
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