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.

Holidays

Secrets of Samhain and Shadow Work

This time of year, with Samhain, All Hallows Eve, and Dia de los Muertos, the veil between the worlds of the living and of the dead is at its thinnest. It’s a good time to release what is no longer serving us and protect the blessings that we want to hold onto. A simple protection spell is to write what you are grateful for on a piece of paper, place the paper in a jar and fill it with salt and herbs, like nettle for protection, and dill for a bit of good luck. You can seal the jar with black candle wax while whispering your intention into the smoke.

Samhain is the very end of the year in the Celtic Pagan tradition. It’s a time to reflect on how you have changed, to harvest and stow away for the future, and to release the old. Ancestors come to visit, and you can work on helping them heal from hardships they endured to move the family forward in this world. It is believed that the traumas of our anestors impact us today.

You can preserve your favorite summer treats and stock up your pantry. You can also have a releasing ceremony to release yourself from attachment to something that is no longer for you. You can clean and purify a space in your home that isn’t serving you. For a cleansing spell, boil herbs like clary sage, bay leaf, lemon balm and/or lavender. Let the water cool a bit, and then use it to mop your floors. Hum or sing a little chant while you do so!

Because Smahin is all about reflecting, moving forward and evolving, it is the ideal time of year to work with your shadow side. This is called shadow work, and it is about becoming well acquainted with your dark side. It’s about uncovering every part of you that has ever been silenced, shoved down, or rejected. It’s the parts of you that you sweep away to the corner of your mind, hoping they don’t turn back up again, at least not for awhile. It’s the you under the mask. It’s the expectations that you are obedient to. It might be hurt, scared, anxious or held hostage. Acknowledging the shadow self can be a rich source of emotion and self discovery, leading to deep healing. 

For me, this is an important time of year to soak up the sun and spend time in nature before the winter blues start to set in. I tend to get small bouts of seasonal depression when my world turns gray. It’s usually as Fall gives way to Winter and the clocks turn back. Then I adapt for a while and it creeps back in around March when I can’t bare the gray ground any longer. By getting to know the way my shadow side works, I’ve found ways to balance the blues. This is a very light-handed example. Shadow work is very personal and can run very deep.

This year, Samhain falls on a full blue moon, on a Saturday, the same day we turn the clocks back. Whether you have big plans or you’re staying in for the weekend, it’s going to be dense with energy, and emotions will be running high. It’s important to stay grounded and protect your energy. You can ground your energy by walking barefoot on the earth, mindfully sipping a hot beverage, or spending time in the sunshine. You can protect your energy by making sure you get enough sleep and water, meditating, taking a bubble bath (with some epsom salts), or getting a reiki treatment.

At dusk on November 1st, the veil will draw closed again. This is the precise moment when I am hosting an online Samhain ritual class, to help you ground and protect at the perfect time. We will send one last message across the veil before it closes, we will play a divination game using apples, and pull tarot cards for guidance. We will meditate and send reiki healing energy to the group. If you want to feel the magic of Samhain and learn some pretty cool stories, then join me! 

Astrology and Tarot

January 31 – February 6, 2019: Four of Swords

Sundown this Friday, February 1st, marks the start of Imbolc, a Sabbat knowns as Brigid’s Day that lasts through February 2nd. This is precisely the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The harsh, cold winter is starting to give way. The sun sets just a bit later every day.

This is the time to welcome the Celtic Fire Goddess Brigid with a festival to honor the maiden. Imbolc festivals always involve fire ceremonies, and lots of candles.

The maiden is key in Pagan tradition. The triple goddess symbol shows the phases of the moon and also represents phases of life: the child, the maiden and the crone. Imbolc means “ewe’s milk” and also “in the belly of the mother.” At this time of year, the seeds for Spring are sitting in the womb of mother earth, waiting to pop up through the icy ground. This is a time for rebirth, renewal and preparation for the future.

I’m new to learning about Paganism, I was raised Roman Catholic. I am always fascinated by the ways that Christianity uses Pagan traditions. In the church, February 1st is St. Brigit’s Day and February 2nd is Candlemas, when the candles are blessed for ceremonies throughout the year. The Feast of the Virgin Mary is also this time of year; Mary was a maiden, a mother. Pagan tradition involves making Brigid’s Cross out of wheat stalks, which are similar to the crosses made from palms on Palm Sunday, coming up a little bit later in the Spring for Christians.

Today, there are lots of ways you can honor Brigid. You can have a bonfire or light a candle in each room of the house. Sweeping and clearing the dust from the home is customary. Out with the old and in with the new. Cleaning of anysort is a good way to celebrate, even cleansing the body by taking a nice herbal bath.

Decorate your altar or your mantel with signs of early spring like tulips, daffodils, feathers, or anything green and fresh. Of course food is very important, as with any holiday. You can make a nice meal with seasonal items like root vegetables, seeds, hearty starches. Dairy products are also associated with Imboc (I mentioned the “ewe’s milk” earlier). Yogurt, custard, creamy soups or sauces. I personally like dairy, so I plan to make a vegan “cheesy” cauliflower potato soup (here’s the recipe) and maybe some fresh baked bread or warm cinnamon rolls.

I pulled a tarot card, looking for some advice on the week ahead, and up came the Four of Swords. Here, we have a knight resting on an altar, over a sword. When I see this card, I always think of the idiom, “just sleep on it.” Reflect, rejuvenate yourself, rest as much as possible this week. You have a lot to do, and the sword below the knight suggests there is one particular point or situation, where turning off your brain will be beneficial. The three swords above the knight, pointing down means that other things can wait. Hang up your weapons, put down your shield, and take care of yourself. The knight’s hands are in prayer, which means meditate, pray, whatever you want to call it – just clear your mind. This is great for Imbolc weekend!

As you start the work week on Monday, there is a new moon in Aquarius. New moons are a good time to manifest what you want. I just started a new job, so I’ll be performing my own manifestation ritual to focus on letting go of the old version of myself and expanding into my highest potential during this moon phase. You can make moon water for spells and rituals by placing a bowl of salt water outside or by a window where moonlight will reach the bowl. Then, you might have to defrost the water depending on where you live, but it can be used in sprays, baths, gardens, etc. Anywhere you want to spread some magic.

The new moon in Aquarius might have you feeling a little bit lonely. I think that some alone time to recharge your batteries will be needed over the weekend, but don’t carry that reclusivity with you through the week. Brainstorm with people, ask for input, collaborate on problems, reach out to people in your social circle. Open yourself to new experiences. It will be good to think outside of the box this week. Stir the pot, so to speak.

Here are some excellent articles that I read for this blog:

 

Astrology and Tarot

December 20 – 26, 2018: Death

Life has been so crazy, that I missed my blog last week! With trying to wrap up the semester and the work year, preparing for the holidays, something had to give. Well, besides my sanity. And so this week brings the Death card.

This is actually one of my favorite cards in the deck because it’s all about, “out with the old; make room for the new.” A skeleton knight rides in on his white horse to take the life of the king. This is a reminder that death comes for all walks of life: rich or poor, bad or good, young or old. The skeleton represents the strongest part of the human body, the only part that remains after death. The armor makes death invincible, nothing can stop him. In the distance is a beautiful sun scape and you can see the towers from the moon card, as though from the other side.

The Death card means that a chapter or a situation in your life is coming to and end and there is much potential to start anew. Remember that death is just as much a part of life as birth, as we usher in the full moon in Cancer on Saturday, December 22nd.

The full moon is a time to slow down and fill your cup. Give gratitude for your blessings. The energy of Cancer in this context will help you balance your heart and mind. You will be in the mood for spending time with family and friends, which is perfect because this week we also celebrate the holidays.

Many people will celebrate Christmas, which actually carries a lot of the same traditions as Yule. Yule is the winter solstice, also called Christmastide. This year it falls on Friday, December 21st. This tradition is traced back thousands of years to Germany and Scandinavia, as late as the 4th century.

Although most of the Yule traditions were absorbed into Christmas, many Neo Pagans and Wiccans still celebrate. Some of these traditions include bringing various winter-hearty plants into the home, like evergreen, holly, birch, mistletoe and pine. This was a type of sympathetic magic, meant to guard the essence and spirit of the plant. A wild boar was sacrificed for the feast, although today a ham is more commonplace. The Viking God Odin was called the first Father of Christmas; he was known to disguide himself as a wanderer with a long white beard.

Yule is celebrated on the night of the Winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. And the celebration is all about light in any form: candles, bonfires, burning the yule log, etc. Many holiday traditions are centered around light: the star of Christmas, there’s Hanukkah with its brightly lit menorahs, Kwanzaa candles, and more.

I think that Death was actually a fantastic card to represent this week. The year is winding down; I’m taking the time to slow down and I have some pretty big plans to reveal in my life in 2019. Sometimes the hardest part of growing, is saying goodbye to the old you. It’s also a reminder not to take life too seriously! To keep your loved ones close, because your time with them is limited. I feel a stirring of change, growth and new beginnings for the new year. Death to the same boring old comfort zone!

 

Here are some excellent sources that I consulted for this blog!

https://www.biddytarot.com/tarot-card-meanings/major-arcana/death/

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/winter-solstice-pagan-yule_us_585970abe4b03904470af4c5

https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-yule-2562997