Imbolc is just a few days away, and it is one of my favourite days on the Wheel of the Year. This year is comes aided by a new moon and I don’t know about you, but I can already feel the rising sap, up in my bones, as I look for the first snow drops to appear, heralding a change. Above I’ve chosen a selection of pieces that remind me of this energy– clockwise from the upper left– The Snowdrop Fairy Flower Earrings, The Mother Troll Amethyst Necklace, The Griffin Milk Earrings, The Gerd– a delicate sterling silver strand with faceted chrysoprase, the silver scent locket (what would you put inside to herald spring?) and lastly the Cosmic Hug pendant of Rose Quartz.
Tomorrow I’ll be putting together my altar, and cleaning and oiling all my tools in honour of the heathen Charming of the Plough. I’ll give thanks to Brigid, who in the form of Brigantia, was the goddess of the tribal ancestors of this area– she was also the goddess of the forge, brewing and poetry; she has guided my hand in all these things and I am eternally grateful. What do you do to celebrate Imbolc and herald the first glimmerings of spring?
This weekend I celebrated Imbolc (Some say this word has derived from Old Irish, meaning “in the belly”) referring to gestating pregnancies of ewes, but I like to think of it as a special holiday for belly dancers. Having just begun to teach an American Tribal Style Belly Dance class in York, this “In the Belly” felt most auspicious.
Imbolc corresponds with the Christian candlemas– I left a candle lit all day during this festival of light which has always brought aspects of my creative life together.
For those of us who may be following a Heathen path, this is also the “Charming of the Plough” where the tools of our livlihoods are put on our altar to be blessed so that we may be creative and fruitful in the new year. All my tools were laid out– the mandrels, cutters, pliers and bail makers, the files and hammers.
Brigid has been my patron goddess for many years– I went from earning my (extremely small) crust as a poet to working in metals. Brigid is the goddess of the poet and the blacksmith– the two workings are alike in many ways. Poetry is made from words formed in the heat of the will, and the cold forged designs I make have their own rhythms, rhymes and meters.
This Charming of the Plough is a Dísablót, a celebrating of the dísir, or female ancestors. I cooked a meal for my female ancestors and poured them some good beer, and the day was done.
The next day, M and I drove to Lincolnshire to visit Julian’s Bower, a turf labyrinth that is most likely medieval, though the first written record of it dating from the 17th century claims it’s Roman. Someone had left three fresh pink roses in the centre– three pale norns– covered there by the muddy edges of the turf so that they were only visible once you had walked the full circuit. On a clear day you can see the York Minster from this place. These Northern turf mazes share much in common in naming and structure to Scandinavian turf mazes, and one would like to think these may date from the Viking Age, or perhaps they are a remnant of ancestral memory from that time.
Of all the pagan feast days, Imbolc is close to my heart. Spring is coming– and Brigid presides over the new sun, the quickening sap in the trees, the buds preparing to flower.
Brigid’s presence is felt all over this island, with many places being named after her. Brid(e) is Brigid; t is thought that her blessing was sought by brides. She is also the goddess of blackberries and swans, poets and blacksmiths– a perfect correspondence! I feel her over my shoulder as I work.
I have quoted Emily Dickinson’s poem 365 here before, but it is perfect here:
Dare you see a Soul at the White Heat?
Then crouch within the door —
Red — is the Fire’s common tint —
But when the vivid Ore
Has vanquished Flame’s conditions,
It quivers from the Forge
Without a color, but the light
Of unanointed Blaze.
Least Village has its Blacksmith
Whose Anvil’s even ring
Stands symbol for the finer Forge
That soundless tugs — within —
Refining these impatient Ores
With hammer, and with Blaze
Until the Designated Light
Repudiate the Forge —
To celebrate today, I’ve experimented with making some incense from dried herbs and flowers– basil, bay, camomile flowers, cinnamon, dill, nettle and rosemary. All ground up with my mortar and pestle and burned over a charcoal disc.