Saturday, January 26, 2013

Imbolc


By February, most of us in the North are tired of the cold, snowy season.  Imbolc marks the beginning of the lambing season, signaling the beginning of Spring and the stirrings of new life.  Most commonly it is celebrated on 2 February (or 12 February, on the Old Calendar) in the Northern Hemisphere and 1 August in the Southern Hemisphere.  The moon will be waning, last quarter this year.  Imbolc reminds us that Spring is coming soon, and that we only have a few more weeks of winter to go. The sun gets a little brighter, the earth gets a little warmer, and we know that life is revive within the soil.
Depending on your particular tradition, there are many different ways you can celebrate Imbolc.  Some people focus on the Celtic Goddess Brigid, in many aspects a Deity of fire and fertility.  Others aim their rituals more towards the cycles of the season and agricultural markers.  Rituals and activities might include the making of candles, planting Spring flowers, reading poetry and telling stories.

In Norse, the Charming of the Plow is a festival of fertility and beginnings of the planted seed.  Many celebrate the courtship by Freyr of the Maiden Gerd; a symbolic marriage of the God of Fertility with the Mother Earth.  In much of Northern Europe, grain cakes were offered for the soil’s fertility and were invoked to that end.  

In other areas, the plow is decorated and then whiskey or ewe's milk is poured over it.  Pieces of cheese and bread are left by the plough and in newly turned furrows as offerings to the nature spirits.  It is considered taboo to cut or pick plants during this time.  Some more modern traditions may use other garden tools such as the rake, shovel or hoe.

The holiday also generally honors all Goddesses and female ancestor spirits who bring blessings of fertility as well as important lessons.  This is a good time to recall outstanding women in one’s family line.  For those of you who garden, this is the time to plant seeds indoors to later be transplanted into the Spring garden. Another way to make the day is to meditate upon you dependence on the soil.

You live on soil, gleba, Earth, land, erz - whatever you call it, it is common dirt that everyone shares.  Soil supplies over 90 percent of the world's food - rice, corn and wheat.  The early people thought of the Earth as sacred.  Earth was home and the provider of life.  But now the world's supply of soil is shrinking - lost to cities, floods and paved roads.  Most of the food today comes from huge farms doused in pesticides. 
The Gods give us gift for gift, honor for honor, truth for truth, respect if we are worthy, council if we ask for it and insight if we are ready.  Forseti, the Presiding One, is a God of justice, savior of the devout, winner of just lawsuits.  He represents justice, truth, good laws, arbitration, peace and fairness.

Truth is simply being honest about what you believe or know to be true and right.   Var, Goddess of awareness, personifies an idealized concept of truth and honesty. Var and Vor were handmaidens of Frigg, and are invoked to witness oaths and to punish oath breakers.  Goddess of love-vows, she listens to (and punishes those who break) agreements between men and women.  Newly married couples say her name when they take each other's hands.

The truth is not absolute, it changes over time. (The Earth use to be the center of the universe once upon a time).   Spend today reviewing what is in your food.  What is going into your garden in a few months.  What you can do to honor Earth and treat it well.  Take a nature walk and look for the first signs of Spring.

 

The Goddess Brigid

The Irish Goddess Brigid is the keeper of the sacred flame, the guardian of home and hearth.  To honor her, purification and cleaning are a wonderful way to get ready for the coming of Spring. In addition to fire, she is a Goddess connected to inspiration and creativity.  When Ireland converted to Christianity, it was hard to convince people to get rid of their old Gods, so the church allowed them to worship the Goddess Brigid as a saint -- thus the creation of St. Brigit 's Day. Today, there are many churches around the world which bear her name.  Brigit's Cross is a traditional fire wheel symbol - found at the hearths of homes throughout Ireland and beyond as a symbol of protection.

 
Sacred Feminine

Imbolc or Candlemas is a great day to honor the Sacred Feminine.  It can be done in a traditional way, like burning candles and offering flowers at a shrine in Her honor. This date also coincides with the feast of St. Brigit, a Irish Catholic nun whose life work was to tend to women’s health, particularly in childbirth.  What better way, then, to honor this special day by volunteering or making a donation to your local women’s shelter.

 

Purification and Light

For Christians, February 2nd continues to be celebrated as Candelmas, the feast of purification of the Virgin. By Jewish law, it took forty days after a birth for a woman to be cleansed following the birth of a son.  Forty days after Christmas – the birth of Jesus – is February 2nd.  For the Christian calendar, this holiday was reformed and renamed 'Candlemas' when candles are lit to remember the purification of the Virgin Mary.   Candles were blessed, there was much feasting to be had, and the drab days of February suddenly seemed a little brighter.

 

Love & Courtship

February is known as a month when love begins anew, in part to the widespread celebration of Valentine's Day.  In some parts of Europe, there was a belief that February 14th was the day that birds and animals began their annual hunt for a mate. Valentine's Day is named for the Christian priest who defied Emperor Claudius II's edict banning young soldiers from marrying.  In secret, Valentine 'tied the knot' for many young couples.  Eventually, he was captured and executed on Feb. 14, 269 C.E. Before his death, he smuggled a message to a girl he had befriended while imprisoned -- the first Valentine's Day card.

 
Weather

Imbolc was traditionally a time of weather divination, and the old tradition of watching to see if serpents or badgers came from their winter dens may be a forerunner to the North American Groundhog Day.  Some people believed that Imbolc predicted the weather for the rest of the winter. If Imbolc Day be fair and bright, winter will have another fight.  If Imbolc Day brings cloud and rain, winter won't come again.

 

May you have a blessed Imbolc!

 

End of Winter Meal Blessing

The winter has come to an end
The stores of food are dwindling,
And yet we eat, and stay warm
In the chilled winter months.
We are grateful for our good fortune,
And for the food before us.

Blessed be.



 
 

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