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Posts Tagged ‘imbolc’

*blows dust off blog* (more on that in another post)

I spent this last weekend in the Texas Hill Country at the Texas Imbolc Retreat, hosted by the wonderful Godwins and Hearthstone Grove, ADF. I’m left with many thoughts, none of which will adequately describe the experience of the weekend.

  • Hospitality is a pretty amazing thing.
  • If you build it, they will come.
  • Tell them who you are, and tell them why you’re here.
  • Do the best you can, and let the haters hate.
  • I’m not crazy for thinking my house likes me.
  • I can make up an invitation to the Kindred off the cuff, and do a pretty darn good job of it. (Good enough for my Nature Spirit invitation to be graced with the presence of a huge jackrabbit.)
  • ADF’s priests are just as amazing as I thought, and I can’t wait to count myself one of their number.
  • ‘Cause the things that I prize, like the stars in the skies, are all free.
  • If you tell a flame tender and an Eagle Scout “Build a big fire” you get a REALLY BIG FIRE.
  • Other people find Rooster the Paladin just as funny as I do.
  • I can sing in a bardic circle and nobody will laugh at me (but they’ll ask for more Rooster stories).
  • Sometimes you get to meet people you’ve been “hearing” for years, and they’ll be just as awesome in person as you’d expect them to be.
  • Having a community of support is pretty important for pagans in leadership.
  • There’s a need for good resources about running an ADF study group.
  • We need a name.
  • 40 people around a big damn fire, led by experienced priests, can generate a whole damn lot of energy. (Enough to make my head spin and the hair stand up on my arms/neck)
  • Nature is good. Nature is very good.
  • Be careful about asking Brigid for inspiration. Sometimes you get what you ask for.

I could go on, but I think that’s enough for now. I returned from the retreat recharged spiritually and ready to take my next steps in ADF’s clergy path (Many thanks to Rev. Sean Harbaugh for giving me some much needed advice – I was killing myself on the reading list, and apparently that’s more than a little bit counter-intuitive).

And maybe next year I’ll get out to Pantheacon or Wellspring or Trillium too, but for now I’m just happy to know I can be part of a truly excellent Druid experience right here in Texas.

(Even if it is more than 5 hours drive from my little home in the swamp.)

 

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My Imbolc/Ewemeolc ritual was performed on Friday, February 1 at 5:00 pm, just after I’d gotten home from work. This was a solitary ADF style rite, following the full CoOR. Using the published ritual template found here, I honored Nerthus as the Earth Mother and Heimdall as the Gatekeeper, and Frigga was the primary patron of the rite, as Queen of the Hearth. I may not use this association in the future, but it’s the one that seemed to fit as I was writing the ritual. I brought the following offerings:

  • Cornmeal for the Earth Mother
  • Milk for the Outdwellers, poured out in the back yard
  • Whiskey for Saga and Heimdall
  • Incense and my silver ring for the Fire/Well/Tree
  • A brownie for the Ancestors
  • Oats for the Nature Spirits
  • Whiskey for the Gods and for Frigga, as well as water shared from the pitcher I used for the waters of life

I offered whiskey even though I can’t drink it myself. All the offerings seemed well received, especially the brownie. Apparently my sweet-tooth is hereditary.

This was the first time I’d tried to go directly from “work mode” into “ritual mode” and the transition could have gone more smoothly. I will give myself more time for meditation next time, as I never really settled into the ritual. Also, this particular ritual script, though I like it a lot, was difficult to say at first – lots of alliteration (which is why I like it) was a little tongue-twistery until I settled into the poetic pattern. I’ll definitely use the ritual outline again though, as I liked it a lot – especially the Norse flavor of the poetry.

I felt like opening the gates went particularly well, but I didn’t feel as well-connected to Frigga as I’d hoped in this particular rite. My ease with the CoOR was definitely more apparent though, as I moved through the various steps, easily anticipating what would come next.

One thing I did notice about this particular ritual template was that I spent a lot more time “setting up” than I did actually celebrating the particular reason for the High Day. In the future, I’ll put more into the “celebration” aspect, so that it will feel more balanced. I definitely feel less at home with the Norse celebrations, so I need to do more research into their associations with High Days (or just do standard Neo Pagan celebrations, which I’m much more comfortable with, and give them a Norse flavor).

All the offerings, once made into their various bowls, were spread in my gardens as part of the blessing of the coming spring. My lime tree is in full bloom, so hopefully we’ll have a bumper crop of limes this coming year.

I drew runes for the first time in a long time for this ritual, since I was honoring Frigga, and it seemed appropriate. I received the following when I asked for the blessing:

  • Uruz – Aurochs: strength, dross
  • Nauthiz – Need/Necessity: oppression, lessons learned
  • Inguz – Ing: fertility, ancestors

I’ll admit to being really unfamiliar with this particular divination tool, so the “textbook” keyword meanings don’t mean much yet. I’ve had to do some researching to find deeper meanings, both in the rune poems and in other sources. From the Anglo-Saxon rune poem, I found the following:

Ur
The aurochs is proud and has great horns;
it is a very savage beast and fights with its horns;
a great ranger of the moors, it is a creature of mettle.
Nyd
Trouble is oppressive to the heart;
yet often it proves a source of help and salvation
to the children of men, to everyone who heeds it betimes.
Ing
Ing was first seen by men among the East-Danes,
till, followed by his chariot,
he departed eastwards over the waves.
So the Heardingas named the hero.

I found that just going to the Rune Poems helped a lot with finding a bigger meaning. From this, I get the following impression of the omen.

You will be given strength as you need it to overcome the coming troubles and trials, but that trouble will lead you toward fertility and peace.

This is, honestly, pretty similar to other omens I’ve been drawing on this Dedicant Path – that things are going to be rough at first, but that I just need to stick with it, and I’ll be glad for having made it through. I’m taking the similar omen to mean I’m not done with the troublesome part yet, which seems about right, as I’m still feeling a lot like I’m in the “action” part of “belief follows action”. Still, I am further along than I was, and I know this will take time.

This message is applicable to my personal life right now as well, which I can’t really discuss here.

It’s also a little trite, to be honest. It’s one of those divination messages that could apply to anyone at any time, and maybe that’s because I asked a very generic “What blessings do you give in return” question. As a blessing, it’s somewhat of a positive one, or at least has a positive outcome.

Either that or I’m totally barking up the wrong tree – a possibility that I’m not leaving behind, as almost every divination I’ve done (or had done) regarding ADF has said something about being troublesome and difficult but with a good outcome. We’ll see how the rest of this year goes.

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Imbolc (or Imbolg, or Ewemeolc) is the Neo-Pagan festival that occurs on the February 1 cross-quarter day – halfway between Yule and the Spring Equinox.

Typically this is a celebration of the returning of light and life to the world, as it marks the first signs of spring and the time when the ewes begin to lactate in preparation for giving birth to lambs. This is also the time when many secular traditions start to look toward the end of Winter – things like Groundhog’s Day, where a groundhog is supposed to predict how much longer it will be winter based on whether or not he sees his shadow. This is very similar to a story about the Cailleach, who supposedly will make the weather on February 1 very bright and sunny if she intends to gather a lot more firewood to last through a much longer winter. This tradition, though it seems odd (as we usually associate the sun with warmth), actually matches the weather in winter, where clouds will hold more warmth near the ground, and bring rain and help thaw the ground, where the sunnier days are often much colder.

Frequently these celebrations are also focused on Brigit (or Briganti) and the celebrations of hearth and home; in the Celtic tradition, February 1 is Brigid’s Day. Many pagans make Brigit’s Crosses and bless and light candles – a tradition that was incorporated into the Christian celebration at this time of year as well.

In the Norse culture, this time is typically associated with the Charming of the Plough – blessings called down upon farm instruments and seeds and honoring the (still-frozen) fields. The Charming of the Plough is a time of preparation, to start the first seeds indoors in preparation for the coming spring. While it’s certainly not warming up in the Norse countries, the light is slowly getting longer and so there is more daylight to begin to prepare for the coming agricultural season. Offerings may be made to Nerthus, as the Earth Mother begins to show life again, or to Freyr, for bringing fertility (Our Own Druidry 66).  It is also sometimes called Ewemeolc, which means “ewe’s milk” and (like Imbolc) marks the beginning of sheep’s lactation. I will also be honoring Frigga, as the Queen of the Hearth and weaving/spinning (which seems appropriate on such a sheepy holiday).

Even though I live in a climate that is not remotely like the Norse, I honor this season in almost the same way. I didn’t plant a winter garden this year, so to celebrate Ewemeolc’s first stirrings of spring, I will be getting my garden ready for the spring planting, turning in compost and mulch and calling down blessings on my tools. On a year that I had a winter garden, I’d be harvesting the last of the winter crops and getting ready for spring. I will also include a blessing for the seeds that are already being started elsewhere, since for most of my plants I use seedlings instead of starting them by hand. I’ll also be blessing my spinning wheel and wool and lighting candles on my hearth.

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