February can feel like the bleakest time of year. Gone is the merriment of festival time, the earth is hard with frost and hearts are weary from the dark time.
Yet the light is gathering, and to mark its rising we celebrate the Celtic festival of Imbolc, dedicating the new seeds sown in Cullerne to the goddess Brigid. It is said that Brigid breathes life into the mouth of dead winter and Imbolc heralds the return of the life-giving forces of spring. Small but sturdy signs of new life begin to appear – snowdrops display their pure white flowers, soft rain brings new grass, ravens begin to build their nests, larks sing with a clearer voice, and newborn lambs take their first steps.
With a hard frost on the ground we bravely gathered in Cullerne, muffled beneath deep layers of clothes, our breath small clouds hanging in the air. We sang and danced, lifting our voices and limbs towards the grey sky. Then, with hands bare, we turned to a spiral drawn into the rich soil of the seedling polytunnel and began to gently sow carrots and chives. Young and old alike dropped each delicate shell into the waiting earth with our blessings and wishes for the beginning of a new cycle.
Later, our hands warmed by spiced apple juice, we gathered around a log fire in the recently established edible forestland. Amidst the slender trunks of saplings, we heard the tale of how Brigid came to Iona and how she held the new born messiah. Although bitterly cold, the crackling fire, our hot drinks, the magical tale and the enthralled company were warmth enough.
As the sun set, weaving burgundy, coral and russet amongst threaded wisps of clouds, I turned my face towards the light and felt a soft kiss – the promise of summer!