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?
I live in a place where history is a constant companion. There is no place where this isn’t true, but York, and Yorkshire in general feels haunted, submerged in the past, and this inspires me. Sometimes I don’t even have to imagine it– it manifests itself, like this summer afternoon at the abbey ruins of Rievaulx when these minstrels created what felt like, in the words of Hakim Bey, a temporary autonomous zone.
Today is the feast day of Saint Peter in Chains, and the glorious York Minster is dedicated to this original Houdini. I’m going to walk to the minster today and think on all the miraculous escapes in my life! A day to not only celebrate shaking off the fetters of whatever holds us back, but it’s also a time to let things come to fruition– help them rise, like yeast in bread. It is Lammas, or as the Anglo Saxons called it hlaf mas or “loaf-mass”– a celebration of the first fruits of the harvest, a baking of the magic bread.
I’m not much of a baker. Sometimes I wish I knew how to fire ceramic beads in a kiln– clay instead of grain– now there’s a magic bread.
I have begun to incorporate small ceramics in some designs, like the Kitchen Witches’ pentagram ring, above. I make these in many colours, but perhaps my favourite colour is the raku pottery– which is an ancient Japanese style of firing which allows for “happy accidents”– the colour takes on hues of a stormy sea or iron rich silt or even blood. I like to imagine that the fire makes up its own mind what the colour will be! In a way, that symbolises the creative process for me.
In the Middle Ages, when people lived by the seasons, the wheat stores were running low, and the new harvest and the first breads baked with it meant that the season of plenty was beginning again.
Ironically, this is true for my own business (and retail businesses in general!) The summer months are slow and I’m busy making for the time when the harvest begins again– late summer and then into the intensely busy winter holidays.
I’ve been making lovely new pieces that I’ll roll out over the next few weeks– this is my magic bread. What’s yours?
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.