Monday, February 1, 2010


Today happens to be Imbolc, one of four primary festivals in the ancient Celtic Calendar, the remainder being Samhain (November 1st), Beltane (May 1st) and Lughnasadh (August 1st). The Vernal and Autmnal Equinoxes and Winter and Summer Solstices are the four secondary festivals of the same calendar.

Imbolc traditionally marks the beginning of the lambing season, the 'awakening' of Spring beneath the snow and frozen earth and is a feast to honour the Celtic Goddess Brigid, whom the Christians canonized into sainthood since they could not prevent the worship of her. As is custom on this day, candles are lit to signify the warming of the earth again towards Spring and, eventually, Summer Solstice.

Now, I'm not Wiccan myself, but being Irish, I love the traditions and customs celebrated within the older, pre-Christian Celtic Calendar. I also love aspects of Buddhism. I admit to liking a coupla things about Christianity (but maybe only a couple). I like a mish-mash of festivities: a global calendar hangs on my wall because I love to discover what holidays are being celebrated worldwide and why and, if they're fun and they make sense to me (not that the latter is all that much a pre-requisite), I celebrate right along with that part of the globle.

Mostly, were I to attempt to categorize any kind of 'belief' system of mine at all (and I'm loathe to do so), I would say I guess I am: a humanist; a feminist; a spiritualist. Definitely on the pagan end of the scale and as far away as you can get from the orthodox-religious end. The original meaning of the term 'pagan' was not derogatory in any way, but referred to a person dwelling outside of the city limits who knew his/her plants (the rural peoples more often maintained knowledge of folklore and which herbs were good for what ailment). For me, if there is a God(s)/Goddess(es) or some kind of 'Creator Being', I see the proof of something greater for the most part within Nature, the natural world, the patterns of the universe, the stars, the sky. All that stuff fascinates me to no end.

And for me, the Celtic Pagan calendar is something I really connect with: the celebrations were tied to the harvest and crops and growing food and the Earth and soil and rain and the seasons. All of this speaks to my Celtic soul.

So, tonight I light a candle. I peek in at my own little lamb in his crib sleeping. I am thankful to whatever Power(s) brought him to me or made me capable of creating him. The flame dances shadows all over the wall and I feel truly at peace. Spring is stirring in her sleep and she is just about to roll over, to turn down the sheets, flip back her duvet and place her feet on the floor and stand. But right now, her eyes are still heavy with slumbering, though she is definitely beginning to stir herself.

And the Earth is stretching and yawning and blinking eyes right along with her. Tomorrow is Groundhog Day which will hail the approach of the end of Winter.

I cannot believe it is February already. January has flown by! This year will not be slow by any means, I'm thinking. I best grab hold of my son and hang on tight for the ride ahead.

Nice to start this next journey by candlelight...


JeffScape said...


While I remain wholly agnostic, I appreciate the pluralistic approach to life. I mean, why not?

"Can't we all just get along?"

Oh, wait... no... no, we can't. Politics and religion!

the b in subtle said...

HA! so true. i think it's weird that, if everyone believes in some kind of god, they don't all figure it might be the same thingy-thing out there and however differently they might choose to celebrate that thingy-thing, it's the same diff. what i mean is, that they're all celebrating that same creator-force thingy-thing. out there. if there is one. i mean, "One". (or two? six?) anyhow. i don't know what i believe, but i like the idea of there being SOMETHING behind the amazing pattern that is the universe. for instance, the fact that Haley's comet orbits past us once every 72 years kinda rocks my world. i love the idea of cyclical stuff. (the Celts were big on cycles...the circle, continuation, etc.) i love the idea of reincarnation and shite. s'yummy. but who KNOWS? nobody. that's the fun of it all. we may never get along with respect to politics or religion (i have major problems with organized religions, especially when they think they've got THE answer and feel the need to convert everybody else on the planet to their way of thinking. pishposh n' all that. get thee behind me, you busybodies, is what i say. and i'm not generally one for quoting the bible. there's jus something 'bout self-righteousness that smells a bit off. like the state of denmark. s'rotten.

Ciara said...

Did I write that? Pagan-Buddhist-mish-mash, oh yes, sounds like me...

Here too I would not call my self Wiccan, but being Irish and all that, the cycles have deep meaning for me. Every year we celebrate the festivals in some way or other, the two Solstice's being an excuse for a party, especially the summer one!

It's important, and lovely, for the little ones to have some understanding and appreciation of their roots.

And (at the risk of maybe offending some people, though absolutely no offence meant) don't you just (quietly) love how all those pre-Christian celebrations are still there being celebrated by....Christians?

the b in subtle said...

yep. i think christianity never quite converted the Irish. i think, especially in the rural areas, the people just nodded their heads and smiled and then went back to their farmhouses and put out a bowl of the head of the cream for the faeries anyway. i think christianity had to lie in bed with a much-more deep-rooted paganism of Olde. my own Nana, who was an extremely devout Catholic, had second-sight and extremely superstitious about everything and interpreted dreams. she had a little witchiness in her. my mum says i have it in me. but that's because she has it in her as well. anyway - i think, if there is some creator being out there, i think it's all one in the same, whether we call it Jesus or Buddha or Vishnu or Allah. i think all the differences in the ways humans celebrate is beautiful and unique (as long as those ways don't impose their beliefs on other people). that's my own opinion, of course. i just like to think at the end of the day that it's just one Big Thing out there and whether we go to church, sit yogi-style, walk en masse, meditate, burn incense, tie prayer flags, or what have you, it's all the same creator force we are celebrating (if we celebrate at all). For me, it's name is Nature, Mother Earth. i'm an Earth sign. My moon sign is a water sign. So i have equal measure of both within me (though, admittedly, i know nothing about astrology really. i prefer astronomy.) but i read if your sun sign is Earth and your moon sign is water, your moon sign tends to dominate a little (so i guess i'm more piscean than capricorn somehow). i like it all, throw the good parts all in a pot and let it simmer. just let's not go to war over it. i'm sure Jesus and Buddha and Allah all roll their eyes when that happens and get all sad n' stuff. Like we missed the point entirely...

Brian Miller said...

ritual is all in the meaning behind it, not the motion. though sometimes in the motions you find the meaning. spring is coming, new life, much like the precious little on that will grow and change so much in the coming year. look forward to hearing all about those upcoming seasons.

the b in subtle said...

yes, Brian - thanks for reminding me of my word of the year! MOVE. gotta get moving right coming this afternoon. YAY! happy february!

Anonymous said...

There's something about touching the earth and the sky, relaxing into what IS, and celebrating change as it comes.

The candles are beautiful- I have had one burning throughout the nights as I hold a silent vigil for my nephew. With open hands, open heart; not willing any Being to DO anything. Just sending strength, hope, courage and healing.

There is enormous power in an open mind. So glad to have found yours!

the b in subtle said...

thanks Ti - yours, as well! i will keep your nephew in my thoughts...and in whatever ways my prayers take shape, like lighting candles.

Cabo said...

You Pagan you. :)

s'Ok, I'm a Heathen myself.

As for a creator... I figure if there ever was one, then perhaps their job is already done. Maybe the rest is up to all of us.


Carrie Snyder said...

I'm only now, at 35, feeling okay brave enough to admit out loud that Christianity doesn't feel like my home.
I'm much more at home with spiritual rituals that celebrate and/or mark and acknowledge the transitions that happen whether or not we mark/celebrate them. Birth. Death. The turning seasons. Smaller changes, too.
But I have a heavy history of Mennonite-ness to shuffle off as I move toward a different expression of my spiritual life. Thanks for your posting!

Sparx said...

Hi there! I am Wiccan as it happens; happy Imbolc! Belated, of course although with my group's various committments we're not celebrating until Sunday. Wasn't the moon amazing?!!!

Marie said...

I used to really spend time on the Wiccan rituals - they kept me grounded in the seasons, helped me pay attention, and give due attention, to the constant flux of life. I wore red on Imbolc, but I'm thinking maybe more attention should be paid.

I'd never call myself Wiccan, though, just like I don't call myself Christian even though Jesus had some pretty cool ideas too.

the b in subtle said...

Michael - so true. the rest is up to us.

Carrie- lovely to see you again! it took me a long while to shuffle off the heavy-handed, Old World Catholicism in which i was brought up, but there were a few things good about it that i still hang onto (though not as religious beliefs). the other week i was in starbucks and this older man came up to me and said "your baby's cute" - i said 'thank you' and he said immediately "is he baptized?" and i said "that is absolutely none of your business" and he got all in a snuff and said i was rude and i said "well i think it's terribly rude to ask such a personal question and even ruder to assume the entire rest of the planet is Christian, whether he was baptized or not. absolutely none of your business." he sat down at a table nearby with THE MOST sour look on his face giving me glares for the rest of my coffee break. (How Christian of him.) I find that any organized religion is rife with hypocrisy and rife with intolerance towards other religious beliefs. and i don't want any part of groups that are more about exclusion than openness, inclusion. If i could go to church and put up my hands and debate what the priest(s) were saying and people could have discussions, i'd be there every sunday. but most organized religions require you to check your brain at the door and NOT ask questions, just blindly believe and never NEVER question the authority of the church or its leader(s). i'm sure Jesus is rollin' his eyes somewhere! i like to look at the story of Jesus as just that. a story. fiction. cuz it doesn't matter to me if it's a fictional story - he still has some beautiful examples of how to live and interact with people and treat people and that doesn't need to be non-fiction for me to say, "hey what a cool way to live". anyhow i could (clearly) go on and on about this stuff for days! HA

Sparx - happy belated Imbolc! and blessed be. you know i checked Wicca out, bought some books. but i think the first couple of rituals i attended struck me as so full of people doing it all as a fad - maybe because i was in a big city it seemed a little more shallow. or maybe it was the heavy eyeliner and black clothes everyone was wearing. i just realized i'm happier practicing as a solitary person the things i celebrate. i don't need makeup and black clothing to feel pagan or witchy or what have you. my nana had second sight. my mum had it. i have it. i like woods. i like nature. i like stars. i like animals. i like the environment. i am for the earth. i love the seasons. so i'm definitely Pagan, but somewhere in my mid 30s i came to peace with the fact that i don't need to sign up with some form of belief system. i have foun dmy own path and it includes a lot of snippets of stuff. and i like it that way. and yes the MOON was AMAZING!!! :)

Hi Marie - i agree with you. if i'd known this Jesus guy, i would have loved hanging out with him. he does seem pretty cool. ;) just his followers and what they turned the Church into (versus the faith itself) really turn me off, as a woman and feminist especially. patriarchal religions. ick. they seem all about suppressing women and equality sometimes. my mum told me she was "churched" when she had babies. this was an ancient Christian custom wherein women who'd just given birth had to kneel on the church steps to receive some kind of blessing before entering the church. i told her this was based on an older custom of the same thing because women who gave birth were considered evil or that their birthing blood was inherently evil because it was part of god's curse to Eve that she bring forth children in pain. so women had to be CLEANSED before re-entering the church. just cuz they had given birth. my mum said she always thought that blessing was to help her be a better mother. JESUS. that's all i can say 'bout that.

Anonymous said...

I just read what you wrote about the Christian @ss who had to go and get all personal with you and ask if your Son was baptized. I am absolutely appalled. That is a new low, even for a Christian.

Grrrrr. Good for you, speaking your mind. As a Buddhism studying, nature adoring heathen-with-faith, I salute you. And Sonshine.