By my best count, this year marks nine or 10 that I’ve been trying to follow a more earth-based path of spirituality. It was never a deliberate decision I made; it was just a continuous evolution of what felt like the right thing to do. So, when I realized this is a mile marker for me of sorts, I wanted to do something special all year. And, since my witchy number is 9, I decided at Imbolc to do a 9-day celebration of each Sabbat, revisiting what I’ve done in previous years and also noting what I’ve always wanted to do and never gotten around to. So I’m going to note my practice here for the year, as my wheel turns, nine days at a time.
Significance: First day of spring / “cross-quarter day” (which means we cross from one season into the next, in between the sun events that mark the high point of each season)
Traditional day of celebration: Feb. 2
Astronomical date this year: Feb. 4 (for cross-quarter days, the actual date when the sun hits the halfway mark is not usually the date that is traditionally celebrated — which comes in handy when you have to keep your celebrations fluid)
Imagery: Snowdrops breaking through the snow; energy building inward, in the roots and earth, although the days are still short and cold; resting; hibernating; candles burning in the dark; privation before the bounty
Position on the wheel: We’ve been turned inward throughout the season of cold and dark. Now we begin to stir, examining our internal landscape, our hibernation dreams, for the ideas that we wish to bring into our lives throughout the coming year. Who do we want to be by the fall harvest?
- Pagan Lent
Waverly Fitzgerald has published this wonderful concept, which is simply to co-opt the idea of a seasonal observance of turning inward, or of mindful actions in search of your bigger good, in order to more authentically appreciate the blessings and abundance that come through the year. I have practiced this for several years now, occasionally by subtracting things from my daily life (sugar, gluten) and occasionally by adding things (yoga, meditation). As far as timing, I’ve moved it around the winter / early spring trying to more closely match the “feel” of the season here, and I’ve settled on using Imbolc as my halfway point of the observance. So this year I began my Pagan Lent in mid-January and ended in late February.
I can see where late winter would have been a scary time for our ancestors — the stores put up in the fall would begin to run out, the animals weren’t producing as much, food and warmth were of daily concern. But at the same time, the promise of Imbolc is that the days are getting longer; we know the earth will soon warm again and begin to produce the bounty that we work to create. So I view Imbolc as a time of hope in the midst of privation. As my husband and I began to explore the idea of multi-day fasting last year, it seemed natural to build a 60-hour fast into my Imbolc observance this year, leading into my 9 days.
- Brigid’s blessings
Imbolc is traditionally the province of Brigid, a truly multi-faceted badass of a goddess. Among other things she’s a protector of domesticated animals, women, children, and the hearth fires, so one fun bit of folklore is to put out pets’ blankets or any other bit of cloth on Imbolc Eve for Brigid to bless as she goes by, to ensure health and wellness for the users of the fabric throughout the year. So I put out my pets’ blankets and also put (battery-powered) candles in a couple windows, front and back of the house. It’s said it’s extra good luck to place the candles where the rising sun will hit them. I like the symbology of the single candle glowing in the window all through the long nights.
- Food and drink
I love the idea of Pancake Tuesday, which comes later in February, so I co-opted it for my Imbolc breakfast: I made yellow-tinted pancakes (symbols of the sun) with fresh strawberries, really local good butter and homemade whipped cream. For evening celebrations, I love milky white, warming beverages like this brandied lavender milk punch.
- Spring cleaning
Time to get that stagnant “been indoors too much” energy moving. I followed the advice of others to replace old protection and prosperity charms; clean windows and blinds; replace or fix what needs it, throw out what needs it; and replace all old candles. Then I spritzed each room with homemade Florida water (the technique for this is similar to a smudging but uses a spray instead of smoke, see related post) and diffused spring essential oils (frankincense, cinnamon, ginger, orange, cypress) to reset the energy in the house. Then I mopped the floors with water that had the Florida water added to it. The energy shift was so strong this year it actually made me light-headed — or maybe that was the oils and alcohol in the mop water.
I meditated on my intentions for this year and set my “I WANT” statements. (I’ve always enjoyed this book’s explanation of how to set up and maintain clear intentions; see the section on “the language of hedgewitchery.”)
- Growing things
One sunny day I planted tiny daffodils, which is a lifelong symbol of spring to me personally, and some fresh herbs in my gardens.
- Seasonal decorations
I took down the last of the winter decorations and began updating my altars with white, silver and green, as well as heart motifs.
On the last day, I did a candle ritual to set my intentions for the year. I included a chat with Brigid and Artemis, my goddess for the year, about my plans and concerns and gratitudes.
So that was my Imbolc celebration. Stay tuned for notes about my nine days of Ostara.