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Posts Tagged ‘Imbolc’

Wild 
Grain – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016

Each Lughnasadh, I strive to harvest some of the wild grain from the hedges. Not only is harvesting grain traditional at this time of year, but I save it so my protogrove has something with which to weave Brighid crosses during Imbolc, six months later.  With the amount of snow we get in January and February, we won’t have any access to the nice green reeds traditionally used in Ireland!   So preparing for Imbolc is part of my Lughnasadh.  It makes sense – we harvest so that we are prepared for the coming months, after all!

My daughter was such a big help this year.  She’s learning to use scissors, so I let her use a child’s pair to cut the grass.  Bee enthusiastically embraced the task. It’s so nice to share seasonal traditions with her.  (I also found some blue vervain while we were out – a happy find!)

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NR_Brighid_doll

The Brighid doll I made for my protogrove.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Many of us associate Imbolc with milk in part because, as tradition has it, the holiday falls when the sheep in Ireland are lactating.  As a result, a favorite family activity in many Pagan households is making butter, and many of us offer cow, sheep, or goat milk to Brighid.

Since becoming a mother, I’ve found myself reflecting on the milk my body produces.  Brighid has connections to motherhood and midwifery, too, and as someone who already looked to Brighid with gratitude for inspiration and warmth, I naturally embraced this other side of her.  Every year since giving birth to Bee, Imbolc is a special time for me to reflect on my ability to produce nourishment for my little one*.

Meditating on the magic of lactation took a new direction this Imbolc as I readied my Hygeia breast pump for a friend, protogrove mate, and new mama to use!  I was so happy to share this pump.  I bought it in part because it’s one of the few in the market that is meant to be shared; one of the few that is FDA approved to be shared (provided each person using buy replacement flanges and such).  I realized that this same woman watched me openly breastfeed my daughter at every protogrove event.  Part of my ability to do that was the encouragement my previous grove gave me, and their openness in letting me nurse without covering up.  It also came from watching a coven-mate nurse her daughter back from my days in an eclectic circle.  I brought that behavior to my own protogrove, and everyone was very supportive, especially members who had had children before our founding. We worked to normalize the behavior in our group and emphasize that it was natural and beautiful.  The menfolk showed their support, too, and never showed any discomfort.  In fact, I know they would all stand up for me if someone tried to tell me I should cover up.

At our last Imbolc rite, I witnessed my friend breastfeed her little one.  My daughter saw it, as did the other children.  They will grow up knowing it’s normal.  In fact, as you can read in the article I linked below, part of why so many new mothers struggle with breastfeeding is that they’ve never seen it before!  Think about it.  As children, we learn so much through imitation.  Naturally, people are reluctant to try things they’ve never seen, and many are discouraged when first attempts don’t succeed.  This is why creating a positive, nurturing environment for families is so important, and that includes mothers, fathers, doulas, lactation consultants, and midwives.

Breastfeeding has become part of my grove’s culture, and seeing my friend nurse so openly as well made it feel very communal.  I truly feel that each time mothers nurse in front of others, especially women and girls, or each time we stand up for the rights of a mother to nurse, we take on the role of the midwife in some way, birthing a new generation of nurturing people.

For more info on breastfeeding: http://www.mothering.com/articles/natural-breastfeeding/

*Yes, I’m still breastfeeding!  Going for the natural weaning approach because it works for my family.

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Bee shows a greater interest in what I do, and she loves to honor nature outside and inside at her nature table / play altar. The one thing she was missing was a representation of fire – one of the Three Hallows in my Druidic tradition, and an important part of any Celtic spirituality.  I’ve thought about different ways to create an appropriate representation, and when I thought of this Imbolc activity, I realized that it was exactly what she was missing!  Furthermore, it’s a great way to reuse old wine corks!
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Materials:

  • old corks (the hole from the corkscrew will actually come into play later!)
  • paint (I used washable, toddler-safe paint)
  • paintbrushes
  • orange and yellow yarn or other fire-colored fibers
  • a glue gun
  • a tapestry needle or something else that you can use to poke the fibers into the corkscrew hole

 

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The Toddler Part:

Equipped with an apron and seated on our large splash mat, Bee was able to paint her cork. My husband and I joined her to paint two others, making this a fun family activity. I let her choose her color – orange! How firery.

Because we used washable paint, it was very thin.  We had to let the corks dry between a couple coats, and we had to put the paint on rather thick.  That’s ok, though, as it looks like wax dripping down the sides of the candles!  I’m thinking about sealing them with a glaze later on.

 

20160117-210549.jpg The Parent Part:

Once the corks dried, I cut orange and yellow yarn into very short lengths – about an inch, but I could have gone smaller.  I separated the fibers to give the an airy look, then twisted them together loosely.  Pinch the bottoms tightly and roll them between your fingers to join the fibers.  Put a dot of hot glue into the corkscrew hole.  Using a dull tapestry needle (or other similar object), push the bottom of the fibers into the hole and glue.  Voilà!  Flaming candles!  

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Small Brighid Doll by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

Although I don’t have much time to craft these days, I gleefully signed up for the ADF Artisan Guild Imbolc exchange. The group decided that everyone should make something small, and we decided on the amount of time it should take and the general cost.  I was excited enough to participate and do a little sewing, but was absolutely over the moon when I saw that my partner was my dear friend, R!  She and I got back to my Utica days, when I was first exploring Paganism.  We bonded over an interest in ADF, and she encouraged me to make the drive to Muin Mound in Syracuse.  Life took us to different corners of NY, and we don’t get to see each other as often as we used to, but we still bond over our shared interests and meet up whenever we can.

R indicated that, despite her Norse hearth culture, she has an interest in Brighid.  I decided to make her a small Brighid doll, since the exchange was for Imbolc.  I repurposed a blue wool sweater by felting it, and used a little for Brighid’s body. Folk art inspired me to leave the face blank.  I usually love painting faces on my dolls, but I really think my decision works for this small doll.  It gives her a very solemn look, and the individual regarding the doll will inherently known how they feel she should look.

R’s Fairy Cottage, 2015

In exchange, R surprised me with this adorable fairy cottage made with polymer clay and a repurposed jar.  I love all the whimsical details – right down to the woodgrain on the door! There are even little windows on each side, and Bee loves to peer in.  It has be excited for spring with all the pink flowers!

Funnily enough, we actually were able to meet up a couple weeks after receiving our gifts.  Her girlfriend happened to have a hockey tournament in the area, so we met for lunch.  It felt wonderful to reconnect.  Hoping to do more of that come the warmer weather!

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Vegetarian Beef and Guinness Stew Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

My protogrove’s Imbolc potluck theme was “get creative,” so I decided to do just that and play with a recipe for beef and Guiness stew in the Irish Traditional Cooking book.  To make it vegetarian, I first had to get the extra stout variety of Guinness brewed in North America.  It’s the only vegetarian variety.  Then, to be creative, I made seitan from scratch.  I used this recipe which is normally used for making vegetarian “ribs.”  The seitan comes out nice and chewy!  I chopped it into little cubes and added it to my stew of carrots, onions, and potatoes.  The book’s recipe said to serve with potatoes, so I just went ahead and made them a part of the pot.

It was a hearty dish with enough to share at a modest potluck.  I’m really happy with how it came out, but my husband, who never seems to get enough salt, felt it needed more of a savory flavor.  Definitely something to play with, but I generally try to limit the sodium we consume.

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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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