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Posts Tagged ‘Imbolc’

For some in America, at least in the North East, Imbolc is a perfect time to consider the rebirth of our gardens.  It’s at this time of year that seed catalogs make their happy appearance in our mailboxes, and we begin to browse and dream of green.  In the past, I simply dreaming.  I put my garden planning off until the Spring Equinox.  In Upstate NY, even that day is often quite cold…  As my experience with gardening grew, and as I started to pay more attention to other local gardeners, I realized last year that I was waiting too late.  The result has been a later harvest, and many plants that don’t tolerate summer heat bolt before I can truly enjoy their bounty.  Last year, I resolved that I would get my seeds for 2015 by Imbolc.

I’m adding action to my dreaming.  Yesterday, I ordered my seeds!  I decided to go with my standby, Pinetree Seeds, and a new one for me, Victory Seeds.  The last couple years, I’ve been disappointed with the success of my Pinetree seeds, but I wanted to give a few favorites another try.  I’m still learning so much, so user error is probable.  I’m excited to try Victory Seeds, though, and several small gardeners have recommended them.

The seeds I ordered for my container garden are:

  • Bouquet Dill
  • Calendula
  • Lemon Balm
  • Green Leaf Salad Bowl
  • Parisian Carrot
  • Tiny Tim Tomato
  • Extreme Bush Tomato
  • Dwarf Gray Sugar
  • Alibi Cucumber
  • Green Tiger Zucchini
  • Jambalaya Okra
  • Gecofure Basil
  • Lovage

Some of these are old favorites, like the cucumber, zucchini, and lemon balm.  Others are things I’ve been wanting to grow for some time, like calendula.  Okra is a veggie my husband and I fell in love with recently as I’ve been making vegetarian gumbos.  The variety I chose has a short germination time and is recommended for northern climates.  Other veggies I plan to grow are eggplants (I saved some seeds from last year’s dwarf variety), sage, and potato.  I may grow some more scarlet runner beans, since I saved some of those seeds, but I don’t like them for eating…  They’re a better ornamental, I think.  The humming birds and bees sure liked them, and we must keep the Nature Spirits happy, right?

My plan is to bless most of my seeds around Imbolc and start them around the Spring Equinox so that they’re big enough to slowly start hardening off around Bealtaine.

The wheel of the year is turning, and engaging in the food we eat is a great way to learn its mysteries and celebrate beyond the high days themselves.

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Gratitude Towards the Sun

While I do a lot of solar-related reflection around the Winter and Summer Solstices, there’s nothing like a painfully cold day to bring the sun’s presence to our attention.  Although we were in the negatives today, there were very few clouds.  The sun shined brightly, adding a spring to my insulated step.  Every time I walked by or looked out a window at work, I was struck by the intense warmth the sun was projecting through the glass. Each time I passed through that warmth and light felt like a moment of deep communion with the Kindreds.  I often found myself taking the time to stop and say a short prayer of gratitude in whispered tones or in my head.

As we approach Imbolc, it seems like an appropriate time to contemplate the blessings of light and warmth.  My own UPG has brought me to view the sun as a symbol for Brighid’s warmth.  It is like her sacred fire, but glowing in the sky.  The promise of the sun’s renewed vigor is coming to fruition, and now we enjoy the increasing light and pray for more days like today – when warmth gives us comfort and hope.

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Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

Just as I thought when I first made the batter for snow pancakes, once the snow fully melted, it was much easier to cook.  I let the remaining batter sit in the fridge overnight.  The result was a nice, thin batter – exactly what I’m used to when I make pancakes!  I poured the batter this time, nice and thin, like a crepe.  I actually decided to roll them up and, once more, served them with powdered sugar.  Delicious! My husband and daughter were also pleased. My initial dissatisfaction aside, I think this recipe has a lot of potential for special occasions if you plan ahead.  Can you imagine how special it would be to gather fresh snow early on Imbolc and then use it to make pancakes for a late brunch?  It could be a fun family tradition, at least in climates similar to my own where Imbolc is less a celebration of spring and more of a reminder that it is, indeed, coming…

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Brighid crosses and mini mantles made by Northern Rivers Protogrove at our recent Imbolc ritual. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

As a pre-ritual workshop this Imbolc, Northern Rivers Protogrove made Brighid crosses and, also, mini Brighid mantles.  In Ireland, it’s traditional to put out a bit of cloth (the brat or Brighid’s mantle), on Imbolc eve for it is believed that Brighid is visiting.  She imbues her blessings upon the cloth and thus it becomes a healing tool.  I thought it would be fun to make some “mini mantles” as a pre-ritual craft along with the crosses.  Furthermore, although we didn’t have any children besides Bee at this celebration, I came up with the activity specifically with kids in mind.

Materials:

fabric (we used a poly-cotton blend because that’s what I had, but pure cotton or linen would work well too)
fabric markers (preferably of a non-toxic nature for the kiddos involved)*
scissors or a rotary cutter
an iron
cutting board (optional)
a square ruler (optional)

I decided that white fabric would be best since people would be drawing on them with a variety of colors.  Ahead of time, I ironed the fabric so that it would be flat and ready for cutting.  Then I dug out my handy quilting tools.  I used a 1×5″ omnigrid ruler to make perfect little squares, but you needn’t be a perfectionist or create such small pieces.  I thought the size would be nice for little hands, but the completely adult group was just as happy with them!

Everyone shared fabric markers and drew whatever they felt was appropriate for Brighid, Imbolc, their spiritual path, and healing in general.  There were many flames and representations of water.  Several people tried their hand at triquetras too. The workshop went well and everyone seemed to enjoy it.  Best of all, it’s an activity young and old can engage in with minimal mess!

Holda working on her mini mantle. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

* Prior to putting outside, treat the fabric according to the directions of your fabric markers. Most suggest ironing and washing to set. When I put my mantles out, I tie them to tough plants who give me permission, or under a rock.

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20140128-182650.jpgI’m busy, busy, busy with all sorts of arts and crafts!  Imbolc is definitely in the air.  So many fiber crafts – including spinning!  I’ve been enjoying theBritish show “Tudor Monastery Farm” and it put the spinning bug back in my head!  It’s a wonderful way to engage with Brighid, my female ancestors, and the wooly nature spirits so symbolic of this time of year.  Also in progress: a crocheted hat for hubby, an attempt to embroider a Brighid cros (sans a hoop… I didn’t have one small enough…), and an altar cloth.  There’s little else to do in this chilly, snowy weather!

What are you crafting?

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My time is limited and, as a result, I haven’t felt pulled to make the very detailed, large dolls I made prior to pregnancy.  Those will come again, but I’ve recently found myself returning to my roots and making dolls with very simple shapes.  Some may view that as backwards, but something Phillip Carr-Gomm said in the latest Druidcast really spoke to me.  He compared the movement of people back to religions inspired by very ancient myths to salmon returning to their spawning ground and taking part in a cycle rebirth.  Not only did it make sense to me in regards to Druidism’s place in the modern world, but it dawned on me that I was experiencing the same thing in my art.  Motherhood has transformed my life in ways that I’m only just beginning to understand.  It is impacting my art.  Everything has to be reborn in this new phase of my life.

You may have seen the Waldorf-inspired gnomes I’ve been making for my daughter.  They are akin to my early exploration of doll making.  Limbs are very complicated and so I’m not bothering with them so much right now.  Recently I’ve been wanting to spend less time on constructing the form and more on adding soul.  I decided to make a new Brighid doll for my altar.  I’ve said this many times, but I’m a proponent of using your talents to make your own ritual tools.  For me, the desire to create representations of deities for my altars is what brought me to doll making in the first place.  I retired my original Brighid doll.  She was very top-heavy and required a metal and wooden stand.  With baby just months away from walking, it seemed like a safety hazard.  Brighid has a new home upon my altar and in a form that matches my evolving understanding of her.  She is more voluptuous, draped in a tartan cloak “pined” with a Celtic knot button to represent her smithcraft and art in general.  Although I did not make limbs in the usual sense, her hand peeks out from her cloak to magically hold her sacred flame, something I needle felted using dyed sheep wool (also very appropriate for this Goddess).

A Brighid doll made and photographed by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

A Brighid doll made and photographed by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

I’m rather happy with how she turned out.  As I worked on this Brighid doll, the Goddess sent her inspiration to me and I’ve already started to dream up another doll to represent another Goddess I’ve been working with.  In the meantime, I’m planning to ritually consecrate this doll in Brighid’s name to create a “home away from home” for her, thus facilitating communication.

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I learned about Waldorf education when I was in college and studying teaching methods and history.  It fascinated me immediately and, for a brief moment in time, I toyed with the idea of becoming a certified Waldorf teacher.  That didn’t work out for a variety of reasons, and in retrospect I’m happy for that.  Although my experience with Waldorf education remains limited, I found that I didn’t fully agree with some of what I read or saw.  Be that as it may, I find integrating creativity and whimsy into educating children a valuable pursuit, challenging as it can be at times.  I also agree with the emphasis placed on nature – something that comes out in nature tables or play altars.  They are excellent ways for children to engage in the changing seasons and their budding spirituality while also having fun on their terms.

I am working on ways to integrate this into raising Bee in a Druidic home.  One thing many nature tables have in common is the inclusion of gnomes.  What are these little creatures and why are they part of Waldorf culture?  (You can read about that here and here.) Some critics worry as Waldorf educators apparently blame the gnomes for problems which could potentially derail a child’s ability to take responsibility for him or herself.  Others feel that they introduces too much pseudoscience – something that, to me, is not bothersome at all since I have been able to believe in Nature Spirits while also understanding, respecting, and learning “hard science.”  Taking responsibility is also emphasized in Druidism through our Nine Virtues.  Integrity is part of one’s honor after all!  If nobody knows why something happened, though, I often say things have been “fairied away.”  There’s a time and a place for that…  In my opinion, it’s completely possible to balance each perspective.  I can see the gnomes as a way to introduce Bee to the unseen aspects of Nature Awareness – that ineffable feeling you get when you are being watched in the woods, for example, could be explained on the forest spirit which, to a child, may be conceived of as a fairy or gnome.  As a child grows, these can be fleshed out into a more “mature” understanding of animism – even if the child decides he or she does not embrace that worldview*.

Handmade gnomes. A red nisser for Winter Solstice, and a white gnome holding a green candle for Imbolc. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

I started to make some gnomes for my little one and she already enjoys them immensely!  The first was a little red gnome to commemorate the Winter Solstice.  I refer to it as a nisser to give respect to my husband’s Norwegian heritage.  I put the nisser in Bee’s Winter Solstice treasure basket and she repeatedly wanted him more than anything else.  This gave me the idea to make more which, like many Waldorf gnomes, correspond to the seasons and various High Days.  So our second gnome was born for Imbolc!  She is holding a green candle to celebrate Brighid’s light and warmth.

Rest assured, I will share future gnomes as they appear in my home!

* Remember, I am writing about raising my own child and not others. Even though I am a spiritual, Earth-centered person, I understand the concerns of the critics who have enrolled their children in Waldrof schools thinking they are very secular only to realize that they do teach spiritual concepts (which may vary depending on the individual schools).  Also, I hesitated to say I have a more “mature” understanding of animism.  I don’t mean to say that there is a right and wrong way to believe, but I know for a fact that I wasn’t able to think about animism abstractly or philosophically like I am as an adult.  I am in no way trying to say that certain cultures have a less mature animism than modern Druidism, for example.

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