Holidays

What is Imbolc? Goddesses, History, and How to Celebrate

Imbolc is an ancient Pagan holiday based on Celtic traditions; it marks the halfway point between winter solstice and the spring equinox in Neolithic Ireland and Scotland. This is the time of year when we start to emerge from the darkness of winter in preparation for the Spring. 

In today’s modern world, we are far removed from the hardships of Winter, compared to our ancestors who lived thousands of years ago. At this point in the year, people have been hunkered down inside for months, living off root vegetables, salted meat, and what little they could fish or hunt. Their sheep, who naturally tend to breed in Autumn, are ready to give birth right around Imbolc. The ewe’s milk flows for the first time all Winter, and fresh milk and cheese were the first signs that Spring is about to arrive. Imbolc was a time to celebrate the coming of brighter days, surviving the harsh Winter, and planning for the year’s sowing season.

Being mindful of the natural energies, the ebbs and flows of the year, can help us stay connected to the elements, the season and the earth. Ancient Pagans followed the Wheel of the Year, eight Sabbats consisting of four solstice festivals, and four fire festivals.

All about Brighid (Brigid)

On Imbolc, ancestors in Ireland and Scotland particularly, honored the Goddess Brighid. Brighid can take on any appearance she wants, young or old, human or snake. She is a Triple Celtic Goddess, the embodiment of the child, the maiden and the crone. She is the Goddess of the Eternal Flame, the trinity also represents three types of fire: hearth fire, forge fire, and the fire to create and transform. She is also known as the Goddess of the Sacred Well, protecting healing waters. Brighid was the patron of poets, healers, and magicians.   

Brighid (Brigid) Imbolc

Imbolc Correspondence for the Modern Witch

Foods associated with Imbolc are milk, butter, yogurt, and cheese (and nondairy alternatives will do just fine). This is the time to savor creamy soups, spring onions, leeks, potatoes, and Irish Soda Bread. Oils associated with Imbolc are spruce and fir, cinnamon, rosemary, patchouli, jasmine, and vanilla. Colors are white, light blue, and light pink. 

Imbolc is sometimes referred to as Candlemas, and a common practice is to make and bless candles. You can make corn dollies or Brighid’s Cross out of any kind of grass or hay you have available. 

Ceromancy, or candlewax divination, is a great way to connect with the magic of the season. Imagine a goal you are working towards, a seed you wish to plant. Really meditate on this goal, and develop a question with a yes or no answer. Use a paper plate and draw a line down the middle. Label on side yes, the other no. Light a small spell candle or tealight. Journal about your vision or meditate more (while supervising the candle). When it has burned all the way down, observe which side of the plate collected the most wax. That is your answer!

Imbolc Spell Kit

4 Ways to learn more about Imbolc

  1. Listen to my Imbolc playlist on Spotify, with seasonal songs and podcasts
  2. Check out my Imbolc board on Pinterest for more ideas
  3. Order an Imbolc Spell Kit from my Etsy Shop (pictured above)
  4. Join me for a magic workshop:

Learn more about Brighid, the Roman Goddess Juno, and the Egyptian Goddess Renenutet. Pull tarot cards, receive reiki, and relax during a guided meditation that will help you plant your own fire seed of intention. 

  • In Person workshop at Saltitude Sunday 1/31 1:00-3:00 pm (learn more)
  • Virtual workshop on Zoom Monday 2/1 5:30-7:00 pm (learn more)

Sources

Neal, Carl F. Imbolc: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Brigid’s Day. Llewellyn, 2016. 

Moura, Ann. Grimoire for the Green Witch: a Complete Book of Shadows. Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd, 2018.

Events, Holidays

Online Magic Workshop: Imbolc Fire Festival

Join me in my Zoom Room on Monday, February 1st from 5:30-7:00pm to celebrate Imbolc, a time to emerge from the darkness of winter in preparation for the Spring. If you want to create new plans, sweep away old energies, and plant the seeds of abundance for the season, then don’t miss this event!

Imbolc is an ancient Pagan holiday based on Celtic traditions; it marks the halfway point between winter solstice and the spring equinox in Neolithic Ireland and Scotland. This is the time of year when we start to emerge from the darkness of winter in preparation for the Spring. Learning about ancient traditions can help us connect with the seasons of the Earth in the modern world.

  • During this online workshop, you will learn all about the Goddesses of the season: Celtic Goddess Brigid, Roman Goddess Juno, and Egyptian Goddess Renenutet.
  • You will discover some ways to celebrate Imbolc in the modern world – check out my board on Pinterest.
  • You will get a tarot reading that helps you set an intention for something you want to plant this Spring – a new project, a new job, a new relationship, a new energy, etc.
  • Then you will be guided through a meditation to plant your fire seed of intention so it can grow in the coming months. Manifest something great and connect with some amazing people.

Register before January 25th for a $20 discount! Upon registration, you will automatically receive an email with the zoom link. Email jamie@arrowtarotreadings.com if you have any questions!

Register Here

Holidays, India

Goddesses, Mothers, Gods, and Kings of Winter Solstice

The winter solstice translates to, “the sun stands still;” it is the longest night of the year. From this point forward, the light returns as days grow longer into Spring. Learning about ancient beliefs and archetypes makes me feel more connected to the season, and it can help us understand where some of our long-standing traditions come from. Did you ever wonder why we kiss under the mistletoe or why there are twelve days of Christmas? The answers are in our ties to ancient Roman, Greek, Celtic, and Norse mythology.

Setting the stage – Yule and the Winter Solstice

Yule descends from the Old English word geól and may refer to Christmas Day or Christmas tide. It is also connected to the Norse word jól, a heathen fast lasting twelve days, while Odin and his ghostly hunters swept through the dark forest. Since the mid-1800s, the word is widely used as an informal term for all Christmas festivities meaning joy or jolly.

The Romans recognized Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, the Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun, the Solar God Mithras. In the 4th century, the Church, in an attempt to promote Christianity, substituted the birth of the sun with the birth of the son. Some believe this to be the reason that we celebrate the birth of Jesus in December, even though he was more likely born in the Spring.

Goddesses, Mothers, Kings, and Gods of Winter Solstice

The solstice is a very maternal time of year, referred to as “The Mother Night” in some cultures. Women are often credited with the birth and death of the sun, the changing of the seasons, and the balance of life itself. Men are shown as heroes, battling adversity or ensuring that proper cycles continue, so life can be sustained. They sometimes represent the sun itself.

Celtic Goddess Cailleach

Cailleach translates to “the veiled one.” She is the crone, the old one, the Queen of Winter. She is part of the triple goddess symbol of the child, the maiden and the crone. The maiden, Brighid, rules from Beltane in the Spring, until Samhain in the Fall, but Cailleach rules the Winter months.

There was a tradition in Ireland and Scotland, where farmers competed to bring in their crops. The first farmer to harvest his fields would create a corn dolly to represent Cailleach, and he would toss it into the unharvested field of another farmer. As each farmer finished, the dolly would be found and passed along, until the last farmer to finish the harvest would have to look after Cailleach for the Winter. The dolly would be burned on Beltane to release the Crone and welcome the Maiden. It was a heated competition, no one wanted to get stuck with the Crone in their home for the Winter.

Greek Goddess Demeter

Demeter is the goddess of agriculture, fertility, and sacred law. She presides over the cycle of life and death. She is a mother goddess. Her daughter, Persephone, is abducted by Hades and tricked into staying in the underworld with him for six months out of the year. Demeter’s grief causes the earth to die for those months until Persephone returns in the Spring. She controls the balance of the harvest, which was the source of life for people at the time.

Norse Goddess Frigg and God Beltur

Frigg is the Norse Goddess of Winter. It is believed that on the longest night of the year, she labored the birth of the sun into the world. This was called “The Mother Night.” Frigg is Odin’s wife, also associated with marriage and fertility. Friday is named after Frigg. She gave birth to two sons, Beltur, and his blind twin Holdr.

Frigg asked all of nature not to harm her sons, but in her haste, she forgot about mistletoe. Loki, a trickster God, fooled Holdr into shooting Baldur with a spear made from mistletoe. He was later brought back to life, and Frigg was so delighted that she declared mistletoe as a symbol of love and vowed to kiss anyone beneath it. It is poisonous though, so don’t let anyone eat it!

The Oak King and the Holly King

In Celtic tradition, the day of the Winter solstice is the day when the Oak King wins the battle against the Holly King. It is the battle of light and dark, of life and death, of Winter and Summer. And cycle that must continue for life to endure. The Oak King will win and the nights will grow shorter until the Summer Solstice when the Holly Kings wins his battle and brings us back to Winter. People would burn fires through the night and sing at dawn to midwife the birth of the sun and celebrate the victory of the Oak King.

Greek God Apollo

In the 10th century BCE, the Roman Emperor Augustus installed Apollo as the reigning version of the solar god. Games and festivities were held in his honor around the winter solstice. He was later superseded by the Persian deity Mithras. Mithras’ birthday just so happened to be December 25th, but scholars seem to agree that there is no connection to Christianity and the cult of Mithras.

Saturnalia and a personal reflection

Another connection to winter gods is the Roman festival Saturnalia, in honor of the agricultural god Saturn, from December 17-23. It was a time of feasting, gift-giving, offering sacrifices, and a special dinner where masters served their slaves.

In late December and early January of this year, I was at the Temple of Shani Shingnapur in Maharashtra, India. The entire village is dedicated to the Hindu God of Saturn. They go to temple and make offerings every day. No one in the village locks the doors on their homes because they trust that they are protected and no one will do each other harm.

The village was humble, and the people were so friendly. I had the best cup of chai of the entire trip and I picked up an ornament there, which I was excited to place on my Yule altar this season. The extra excitement is over the rare conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn today (12/21/20201) as I write this on the Winter solstice. Check out my astrologer friend, Carter’s blog about this! Learn more about the Christmas Star.

My year started and ended with Saturn, the sun, incredible magic, new experiences, and new friends. I am filled with gratitude.

I hope this brief introduction to some archetypes associated with this time of year inspires you to learn more! If you feel drawn to any of these characters, I encourage you to research them and honor them with your yule decorations. This is a good time to clean and organize, to reflect and learn lessons from the past year, and to envision your new future. As the sun is reborn, you can start fresh too. Blessed be!

If you like learning about folklore and magic, sign up for my newsletter for more blogs and workshops!

Sources

Books

Moura, Ann. Grimoire for the Green Witch: a Complete Book of Shadows. Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd, 2018.

Pesznecker, Susan. Yule: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for the Winter Solstice. Llewellyn Publications, 2015. 

Websites

https://www.britannica.com

https://www.learnreligions.com

Holidays

Online Yule Celebration: Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year (and the longest night); solstice meaning, “sun stands still.” From this point on, the days will get longer. Ancient Pagans believed that the sun was reborn on this day, and they celebrated the light of the world. The same sun that warms the earth and makes it possible for us to survive today.

This time of year is associated with powerful Goddesses and Gods. In Celtic theology, this time of year is ruled by the Crone, Cailleach, who rule’s the Winter’s half of the year between Samhain and Beltane. The Oak King is winning the battle against the Holly King, but the tides will turn again in summer. These ideas focus on the dualistic battle between light and dark, characterizing it as a cycle that must be maintained in order for life to continue.

On December 21st, 2020, a “great conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn will occur, meaning the two planets will appear just 0.06º apart right after sunset. It’s not happened since the year 2000 and won’t happen again until 2040.

There have been a number of powerful conjunctions in 2020, and the more exalted planets and constellations that are in conjunction at the same time, the more influential the energies will be for us.

For this reason, I invite you to join in an online celebration of celestial energies at play!

During this event, you will:

  • Enjoy seasonal recipes, crafts and folklore
  • Meet the Gods and Goddesses associated with this time of year
  • Learn about ancient ways of celebrating
  • Hear more about astrology
  • Participate in a dancing meditation
  • Receive long distance healing energy
  • Have your tarot cards read

Register early for a discount. Bring a friend!

Holidays

Give the gift of tarot for the holidays

This time of year is perfect for tarot readings. The Winter solstice, or Yule celebration, falls on December 21st. This is the day that the sun’s journey through the sky is the shortest. From this day forward, the days will start to get longer again. Ancient festivals celebrate the rebirth of sun as a time of rest, reflection, and rebirth of ourselves. It’s as though the slate is wiped clean and we get to start fresh in the new year.

This year during the Winter solstice, Jupiter and Saturn will be aligned in a great conjunction. After this, the two planets will appear to trade positions, as Jupiter overtakes Saturn and draws farther and farther away from Saturn for the next decade. There have been a number of powerful conjunctions in 2020, and the more exalted planets and constellations that are in conjunction at the same time, the more influential the energies will be for us. This is the closing of a major shift. From the beginning of January 2020 to December 2020, we have the very rare conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter and Pluto. The last time this happened was three thousand years ago!

So there is so much celestial energy for us to tap into right now! Consider giving your loved ones a tarot reading for the holidays. It’s believed that a tarot deck given to you as a gift is more powerful and auspicious than one that you buy for yourself. I believe the same is true for tarot readings. Some of my most insightful readings have been with clients who were dragged to the psychic by a friend. So often, others can see when we need insight and reflection before we can see it for ourselves.

For all of these reasons and more, I am offering gift certificates for a special Wheel of the Year tarot spread. The Wheel of the Year spread shows a card for each month of the year with one card for your overall theme of the year in middle. It reveals insights and cautions for 2021 and helps us rebirth and transform ourselves as the wheel of time turns into the new year.

You can book a Wheel of the Year reading for two ($150), or purchase a gift certificate for one ($80). All readings will be set up on Zoom with video so you can see me and your tarot spread at the same time.

Parties and readings for two are great because you can hear each other’s readings and help interpret the meanings together!

To purchase a tarot gift certificate and book an appointment – email me at Jamie@arrowtarotreadings.com; call or text 401-744-5644.