Tag Archives: imbolc

Imbolc Musings

Aradia and I actually put up our Imbolc altar almost three weeks ago, as a part of the ritual of “putting Christmas away.”

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We kept it simple: white candles, red cloth, and the images of our household gods and spirits.

And then we wondered … what does Imbolc mean, really?

The internet is a strange journal, but at times an effective one.  Looking back over my Imbolc posts here on the blog and the “memories” offered up to me by the Book of Faces, it becomes clear that deep depression in January has been a part of my life for at least as long as I was in school.  Every year, when I have written anything at all, I have written about the dream of returning warmth, of waiting for Beltane, and the struggle to maintain my practice and relationships despite my internal Abyss.

The weather grows stranger every year and, here in Kansas City, this year’s Imbolc marks a (brief) return to cold, rather than a desperate hope for warmer weather.  I have to specify Kansas City, though, because last night Aradia and I watched the weatherman describe the movement of the blizzard currently threatening Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa, but Missouri as if brushed away by the hand of some local god, leaving KC all but untouched and pounding St. Louis with yet another round of torrential rain.  (To whatever KC witch, wizard, magician, or sorcerer is responsible for the repeated deflection of major storms: mad props to you, Mx., and if you’ll agree to meet me in person and talk tech, I’ll buy you dinner and drinks and swear on the River Styx to never reveal your identity.)

This year’s depression, by contrast, has been much, much stronger.  It is the warmth of joy that I pray for this Imbolc, not just the warmth of the Sun.

But… still … what does Imbolc mean?

More than any other Sabbat, I see this question asked and tentatively answered around the Pagan circles of the Book of Faces.  I particularly like Shauna Aura Knight’s answers about creativity and work (article the first, article the second), which is why I have spent the last two days working on blog posts and this coming HPF’s rituals with particular fervor, and updating my photography portfolio (shameless plug).  I intend to spend this afternoon updating this very blog, cleaning up links to dead blogs and making things prettier.

As I light the fires on the altar, I strive to re-light the fires within.

 

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Imbolc Altar 2014

Imbolc Altar 2014

This year more than usual, my Imbolc prayer is for the return of warmth.

Also, really trying to rock the candle / light theme this year.

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4 February, 2014 · 10:55 pm

Personal Practice: Imbolc

Imbolc is a holiday generally associated with the coming of the spring, the lactating ewes, germinating seeds, and the waxing year.  It’s a fire-festival honoring the goddess (or saint) Brigid (however you prefer to spell her name), overlapping a little with the simultaneous holiday Candlemas.  Of course, all these things are rooted in the climate and culture of England, where Wicca and modern Neopagan witchcraft were born.  I do not live in England.

I live in the Midwestern United States.  I can’t speak to what the ewes are doing, but there is no germination going on here, no coming spring.  Growing up in Kansas as I did, I’m accustomed to Beltane festivities being interrupted by snowstorms every once in a while: the second of February isn’t the end of winter, it’s her darkest heart.  And, unlike last year, it even feels like it.

Further, I don’t live and die by the agricultural calendar, like my ancestors did.  Nor do I romanticize it in quite the same way as many of my Neopagan peers.  No …. I live and die by the academic calendar, by which measure Imbolc isn’t the beginning or end of anything in particular.  This year it happens, coincidentally, to be the first Saturday of the month and the end of the third week of classes.

So I celebrated small.  Offerings of beer and wine the night before.  That morning, I bolstered my usual weekend offerings with an inordinate amount of candles.  Then, the night of, I made more offerings of wine and mead before I went out drinking with a few close friends.  We celebrated the hope that it might someday again be warm.  I had two bottles left of the Imbolc mead that was bottled last year, made from Pasiphae’s blackberries, and I brought one of them to share.  Those who partook enjoyed it immensely.

Blessed Imbolc to those of my readers who celebrate it.  May your hearth be warm, your beer frothy, and your belly full.

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Imbolc 2012 (Insert Clever Title Here)–Also Blackberry Mead

Imbolc—the Witches’ Sabbat where we huddle together in our cold, cramped apartments, relight our sacred fires, pray for the sun to come back soon and quietly acknowledge how glad we are that we’re not actually bound to the agricultural cycle anymore.  (Except for those of who are actually suffering from food shortage, but that’s a post for a social justice blog.)  Wait.  What’s that you say?  What the fuck?  It was fifty-fucking-four degrees Fahrenheit outside today.  How do you celebrate the desperate hope for the return of Spring when it feels like Beltaine outside?

Well, if you’re me, you duck off into the woods and celebrate like it is Beltaine.  Because why not?  Hooray, hooray!  Who needs to wait for the First of May?

Monday, I bottled my Imbolc mead, made from Pasiphae’s beautiful home-grown blackberries.  She gave me so many that, by the time I was done, I had somehow ended up with two gallons of mead.  I kept one and left the other with Aradia.  It turned out beautifully, and I can’t wait to share it with everyone at the local meat-up tomorrow.

Unfortunately, I can’t really share the recipe: it was too seat-of-my pants.  With the fruit-to-honey ratio I ended up with, it might be more accurately described as “blackberry wine”.  Also, I seem to have lost my notes.  If I were going to do it over again, this is how I would do it:

4 lbs honey

1 gallon ziplock of blackberries (with another waiting in the freezer)

Lavlin 1118 Champaign yeast

Yeast nutrient, pectic enzyme, &C.

Start by sanitizing the must using Campden tablets or the equivalent in your primary fermentation bucket, then add the yeast.  Because of the fruit, you’ll want to let this one sit longer than usual.

When you’re ready to rack, break out the second bag of blackberries, let them thaw, and throw them into your secondary fermenter (if you’re lucky, that’s a 2-gallon carboy; if you’re me, that’s dividing them between two 1-gallon jugs), and rack the mead onto them.  Again, leave them in there a little longer than usual.  Repeat as many times as you have blackberries.

Bottle in time for the festivities.

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Struggling for Practice

My actual ability to maintain a regular practice is better than my ability to maintain this blog … but not by much.  Since staring the new semester, my life has been a mess of work, school, not-quite-enough sleep, and a few other troubles that I’ll actually get into in posts of their own.

I’ve pretty much lost track of the moons.  I didn’t even do a Full Moon reading in February, and I haven’t ever gotten around to decoding the one I did in March.  I haven’t checked back with my annual reading since January.  I haven’t done a Dark Moon journey in longer than I care to contemplate, and Aradia and I didn’t get our Yule altar down until Ostara.  I missed the last Dark Moon by a matter of days, even as I was slowly drafted this post. 

Of course, there’s no chance that all of this is related to how stressed out I’ve been lately, is there?  No, perish the thought!

Things are finally looking up.  I did (finally) start my Imbolc mead with a little help from a late snowstorm and our Brid candles.  I’m researching recipes for a similarly belated Ostara mead, but the internet is being less than helpful.  I have done public Tarot readings on the last two First Fridays.  I have gotten back to doing weekly and daily readings – three- and one-card respectively.

You can’t change the past.  All I can do is strive to do better. 

I’m getting ready to bottle my Beltane mead – I finally have artwork for the bottle.  Sadly, it looks like Aradia and I will be celebrating that sabbat by ourselves – Pasiphae and Aidan are otherwise occupied, as are others we’ve worked with in the past.  Which will make things interesting, as duo Beltane rituals run an above average risk of ending in pregnancy.  Some creativity may be required.

We will be out at Gaea, though.  So perhaps we will be able to join a public rite, or be invited to a smaller one.

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A Dark Time of the Year

According to the Wheel of the Year, Imbolc is the time when we can begin looking forward of spring.  We have passed the depth of the darkness with Yule, and entered the Waxing Year.  Fires are lit, beer is brewed, and Brigit – however you choose to spell Her Name – is invoked for her blessings of warmth, health, fertility, and artifice.

In Kansas City, however, early February is the coldest, darkest part of the year.  This year more so than usual, with an straight-from-the-ice-of-Hel blizzard starting the evening of Monday 1 February and lasting through Wednesday 3 February.  The roads had barely even been cleared after the first round of foot-deep snow.  Aradia had to put off a business trip for two days, waiting for them to clear the I-70 corridor; I lost another two and a half days of classes.

Somehow, Aradia and I just weren’t feeling that Imbolc Fire.  We sat around the house watching bad TV and trying not to think about how cold it was outside.  We still haven’t changed over our altar from Yule, and I haven’t yet started the Imbolc batch of mead.

For the last week I’ve been living on leftovers and takeout.  The house gets dirtier.  My mind gets more and more scattered.  I didn’t really sleep last night.  I should be doing more homework, using the snow days to ahead in my classes; working harder on my admission essays, due the first of March; and studying for my ACT, which is this coming Saturday.  I’m keeping up with my classes, and working again, and making progress on the essays … but the ACT scares me so bad that it hurts – an almost physical pain – to think about it.  It’s hard to say which of these things is “cause” and which are “effect”.

Aradia comes back from St.Louis tomorrow, and I need to get the house clean enough for us to change out the altar and celebrate Imbolc.  Hell, I need to get the house clean enough that I don’t feel like a fucking bum.  I need to get my head screwed on straight so I can sleep and get done what I need to get done. The ritual will make me feel better.  Having another gallon of mead bubbling away under the altar will make me feel better.  Having my shit together will make me feel better, and feeling better will make it easier to keep my shit together.

This semester could easily define me for the rest of my life.  I need to not fuck it up.

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