Imbolc (and Lughnasadh) blessings

August 7, 2011 at 2:05 am (Magic) (, , , , )

The first signs of spring are revealing themselves now, in the beautiful, crisp but sunny mornings, the scent of flowers in the air as I walk home through the early twilight, the slightly lengthening days. It’s such a beautiful time of year in Sydney, as winter starts to merge into spring, and the tiny crescent moon smiling down from the sky whispers of joy and new beginnings. My newest beginning has been a first tentative step into eBooks, but I am also working – when I can between magazines – on another new book… This time of year holds the energy of potential and promise, and is perfect to start something new, or find new inspiration and passion for an existing project.

Imbolc : First day of Spring : Purification and Renewal 
Imbolc, the festival that marks the beginning of spring, falls in the first week of August in the southern hemisphere, and the first week of February in the northern. It celebrates the fact that the days are lengthening and the light is returning, illuminating the land and our own hearts.
Mythologically, this was when the goddess transformed into the maiden and waiting bride, signified by the new blossoms and the quickening energy within the earth, and the infant god continued to grow in power, represented by the longer days and increasing strength of the sun.
Astronomically, the cross-quarter day of Imbolc falls midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. In the southern hemisphere the sun is in the middle of its journey back from the lowest latitudes to the equator, and rises in the same position as it did at Samhain, when it was heading south from the equator towards its Midwinter point.
Imbolc, also known as Candlemas, Oimelc, the Snowdrop Festival, Lupercus, Gwyl Fair, the Feast of Pan, Bridie’s Day and Brigantia (“the Festival of Brigid”), is the first day of spring. Signs of winter’s end appear – the first tentative flowers bloom, ice and snow melts and the sun strengthens, symbolising the return and renewal of the life force of the land and its people. It was the first of three fertility festivals on the agricultural calendar, and the name is believed to come from the Irish word for “in the womb”, because sheep were pregnant and swelling with new life at this time. It can also be linked to the word oimelc, or “ewe’s milk”, and others claim the name comes from a similar word that meant purification, which all fit in with the seasonal energy of budding new life that this day celebrates.
Energetically it’s a time of awakening, renewal and re-emergence, as nature fills with life force and begins to quiver with the energy to grow again, and we too start to emerge from the chill of winter, shaking off our inertia and lack of motivation and beginning to re-engage with the world. It’s also a time of purification and cleansing after the long dark of the winter months, of stripping away the old so the new can emerge. Imbolc is one of the four fire festivals of the year, and great bonfires would be lit not only in celebration but also for purification, so cleansing has always been an important aspect of the day.
People would ritually purify themselves to let go of the darkness and sluggishness of the hibernation of winter, making it a time of spiritual renewal. They would also clean their home, physically and energetically, to assist their inner purification – the modern tradition of spring cleaning on the first day of spring reflects this ancient practice. It’s a good time to clean out your home, office and wardrobe, and energetically clear your space, sweeping out old energy – and old thoughts – so the new can thrive. And if you want to begin a new spiritual practise, be it meditation, automatic writing, chanting or whatever, the energy of this time will aid you.
Imbolc is a festival of light, celebrating the return of the sun and its life-giving warmth. It is dedicated to Bridie, the maiden fire goddess, whose transformative flames help purify and burn away doubt and pain. Bridie was associated with inspiration and creativity, making it a great day to express your inner muse. She was also linked with intuition, and because the ancients believed that the veil between the worlds was thinner on the cross-quarter days, she was invoked for assistance with divination rituals and prophecy at this time, including weather prognostication. The Celts watched the native wildlife for signs that winter was over – it was believed that if creatures such as badgers and serpents popped their heads out of their barrow at Imbolc and saw their shadow, which would startle them and send them back underground, spring was still a way off, but if they popped up and it was overcast, so there was no shadow and they stayed outside, it signified that winter was over. Groundhog Day, which is celebrated at Imbolc in North America, is based on this old pagan tradition.

Ways to celebrate
Imbolc remains a day to honour the fertility of the land and our own selves. As the first signs of spring start to manifest, and the earth quickens with an energy that can be tangibly felt, it’s a powerful time to do healing work of any kind, and send energy to friends around the world. You can also increase your knowledge in an area you’re interested in, expand your creativity and tend to activities that are overlooked in the busy months of summer – making candles, sewing dream pillows, grinding herbs and blessing the seeds you’ll plant in spring.
All over the world the coming of spring is celebrated as a time of hope, renewal and fresh starts after winter’s slowness. In Japan, the Shinto spring festival of Setsubun is celebrated on the first day of spring, on February 3, so special purification rituals are performed to cleanse away the negativity of the old year and allow the new to blossom into life. Chinese New Year, which is celebrated by many people around the globe, is also a spring festival that ushers in new energy and transformation. Spring clean your home, and ritually cleanse yourself in a river, the ocean or just your shower. If you feel the need, burn sage sticks or perform a house blessing ritual to clear any negative energies that have settled inside during winter, and drink cleansing herb teas and plenty of water with a squeeze of lemon to detoxify yourself.
Make a wreath of primroses, dandelions and other spring blooms to wear, or plant these flowers in your garden to call on the energy and life force of the season. Make Bridie Crosses with stalks of wheat or pipe cleaners to hang around the house as symbols of the goddess and of protection. Light candles and set them in all your windows and throughout the house, then burn white or pale blue candles for your ritual – or simply for your dinner table – to embody the innocence and purity of the day, and represent the purifying power of the element of fire.
For thousands of years, rituals involving the lighting of candles and fires to represent the return of the warmth and light, and the slowly increasing power of the sun, have marked Imbolc. To absorb this fire energy, perform some candle magic. Light a white or gold candle and stare into the flame as you concentrate on what you want, then blow it out, sending your desire out to the universe. Making a wish as you blow out the candles on your birthday cake is a magic that has survived from pagan times, and is a potent way to manifest your dreams into reality, whatever day it is.
If you want to hold a simple ritual with friends, sit in a circle, each with a small tealight candle. The first person lights their candle as they make a wish or a statement of intent, then the next person lights theirs from the one that is already lit, going around the circle in a deosil (with the sun) direction, which is anti-clockwise in the southern hemisphere, until you have a vibrant ring of fire. The last person should light a large central candle with their tealight, which will absorb and hold the magic of the group and can be lit whenever you are together again.
You can also have a candle-making party, infusing each waxwork creation with your personal energy, or give everyone a floating candle, light them and set them adrift on a pond or pool, or even just in a bowl of water, sending your intentions out into the universe and calling on the magic of all the elements to help you make it come true. Bridie is also associated with sacred wells, so combining the elements of fire and water in this way will allow you to further absorb her archetypal energy.
Like most pagan festivals, the Church superimposed its own holiday over Imbolc. It turned the festival of the goddess Bridie into the feast day of Saint Bridget, a figure also associated with the sacred flame. To temper the significance of the pagan candle ceremonies, they declared the next day Candlemas, the day the priests bless the church candles. And in the Roman Empire, where candlelight processions in honour of Juno, the goddess of marriage, were held on this day, the pope created a holy day, the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, marked with a candle ceremony, to honour the day Mary became “clean” again 40 days after giving birth. Each of these new celebrations still incorporated the old traditions of purification, cleansing and fire, so the seasonal associations remained, hidden within the new religion.

For your journal
Imbolc is a time of young, innocent love, so try to see yourself, and the world, through the pure eyes of a child, or a child-like heart, with joy and hope. It is a festival of spiritual renewal and inspiration, so it’s a good time to write about your beliefs and examine how you feel about your spiritual path, exploring the reasons you think the way you do and perhaps questioning if there are other viewpoints you might also embrace. It’s also about new beginnings, and in some magical traditions it is the day chosen for initiations and rededications, so if you want to make a pledge to a new path or a new goal, or a personal vow of any kind, you will be supported by the energy of the season.
Another major theme is purification, so after cleaning your home physically, start to focus on the concept of emotional clearing. Shrug off any old energies and old ideas that are holding you back. If a person or situation is bothering you, write about it, purging yourself of all the “negative” emotions you’re holding within your body, which can affect you physically if you suppress them. If you can’t release them, write a few words or draw a symbol that represents the issue and leave it in the freezer. This will put your angst on ice, so to speak, and stop the problem bothering you. It won’t alter what is going on or affect anyone else involved, or their actions, but it will change the way you feel about it and prevent it from affecting you. You could also put the piece of paper in an ice cube tray, fill it with water and add a little honey to sweeten the situation, a drop of rose water to bring love to all the parties involved, a drop of orange oil for happiness, or a sprig of basil to improve communication.
Most importantly, this is the festival of Bridie, the goddess of healing and inspiration, so it is the perfect day to unleash your inner muse. Talk to Bridie – or Saint Bridget, or the higher self aspect of yourself – or write a letter, and express all the things you want to create in the next 12 months. Write down any answers you receive or any impressions that flood your mind. Meditate on these goals and record what comes up for you. Don’t worry about how to achieve them, as that will be revealed later as flashes of inspiration, guidance or outside help. Just write your truths and your inner feelings, channelling the inspiration that fills you, without editing or controlling what you reveal to yourself. Take special note of your dreams too, and add them to your journal so you can see any patterns and identify the deeper meanings. Bridie was also the patron of poetry, so express yourself in verse too, letting your subconscious thoughts bubble to the surface and your inspiration run wild. This is a time of affirmation and manifestion, so make sure every thought you have and every word you write is positive and full of love for yourself and the universe.

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