Imbolc: The Quickening Time

by Tina Whittle

Most winters, Imbolc dawns sunny and mild here in South Georgia. The forsythia is usually profuse by early February, its buttery blossoms lined up along slender branches, and the blue skies are softer, less crystalline. The first day of spring may still be weeks away, but I can sense it coming at Imbolc. I put my hands on the bark of my trees, and I swear I can feel the sap rising.

snow treeBut not this year. This year, as I ready my supplies for my annual candle making, there is a dusting of snow on my deck, and the forsythia bush is dripping with icicles. The sky is low and heavy and matte gray, and despite the fire blazing in my hearth, my hands are cold. I’ll have to be extra careful with the beeswax this year, making sure to warm my hands well and hold the honeycombed sheets between my palms before I try to roll them into shape. The normally pliant wax will be brittle. It will snap if I am not careful, and slow, and patient.

This will be good practice, I think, for this particular sabbat, this time when the days are longer, but the nights are still black and cold. This is the Sabbat of the seed, of faith, of hope and quickening and fire, especially the hidden spark, the flame that must be kindled and nurtured. This year, it is especially challenging to remember.

As I write, Atlanta is still paralyzed in gridlock, thousands stranded on freeways made impassible by ice or accidents. Photographs of the city show a gray-hazed nightmare of white freeze and abandoned cars. Many people still haven’t made it home – some of them people I know – and the politicians are throwing blame around like muddy, pebble-pocked snowballs. It’s world news – one of my friends, trapped in her car for 12 hours, was interviewed by the BBC – but here, in the southern part of the state, I can only hold the intention for their safety and the safety of everyone, bless that intention and release it into the Universe.

But also on the news, I see people walking down the interstate, passing out homemade hot chocolate and peanut butter sandwiches and blankets. There is a Facebook page devoted to people offering to open their homes to any stranded person, willing to make welcome the stranger. It is one of our most ancient and honorable human traditions, the law of hospitality, and it survives even in the chaos of this urban catastrophe.

Warmth from the cold. Light in the darkness. Shelter from the storm.

These are our gifts to each other this Sabbat, this time of memory and faith. I try to remember these gifts as I hold the beeswax sheet in my hands, as I feel it become pliable, bending and softening for the work ahead.

May Imbolc spark such magick in all of us.

Temple of Witchcraft