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Posts Tagged ‘Imbolc’

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Locally found or made magical objects. Photo by M. A. Phillips, 2020

Valentine’s Day brings a focus on relationships. Though I don’t observe the holiday with my husband (my daughter is obsessed with it), I’ve spent the week thinking about my connection to the land. Perhaps it’s the lingering winter and my desire to garden and forage again, or maybe it comes from my discipline kicking in when I don’t want to trudge through frigid snow with offerings.

My spirituality is very much concerned with the earth, and so it makes sense that most of what I work with is locally grown and made. Whenever I go through bouts of “distance” with my path, I always restore it in the garden or forest.

When I took the recent Imbolc course on Irish Pagan School, author and teacher Lora O’Brien discussed her issue with pipe cleaner Brigid crosses. My grove has done them in the past – mostly because they’re easier for the little kids – yet I’ve always preferred using actual wheat or local grasses. O’brien really hit the nail on the head for me when she described the plants, traditionally reeds, as a way to connect with the symbolism of the goddess and holiday. She was really critical of adults (without any mobility issues) taking a shortcut that is normally so rooted in nature’s seasonal changes, yet she tempered this with compassion. We are all learning. To paraphrase, she challenged those without access to reeds or something similar to begin planning for next year to secure a local source. (Provided you have permission, it’s a sustainable source, etc)

In Northern NY, where the windchill was -20 last night, now is a perfect time to contemplate the warmer half of the year. What do we need to do to deepen our relationship with nature? What are your long term magical goals, and what allies do you need to cultivate? What tools or offerings do you wish to procure for the upcoming holidays? When will the plants be ready to harvest? What do the spirits you wish to work with desire in return?

When I look back at some of what I’ve gathered, it fills me with warmth. Rowan branches collected on a nearby island following a storm. Stones from rivers and lakes right here as opposed to a distant pit and mined by child laborers. Beeswax candles from local keepers. Mugwort wands from my own garden. I’m excited to strengthen my bonds with the spirits of this place, but it must be done thoughtfully.

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Once more, in an effort to update my blog more regularly, here’s another installment of Three Things Thursday! Three mini posts nestled together in one for your viewing pleasure!

1) Hagstone Publishing recently released a little interview with me. In it, I share one of the most significant, spiritual moments of my life. It actually inspired part of my recent short story, “Through the Brambles,” which you can find in issue 2 of “Stone, Root, and Bone” magazine. It’s part of their “Meet the Authors” series. I’m thrilled to be included, and it’s been fun reading about my fellow creative polytheists. I know it’s not the greatest photo, but it’s the first I shared with Hagstone when I participated in the Plant Spirit Challenge last summer. I really need to hire one of my photographer friends to get some decent shots.


2) I spend an inordinate amount of time inside slouched over a keyboard as I write, revise, and edit. For my own sanity and health, I need to get outside. Many of my characters are polytheists, so it’s important to me that I stay connected with my spirituality and remain authentically tied to my stories. My short walks are meditative affirmations on what I do and why. They provide me an opportunity to breathe in fresh air and make offerings to the land. The last time I made my circuit, I caught myself admiring the brown and gray remnants of our pollinator garden. Many people seem to cut their gardens back. The dead, dry ends of spent flowers offend them, I suppose. Perhaps they clashed with their Christmas decor. I’ve learned to leave them. The seeds provide food for wildlife, and they may propagate and fill the garden out more in the spring! The stems and leaves also provide nesting materials for hibernating insects and then birds when it’s time to lay eggs. I love my gardens in all seasons!

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3)Pagan Parenting with Waffles! Due to illness, transportation issues, and other conflicts, my grove canceled our public celebration. Though I was sad to miss my grovemates, and uncomfortable due to a health concern, I soldiered through and made the most of the special day! We kept our tradition of weaving Brigid crosses (Cros Bríde) and adding on to our Brigid cloaks (brat bhríde). We did those activities on Brigid’s eve. On February first, I gave my daughter the choice of pancakes or waffles for breakfast. As you can tell from the photo, she chose the later. She was enthusiastic about helping. The night before, we talked about three as a magical number, so we stirred three times for each of the Kindred and prayed for their blessings. We then discussed the importance of discipline with magic, and I did the old “visualize the apple” lesson. Big ritual with other druids is wonderful, but my path is also about those small, quiet moments with family – with my daughter. Teaching her about folk magic and carrying on our ancestral traditions is so beautiful. It warmed my heart.

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Three Things Thursday

Once more, in an effort to update my blog more regularly, here’s another installment of Three Things Thursday! Three mini posts nestled together in one for your viewing pleasure!

  • Preparing for Imbolc
    In preparation for Imbolc this year, I signed up for a virtual class called “Imbolc in Ireland” by Lora O’Brien of Irish Pagan School. It was the first time I paid for one of her courses, and I really enjoyed myself. I haven’t completed the meditation yet (the class went a bit late, and I had to go for family dinner), but I can access it anytime I want. I plan to try it tomorrow night. The class was a great review for someone who has already read a bit about the holiday and Brigid, but I also learned more traditions, more of the linguistics behind the holiday name, and had great discussions with others of like mind. I highly recommend you look into the site if you haven’t already!
  • Lost Tooth!

    My daughter lost her first tooth! My family has opted not to do the tooth fairy tradition as others since, you know… giving body parts to the Good Folk doesn’t seem like the smartest idea! We’ve discussed it with our daughter for months in anticipation. We explained that other parents do this, kind of like Santa, and she’s already used to our stance on that. Instead, we’re going to plant the teeth to go back to Mama Earth. My daughter wants us to put them in a pot where she can plant flowers for now. That said, she’s still asking me for a dollar… So…

  • Writing Update
    I’ve been slow in my writing and editing this week. I just haven’t felt well. That said, I plunk away on my keyboard each day to do what I can. Since my short story, “Through the Brambles” came out in Stone, Root, and Bone last week, I gave myself permission to relax a little. My body needed it. On a related note, one of my beta readers sent me more feedback on my manuscript! She’s eager to read more. It keeps me going!

Wishing you all a bright and blessed Imbolc! I look forward to sharing more with you next week.

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It’s a very snowy day, so I relaxed indoors and worked on her all morning and afternoon.  I made her for my daughter so she can decorate her little altar for Imbolc.

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Ugh.  Sometime in December, my discipline and focus crumbled.  I really fell off the trance train…

I’ve been working to reestablish my discipline over the last couple weeks.  I started to reread Paxson’s “Trance-Portations” and am going through the exercises.  I’m not rushing it. I really want to spend time on the foundational skills.  I’ve been more mindful about my grounding, shielding, and visualization.  I continue to do my Druid Egg shielding on mornings, but sometimes it’s difficult to visualize when I’m exhausted.  (I haven’t been sleeping well lately… )

I started to participate in Sassafras Grove’s Brighid-Along to help me prepare for Imbolc.  This has given me additional inspiration for my inner work.  I did a very quick meditation on day one.  Finding quiet time for meditation and trance has been challenging.  My daughter’s sleep schedule has been really off lately, so by the time she falls asleep, I’m usually exhausted.  I’ve decided that I won’t allow myself to wallow in the challenges and what I don’t feel able to accomplish.  Rather, I’m going to adapt.  If I can only meditate for a short time, I’m going to make that meaningful and really focus!

Last night, I meditated on Brighid during, and ended up walking into my inner grove where one of my spirit guide was waiting.  (I’m starting to look for other words to describe them…I’ve seen fetch used by several people focused on European traditions, but I need to do more research.)  We talked a little, reconnecting.  I had felt him reaching out to me a lot over the week, so I knew he was waiting.

My plan is to start posting on my blog again to keep myself accountable.

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Ever since Muin Mound Grove made candles with old candle wax for an Imbolc workshop years ago, I decided that I should try my hand at the hobby.  It felt so right given my growing relationship with Brighid.  A friend of mine made candles for awhile – huge, beautiful pieces of art, really.  She gifted some to me, and the care she put into them… They were and are full of magic, whether she believes in that or not.  I don’t think she’s made any for awhile, but they really inspired me.  A grovemate made some in tins last year and gifted one to me before she moved away.  I remember telling her that I kept meaning to try my hand at it again, and she was very encouraging.

This Winter Solstice, some family members thoughtfully gave me gift cards to arts and craft stores.  I used some of the money toward a candle making kit.  It was a very simple kit  with enough ingredients to make six soy votives in glass candle holders.  I broke into it today and had a lot of fun.  Before I started, I made an offering to Brighid as I consider this devotional work.

The kit was very easy to use.  I know I need to improve my method of securing the wicks to their dowels.  Soy was very easy to work with, and I always prefer soy to paraffin, but I know I want to focus mostly on beeswax as it is one of the safest, cleanest waxes to use.  I also know there are several beekeepers in the area, and working with a local, sustainable material that supports local bee populations is incredibly important to me.  I’m not concerned with scents so I did not use the vanilla scent block that came with the kit.  I’m not sure what it’s made out of and I’m very concerned with the purity of ingredients.  As I learn, I may experiment with using natural fragrances for magical purposes, but I’m a huge fan of that simple beeswax smell.

I have a growing list of tools I need to improve as well as other things I want to try.  I’m hoping to pop in the local antique store this week.  The owner has some kitchen bowls that aren’t too much money, if I remember correctly.  That way I could reuse older materials without contaminating my kitchenware.

My next goal is to make simple hand-dipped candles for Imbolc, and my grove is also talking about making some soy crystal candles for our holiday workshop.

‘Tis the season for new beginnings and new activities, and as the wheel turns toward Imbolc, it’s such an appropriate time for me to learn these skills and incorporate them into my practice.

 

 

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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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