The light continues to lengthen our days as we move toward Imbolc. Imbolc is a festival celebrating Spring. It falls on February 1st in the Northern Hemisphere and is halfway between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.
Although the Spring Equinox marks the first day of spring, the start of February is also the start of the lambing season. Baby animals are coming into the world, bulbs and buds are pushing forth from the soil and trees are promising new leaves will be coming soon.
Of course this is also the time that snow storms blanket the earth in some regions and freezing temperatures continue across many areas.
But even beneath this life pulses on. Even when the buds and bulbs can not yet be seen they are there beneath the surface waiting to re-emerge. And as the lambs come forth, so to does the hope for light, warmth and growth of the next season.
The wheel of the year is deeply linked to the turning of the seasons and the ability to sustain nourishment throughout the year. This is a time (where I live) to prune the trees and bushes back, to begin to tidy and clean up garden beds in anticipation of spring planting, to cast spells for abundance and fertility upon the earth in support of the soil growing a hearty harvest when the time comes to plant.
The first milk from the Ewes was often used as an offering, a symbol of fertility and poured upon fields to invoke healthy fertile soil.
Fire plays a role in this festival as it is a symbol of the returning sun.
This celebration is also tied to the Goddess Brigid (later known as Saint Brigid), who is the Goddess of healing and art. Is associated with fertility. Brigid is also linked to healing, creativity and the hearth and/or forge. At Brigid festivals dolls were made to represent this Goddess and then paraded from house to house as a blessing. Sacred wells were connected to Brigid and my understanding is that there are wells associated with St Brigid that exist in Ireland still to this day.
My own initiation into the experience of an Imbolc ritual was a public one. The focus of the ritual was to honor Brigid, the turning of the wheel and to use the symbols of the holy water and sacred flame, to make a pledge to Brigid for the coming year. Doing this in a public forum was powerful as each person took a turn going up to the “well” and stating or silently thinking their pledge, while the flame burned in the center of the well. The elemental power of both an anchor to the pledge and the earth.
This particular ritual has been shifted a bit within my own circle, but we come back to it in some form each year. We include the waters of the world, with each person adding water from sacred places, travels, and home until our well connects us to the collective waters of the earth. We each make a pledge to Brigid often centered on healing or creativity lighting a candle (sacred flame) to make this pledge so.
Ideas for celebrating Brigid
Bake! Because this time of year is still winter and not quite spring, we want to keep nourishment at the forefront. Not just for ourselves but also with the intention of what is to come. We can use the creation of what we bake to provide both.
Examples- unleavened bannocks (oatcakes) as well as pancakes or crepes are items prepared in honor of Imbolc. They are round like the sun, (and like a full womb) and while they are delicious and nourishing, some traditions suggest breaking off a piece of these and leaving it as an offering in your cupboard so that the flour will never run out in the coming year.
Eggs are sunny and symbols of spring and can be used for a variety of yummy creations. Paired with lemons (which are burdening many a tree right now) a lemony custard can be made. Milk and butter are also often used in celebratory foods this time of year as this is when the ewe’s milk begins to flow. For those of us who might not tolerate dairy so well, we now have many alternatives to use in their place. Or perhaps you might choose to create a nourishing meal from winter produce. Or a spicy tea or soup with herbs like cinnamon and nutmeg that symbolize heat and fire and ultimately warmth. The intention remains the same though, welcome and honor the lengthening days and celebrate and invoke fertility of the land and animals.
Create your own “well” to honor Brigid. All you really need is water and a bowl. A floating candle or smaller upside down bowl with candle atop will provide a flame in the center of the well. You might also consider a journey to local body of water or spring.
Make a pledge to Brigid if you feel so called.
Make art or music. Invite spring and Brigid and creative energies into your life. This is the perfect time. Write a poem and read it aloud, or sing a song. You might even have a gathering to do this, sharing songs, poems, art, and the like amongst friends and family.
Divination: This holiday is often linked to divination. I have read about this time of year being used for all types of divination including weather divination. I do not know whether there is a link or not, but I find it interesting that Groundhog Day is the day after Imbolc and is an entire “holiday” dedicated to an animal performing weather divination.
Spend some time doing divination for yourself using your oracle or tarot cards, pendulum or perhaps scrying. With the combination of fire and water this is a wonderful time to use one of these mediums for scrying. (ex: gaze into water or a flame and allow your gaze to soften, making note of any images or messages that come out of this).
Spring Cleaning-Clean your house, Clear your altar, take a cleansing bath. Getting started on a little spring cleaning is a fabulous way to remove the energies collected after a long winter indoors.
However you celebrate, I wish you a blessed and auspicious Imbolc. May your soil be fertile and your crops (whether these be food or goal related) be abundant.
I spent last Friday night in a bookstore, surrounded by stories of every genre. Surrounded by the voices of countless authors, and characters. Surrounded by creativity and the creation born of that creativity. As I always do in any bookstore, I read jacket after jacket, hard backed and paper backed alike, known authors and unknown. I flipped to the middle of stories so I could taste the language of the story, the voice of the characters, the creative energy of the author.
Some of the stories were exquisite. Some I began to get lost in even when I opened to a random page and began to read. Others I set down quickly, unable to find the thread, the voice, that would paint me the picture and transport me elsewhere.
Because story, really good story, is a teleportation machine. The words carrying the reader to another time and/or place.
I have been thinking about story a lot lately. When I was in late grade school (4th-6th grade), I attended a school with an emphasis on the world as a classroom. I took african dance and water polo for PE and studied architecture through field trips and design projects.
I also learned about storytelling as art.
A storyteller would come to our school and my class would file down to the library and sit around her as she told us fantastical tales from around the globe. Time has a way of warping the memory and I can’t be sure if she learned these during travel or from other storytellers. But I remember the way she told the stories. With movement and voice fluctuation and sometimes different voices for the characters. I cherished this. Always an avid reader the power of hearing a story told was delicious.
This is a memory that comes to me frequently when I think about story. This art of storytelling is one that has been utilized throughout time to transmit information both make believe and fact. To share history and wisdom. We remember story. We relate to it. We often make sense of our lives with it.
How many times have you gone to a gathering where someone shares a story about something that happened to them. (my husband, my uncle and my late father are all excellent story tellers so I’ve been privileged to quite few).
Last year as I was working on a divination course, I actually named it Re-story your life. Because story is how we relate to ourselves and our experience. (and divination is a tool to connect to information and story that runs through us)
It is also how we remember. I often ponder all the stories that have been lost with the passing of people. Those not recorded or remembered or retold. Story is sacred. And we each have one. Our lives are full of chapters and ever evolving characters, a myriad of plot lines tying our story to the stories of others.
Book Of Shadows
Keeping a book of Shadows is very much like keeping a story if your spiritual journey. This is a book where one can log their rituals, spells and reflections on their practices. Do you have a Book of Shadows (also sometimes called a grimoire)?
If not it’s a simple process to create one.
Choose a notebook. This can be as fancy or simple as you’d like, what’s most important is what is on the inside (you can’t judge a book by it’s cover after all).
You can use this book as is, or cleanse and charge it using smoke from dried herbs or incense or crystals. You may want to drum over it or tone into it to charge it up.
But again you don’t have to. This book is the story of YOUR spiritual practice and you get to create this in whatever way fits for you!
Within my Women’s Circle we track all our rituals for our celebrations that coincide with the Wheel of the Year holidays (holy days). Some groups keep a collective book of all rituals and spells.
Sometime ago I decided I wanted to create a Wise Woman Witchery Community Grimoire. The idea is that an actual notebook would be mailed out into the community and passed along from one women to the next with each adding a spell, ritual or meditation. I would love to get this started but I need your help.
If you choose to participate you will receive the book in the mail and have several days to add your contribution before you will be asked to send it to the next person. Your mailing address will only be given to the person who is to send it to you in order to keep your personal information private. Each person who participates will receive an e-copy of the Grimoire once it makes its way back to me. A hard copy will be available to you for the cost of printing and shipping as well.
To sign up to be a part of this creation you can fill out the FORM. Once I have ten people signed up I will send it to the first person.
Synchronicity has been afoot this week. And when these moments happen in my life, I perk up and listen, because I take it as a sign that the Universe is saying “Pay attention! This is important!”. So I’m listening. And the action I am being called to take is to write to you all.
The events that led up to this post are as follows:
On Thursday I was with a girlfriend on a walk at a nearby park. I was chatting with her about reaching out to folks and creating a community for Wise Woman Witchery. She brought up the suggestion that perhaps dropping the words “Witch” and Witchery” from my business name and offerings, might make what I'm teaching and sharing feel accessible to more people. She expressed her own difficulty in connecting with the word Witch, yet also noted that everything I was teaching and sharing deeply resonated with her.
I explained to her that this had crossed my mind, yet I strongly identify with the word “Witch” and the practices I teach and share are very much connected to this for me.
On Friday I started listening to a podcast, from my friends Anna and Sara over at the Sisters Enchanted. The whole topic of this podcast is “Witch Misconceptions” You can listen in here (I encourage this as it is a great podcast and completely on topic with what I am about to share, plus Sara and Anna are fabulous women and have created and maintained a pretty darn awesome community)
Today (Saturday), I woke up and checked my email to find I had a message from a community member asking me about my use of the word Witch and expressing her own feelings of uncertainty about the word.
The thing is, “Witch” is loaded. It has been tossed around as a slur. Women (and men) have lost their lives over accusations of being a “Witch”. The word itself can conjure images of green faced, wart covered cackling hags or women in the woods luring children into their homes in order to cook and eat them. We may think of Witches as women casting hexes or curses. Or we may think of them riding off on their broomsticks or cavorting with the Devil.
Yet, Witch has also been reclaimed by many women and men to reflect their following of Earth based spirituality. Wicca and Wiccan practitioners often use this word to describe themselves.
But not all Witches are Wiccan. And I have yet to meet a Witch who worships the Devil or eats children. Of course, there are light and shadow sides to every word, every belief system and to humankind in general. We all hold shadow and light.
I will spare you the long historical story of the Witch word. If you are interested in learning about this there are a myriad of books on the topic.
Today I want to share with you my identification with the word Witch and how this connects to my spiritual practices and most importantly to the work I am doing at Wise Woman Witchery.
First of all, I am not Wiccan. I practice some things that are found in the Wiccan belief system, but this is not how I identify my path. My spiritual practice has been formed over time through experiencing many different earth based practices and different takes on some of the same practices.
When I hear the word Witch, my associations are naked feet on the earth, herbs and herbal medicine, living in rhythm with the cycles of nature (for me part of this is following the Wheel of the Year), using the tools of divination as a way to tap more deeply into one’s intuition and the messages of Spirit/Source, and tuning into and honoring the energies of all things (including place, stones, foliage, animals, people and spirits/guides). The Witch path for me is so embedded in my day to day that making Magic in my life can be as simple as stirring love into the food I’m cooking, calling a friend or loved one when they randomly pop into my mind, lighting a candle and saying an intention or a prayer, or anointing myself with oil and an intention as I prepare to move through my day. It is also gratitude for all things.(I am well known for talking to and thanking animals, trees, rocks and plants aloud and sometimes in public). When I make tea or medicine from plants I am making magic (this is a callback to my many potions I created as a child).
When I clear space or energy, meditate for calm or for information, connect to my Helping Spirits and Wise Beings, do a tarot or oracle reading or hold a crystal or stone to share in its energy, I am practicing Magic. And when I am whispering a prayer, lighting a candle, taking an intentionally deep breath to clear my own tension or anxiety, choosing my Wonder Woman underwear or bright red lipstick for an extra energy or confidence boost, I am also creating Magic. This Magic lives in me (and you!) every single day. I choose to bring it to the surface in my daily activities and actions (to be honest, I’ve done this for so long now I can’t imagine living a non-magical life), and it is this Magic that for me I equate with being a Witch.
When I state that I am a Witch, I feel the Magic that lives in me and in every being and I feel empowered by the connection this energy creates.
All that being said, this might not be the right word for you. Even as new women have come into my women’s circle, (a place where we cast a circle and do ritual on a weekly basis) some have struggled with the word Witch. (Remember how I said it is a loaded word?). I have had family members be concerned, confused and even put off by my use of the word (You should have seen me trying to explain Witch Camp at a family gathering). I believe our spiritual paths are ours. It is important to take what resonates and leave what doesn’t. I trust that this is how we create and nurture our own Magic and empowerment.
If Witch doesn’t fit, don’t claim it. You may resonate with all the practices and information I share and yet not consider it magic or not resonate with the word Witch. In fact that word may be very uncomfortable for you. That’s ok. You get to decide what sits right for you. You get to claim the words and practices that nurture your Spiritual and Sacred Self. And I want to support you in this!
I hope that I have been clear in my explanation of my own association with the word, and that this has opened a door to allow you explore and accept my offerings in a way where you are comfortable to take what fills your cup and leave what doesn’t. After all, you are the Wise Woman in the story of your life, and in my book the most sacred and magical thing you can do is listen to your Wise Woman voice!
Emily Morrison MA, MFT