The full moon that marks Imbolc (near February 1) occurs in 2008 on Tuesday, January 22. We have looked at several Imbolc observances on the web and have come away with the impression that all are designed to star the high priest/ess conducting the ritual. It occurs to us, then, that the community needs and deserves a new ritual observance of the holiday.
In England, where Gavin grew up, he remembers this season as the time when the hedgerows wer cleaned and re-layered. When a workman layers, he works along the hedgerow selecting lowest branches, cutting them halfway through on the trunk side of the plant, laying them down, weaving them into other low branches, to strengthen the hedge as a barrier to straying livestock. The worker in this effort who first found a sleeping hedgehog was usually given a prize.
In this nation where hedgehogs were never native, the animal traditional in Europe (Erinaceidae) morphed into the groundhog or woodchuck (Marmota, Sciuridae). Hence the enduring new tradition we still observe, employing the groundhog to predict the probable length of winter.
Most hedges have given way to metal fences, anathema to Native American nations who look upon metal stakes as driven into the Mother’s heart. Further, since most of us currently live in urban environments, we need a new ritual, perhaps designed to interconnect with the spring cleaning of the dwelling place.
In Brittany this is the season when the first big traditional community laundering of winter’s dirty clothing occurred at the old Roman lavaterias. The Breton language enjoys a host of words that look like cognates of Imbolc. All mean research, including one that means research of the spirit (imbroudereah). The verb form is imbroudic. The word family can also refer to researching the imagination. If anyone has an appropriate ritual, we would be grateful to you for sharing with us all.
It is clear from Breton and English practices that the holiday dates back to time immemorial. It is not based on the calendar laid down so arbitrarily by Pope Gregory some time in the 16th century C.E. Indeed, it is more closely related to the calendar dating from the French Revolution, and based on the old Egyptial 30-day month. The short-lived French version featured days named for plants, animals, and agricultural tools.
This week we enjoyed a saying that deserves to be shared around, especially in this year when we’re dreading non-stop political white noise.
Don’t comfort the afflicted. Afflict the comfortable.
In this political year, too, we recall Sam Keen’s words:
Don’t follow the man with all the answers. Pay attention to the man with the questions.
Never sign anything until you’ve asked an Indian.
Trust, but count your change.
Blessed be, and never leave the house without fresh batteries in your BS detector.