Winter is never my favourite season mainly due to the fact that I don’t like the cold and damp, so I can always be relied upon to be a bit biased but this year Winter already seems so long. January seemed to last forever for some reason and I know from conversations with people that I am not alone in feeling this. This year I was more than happy to have actually turned to the new calendar month of February and the beginning of Spring.
A few years ago after spending much of my life telling anyone that would listen that February was my least favourite month, one that I was always glad to have over with the promise of better days ahead, I did some exploring. I discovered that this was in fact the month where we really begin to welcome back the light that we have been waiting for since Winter Solstice and there certainly does seem to be a stretch in the days now. I also learnt that the original Roman name for February was Februarius, named after the Latin Februum meaning Purification. I found out that every year on 15th February, the night of the full moon in the old Roman Lunar calendar, a Purification ceremony known as Februa was held. February is also where we find the period known in the pagan wheel of the year as Imbolc which may have got its name from the old Irish Imb-tholc meaning to wash or cleanse oneself in a ritual cleansing. This may also of course be where our idea of Spring Cleaning came from.
These discoveries gave me a way to approach the month so that has some purpose By connecting with it in a different way I am beginning to appreciate it more fully.
I now try to use the month of February to cleanse, purify and prepare myself for the months ahead. By doing this I am know I preparing the ground for the seeds of whatever I want to bring in during the coming months. I have been doing this now for the last couple of years and am finding that each year it takes a different form. Sometimes I am drawn to a physical cleanse, other times it is an energetic one and some years a mixture of both.
The Romans would have made the whole month a time of cleansing and purification which seems a bit OTT and spring cleaning the whole house sounds like hard work but there are always a few nooks and crannies that I know get overlooked during the quick lick and polish it gets usually. Already this month the house has been given a thorough hoover, working with the element of water floors have been washed and the doors and windows opened wide both in the house and the healing room to let the element of air do its work. In the shower this morning I was also mindful of taking time to cleanse my body, paying attention to how it was feeling and enjoying spending time with myself rather then rushing as I usually am.
Maybe this is partly what cleansing and purification does. By taking time, paying attention, seeing and sensing what is there we are more mindful of what we are doing. The more mindful we are, the more we can see what really needs to be done. If we spend time living with awareness as we cleanse and purify we can see beyond the surface, beyond the superficial. This is then something that may also be good to carry forward into the rest of our lives, what better way to sow the seeds for the months ahead than to use February to learn to live each moment with awareness.
I have blogged before about how I used to really dislike the month of February, how after the Winter Solstice, the seasonal celebrations, the period of recovery, of getting back to normal, it always felt a bit flat, a bit nothing in particular and that I was always relieved when it was over. I then discovered that historically February was the month of cleansing and purification and it all felt a bit better. Yet here I am on Imbolc itself, the first day of spring with the wind howling and the rain lashing, if ever it felt a time for closing down and hibernating, today, and if the forecast is right, the next couple of days are it, never mind a spring clean and a purification of home and of body. This is a good reminder for me of why I am usually delighted and not a small bit relieved for it to be March with its promise of better things to come. Mind I have until 15th February before the historical period of Purification began so there is still time…..she says hopefully.
This does seem a good time for me to share two of my past blogs which contain information about February, pagan rituals and ideas for cleansing and purification, again this should save you trawling back through the archives for them:
This year, on the whole so far, the winter has been mild, the winds often slack and our windows have been wide open more than they have been closed so the need I usually have to open them wide and allow the element of air to move through and do its work is needed less than usual it seems. The garden is not covered in bits of windfall from the ash and hawthorn and so I have no need to go gathering kindling, at the moment anyway. So unless anything changes as the month unfolds, this February my cleansing and purification is going to focus on ME 🙂
Since the summer I have been working in a gym again, the first time for six of seven years. I am discovering muscles I hadn’t seen for a long time and a physical strength that I had thought was lost forever. My 2017 cleansing and purification rituals then are going to be used to get to know it again, how it is now, to deeply cleanse by spending time with it rather than the quick in and out of the shower it is used to. The purification will be through what I eat which will be as healthy and light as I can make it during the winter. So lots of fresh fish, vegetables, salads, meals made from scratch and of course the odd bar of chocolate and glass of wine 🙂
The next question in the pagan challenge is concerning what this time of year means to me. At the time of writing I am on the cusp of February becoming March which is usually a time that has me celebrating in a small and unobtrusive way. The reason for this being that for many years I really did not like February and even now it is my least favourite month so I am usually quite happy when it has ended.
I must say at this point that February has never done anything to upset me, its just that Imbolc never seems to live up to the promise of the beginning of the spring, a concept that in Ireland is held strong despite evidence to the contrary, and although the shortest month it always seems to take forever to pass. A couple of years ago I discovered some information about February having been a time of purification and this understanding has certainly helped me to dislike the month a little less. This year thoughI must admit that it has been different.
From November until the last few weeks it has rained pretty much consistently, we have had floods, washed away roads, gale and sometimes even storm force winds and the only thing to do has been to hibernate. Recently though we have had blue skies, sunshine, getting out for a walk, visiting the beach, just lifting our heads out from under the duvet has been possible. Plants and shrubs are showing signs of new life, primroses, crocuses and mini iris have been blazing in all their glory and we have even managed to do some tidying of our hedges before the birds being nesting. This is also the time of the year when we drive to the next county to see young lambs as we live in cow country not sheep, but this year we have a field of them just up the road which is lovely.
So this year February really has felt like the start of spring even taking into account the snow we had on Friday night.
Today is 29th and it is raining, tomorrow is the 1st March which where I come from would be the start of spring, but the forecast is for rain and the week ahead isn’t looking good at all. Strong winds are forecast so the ‘In like a lion, out like a lamb’ might well be true this year. Whatever it turns out to be Spring Equinox, the second of the spring festivals and a time of balance isn’t far ahead.
Today was Imbolc, or tomorrow depending on whether you believe it is on 1st or 2nd February this year. Me I’m going for today, for Imbolc is the first of the three spring festivals in the Celtic Wheel of the Year and today certainly felt like spring 🙂
Despite being in the midst of the eight storm of the winter, Storm Henry, the winds were blowing over us, the sun shone and the garden was calm and sheltered for once. Outside in the fresh air it was warm and undoubtably the nicest day we have had for a very long time now.
I should have been hoovering the house, which had been the plan, but instead having hung the washing out in the fresh air, well pegged on I might add, I pottered around collecting up the branches of our ash and hawthorn, branches that had been given up by them none of the other storms. I broke branches into smaller pieces and filled not one, but two large containers of kindling for the fire.
Other years it has been far less clear in February that this is the start of anything yet alone spring, but it was easy today to feel the turn of the wheel, to know that the seasons are shifting, to be able to see that this is a time when things to germinate, maybe break through the surface, ready to grow when the wheel turns again.
Supermoon, Solar Eclipse and Spring Equinox Alban Eilir all in one day. Let’s hope the clouds are kind and stay away so we all get chance to experience it in this reality and not just energetically.
Spring Equinox is a great time to be sowing seeds ready for the months ahead. These can be the seeds of a project you have in mind, or of something you would like to bring in for example.
As the influence of this powerful day has already been building for some weeks and will continue for some weeks after the 20th you still have time to sow your metaphorical seeds if you miss the day itself. Me, I held an Alban Eilir ceremony today to sow mine as I am sure I will be too caught up in the eclipse tomorrow to think of it then.
I think the idea of my using February for its ancient purpose of cleansing and purification really took hold this year and looking back on the first day of March I can see how much of a spring clean I have been having this year.
In my home there has been a good bit of clearing out ensuring that several visits to the recycling plant were needed. This has meant not only taking to the plant what was in the house but also everything that was in the shed or garden from previous clear outs. Our old television has found a new home with friends who’s children can make use of it, or at least they will if we ever find the lead for it. We delivered the TV along with what we thought were all the cables only to find we had given them our video lead by mistake. As it would happen we had been going to get rid of the video anyway and it turns out they needed one. I just love synchronicity and how in this case at least some of our pre loved things have found a new home.
The garden is looking ready for Spring in a way it hasn’t for years. Hedges are trimmed, our ‘dead hedges’, for in the end we constructed two of these, are all ready for new life to find a home there, spring bulbs have been stunning in both variety and colour and having cleared and tidied, this year we can really see them.
I have also made decisions that have meant letting go of things I am doing which don’t feel right any more. One of these is blogging as part of Monday Musings with The Pagan Experience. Nothing at all wrong with it there but it wasn’t a good fit for me and rather than struggling on I have decided to dip out and do my own thing which means I only have myself as a resource for my blog this year. Now I write that I realise that’s a slightly scary prospect as I won’t have anyone emailing once a week to remind me to blog, so I now need to be all grown up and remember all on my own.
I have also stopped pretending that I am working ‘full time’. I have reached a point in my life when there are many other things I want to do with my life, so officially I am now only working two days a week seeing clients (although this does stretch a little sometimes) and then teaching at weekends when courses are on. This in theory gives me time to write, blog, work on the Ovate level with the OBOD, paint, draw, go to my art group and the million and one other things that seem to find their way into every week.
I haven’t yet cleared out my contacts in my mobile phone, nor have I been through Facebook and deleted all those ‘friends’ that I can’t recognise as people I actually know, but then February only has 28 days so I don’t think I’ve done too badly and there is no reason to stop just because it is now March is there 🙂
We have been tidying up in our large and much neglected garden recently, part of my February spring clean perhaps. Part of this has meant curtailing the growth of our buddleia and fuchsia hedging and as you can probably guess, we have been left with a large amount of hedge offcuts in need of a home. We have a multi fuel stove and so larger offcuts have been trimmed and stored to dry out for later use as have small sticks for kindling but this still left a lot remaining.
As luck would have it, in the Sunday Times the other weekend was an article on how to make a ‘dead hedge’ and this had immediately captured our attention. Our garden is ‘neglected’ because we like it to look natural and to provide a habitat for wildlife if we can. On top of this I am always very reluctant to do any serious tidying up without working with the agreement of the spirits of the plants, however sometimes there does come a point where tidying just has to happen. What a ‘dead hedge’ does is provide a place where trimmed hedges can be laid out in such a way as to become, as they decay and die back, a habitat for wildlife. What wonderful recycling!
Stakes or poles are pushed into the soil in a line around 2ft apart, a second line of stakes is pushed in around 2ft from and parallel to the first. Offcuts of the trimmed hedges are then laid between the stakes. The bottom few layers are trodden down to compress them as much as possible so that they compress and can die back into the earth. In time the hedge will pack down so new layers can be added.
The buddleia hedging which had been neglected for several years looked too thick to make the ‘dead hedge’ but the thinner whippier fuchsia was perfect and so the ‘dead hedge’ in our garden has begun to take form. It is only a short length at present as it seemed sensible to try on a relatively small scale first and see how it worked, but we can add to it over time. The photo shows how it looked as we began to build it.
I for one am looking forward to observing the changes in the ‘dead hedge’ as the seasons come and go, to watching the lower layers begin to decay and to seeing what wildlife is attracted to make its home there.