Imbolc: A New Hope

Last Wednesday, I celebrated the start of Spring in the Celtic calendar – Imbolc. This is always a very special time of year for me. The festival of Brighid, Bride, Ffraid, Brigantia …. depending on your tradition and culture. The point at which it becomes obvious that the days are lengthening and the earth – the soil – is warming. The appearance of Snowdrops.

The first flowers to show their heads – though never their faces – these are magical little flowers. With their drooping, shy demeanor, reflecting their light back into the earth to renew, encourage and beckon forth the hidden life that lies there, waiting. Waiting for just the right moment.

For me, it often seems as if this is the start of the new year. The energy changes, somehow, giving glimpses of opportunities yet to be made apparent, and summoning us to leave behind our comforting sleepiness and to venture out. Our wintry hibernation has had its place and if we used it well, we will feel renewed and ready for what might come.

…… Provided we can leave the past behind ……

And there’s the rub. For many of us – and I definitely include myself  in this – despite our protestations that we’re turning over a new leaf, setting new goals, moving on with our lives, etc., sometimes it just doesn’t happen. For all that the scenery has changed – maybe a new job, a new hobby, different food – if we forget to release the past at a conscious level, we suddenly find we’re in the same old, same old.

This used to happen to me over and over, and I never understood why until someone shared a very simple affirmation with me: I release the old to make way for the new.

It took me quite a while to get my head round this. After all, I grew up in a culture where accumulation was prized. The only things we threw away were those labelled ‘disposable’, which, as we now sadly realise, has led to the accumulation of land pollution, sea pollution and air pollution.

Having ‘things’ was a habit we cultivated, so the idea that I couldn’t take on something new without first clearing a space for it, was strange and alien to me. Especially in the world of beliefs, thoughts, behaviours, …

The Snowdrop, with its simple innocence, reminds me every year of the importance of this truth. It braves the snows and frosts, leaving behind the security of the dark, the warmth, the familiar. It puts its delicate bloom above the parapet to sing and dance in the chilly breezes. It lets go of where it has been to declare a new way of being – one born of light and love.

In the uncertainty that many people are experiencing at this time, I believe this fragile little flower has a powerful message to impart. It symbolises, I feel, that nothing has to stay the same. That if old ways are no longer working, we can bring changes to bear. That if lots of vulnerable beings come together to create a swathe of beauty, the truth of that is unstoppable.

Just as in one of my all-time favourite films, if each one of us reveals what sits in our hearts, the world can only become a better place. And the delicate Snowdrop speaks to us of that New Hope.

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