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IMBOLC: Lighten your load

Happy Imbolc!

Imbolc is a time to reflect on the past and prepare for the upcoming spring, a time to release what has weighed you down and make sure you aren’t carrying anything that could hinder new growth. As the point of the Medicine Wheel closest to Ether, Imbolc is particularly mysterious and fascinating in the shamanic Wheel of Life.


In shamanism, there is a particular interest in transitions, in the “betwixt and between” things, the cracks between the worlds. This is where the really interesting stuff happens, where the veil between the physical and spiritual realms is at its thinnest.

Read more about the betwixt and between places.

Imbolc is a time of transition from Earth to Air, winter to spring, elder to infant, rebirth, timeless to future, from endless to plans and ideas, and from fear of change to openness to change. 

At Imbolc, things have ended, but nothing new has begun yet. It’s a place of pause, stillness, emptiness, and simply being rather than doing.


Unfortunately, our modern culture does not view Imbolc this way. Instead, the Christmas and winter solstice, which should be a time of stillness and reflection, has become one of the busiest times of the year. Consequently, Imbolc is often associated with New Year’s resolutions and the pressure to start new things. But if we were to live more in harmony with the natural cycle, new beginnings are actually in the spring, when the energy of things bursting into life is strongest. This disconnection from the natural cycle may explain why so many New Year’s resolutions fail within a few weeks. While starting new things is possible at any point, since it’s wheels within wheels, Imbolc is not the right time to make goals and start new projects. 


During hunter-gatherer times, the winter was a time of scarcity, when energy was conserved and used mainly for repairing and making tools. It was a difficult time, and if the spring was delayed or the winter was harsh, many people, particularly the elderly and children, would not survive. Thus, it was also a time of grieving and endings.

Just as pruning a bush or hedge requires cutting away the old to make way for new growth, the cycle of life also necessitates letting go of the past to make room for new beginnings. In this regard, Imbolc serves as a potent reminder, presenting a time for reflection and preparation for new growth, a time to pause, reflect, and clear the decks to prepare for spring. 


As we approach the end of winter, it’s important to reflect on the things we want to leave behind and make a clean break from. The new can only emerge if the old is cleared away. There is no better time to reflect on this than Imbolc.


During the next six weeks, consider what you want to let go of and disentangle from. Ask yourself: What can I put down? What can I disentangle from? How much can I let go of? This could be anything from old habits, relationships, possessions, or even old stories or beliefs that no longer serve you. Seek help from your guides in this process. 


Those familiar with shamanic journeys can significantly benefit from burial journeys (learn how to do a shamanic journey here).

Burial journeys can help us when we:

  • are ungrounded in any way.
  • are not feeling that we really ‘belong’, or that we do not have a place on the Earth. Maybe at some level, we even feel we have never fully ‘arrived’ here.
  • struggle with being fully present in our body and tend to live in our head instead, or are prone to feeling dreamy and spaced-out.
  • need help strengthening and deepening our connection to Mother Earth.

Secondly, you can manifest this process of letting go physically by spring-cleaning your home. Go through your room and house, and ask yourself, “Is this serving me any more?”. Get rid of things that no longer serve you, such as old photographs, letters, books, ornaments, and gifts from ex-lovers. Remember that hunter-gatherers didn’t hold onto anything, and lighten your load as much as possible.


We live in a culture where being quiet and doing nothing is often frowned upon, and where we may feel we “should” always busy and “achieving” things. And indeed, many of us do lead busy lives! Nevertheless, at this time of year, try and give yourself permission to spend at least some time just being, rather than doing. Take long baths. Meditate, even if it’s just for 10 minutes every day. Be a sleepy bear. Go to bed early. Read a book. Sit and do nothing. Just breathe and watch the clouds and listen to the birdsong. And, if you struggle with this, try and notice what part of you struggles with this, what part you are letting boss you around. For it is just a part of you, not the whole of you. Usually, it is an inner critic, and/or an inner pusher, perfectionist or pleaser. Then, thank it and tell it to step back a bit, and embrace your inner slacker for a while instead!


Lastly, try to see past the modern human world and notice the season of the year around you. I know the seasons are skewed because of climate change, but still. Pay attention to things like holly, snowdrops, robins and catkins, and remember that spring isn’t here yet. This is a time of transition, so take it slow and let the energy build up for new growth. 


Paul Francis

P.s. You can read more about the Medicine Wheel here.

Upcoming courses:


The essential introductory course for anyone wishing to explore this approach. This course is repeated in May and September. More details here.

Dates: 4 Saturday sessions: February 4, 11, 18, 25
Times: 10 am start (UK time), each online meeting is 3 – 4 hours long.

Flexible study. You can either attend the sessions live, or do the course at your own pace and time by watching the recordings of the online sessions (recordings are made of all the theory presentations, journey instructions, and Q&A discussions, and are available for a further 6 months after the last online session). 


March to April 2023. BETWIXT AND BETWEEN: The Cracks Between the Worlds. A Next-Steps course. This is suitable both for experienced students as it covers new ground, and as a next step for people who have only done the introductory course too. More details here.

April to May 2023. EXPLORING THE SHAMANIC UPPER-WORLD. A Further-Steps course. We don’t get the chance to run the Upper-World courses that often, so we are pleased to have this opportunity. More details here.

July to September 2023. THE TREE OF LIFE (sometimes called “The Totem Pole”): Shamanism, the Chakras, and the Human Body. A Further-Steps course. This course is usually very popular. It contains a wealth of information, and really helps anchor shamanic practice in a highly somatic, grounded and experiential way. More details here.

November to December 2023. FINDING YOUR WILD SOUL. A Next-Steps course. Discover practices to connect to your authentic, fully alive, wild and free Lower-World Soul. Learn how to come back to “right-relationship” with your true self, with other humans, and with the Other-Than-Human too. More details here.

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