Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Goddess turns the Wheel: Happy Imbolc!

Feb 2, The Sabbat of Imbolg: Also called Imblog, Candlemass, Candlearia, Feast of Brigid, or Groundhog Day, this holiday is our first crossquarter day. It's midway between Sabbats of Yule (Winter Solstice) and Ostara (Vernal Equinox). One thing neat about our holidays, is that they are signified by actual astronomical events!

In Ireland, this day honors the Goddess Brigid (later corrupted to St. Bridget by the Xtiens, and St. Blaize in France). The image is that of the young Earth Goddess, calling the young Sun god to her. Brigid is a protector of children (this holiday is also called "Festival of Milk"), healers, and inspires artists and metal smiths. In order to lure back the sun, Sabbat goers light blazing fires and burn candles. In some particularly charming traditions, a "candle wheel" is worn on the heads of young women. The Romans dedicated the day to Venus, and the Greeks to Diana. In England and Cornwall, at this time of year magical wells were visited and coins tossed in to make wishes come true. (Of course, the early church filled in most of these wells.)

Some things to do on Imbolc: Collect stones for your alter or to construct a circle. Search for signs of spring in temperate zones, such as snowdrops and crocuses sticking their heads up above the snow. Honor the Earth by helping wildlife in the struggle through winter: fill your birdfeeder! Light candles or build a cozy fire. Grain dollies are constructed and dressed. Milk drinks and cookies and cakes made with honey are traditionally consumed at Imbolc rituals. Goddesses to honor or call: Greek-Selene, Gaia, Arachne, and Athena; Roman-Februa, Cardea, and Vesta; Irish-Anu and Brigid; Tuscon-Aradia; Egyptian-Kebehut; Sumerian-Inanna; Teutonic-Audhumla, Brynhild, Frimia, and Laufey. Gods to call: Irish-Diancecht; Greek and Roman-Cupid, Eros, Pax, and Februus; Sumerian-Dumuzi; Teutonic-Trusto. Of course, call whatever Gods or Goddesses are important to you. Animals: Robins, burrowing animals, dormant animals such as cocooned moths and butterflies. Mythical beasts are Firebirds and Dragons.

(Most of the above is from Edain McCoy's Sabbats, A Witches Approach to Living the Old Ways.)

Something particularly significant this year is the Quickening Moon falls on Imbolc. This is a perfect time for purification and inspiration and the banishing of bad habits.

Ellen Dugan, in Llewwllyns Witches Datebook 2007 suggest a simple ritual incorporating the Moon and Imbolc. You need a white and purple candle, a bowl with a cup of snow or chopped ice. Place candles on either side of the bowl, light them, and repeat this spell:

Tis is the Sabbat of Imbolc, and the Moon is round,
I cast away old habits, never more to be found.
This melting ice/snow represent the things I release,
Goddess bless me in this season of light and peace.

Once the ice melts, pour it outside into a stream or on the ground. (If you are a city-bound apartment dweller, down the drain will be fine.) Then brush-off your hands and say goodbye to bad habits and hello to new possibilities.

Happy Imbolc

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