February 2nd is the Pagan festival of Imbolc, and to celebrate I went for a long walk in the countryside. Imbolc is the time of ‘the quickening of the year’ when the first signs of the coming Spring appear, & many Pagans honour Brigid, the great Celtic Mother Goddess. Some Pagans are quite particular about the date that they celebrate the festivals, but many, including me, go with the day that feels right. It was UK Shaman Gordon MacLellan that really got me thinking about this. Rather than following the traditional dates of the Pagan Wheel of the Year, Gordon senses the “changing pulse” of the seasons (Harris, 2008). Gordon seems to be using a “bodily sensed knowledge” which Gendlin calls a “felt sense” (Gendlin, 1981) and it’s that same felt sense of change that guides me to the time to celebrate.
I’ve done this same walk at various times of the year, but this particular Imbolc there was something in the woods and fields that felt particularly powerful. I was walking across a barren muddy field patterned with the stubble of dead stalks. A cold wind was blowing and the Sun sat low in the sky.
Suddenly I felt a tingling as a wave of energy flowed up my body from the land. As I looked at the dark earth, I had a mental image of the virile stems of the growing crop I’d seen in that very spot last Summer. In fact it was much more than an mental image; it was a powerful felt sense of the fecundity of the land. The fullness of the ripe crop in Summer and the dark quietude of the sleeping land in Winter were simultaneously present the quickening of Imbolc : it was if I could sense the whole cycle of the seasons in one moment.