Imbolc, Cottonwood, and Berkana

Updated: Feb 15, 2020

Merry Imbolc! Imbolc is a Celtic seasonal celebration, marking the halfway point between Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. This is the time that the world is pregnant and preparing for Ostara (Spring).


We've been blessed with warm weather and sunshine today. Many folks were out walking. Others were hoping that Phil is right and we will have an early Spring. And some will be enjoying this Sunday celebrating the "Superb Owl." I decided that this would be a much needed day to grab some Vitamin D. My goal was to check on the Cottonwoods; they are really one of my indicators that Spring is on its way.

The buds of the Cottonswood (Populus deltoides, family Betulaceae) are green and starting to drip with resin. This resin is fragrant and anti-fungal. It's also sought after by bees to make the propolis that seals and protects their hive. Propolis is also quite a powerful medicine.

The buds are key for making the Biblically famous Balm of Gilead. I have made a balm in the past. When I tried the balm, I thought Cottonwood was warming, due to feeling it stimulate the applied area. But it turns out it’s cooling. I tried it on my chest and legs. I have also had it all over my hands all evening. I can attest to its astringent/drying properties. How strange - the Cottonwood tree seeks water, as you can see from the pictures, it grows along the Mississippi. But, as I was researching, Cottonwood is about water balance. This is the balm as it was setting:

If you check on the Cottonwoods a few weeks later, you will see the most beautiful red male catkins. Catkins operate through wind pollination; the catkins will show up before the leaves so they won't have an obstacle preventing the pollen getting to its destination. Catkins are a common trait in the Birch family, Betulaceae.


It's also pertinent to mention the Wind element here: wind is change, and its presence is felt during the equinoxes. If the wind picks up, we're in for some kind of shift. Sometimes a storm, sometimes an entire season. In this case, the wind is bringing in the tides of Spring and aids in the pollination of some of our favorite green allies.

The rune that represents the Birch is Berkana, which translates to the same. It is seen as feminine and the harbinger of Spring. It is a rune of midwifery, underscoring the process of birth in Spring: lambing season and green growth emerging.


Imbolc is a season of fire, and is ruled by Brigid, a fire goddess herself. Fire is seen in many cultures as the catalyst - the spark that generates creation and life. The fire has been lit (Imbolc is also called Candlemas), the earth is warming, the sap and resins are running, and life's pace quickens (Imbolc translates as "the Quickening).


So, even if Phil did see his shadow, Spring will not be far away.


Sources:

https://www.goddessandgreenman.co.uk/imbolc-candlemas

https://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/trees/plants/cottonwood.htm





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