Imbolc Festival

Imbolc is an Irish/Gaelic quarter day festival celebrated between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox around February 2 to honor the first hints of spring.

The name Imbolc is a bit of a mystery. Some scholars say that it means “in the belly” which referred to the pregnancy of ewes. Since this was the time of the birthing for the ewes, this makes sense. And others say it means to wash or cleanse such as a ritual cleansing.

The Goddess Brigid was the deity of honor for this celebration. Brigid represented the Spring season which includes fertility. She is also known for her healing attributes.

The customs around this celebration revolve around fertility, healing, and springtime. A custom that has carried over to modern times is Spring Cleaning. After the long, cold, closed up house with the smell of smoke from the fireplace, the house is in need of a good cleaning and airing out. The same is true today. And what better motivation to clean then to do it for the goddess Brigid before she visits your house.

Other customs include making Brigid dolls. This was done by the menfolk and symbolized fertility. Brigid crosses were popular also. It was used for not only decoration but symbolized Brigid’s protection of hearth and home and healing blessings. Divination was also done for the purpose of knowing the future health of the family, livestock, and crops for the coming growing season. There are many other traditions and I encourage you to investigate them for yourself.

And of course, what is a festival without a feast and socialization. This holiday was eventually taken over and the customs and stories replaced by Christian concepts and is now known as St. Brigid’s Day or Candlemass. Many cultures still celebrate the original meaning today.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imbolc

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brigid

https://www.adf.org/rituals/celtic/imbolc/imbolc-traditions.html

 

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Winter Solstice Festival

The Winter Solstice – where the day is the shortest and the night is the longest of the year.

Why celebrate such an occasion? Why was it a day of significance for our ancestors?

Our ancestors used astronomical events, such as the moon and sun, to guide their activities such as sowing seeds, growing crops, harvesting, monitoring winter reserves, and mating of the animals. Farming, eating, and surviving all depended on this awareness.

Naturally, their spiritual beliefs are tied to nature and the agriculture cycle which are reflected in their rituals and celebrations.

The winter solstice was an event that was seen as the reversal of the suns ebbing presence in the sky which contribute to their concepts of birth, rebirth, and the sun gods. The disappearing sun was of very much concern to them. The sun has been shining less and less at this time and it appears that the sun stands still and doesn’t move for three days in the sky. This would have been alarming for the first humans. A ritual would be needed to coax the sun back.

Indeed, this became a yearly ritual for the rebirth of the sun to warm the earth again.

This time was also used as a rebirth of our own inner self. It was a time for self reflection, rest, rejuvenating from the rigorous growing cycle, and creativity and stories that sparked the imagination.

To celebrate, our ancestors tied stories of the Gods / Goddess into these occasions of change and celebration.  Many Christmas traditions and customs we see today came from the people who celebrated Yule / Winter Solstice / Midwinter. For example the Christmas Tree, wreath, and Yule log, Santa Clause and his reindeer, and the exchanging of presents came from Scandinavian and German culture.  The mistletoe came from the ancient Celtic Druids.

The tree and wreath were from the evergreen tree which symbolized the green of spring and summer. Also, by bringing in evergreen which includes pine, helped to protect against illness (evil spirits). Pine interestingly helps boost immunity and protects respiratory health which is needed in the long winter being cooped up in a house.

Santa Clause came from several cultures around the world. In Scandinavia Odin traveled the midwinter sky on his eight legged horse, Sleipnir, dropping off presents. The Dutch had Sinterklaas.

Caroling came from wassailing door to door singing for the health of neighbors and driving out the evil spirits (illness) from the fields to ensure good crop growth for the coming new growing season.

Indeed, this dark time was a useful time not only to renew the earth but ourselves as well. The evergreens can help us today to think of the spring/summer time and give us hope through the long dark nights. Also, as we have learned, they can help protect us from illness. The winter stories of the customs can be a very joyous time. We can plan for the future, use our imagination, and be creative during this time welcoming the sun back.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/winter_soltice

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/12/winter-solstice-december-year-shortest-day-explained-science/

http://www.quick-good-fortune.com/Winter-Solstice-Magic-Traditions.html

thoughtco.com/christmas-customs-with-pagan-roots-2563021

https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/herbs-and-spices/pine.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Claus

Autumn Equinox Ritual 2017

This was my first Autumn Equinox Ritual and it was held at the yoga center in Adams, NY on September 30th. We always gather an hour before the ritual starts to give us time to talk, settle down, prepare, and do a little group craft.

Our group craft this year was drawing our own personal wheel of the year on a piece of paper and drawing symbols or pictures of what that time of the year means to us. Next year, we will do one as a grove.

After the group craft, chatting, and letting our food for the feasting heat up, we had our pre-ritual and last minute ritual parts were assigned. We sang our processional song down to the stone circle. We sang Come We Now as a People. This walk always prepares my mind for the sacredness of the situation. Upon reaching the stone circle we gathered in a circle clockwise. The outsiders were given their offerings.

I had the privilege of being assigned to sprinkle the ritual space with water for the purification. This was followed by the incense. The bard and gatekeeper, Lady Brighid, were honored.

The earth mother was honored next and I had offered to call to her. This was followed by singing The River is Flowing. The Three Hollows was next. This consisted of singing the Portal Song while 3 volunteers made an offering of silver to the well, whiskey to the fire,  and holy water for the tree. I volunteered to offer the silver to the well.

Our ritual leader lead us into the grove attunement. Our grove does the Two Powers Meditation. 

Next up was the calling and offerings to the Nature Spirits, Ancestors, and Shinning Ones. I made an offering of whiskey for the Ancestors. I choose this because they most likely miss drinking spirits while they were alive.

The main deity of the occasion was actually several deities. Our grove choose to honor earth mothers of many pantheons because the good harvest was due to them. We choose Tailtiu, Gaia, Danu, Frigga, Prithvi, and Macha. Each person called to their earth mother and told a little about them and made their offering. I had the part of Danu. I was nervous but toward the end, the words were just flowing out of my mouth, thanks to her help. I gave her an offering of water from our local river, the Oswegatchie, which I added fresh healing herbs from my garden this summer. I felt that our Mother really needed healing because of the neglect all this centuries. I feel that the people of the planet need to turn their attention to the earth mother and start forming a relationship with her and give her offerings of thanks. Perhaps, we as a people will become more caring towards each other.

Our grove next made our individual offerings to our personal deities or spirit guides. Our seer drew the omens from her oracle card deck. The omens were good. We called for the blessings and hollowing of the waters, followed by our toast and boast. It was good to hear what was going on in our grove member’s lives.

Our magical working consisted of candle magic. I made soy candles for the grove and we did a little mediation while holding them and infusing healing magic inside.

Then it was time to reverse things. We thanked the Beings of the Occasion and the Kindreds. Our ritual leader closed the gates. We were led out of the Two Powers Meditation, and I thanked the earth mother.

Our rite was ended and we sang the recessional chant, Now the Rite is at an End. 

I am very happy to be taking part in the rituals now that I am a member of the Northern Rivers Grove.

Photo Credit: Michele O’Donnell

Danu – Mother of the Gods

Danu is the great mother of Ireland. The mother of the gods. The first tribe in Ireland, the Tuatha De Danann – otherwise known as the people of the goddess Danu, was named after her.

As an earth goddess, she is associated with rivers, agriculture, cultivation, nurturing the land, fertility, growth, and abundance. In fact, her name is said to mean “the flowing one” of which all things flow. The land, mountains, rivers, all life springs from her. Several rivers and hills in Ireland are named after her.

Since, all life or creation comes from her, she possesses the knowledge, wisdom, and magic in which to create. In fact, legend says, the Tuatha De Danann attributed their unusual skill with Danu bestowing them with these gifts. I encourage you to look into the myth and legend of the battles of the Tuatha De Danann on your own. It’s quite interesting. Due to Danu helping in battle, she is also considered a warrior goddess. Which is not hard to believe when you think about how a mother will protect her offspring.

It’s true, not much is known about Danu, but you can be sure that since she provides us with land, water, food, and shelter she is very nurturing. All you have to do is look. Look out at the land and see for yourself all that she offers. Everything is there for us to not only survive, but to live a happy, satisfying, creative life grounded in her loving arms. All she asks in return is for you to treat her in kind.

So whenever you need strength, perseverance, nurturing, wisdom, abundance, or magic, call on her and she will instill in you those attributes.