Imbolc – the Celtic cross-quarter festival that brings us home to the planet earth

 by Emma-Jane Cross


The wheel of the year soon turns to Imbolc. Ever so gently the land is awakening from its winter slumber and beginning to stretch its roots and shoots. Finally, even amidst a blanket of snow we can see the first signs of life, telling us that spring will soon return.  

Imbolc is a special festival on the wheel not only because it is the festival that celebrates that winter is coming to an end, but also as its placement on the wheel denotes it as a cross quarter festival. Meaning it is a festival not dictated by the movements of the sun, but is a festival inspired by the shifting seasons of the land. The cross quarters, in my opinion, are the festivals that celebrate microshifts and transitions between the Big 4! Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn, the solstices and equinoxes, who tend to get most of the hype. However, for me at least, it is in the cross quarter festivals that we truly get the opportunity to be closer to the land, to root and connect with this planet Earth we call home.  And Imbolc in particular is a reminder to take notice of the beauty of small transitions and the hope that new brings. 

Now I apologise if it sounds that I am waxing a bit lyrical. Imbolc holds a special place in my heart as it is the first festival I ever celebrated in the wheel of the year. As the wheel turns to Imbolc I always feel a sense of coming home. And in a way Imbolc does bring us home. It returns us to the days where looking for microshifts in the climate in the land were vital for survival. These microshifts in between the seasons were and still are so important for the farmers who depended on the land for food. The quarterly shifts between seasons guiding them on what to expect in the upcoming growing season. One famous weather predicting rhyme passed down through folklore goes like this:


  • If Candlemas* day be sunny and bright, Winter again will show its might.
  • If Candlemas day be cloudy and grey, Winter will soon pass away. 
  • If Candlemas day be fair and bright, Winter will have another flight.
  • If Candlemas day be shower and rain, Winter is gone and will not come again. 

*Candlemas is the name given to the Christian festival that succeeded Imbolc in the Christian calendar


Unlike the red sky at night weather prediction rhyme, which personally I find highly overrated, this rhyme nine times out of ten is spot on, at least when you live in the UK. The fact that this Imbolc specific weather rhyme, and the many others that connect Imbolc and weather predictions, have survived tells me that Imbolc was an important time for our ancestors to the land and the skies and to think towards the future. And by looking for these microshifts we their descendants can become closer to the earth and begin to see the patterns in the seasons changing in our own time. Which is why I urge you to take a mindful nature walk at Imbolc and all the cross quarter festivals.

Imbolc is not the festival of big change, it is the festival of small significant changes. You won’t find many places in nature that have the glorious lush new green grass  and snowdrops basking in the sunlight that we see on Instagram. What you will find if you take the time to look for it at Imbolc is small shoots coming up through the earth, buds just starting to unfold and the frost and cold hopefully becoming gentler and where I live the snow melting. And it’s important to remember you really have to look for these changes to see them. Now I couldn’t tell the difference fra one end a’t plough fra t’other! (Ohh sorry I went a bit Yorkshire there!) What I mean to say is that although I am not able to interpret the weather signs as our farming ancestors, after over twenty years of celebrating the wheel of the year what I can see is patterns within the exponential changes we are experiencing from climate change. When I lived in the UK snowdrops and frosty air with fresh patches of green and new shoots covered the land at Imbolc. When I first moved to Denmark thirteen years ago it was the same, just swap out the snowdrops for winter aconite. Today, as I look out of my window I see snow and ice. Which seems to be becoming the new norm here in the North and at least in Scotland, as Imbolc has been full of snow for at least the past three years. 

Returning again and again to observing the weather at Imbolc has given me a chance to not only mark the changes but to see how Mother Earth is adapting to the new climates and gives me, not only as a pagan but as an enthusiastic fledgling gardener, a chance to see where things may be heading in the coming year. And in a way it does reassure me that even though we humans may not be adapting, Mother Earth, she knows what she is doing and will survive long after me. It refreshes my own commitment to doing all I personally can to help her and brings with it a hope of continuation. Which I think is what our farming ancestors may have felt when they saw the signs of Spring returning. I never feel more connected to the land than at the cross quarter festivals. I believe that the changes we see in the land can also reflect the micro changes within ourselves during the seasons of our lives. A practice I have had for years is to take a walk at the cross quarters and particularly at Imbolc and record the micro changes I see in nature but also reflect in my journal how these micro changes in nature mirror the micro changes in myself. It gives me such a deeper understanding of the ebb and flow of my own life’s seasons.  I hope I inspire you to do the same and begin this practice at Imbolc and see, over the years, how this simple habit of observation of the micro changes and connection with the seasonal transitions brings you home to the Earth and to yourself each and every year.




EMMA-JANE CROSS is a spiritual coach and author specialising in creating spiritual connection with nature and the wheel of the year. Her roots are in Celtic and Norse traditions, from her Welsh childhood, her training in Shamanism, Druidry and Witchcraft at Avebury, and her work as Viking historical-interpreter within Scandinavian Museums. From her home by the fjord Emma-Jane guides people worldwide to rekindle a spiritual connection and personal growth journey aligned with nature’s seasons. She teaches workshops in Denmark and online at rerootcourses.podia.com and regularly speaks and teaches Celtic spirituality, earth magic and seasonal spirituality at events.





Walking The Wheel Of The Year: Re:Root In Nature, Reconnect Your Soul by Emma-Jane Cross, published by Green Magic, paperback (210 pages).

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