When is Imbolc?

Jan 21st, 2017 | By | Category: Articles, Pagan People

nimmy2By Nimue Brown

Wikipedia will cheerfully tell you, should you ask, that Imbolc is the 1st of February and the beginning of spring. Of course the calendar dates are a bit confused by the long term historical calendar slippage that then led to the 15 day shift and the Gregorian calendar of 1582 with its leap years. So, when did our ancient ancestors celebrate Imbolc? Round there somewhere.

If Imbolc is the beginning of spring, we have to ask what we’re using to define the seasonal shift. The absence of snow? Signs of new life? It’s worth noting that the magical, iconic hazel tree has catkins on it well before Imbolc – a definite sign of rising sap and retuning life.

Climates change over time, and due to manmade climate change, we’re likely to see even more of this. When the Romans were in Britain, we had a milder climate than we do now. What the beginning of spring in February might have looked like then could have been rather different.

Snowdrops are often taken as a sign of Imbolc – but in mild years, snowdrops can show up in sheltered places from any time in December, and in harsh years they can be a week or two later than early February.

IMAG0388Then there’s the issue that this is all a bit academic if you aren’t living fairly close to Ireland. If you are a Pagan with different seasons, a different climate, different flora and fauna, then a set of seasonal markers drawn from one part of the world may have no real use to you.

So, when is your Imbolc?

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