Candlemas at the Cave, Imbolc in the Ice

Candlemas at the Cave, Imbolc in the Ice

It is the scent that reaches me in my bear-like slumbers, drifting day after day in a form of hibernation that sees me rarely raise my head from the nest of covers. It does not force its way into my subdued consciousness, but instead it seems to creep quietly, humbly, into my cave and stands by my bed, waiting for me to notice it.

I rise from the dreamless state that has held me for months, eyes flickering open, and I take a sharp, deep breath like a drowned woman returning to life. The air holds a scent I’d forgotten existed. It’s the smell of thawing earth and dripping ice.

The wall of ice at the mouth of my cave still blocks out much of the light, so the cave is deep in shadows, but through the blue-white mass I see a brighter colour, tinged with gold and I realise it might be the sun. Pushing back my covers, I sit up and take another harsh,deep breath, drawing in the clear cold air I can feel infiltrating the sour, stale air of my den.

I get to my feet, joints stiff and sore and movement difficult, and I stumble to the ice wall. Before I reach it, I can feel the change. Air is moving, through the cut-out in the ice that had become blocked around the winter solstice, and though it is still the frozen air of winter, it is no longer the same. There is moisture in it that holds the scents of the thaw. When I move into the tunnel through the ice wall, I see that droplets of water are rolling slowly down, as if the tunnel is weeping with relief. The tunnel is still partially blocked, but a window has opened, that drips steadily as it melts, and through this rough portal, the air flows. I stand as close as I can to the opening in the ice and beyond it, I can hear the sounds of flowing, bubbling water and the first bird song.

Imbolc/Candlemas Meditation

Chapter Seven

Seasonal Meditations:


 Snowdrop Meditation


For many people the snowdrop is the bringer of spring, the first of the true flowers of springtime. Blooming often when the snow is still on the ground, being blasted by gales, frozen by frosts and battered by rain, it is a witness to the unconquerable strength of nature. The tiny flowers hang like little white bells, their petals so fragile and yet they endure everything that the tail end of winter can throw at them. Few people ever kneel down to inhale their sweet, lily-like scent and so it remains a secret known only to a few. The scent of the snowdrop is subtle and not easy to catch; outdoors the scent may rise on a still day in February, but days when the wind doesn’t blow are few in that cold month.

For this meditation I suggest planning ahead and buying or planting some snowdrop bulbs in pot, or if you have them growing in your garden, pick a handful and place them in a small vase with water and watch for them beginning to open their flowers properly. The scent will not emerge from unopened buds and so this is a seasonal meditation where you may have only a few short days or hours where it is possible to do it. If you are lucky and have the unusual combination of a sunny and still day, a location with plentiful snowdrops and sufficient privacy to meditate, then the meditation may be done outdoors. There is no essential oil of snowdrop, to my knowledge, and they do now retain much, if any scent when dried.

The arrival of the snowdrops is for me the turning point of the winter, when however much bad weather arrives after that, I have seen the spring starting. If you suffer from Seasonally Affective Disorder (SAD), the return of the light is very important both physically and psychologically. There is a flower essence available that may help with this, and may be useful taken before this meditation, if you find that Energy Medicine is helpful to you.

Follow the usual grounding and relaxing processes and then place your pot or vase of snowdrops close to your chosen seat, and for a few moments gaze at the flowers. Lift the flowers close to your face; feel the petals brush your skin as if the breeze were shaking them and inhale slowly and deeply. The fragrance will rise softly as the flowers warm; it comes in waves, sometimes barely there, other times quite strong. Wait until you have smelled the fragrance a few times and then begin.


The pale yellow sun of earliest spring is pouring through the bare twigs and branches of ancient woodland. You are standing on the edge of a clearing; hazel and birch trees surround you and beyond them larger and older trees stand as sentinels. The clearing is filled with snowdrops among the rough clumps of grass, and they are at the very peak of their blooming. There is hardly any breeze, but every so often a tiny hint of wind shakes the tiny flower heads like a thousand miniature bells; you might almost hear them ring with a faint silvery tone. Their scent rises to greet you in waves, a little like that of lilies but not cloying and very fresh and exhilarating, like the spring breeze that shakes the flowers from time to time.

Watch the flowers quiver and dance when the wind gusts through the clearing; see how their petals gleam brilliantly white in the new sunshine. There is still frost on the ground here and there; some of the grasses are dusted with crystals of ice, but as you watch, these are melting and the bright drops of moisture glitter in the light.

Walk further into the clearing and you will see that the trees make and almost perfect circle around you. Somewhere in the bushes a wren is singing her spring song; a blackbird tunes up and then breaks into song too. You can hear the chuckle of running water too, but right now you can’t see where it is coming from. Stand for a moment in the middle of the clearing and very slowly turn round and look at what surrounds you. The trees are still bare of leaves but even from this distance you can see the swelling of the buds. It will be a while yet before the buds break and burst forth into full leaf, but the signs are there. Birds move from branch to branch, and you can hear them squabble as well as sing. Some even seem to be carrying nesting materials, though this seems far too early and far too cold to be egg- laying time yet.

 At the edge of the clearing, you catch a glimpse of something that interests you. A low wall of ancient lichen-covered stones surrounds a small pool, from which emerges a narrow channel. The water flows from the pool and into the channel and then becomes a little stream, the bottom lined with shining pebbles. The snowdrops are so densely packed near this pool that it is hard to walk among them without stepping on them. When you get to the pool you can see that it is a spring, and the water is as pure and clear as you could wish for. Taste some; it is icy cold but very good. Around the low wall around the spring, someone has laid snowdrops, making a pattern of them. Look closely and see what the pattern seems to tell you. I will leave you here for a while to enjoy the scent of the flowers, the sunlight and the song of the spring.

* A shadow seems to pass across the face of the sun; a wisp of cloud has been blown across it, bringing you back to the here and now. The wind is gathering strength, and there is moisture in the air as if rain is on its way, and it feels colder suddenly, reminding you that spring is still barely here. You feel it is time to go home.

Inhale the scent of the snowdrops and feel them fill you with the energy to endure the rest of the time before the year turns more steadily to the sun. The quiet laughter of the spring beside you fills your heart with joy and as you pass from the flower filled glade and back into the room where you began, keep with you the feelings and thoughts the snowdrops gave you and keep them safe in your heart as the year warms. You are now back.