Imbolc / Candlemas

+ The Quickening +


“This is the moment when we reach the end of our resources, the last potato eaten, the last log burnt. the winter fat has melted off our bodies; we are honed as thin as wine, as the crescent moon. the weather is unsettled, light blooms and rain soaks. We steal the sword but don’t know where to put them. the tents are flapping in the wind, it is time to move camp. the one who loves home is a danger to us now, holding us back from the unexplored paths.”

– From The Feminine of History is Mystery, facing page 116


The sun arrives at the moon’s standstill. Days are shorter than nights, days grow longer rapidly.


The gates open between the worlds. This is the “quickening” of the year, the time when a change happens in the spirit world. We celebrate the time of new ideas and inspiration. The name “Imbolc” comes from words meaning “Ewe’s milk” because this is the time when the ewes begin lactating in preparation for giving birth. It’s also known as the “Quickening” of the year, when the seeds wake up under the frozen ground and begin to get ready for spring. The Christian celebration of the Purification of the Virgin, a Jewish ritual that takes place 40 days after the birth, is on February 2, which is 40 days after Christmas. “Candlemas” refers to the church blessing of the yearly supply of candles. This is a typical example of a new religion taking over the holidays of an old one. Originally, this was the feast day of the goddess Bride, a Celtic goddess of poetry, fire, and healing. There are other Celtic traditions in which an animal comes up from the ground to foretell spring. I also suspect that the groundhog’s shadow may be an ancient remembering of telling the season by the shadow of a post or standing stone.

Imbolc, known at Neskaya as “Ground-Candle-Bolc”, is the most eclectic of our holidays, which probably reflects the Aquarian energy of this time, and a lot of input from Synchronicity. A friend brought me some armadillo candles, bought in the Dollar Store, saying “you MUST have armadillo candles for Imbolc.” Someone else said they thought the dance “Hex” was perfect for Imbolc. A person with a birthday August 1 asked about the meaning of Lammas. In trying to explain, I found myself talking about how the plant set the seed, how the dough is baked into bread, how the pot is fired and the malleable clay becomes hard as rock. That’s a kind of change in the material world. So I thought about Imbolc, when Spirit and matter are separate, what kind of change in the Spirit world would continue the circle? It occurred to me that this change is inspiration, a new idea to be given material form at Beltane, and then to become fixed, or crystallized, or solid at Lammas. At Samhain, the material form is broken to free the Spirit once again for new creativity. The fire festivals for me became the stages of creativity. Thinking about the dance “Hex” created by June Watts to a song by Mari Boine, I saw it as first breaking through a hard crust, then clearing away obstacles, listening to the deeply buried new potential, and clearing the way for its emergence. Perfect! And the armadillo, the “Little Armored One”? I saw that armor was created by a being that failed to let go at Samhain, and developed a hard crust which must be broken with force, to free the trapped spirit.


LULLA LOEL – for the crystalline frost

KITKA – for winter’s beauty

HEX – a dance for breaking through, clearing away obstacles, and listening for the new potential that has been hidden

CANTUS ITERATUS – This dance represents Aquarius: it has two parts – a stately dignified part for the Saturn rulership, and an ecstatic part for the Uranean rulership

FREEDOM ROAD – also for Aquarius

BRIGHT FIRE – we do the traditional dance “Sweet Girl” to music by a celtic group. “Bright Fire” is for Brigid, whose holiday this is.

SHAMAN’S DANCE – for the thinning of the veil between the worlds Bells of Norwich – for the daffodil that tells us “All shall be well.”