St Brigid's Day
In the last week dawn has started to break as I come home from my morning walk. It's not that I want to wish the year away but I do like it when Spring starts to beckon. 1st February is St Brigid's Day and in Celtic traditions marks the beginning of Spring. Meteorological Spring however doesn't start until March, and to me February feels like a liminal month, moving through twilight towards the sun on the horizon.
Brigid is actually two people - a pagan goddess appearing in Irish mythology and St Brigid of Kildare, one of the patron saints of Ireland. Another name for St Brigid's Day is Imbolc; it's the winter cross quarter festival in the wheel of the year and a fire festival but now the emphasis is on light rather than heat. No real surprise to those of us in Scotland. It's a time to start afresh, which is where the idea of spring cleaning originates. In the Church, 2nd February is marked as Candlemas, with the link again to light.
The Druid guide to Imbolc states that "In Scotland, people noticed ravens beginning to build their nests and the larks seemed to sing with a clearer voice." Even after our bird chat session yesterday, I'm not sure that I would be able to tell you how a lark sings, but I have noticed the birds becoming noisier over the last few days. Incidentally, if you are reading this the day it's published then this weekend (29th - 31st January) sees the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch; you can find out how to take part here - and if you're too late for this year, there are some useful bird ID guides that you can download.
While we're talking about seasons, I must mention the 72 Japanese micro seasons. The year is broken into 24 major divisions from the Beginning of Spring (starting of 4th February) to the Greater Cold. Those major divisions are then broken into 3, with each season given a poetic name, related to occurrences in the natural world. If lockdown is making life a bit slow for you at the moment, how about taking this opportunity to celebrate a new season every 4 or 5 days? You could even make up your own names for them according to what you are experiencing in nature right now. This week we move from the Greater Cold to the Beginning of Spring which is good news. The micro season for 30th January to 3rd February is "Hens start to lay eggs" and from 4th to 8th February "East wind melts the ice" - I imagine the ducks I saw stomping about on the frozen pond this morning will be glad to hear that!
Throughout the first week of February on our social media channels we'll be sharing some thoughts about the return of the light, and some ideas for things that you can do to celebrate it, including a guide to making a St Brigid's Cross from some reeds. It's important to use the reeds soon after you pick them or they become very brittle, as I discovered.