Congratulations, Tacoma! There is light at the end of the tunnel. Feb. 2 marks the traditional point at which the first inklings of the coming spring can begin to be glimpsed. That which had gone dormant through the prolonged darkness of winter now begins to stir. Hibernating animals begin drowsily to rouse themselves from their slumbers. Around here, you might notice the first bulbs beginning to poke their green noses up through the ground. In the northern hemisphere, this mid-point of winter has gone by a variety of names, but it is always associated with slogging off the heaviness of old winter and with purification and turning toward new things to come.
The ancients knew this time of the reawakening earth as a time for the birthing of lambs and a time for the first plantings of early crops. The pagans amongst us still call the day by the name Imbolc (pronounced im-bowlk), a Gaelic word meaning “in the belly” in reference to the things about to emerge into new life. The Celtic peoples celebrated the earth goddess Brigid at this time. (She was so close to the hearts of the common folk that the Church simply made her a saint. Saint Brigid’s feast day is Feb. 1. She is the saint of Ireland, dairymaids, cattle, midwives and newborn babies.)
The Church’s observation of midwinter is called Candlemas and commemorates both the presentation of the infant Jesus at the temple and the purification of Mary, after she had given birth. (Do you see some common themes developing: birth and purification?) Incidentally, there are places in which Candlemas is the date on which to take down your Christmas decorations, so to all of you who still have the Christmas lights up, you can do so in good conscience all the way until Feb. 2.
A carryover of pagan times is the tradition that early February is good for divining coming weather conditions via the activities of certain animals. This has been secularized and cartoonized into Groundhog’s Day, little more now than an object of curiosity and humor.
In our neck of the woods, there is not much planned for the acknowledgement of the reaching of this midwinter mark, even though we may feel it in our bones. There is a virtual Groundhog Day Run that you can sign up for. You run 2.2 miles on Feb. 2 (2-2) and in return you get a nifty finisher’s medal in the mail. (visit www.eventbrite.com/e/groundhog-day-22-mile-tacoma-tickets-41409889093 for information on that one.)
Leave it to the neopagans hereabouts to make acknowledgement of the turning of the seasons.
Crescent Moon Gifts, at 2502 6th Ave., Tacoma, will host a public Imbolc ritual on Saturday, Feb. 3 at 6 p.m. (See triplegoddesscoven.com for more.) Mystic Sanctuary, at 8415 Steilacoom Blvd. S.W., Lakewood, will host an Imbolc ritual, potluck and musical gathering on Sunday Feb. 4 from 3-6 p.m. (See www.mysticshoppe.com.)
Online, there is no dearth of ideas on how you might observe Imbolc in the privacy of your own home. The simplest involve the lighting of candles and performing acts of bathing and purification to put away the cares of the winter and to look forward to the return of warmth and light into the world. You can light candles and place them in the window to celebrate the increase of daylight. You can wash yourself and imagine cleaning away the cold of the winter and bringing on the warmth of spring. Take a little time at the beginning of February to notice the signs of the reawakening world and take cheer that you’ve made it through the worst part of winter.
(See “Moon” story on this page for a related event at Crescent Moon Gifts: the Full Moon making of Brigid’s Cross.)