Imbolc 2013

Imbolc 2013 (2)Imbolc Altar

Our Imbolc ritual this year was run by MorningStar and Fox, with Barley and Stormcrow as Handmaiden and Summoner.

Pre-ritual crafts were aplenty, with Stormcrow leading a workshop on making brooms for the New Year. The children made Brigid’s Crosses with pipe cleaners. There was also spinning yarn from Alpaca wool with a drop spindle. With all the other crafting going on, we didn’t have time for any of our Grove‘s chandlers to get all the year’s old candle stubs together. New brooms were made by Bear, a guest from Rogue Star, along with Laughing Shadow, Barley & Fox, and Laughing Wolf.

Imbolc 2013 (15)Broom Making

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Ritual:

Our Imbolc festivities included washing of hands and feet, a touchstone ritual to the chanting of “Water in the Well,” the lighting of a great many candles to welcome warmth and light back into the world, along with fire scrying and spiral dancing to the chanting of “We Will Kindle the Fire.”

Two pairs of deities were invited: Brigid and Dagda, and in keeping with our focus on the Welsh pantheon, Arianrhod and Gwydion were also called. A singing bowl was used in lieu of the bell to welcome the Gods.

Stormcrow told the story of The First Tyngedd, which is the second part of his saga adapted from the Mabinogion, called “A Year and Change in Welsh Myth,” which follows the life of Llew Llaw Gyffes through the Wheel of the Year.

Post-ritual feast was amazing as always, with lamb shanks, colcannon, roasted root vegetables, beer, mead, canned preserves, and cupcakes.

Imbolc 2013 (3)Imbolc 2013 (9)

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Imbolc Fires

Fire-bearers circle figures of The Green Man fighting Jack Frost. Imbolc celebration in Marsden, West Yorkshre, February 2007. Photo by: Steven Earnshaw

As mentioned in earlier entries, Imbolc is the time when we see the quickening of sun’s return. Winter is still here, but spring is on it’s way and coming up fast.  The most commonly revered diety of Imbolc among Pagans is Brighid, for her fires of the forge, and associations with child birth. She is also,  a goddess of Prophecy, Fortune, and Luck.

One of the many rituals observed at Imbolc by Wiccan practitioners is that of Fire Lighting and Candle Lighting, as a reminder of the Sun’s growing presence in our lives again, and as a way to cast off the remaining dark nights.

In our ritual this year we will be also be incorporating Fire Scrying, which is a magical act which combines both Scrying and Pyromancy.

Scrying:

Many different tools are used for scrying,  such as Glass, Mirrors, Stones – things that are usually translucent, reflective, or luminescent. Most commonly used is the Crystal Ball.  No matter the tool used – scrying involves getting oneself into a state of trance so there is usually a medium such as Water, Fire, or Music also present to help relax the mind and tune oneself in with the greater consciousness and allow for unobstructed sight and interpretation from the mind.

The word Pyromancy, comes from Greek pyros, “fire,” and manteia, “divination.” It is suggested/theorized that devotee’s of Hephaestus and Athena may have practiced this ancient art.  Cultures world wide have used Fire to divine the future, see the past, or to figure out which way to go in the present. The Celts, from whom we Pagans garnered the modern celebration of Imbolc, were no exception.

At Imbolc, girls would make a Brighid doll out of a remaining sheaf of last years grain harvest. They would carry this doll from house to house blessing the homes with the fertility of last years harvest. In return they were given cakes, bread, and butter.

From one of my favorite sites; The Pagan Family http://manyhandshouse.blogspot.com

Afterwords, they would place the Brighid Doll, on a “Brides Bed” – a small batch of rushes, with a slachdan in her hand.  The girls would then dance and sing until dawn , and in the morning examine the ashes to see if Brighid had left her footprint. If no print was found, an offering had to be made at a place where three streams met, for luck.

Fire Scrying is less focussed on aspecting the Divine through fire than the elaborate ceremony and ritual of the Brighids Doll and Bed.  It is a practice which uses Divine Fire as a tool to see beyond the known, to the future, and to deep within – the places where normally light does not shine.

Fire has a natural allure, lending itself to gazing particularly when other sources of light are scarce. It is easy to find oneself caught mesmerized by firelight, allowing oneself to relax into the desired trance state, and be a receiver of images first – allow the visions to take place in your mind. If you have a particular question, hold the question lightly in your mind but do not grasp at the answer – allow yourself to take in what is offered to you… interpret it after you part the trance state.

Touchstone Rite, Sacred Wells, and Brighid

Touchstone:

“The origin of the touchstone, is a piece of basalt or slate that metal was scraped on to see if the color and other properties were true: to find it’s genuine nature.In common english terms, the touchstone has come to mean the standard by which we measure ourselves. It can be something we refer to and use to help us move forward, to give us wisdom, strength, and inspiration.  When you hear us refer to the “touchstone ritual” this is what we mean by it.”
– MorningStar

The touchstone ritual is exclusive to Blue Star, but components surrounding it are not.

Water:

Known as source of energy and sustenance – Water has been hailed as a holy element for as long as it has given life. In Wicca Water is venerated not just for it’s life sustaining, but for it’s cyclic nature which mimics our own life transformations and reincarnation. – It is most commonly seen as the womb and the tomb, and the place of unconsciousness, rest, and transformation.

Thalassa: The Greek Primordial Spirit of the Sea

In every, or nearly every culture among men, the myths and healing properties of waters have been revered – as being possessed, protected, and embodiment of the Gods and Goddesses, Spirits.

Holy Waters are quested for, created through ritual, or made use of by nearly every major religion. The waters are used  to bless, test, sanctify, cleanse, and heal spiritual patrons – to bring them closer to their Divine Source(s).   Sacred places, and rituals have been crafted for thousands of years honoring the Divine Water  Spirits, Protectors and Gods, such as those created by the ancient  Celts – for the Goddess Brighid.

The Sacred Healing Wells  and Water of Brighid

saint_brigid_well_kildare

Brighid is often envisioned as a Triple Goddess, and is venerated as the Goddess of Smithing, Prophesy & Healing, and Poetry.  She is the Celtic Goddess of Fire and Water, particularly water where three streams merge together. Often called a Goddess of Healing Waters. She has many Sacred Wells in the British Isles. Perhaps most famous of these is Her well at Kildare which is still maintained and visited by many seeking her favor or to pay honor to her.

brigids-well-kildare-ireland-by-flickr-user-starlingofavalon

Image from : Flickr user Starlingofavalon

This is a beautiful, simple ritual for the creation of a Sacred/Holy Water by Helen Demetriou shows a modern interpretation for creation of Holy Water, sacred to Brighid, using three different waters.

If thousands of years of veneration weren’t enough to impress a person into seeing the significance and majesty of Water as a divine element, some recent Science might just convince someone over that hurdle.  We have barely begun to explore the depth of a single drop of water, just as in many ways, we are only beginning to discover ourselves.

At Imbolc, we have a rare opportunity to  “Reach into the Well,”  through blessed waters of Lady Brighid, to find in the unifying memory of Sacred Water, and to bring back from the past a touchstone – a piece of the sacred self to carry into the future.

Imbolc: People Get Ready

Imbolc or Imbolg (pronounced i-molk or i-molg )  is one of four major Celtic festivals celebrated on the cross-quarter days.  Though the ground is still covered with winter, and the reluctant earth holds out to share her fruits for at least another six weeks, the ewe’s with their big bellies are producing milk, readying  to give birth are a solid reminder that winter’s reign is ending. The re-appearance of milk was a cause for rejoicing and was celebrated by the Celts with a milk feast.

Although most Pagans today are urban dwellers, not really accustomed to the agricultural cycle, leastways that of the ancient Celts, vestiges of the old way remain engrained in our popular culture, both secular and non.

Long before Punxsutawney Phil,  the most renowned Groundhog,  the ancient Celts had a particular familiar belief to that which accompanies the Groundhog Day Tradition. It certainly can’t be just coincidence that Groundhog Day occurs of February 2nd, the most widely used date for Imbolc celebrations.

According to the Carmina Gadelica  the Celts took their cues from the instinct of natures beasts – believing that if serpents or badgers came from their winter dens then spring was firmly on it’s way, but as long as they remained tucked away – the cold grasp of winter was still upon us.

The end of hibernation for animals, gives birth to perhaps the most widely embraced remnant of the old ways, is the tradition of Spring Cleaning.

Though not yet spring, spring was coming, and that meant discovering and taking preparations for the season to come, now.  Imbolc marks the beginning of those preparations.  Time to see what needed mending and maintenance, in an age before industry – everything that required tools, required those tools be care for. In many ways, Imbolc was when people could take measure how well they had sowed the year before by the Imbolc workload.

As primarily urbanite Pagans, we are not likely to all find ourselves going to a farm to practice sheep sheering, or to a smithy to get our forge on – although those are excellent field trips.  Instead you’ll probably see us cleaning our altar tools, restocking our supply shelves, making new candles.  We primarily use Imbolc as a time to tune back in to work that comes before the changes: recognizing that our growth requires a little bit of hindsight and foresight, a good set of tools, and commitment to a plan of action to make the year fruitful.

There’s Water in the Well – if you reach on down
Water in the well
Reach down, reach down
There’s water in the well if you reach on down,
Plenty of Water in the Well.

Water in the Well

With our Imbolc festivities gearing up, we’re all busy prepping for the holiday about prepping.  This year we will be doing a plethora of activities, a touchstone ritual (a Blue Star exclusive rite), as well as Broom Making, and fire scrying.  For the kids there will be pipe cleaner Brighid’s Crosses and butter churning.   I will be posting a little bit more about these things later on, and more songs that we will be using in our ritual. Feel free to include them in your own practice.

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