Imbolc


I missed last Imbolc, as I was in hospital waiting to start labour and give birth to my son, which seems appropriate for the start of Spring.

This time I did my ritual and thanked Brigit for my son, who will be one year old in a couple of days. As he is now mobile I waited until he was asleep and did the ritual in the bathroom, as my current baby monitor’s range will not stretch to the garden, which is something that needs to be remedied.

Afterwards I made my Brigit cross which is currently hanging over the front door and tried to put the old one up into the loft to ward against fire. Unfortunately I could not get the loft ladder down, which is yet another thing to look at soon.

Marking the Seasons


A lot of Pagans use the festivals to mark the seasons. The problem I have with this is that they insist that the start of the Summer is Beltane. In Britain where I live Beltane is often cold and wet and we may not see a period of sunshine (I define a period as roughly a week) until June or maybe July, which is not when Summer is supposed to start.

I’ve always felt that Beltane is the end of Spring and celebrate midsummer as the end of the light days and beginning of the dark days, so for me it is really the Summer solstice.

The Irish did at some point mark various points as seasons, but the seasons themselves may have changed.

In Irish myth Imbolc is marked as the start of the light half of the year and Samhain as the dark half. I have calculated out the days and the period Imbolc to Samhain is 273 days, while Samhain to Imbolc is 120 days which makes it roughly Imbolc to Samhain is the light two-thirds of the year while Samhain to Imbolc is the dark one-third of the year.
So instead of marking the seasons at the festivals, I mark the weather.

Imbolc


Between the Winter Solstice and Imbolc I clear out the house. I go through my files and throw out/shred anything that’s no longer relevant, delete any files I don’t need on the computer and donate to charity any books or clothes I don’t want/need anymore. Unfortunately this year I only did some of the books and the files. I’m still helping hubby sort out his Mum’s place and being away every other weekend is taking its toll.

Imbolc was much busier than I had meant it to be. I did my ritual before breakfast. This was the first time I’d done a ritual straight after waking up and without having anything to eat for around eight hours. The ritual was heightened by my lack of sleeping and eating beforehand. I would like to experiment with a proper fast, but at the moment it’s inadvisable medically. I would recommend anyone who is able to do a pre-breakfast ritual to try it.

I had stopped writing rituals as they turned out to be mostly the same, but after Imbolc I will have to start writing again as I was so unprepared for it. I had meant to make Boxty Bread, which is a traditional Irish Imbolc dish which I made last year, but I got to the 31st and thought “aargh, it’s Imbolc tomorrow”.

The ritual went well, but it could have been a lot better. I did my usual post-ritual meditation and the deities were happy with my work, it was just that I’m not happy with it. Winging it is all very well on the odd occasion, but I want my rituals to have more substance and that means writing them, so I can plan things properly and have food and drink and other things in place before the ritual starts.

I had to go into the woods to get a branch to make my Brigit’s cross. The woods were a quagmire and I went in and out quickly as it was threatening to rain, but I got the wood I needed. When I made the cross I placed it over the front door for protection and then moved last year’s cross to the loft.

The old crosses traditionally go into the rafters to protect the house from fire and lightning, but I had moved them out as we were having work done on the loft. They’ve been waiting to go back in, so this was a good time to do so. I was surprised to find that I had five crosses to be placed in the loft – I didn’t realise I had been doing this for so long.

I also renewed protections on the house. Imbolc is a good time to do this, but if I miss it I will do it when I remember. The fact that I do it on Imbolc helps me remember, but it can be done any time of the year.

Imbolc


As usual I cast the circle for my ritual. I’m not using a lighter to light candles again : that was the third time running that a lighter’s failed and I ended up lighting the candles from each other.

In the circle I welcomed Spring in, calling it by its Irish name of Earrach. I said a short piece about it being Brigit’s day. I then did the snake dance to wake the land up and cause things to grow.

I then broke the boxty bread I’d made, which is traditionally made in Ireland at Imbolc and placed each farl (which is a quarter) in the circle as an offering along with some milk. I then unwound the circle.

Lead-up to Imbolc


The whole of January is a lead up to Imbolc for me.

It’s the time when I go through my paperwork, books, DVDs, old letters etc and either throw things in the bin or give them to charity.

This year, a friend of mine gave me the idea of using up everything that is in the freezer, so we’re doing that and saving a lot of money doing it.

Imbolc


This was one of the quickest rituals I have ever done, as it was absolutely freezing. While all the proper steps for the ritual have to be taken, I was not hanging around.

I’m finding it difficult to get back into rituals and am ending up writing them at the last minute. It’s much more satisfying to have written them for a while, have them properly planned out and then you can do so much more with them.

While a last minute ritual will do, one that has been properly planned out and which you can properly celebrate the festival with is a lot better.

Imbolc


Today I celebrated Imbolc.  In the morning when I woke I saw that the forsythia had one bloom on it, which I took as a good omen because for me the forsythia blooming is the first sign of Spring.

As usual I did a small ritual.  What is unusual is that I took my shoes and socks off, because as well as celebrating Bridget’s day I was going to do a Snake Dance to awaken the earth and to properly connect I needed to be barefoot.

I marked the circle out as usual and asked the tree itself (which is a weeping willow) my ancestors and the gods of my ancestors to protect and watch over me in my ritual.

I then started saying about Bridget : about how her cross was a protection symbol.  I then set off to do The Snake Dance and saw a woman frowning at me.  I should have taken this for a sign that all was not well, but I missed it.

I then did The Snake Dance while singing The Snake Song.  This is in order to wake the land up for Spring (see Sarah Lawless’ post The Serpent and the Land) and after that I saw a woman smiling at me, which I should have taken for a sign that I’d done this well.

People reading this who don’t live in Britain may be wondering why I am doing this when I saw an omen that Spring had come.  Well, in Britain Spring may have come, but it can disappear again.  I have known Imbolcs when it snowed and once we had several inches of snow in March.  The British weather is at best unpredictable and I for one don’t want the land to go back to sleep again, so I did The Snake Dance and Song.  Besides which, the omen may have just meant that it was right for me to do The Snake Dance and Song.

The Snake Dance and Song is something I have made up.  I’m not reproducing the Song here as I feel that people should make their own up, but the Snake Dance is so simple that people may very well make up the same one.  The Snake Dance is just moving around in a wiggly way as a snake does and only going forward by moving sideways, just like a snake.  Sarah’s blog says that people used their hands, but I don’t see what’s wrong with substituting feet.  Besides which, I have been meaning to use dance in ritual for a while now, and this seems like a good time.

After I’d wound down the circle and went home I did a meditation.  I knew that Bridget wasn’t happy with me and a deity can speak with you with less impediment in meditation.

It turned out that I’d said the wrong words about her in meditation.  I spoke of her protectiveness when I should have spoken about her as a goddess who chose the wrong man and made the first keening in Ireland when her son died.  I should have spoken about her as fire : the fire which makes the smith create tools and weapons and the creative fire which helped me to write The Snake Song in around half an hour, whereas the first and last quatrain I’d written took two hours to write.

To remedy this Brigit told me that I am to write this up in my blog so that others will not make the same mistake.  I was also to make a Brigit Cross, which I have done and hung it up on the door.

For the first time we have a house of our own and in accordance with folklore the old Brigit’s Cross has been hung in the rafters to protect the house against fire.  While I was going up the ladder to the loft to hang the Cross, my betrothed was at the bottom (I couldn’t reach the ladder so had to get him to do it) saying “I don’t know where you’ll be able to hang it” and I saw a nail sticking out of one of the rafters.  The deities certainly provide when you need it and when something’s right.

I also got a gift from the tree of a forked stick.  It’s too small to make into a stang, but I’ll meditate over it when it’s seasoned and find some use for it.

All in all, it’s been an interesting and humbling Imbolc for me.  I hope yours has gone well.