Posted by: assuntina | February 2, 2010

The beginning of the end of winter

Today, 2nd February is Imbolc, a very old and  pre-Christian festival celebrating the beginning of the end of the long winter and in rural days gone by, the first day the ewes would be milked again after their winter break.  In fact the word Imbolc is a derivation of ‘ewe’s milk’.  It’s also known as Candlemas or St Bridget’s day in the Christian church.  It is the time when new lambs start to appear, (well they are on The Archers), any minute now the snowdrops will appear, and pretty soon the crocuses pop up.  It’s a time of hope.

I like the idea of this festival, and I love the quality of Hope.  I used to find winter such a trial to get through, it  lasted endlessly and was  dreadfully dreary and downright depressing.  Especially hard as I used to get Seasonal Affective Disorder or winter depression. I think I’ve knocked my SAD on the head though now; what with yoga and the Buteyko breathing practise I do, my energy levels are pretty much ok now during winter.  However, it is still such a joy to know that winter is coming to an end and  seeing the light lingering a bit longer so that it’s daytime at 5pm is exciting, a fantastic sign of the spring to come.  It makes me feel more hopeful about life. 

Even though we can’t see it, under the ground the plants are getting ready to do their thing and the shoots on the trees are preparing to burst forth. Yet it’s still bitterly cold and often is at this time of year.  Imbolc gives us more light which is what triggers off plant and animal activity, but not more warmth so we still need to be on our guard a little. In some parts February used to be known as Wolf’s month, or the dead month because it was such an incredibly tough month to get through physically.  Whilst the worst we might be facing is the worry and tedium of Christmas debts and little to look forward to, (unless you’re a teenager in love and you can bank on a Valentine in the post), it’s still a tough time to get through emotionally.  In ancient times, people would still need to conserve their food for awhile longer until they could start to grow more, and the persistant cold could still carry off a few of the more vulnerable folk.  So it was important to have hope and the knowledge of something better to come.

To mark the occasion, I went for a cold walk with my good friend Sharon up to Hollingbury Fort where the gorse is already starting its nubbly little yellow flowers. We found a beautiful oak tree to commune with while some boisterous dogs ran round our legs curious as to what we were doing and the cold wind blew over the tops of the bare branches.  The oak tree was damp to the touch but still had a bit of inner warmth when I hugged it (yes, I admit it, I am a tree hugger) and it felt good to know that sooner or later that tree would put out vibrant green leaves.  I did a private meditation on Hope and Gratitude standing there feeling my feet on the ground in Mountain pose, my hand lightly resting on the tree trunk, feeling grateful to have got through another winter, and appreciating, despite everything,  just how much there is to appreciate in our beautiful world.


  1. Wow Assuntina I don’t normally read many blogs but that was so beautifully put and some lovely insight as to the process of the closing of winter. It has given me a deeper understanding as to why certain things are happening in my life and why I feel about them in line with the elements at this time of year. Thank you for having the courage to open yourself and share your insights

    Love and blessings

    • Thanks Paul, glad it helped you too. Good to know that when we share, we make a difference. Lots of love

  2. Just beautiful, I love the connections your making

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