Imbolc marks the beginning of the lambing season in the Celtic calendar. The original word Imbolg literally means ‘in the belly’. It is a time when new life is just beginning to show, there is the promise of renewal, new life is stirring just below the surace or the wintry earth.
February 1st is also St Bridget’s day – as so often happened, Christian festivals adopted a pagan festival and Brigid, who was loved as a pagan goddess of healing, poetry and smithcraft, was celebrated at Imbolc.
Although it is still winter, we are enjoying hints of spring, not just with the snowdrops – always a joy to see at this time, but the daffodils are beginning to develop quickly and those here are already over six inches high and some even beginning to show signs of buds.
It’s quite a good time of the year for foraging. We have always enjoyed hunting for mushrooms in the autumn, but we were recently inspired by John Wright’s book The Forager’s Calendar to look along the shore. Last week we found an excellent source of sea spinach which tastes, I think, even better than the ordinary spinach we grow in the garden or can buy in the shops.
Walking through a woodland near the coast, we spotted jelly-like Wood Ear fungi growing on a log. These are apparently edible although not recommended and we didn’t feel tempted to try them. Other names for these are Jelly Ear or Jew’s Ear, and it’s scientific name is Auricularia auricula -judae. Apparently they don’t have much flavour but can be added to a sauce for the texture.
We look forward to more foraging, but as heavy snow is forecast, I doubt we’ll be doing much of that for a while.
Being outside, no matter what the weather is essential for our mental health in these Covid obsessed times. We think of life BC – Before Covid, and it’s hard to remember the last time we greeted a friend with a hug or had folk round for a meal or discussion group. How long will it be before we can give someone a lift in the car or go for a walk with friends? It pays not to think of how much longer we might have to wait to do these things. Much better to live for the now, follow the wise words of Thich Nhat Hanh and remember when we are out walking or sitting indoors, we should be living mindfully, slowing down and enjoying each step or breath. Every breath we take, every step we make can be filled with peace and joy.