These past few years, Imbolc in Leeds has been a bit of a grey, damp affair. Wet, cold and uninspiring if taken at face value. As a witch in tune with her Celtic roots, face value is of little worth to me, so these grey Imbolcs have been as vital to me as many others. However, they have meant I’ve come to expect a dull outlook at this start of the stirring of spring.
Not so today. It was an early start, framed with dark, thunderous clouds that were almost green; surreal and dream like. The wind blew in, hot and fast, and the clouds scudded away leaving shards of blue and rainbows. Three geese flew over the lake, and I slowed down to watch them, mesmerised. A blackbird, lon dubh, pecked industriously at the freshly dampened earth glistening in the new born sun.
I was full of childlike glee, basking in the brittle sun of early spring; joyful in the arms of morning magic. Then I turned the radio on and heard the news that Terry Wogan had died. Yet another death of a personality I had been familiar with. In the past few weeks we have lost Lemmy of Motörhead, Glenn Frey of the Eagles, actor Alan Rickman and, most painfully for me, David Bowie. It feels like the universes made a list of influential people, inspirational people, and decided that some of them needed to come back now please.
I didn’t feel sad about Wogan the way I did about Bowie; the selfish grief that I would never hear another new Bowie track, or get to see him live, alongside the purer grief that someone who I had virtually grown up with, from the Labyrinth to Blackstar, was gone from not only my life, but the world. Yet even though Terry Wogan never inspired me the way Bowie did, he was a beloved personality and I felt, through the heartfelt words on the radio, the loss of thousands of people.
Imbolc is not just about new beginnings; it is about endings. The end of winter. The end of being trapped indoors with dust and dreams. The end of ice and long dark nights. And it seems this winter has been a very long, dark night indeed for some. Grey with misery and pain; stressed and strained; fighting illness, abuse and tyranny at times.
Today I felt the warm wind that blows the clouds away. It stroked my face and speaks of spring. It promised to clean, to cleanse; to renew the earth. Some of us didn’t make it through this winter. Some of us made it through, forever changed. Let us grasp what we have and hold it close with fierce and unashamed joy. I have rarely felt more grateful to be alive.