Imbolg Initiations

January 29, 2023

As it’s unfolded, I’ve been contemplating that special stretch of time between western New Year (January 1st) and the Chinese New Year (which is always the second new moon after the Winter Solstice — January 21st or 22nd this year). What a potent portal of transition! Tarot wise one Lindsay Mack calls this time of year a threshold. 🚪

This year, January has felt fertile but frustrating for me, like I’ve just turned over the soil and then, while I’m readying my seeds, the soil freezes over. 😵‍💫

Makes sense! We’re only halfway between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, truly an in-between time from an agrarian or Earth-based perspective. ⛅️

At this time of year, our Celtic ancestors would be celebrating Imbolg, a time of purification, divination, and preparation for the next planting cycle. But while snowdrops might appear in Ireland in February, here in New Hampshire, the earth is still icy and fallow. ❄️

Imbolg: “in the belly.” An initiation of new life, an invocation of growth — as yet unseen. 🔮

In a lot of ways, this time has been textbook Mars/Mercury retrograde for me. I wanted to start a new monthly tarot pop-up at a local pub, but then I got sick. I was ready to do my first ever Astrology 201 program, but then it got postponed due to snow. I tried to schedule a Stellar Sips event with my friends at Serenity Rising Healing, but then I had to reschedule it, like, three times! 🤣

I’ve seen a lot of discourse on Instagram (and yes, I stand by the phrase “discourse on Instagram,” lol) about how New Year’s is a trap, how we should rest and lay low in January, especially this year with those inner-planet retrogrades. I felt very activated by these posts, in part because I was so deeply immersed in my annual ritual of setting up new calendars and planners.

I didn’t want to rest. I wanted to PLAN! 🤓

And despite the retrograde SNAFU’s I ran into, I have zero regrets about the start-and-stop movement that I’ve been pushing through since Yule. In fact, it feels… right. It feels like EXACTLY what I’m supposed to be doing at this time of year.

It feels like a gestation or even a labor, like something in me is preparing to be reborn just as the sun was reborn at Solstice. 🌞

I even have a bit of a “New Year, New Me” feeling — even though this phrase has become something of a no-no in many circles. 🙊

See, there’s nuance here: the “New Me” I’m feeling is NOT coming from negative resolutions (“I will not eat junk food this year”) or even from positive goal-setting or manifestation work (“I will expand my business this year”).

Instead, this “New Me” has an oddly neutral charge to it. It just is. I am a New Me because it’s the New Year. (“I will be more and more myself this year.”) And although January 1st is not the time that my pre-colonial ancestors would have celebrated the new year, it is the time that I’ve been given. It is what is here, now, in this age of de-colonial work. 🌀🗓

In these early days of 2023, I have felt a palpable sense of integration as the algorithm has shown me a collective standing at a post-modern intersection of calendars, traditions, and natural cycles that, at times, appear at odds with one other. Is it Aquarius season (tropical astrology) or Capricorn season (sidereal astrology)? Is it the Year of the Rabbit (Chinese zodiac) or the year of The Chariot (tarot numerology)?

As interest has grown in lunisolar traditions, like the neo-pagan Wheel of the Year or the Chinese zodiac calendar, there’s been a lot of talk about dismantling the hegemony of the Gregorian calendar — a man-made invention, a tool of the patriarchy — and I so feel that. ✊

But at the same time, I have found great joy, these last few years, in working to integrate the linear calendar with a more cyclical orientation, which is itself a mash-up of terrestrial, celestial, and hormonal cycles. (By the by, this is precisely the kind of work that my friend Em Dewey is doing over at Garden of the Moon!) There’s a potent, subversive magic that happens when we learn to reclaim cyclical time while still living inside the patriarchal matrix, or what Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés calls the “topside world.” ⏰

This is why astrological datebooks like We’Moon and Magic of I are so near and dear to me, and why I have spent so much energy in January setting up these tools… adding sabbats and moon cycles to my Calendar app… mapping and re-mapping my 2023… scheduling and re-scheduling…

This is what I do at this time of year, a time when my pagan ancestors might have been ritually repairing and consecrating their farm tools, or when later Christian ancestors might have been bringing their fresh candles to the church to be blessed. 🙏

And those seeds I’ve been trying to prepare? The individual seeds are all the many events that I listed in my latest newsletter, but what I’m actually trying to grow is more straightforward.

It’s the New Me. 🙌

And although in recent years the process of self-cultivation has taken me all the way up and out into the world of astrology, I am ready for 2023 to be the year that I truly begin to bring this wisdom down and in. Down and through my own embodiment — and then back out, into my community, into the topside world. The one that is crying out for change. 🪧

Because it’s not about tracking moon cycles or retrogrades, any more than it’s about tracking the capitalist 9–5. The real spiritual work is always about tracking YOUR cycles, your lived experience of hope and heartbreak, cultivation and harvest, fertility and fallowness. 🥀

The real vision is your loving awareness of these cycles within cycles and of YOUR unique place in the midst of the mystery: Creation experiencing itself. 👁 🌎 👁

And when the New You gets old, you’ll be standing at a new threshold, with new self-seeds in hand, and the Year-Wheel will renew again on January 1st… or Imbolg… or the second new moon after the winter Solstice… or your next birthday… or…

It was always cycles within cycles — YOURS. 🌀 💗 🌀

Copyright Kate Sheridan, 2023

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