02 February 2008

Imbolc Shona

Sometimes people say that in Ireland clocks go differently, or are set after a different time. And even though this is often meant in a derogatory way, it is actually quite true in one particular sense. In ancient times, when the island was populated exclusively by Celtic tribes and ruled by the great clans (like the O'Neills) whose names we still mention with a sense of awe today, time was indeed measured differently and the months had different names and meanings. The old Celtic calendar, which is nowadays once again popular with traditionalists, begins with Samhain on November 1st.

Having the New Year coming in two months earlier than the rest of the world, the Celts in Ireland start every season with the same time advantage. Subsequently today we celebrate Imbolc (or Oimelc, as the Druids used to call it), the feast of the First Whisper of Spring, when the seeds begin to stir and Nature is getting ready for the beauty of springtime. We ourselves begin to open up to the light, and stir from our own hibernation. It is a good time to remind ourselves that we all have a share in the Divine.

I am in Dublin this week, and very early this morning (the traditional Celtic celebrations always start at night and involve either a fire or many candles) we celebrated the arrival of Spring in the old way with a small group of friends. Even the weather outside - which at present is atrocious - could not dampen our spirits, as we joined hands, looked into the light of the candles and listened to the words of the Bard:
The light grows strong once more in the land.
Under the snow, the pulse of life quickens.
Feel the Earth beneath you,
the heartbeat of the waking Mother.
May we share in the great cycle of rebirth
And blossom with new life and creativity.
Let me take this opportunity to wish you all - wherever you are - Imbolc Shona (a very happy Spring), together with a pleasant weekend (weather-wise hopefully more pleasant than the situation in Dublin is right now).

In the afternoon, after the worst of the rain had ended and we had actually a short dry spell, our national Rugby team beat Italy at Croke Park in the opening match of this year's Six Nations' tournament 16:11.
Both sides scored a single try - Girvan Dempsey for Ireland and captain Sergio Parisse for Italy - but it was thanks to Ronan O'Gara's eleven points that the hosts eked out a barely deserved win, with almost the same team that beat Italy convincingly 51-24 in last season's tournament.

Nevertheless celebrations in Dublin went on all afternoon, evening and well into the night. So now, as I am getting ready for bed and some well-deserved rest, un-conducted male voice choirs of joyful Rugby fans - Guinness in hand - are still sending their a capella chants into the dark, wet and cold night. Ireland has won, and that is all that matters to them. Imbolc Shona!

The Emerald Islander


The Wild Goose said...

Imbolc Shona! Thank you for your nice wishes. I think it is a pity that the old traditions and celebrations (which by the way showed a great respect and love for Nature)have gone lost and the ones which are still there have lost their original sense. Thanks a lot as well for the awe you express when writing about my ancestors. I share the same feelings.


I always respect the great people of the past, and your ancestors were not only the rulers of Ireland for many centuries, they are also the oldest of all the clans on this island.
So honour to whom it is due...

With regards to the old traditions, well, they have indeed widely been lost, but only during the past 100-200 years. Before they existed in parallel with the new Christian ways.
And as it looks, the old traditions and the old Celtic ways of respect for Nature and living a spiritual life without doctrine are coming back again. They are especially popular among young people, and this gives me much hope.

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