What is now known as Candlemas at church is the old pagan festival of Imbolc (ewe’s milk). Known as the Festival of Light, Imbolc heralded the return of Nature’s Bounty. The Earth is stirring underground, and even though the ground may still be covered in snow and frost, if you look carefully, you will find evidence of growth. Soon, the ewes will start to produce this year’s lambs, and the milk is a reminder that winter would soon be over. This was a well-needed sign in days of old as food would be starting to run low and firewood would be running out. Then, they depended on their stores of food and wood to keep them alive and warm – something very few of us actually experience these days. It would have been a potluck celebration, as something would have had to be caught to celebrate with and that would have depended on the luck of the hunter. So nature’s signs would be a welcome reminder that the hard times would soon be over and they had hopefully made it through another winter as the first snowdrops started to appear.
Once the first lambs were born, which, in days gone by signified hope that they had made it through another winter. The first snowdrops will appear at this time to confirm that this is the time of renewal and rebirth. The Triple Goddess is in her maiden form and represents fertility, creativity and poetry – quite apt as up here in Scotland we are also getting ready to celebrate Robbie Burns with the schoolchildren all reciting his poems at this time, and Burns night the first major celebration in the Scottish calendar following Hogmanay. This is also the time to cleanse both your home and your body in preparation for the forthcoming spring.
The festival of Imbolc was traditionally Brigit’s day. Brigit is the Celtic Triple Goddess of poetry, healing & fire-craft. Her names vary from Brid, Brigit, Bridget and Bride but they are all one. She was Ireland’s Mother Goddess (Goddess of all) and the country was united in the worship of her. She was protector, warrior, guardian of children and Goddess of fire and the Sun. Her symbol includes the heart which runs with the fact that Valentine’s Day is celebrated just a couple of weeks later. It was Bride who was credited for wakening the Earth and so, as the Goddess of fire and the Sun, candles or bonfires are always lit for her. Her colour is white for the purity of the snow drop and the milk and as she is responsible for the fertility of the earth, all women to be married are named after her (bride) and wear white in honour of her, in the hope that she will bless the marriage. Women in labour in the Scottish Islands would call for her help to assist in the safe delivery of the baby and, when the child was safe they would thank her and consider themselves blessed by Bride herself. Lots of different cures were attributed to Bride and each area in the Celtic lands has an ancient tale of her help. Because of the dedication to Bride, the Christian church moved Candlemas from 13th Feb to 2nd and claimed Bride as their own by changing her name to St Brigit, the woman who they claimed delivered Christ.
So named because it usually pushes through the snow, it was also known as White Queen or Snow Princess.
Everyone knows what a snowdrop looks like with its dark green leaves and drooping white head and is known as the flower of hope and new life. However, it also has a lot of associations with fear and bad luck. It is a bad omen to bring a cut flower into the home as someone was surely to die before they bloomed again, because the flower resembles a corpse in a shroud!!. However, a bowl of planted snowdrops in the home causes no harm and some say a handful of cut snowdrops bring happiness to the home…so go figure but in Victorian days, death was prevalent anyway!! It isn’t really used herbally – the plant is actually poisonous but a poultice from crushed bulbs was often used in days gone by for frostbite.
Imbolc Spring Clean.
Imbolc is all about purification and cleansing, so this would be the correct time to de-tox your body as the maiden sweeps clean with her new broom. We are what we eat, and after the festive over-indulgence, a thorough cleansing would be appreciated so that we can clear out the stagnation and allow inspiration and creativity to flow once again. In order to commence with the spring clean, follow the candidiasis diet for 2-4 weeks (yes, here I go again) to allow your body to cleanse, whilst also protecting your health for the future. Keep your mind off food by also spring-cleaning the house. Yes, by doing this, you are carrying out the maiden’s clean-sweeping work, so are living magickally, as all lone-witches do. A clean and tidy house followed by a cleansed and purified body will prepare you for what the spring has to offer both physically and magickally. Make way for the new by clearing out the old. Yes, that means recycle all that “stuff” no longer of use to you. Give the things to friends, charity, whatever, and throw away what cannot be recycled. As you do this, visualise your problems, habits, bad eating ways, whatever you need to also get rid of, going out with the physical cleanse so that fate can bring in the new to you. Believe it is done when you are done and the last of the cleansing is complete.
The romance of February and Valentine’s Day
There were lots of ritual celebrations at this time in days gone by. The Romans dedicated Imbolc to Venus, the Celts considered it Brigit’s day and the Orientals honoured Kuan Yin, and there were many more such days during this month, whether dedicated to children or poets or love. We celebrate Brigit’s day – Goddess of the Hearth, feminine arts (divination, witchcraft and occult knowledge), poetry, fertility, healing, agriculture and smithcraft and enjoy her granted 3 wishes on this day (check the website), but Valentine’s day is perhaps a result of today’s version of these dedicated days from days gone by where love and fertility was honoured.
I often feel that a lot of couples, once they settle into house and children mode, forget that they began as two people in love where nothing mattered but spending time together, and yet sadly end up as two people job-sharing bringing up kids. It is time to make time for the other member of the parental team and Valentine’s Day is the day for the two of you to rekindle feelings (or any day during February where you can get the kids out of the way for the evening). It is time to lose the parental role and put yourselves first; rediscover the lover you have lost. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune on fancy gifts, extortionately priced flowers and extravagent meals!! It is time to feel loved because that is all you need according to the Beatles and love is free. So, have a night out or even better, a night in. When was the last time you took a scented bath together with a suave Sauvignon or a cocky Chianti, gave each other a seductive massage on the living room rug or shared a romantic candlelit meal which you lovingly cooked together, drinking more of the wine than you add to the Spaghetti Bolognese … use your imagination and take time to remember the fun and frolic of simply being a couple again.
Those of you who are alone right now shouldn’t miss out either. Why not run a hot bath, add some exotic oil such as ylang-ylang, burn a romantic pink candle and have a good soak in the bath with a glass of wine – perform this ritual on a Friday to attract love or Tuesday for passion – it may just open that door to love again…!! Set the mood with some love incense, add the oil, and whilst swirling the water, visualise your bath full of red hearts before you surrender to the warm water and engulf yourself in that love-inducing liquid of life…
So what do you put in that oil burner, bath or massage oil??
The romantic oils are sandalwood, patchouli, lavender, rose or jasmine. You can either let sandalwood stir your desires, patchouli stir your passions, follow Cleopatra and let Jasmine seduce your man, let lavender help you relax and luxuriate in those undisturbed moments or use rose to prepare you as a couple for a long night ahead!! Put Frank Sinatra (or similar) on the stereo to create the mood, light scented candles and love incence, open the champagne to celebrate that new-born fizz about to explode or the raunchy Rioja for a night of red-blooded passion… come on, live a little and make a promise to to give yourselves time ‘together’ every month…
Spell at Imbolc – a gift from Brigid
To honour the Triple Goddess at Imbolc, namely the Celtic goddess Brigit, place spring flowers in your home and light a white candle in her honour. When you dedicate the flowers and the candle to her, she will grant you 3 wishes, one for each of her aspects. With 3 more white candles, make the 1st wish for the good of others, whether animals, the planet or humanity – your dedication to others outside your normal life. Make the 2nd wish for a friend or partner and then make the 3rd something you would wish for yourself. As you make each wish, light the candle from the main one. Do not be selfish or manipulative and focus on the wish in hand. It is done. Leave the candles to burn down completely. I can hear you novices to witchcraft saying, “It cannot be that simple”. Oh Yes it can. The power lies in you and the element you are using (Fire) and it can be really that simple. You are putting your wish out to the Universe and that is it.
Magickal hot chocolate…Imbolc celebration
You can celebrate Imbolc with a celebration of milk, & make luxury hot chocolate!! In the mountains, hot chocolate is served with Baileys (Whisky Cream liqueur), an even richer milky celebration, which gave me the idea to include Real Hot chocolate…no, I don’t mean a pack of instant with hot water, but the real stuff people enjoyed before instant came along. If you don’t want the fuss, you can make original instant with hot milk, but here is a recipe for a simple luxurious Imbolc treat for you and your partner…
Ingredients: 300ml milk, 70ml double cream, 50g good chocolate, chopped, 1 x shot Baileys (optional)
Method: Add the milk, chopped chocolate and nearly all the cream to a pan (saving a little for the top). Heat gently whilst whisking until smooth and bring to the boil. Pour into 2 mugs or liqueur coffee glasses & add Baileys. Swirl the cream and grate a little chocolate on the top et voila…an Imbolc celebration indeed
Skadi…the Norse Winter Goddess
Dressed in white fur and metal armour, with her wolves, bow and arrow and snowshoes, her domain rules the mountains in winter. She is the complete embodiment of strength and courage during the winter months when ice, frost and snow take over the mountains. She is happiest when hunting, skiing or walking decked in her favourite snowshoes in the snow-covered mountains of Scandinavia, the area being named after her!
I mention her now as she rules over those dark times we all go through one time or another, and brings out the things that are really important from within! She positively encourages and rules over independence, strength and justice, stopping at nothing to get where she needs to go, but with passion and integrity, she is determined to live life to the full, no matter how harsh the winter gets or how hard the circumstances become!! Skadi helps you be determined to overcome, no matter how tough the climate or how difficult it becomes, to provide for yourself and your loved ones…Women power at its best… go girl!!
Winter is a dark time but is part of every year. When times are dark, it calls mainly for patience and persistence because, after every dark winter comes the Spring, when new life and growth will begin again.
We are going through tough times once more and our country’s future is not certain, but under the snow, life goes on. Animals hibernate. Seeds await germination, and Imbolc is symbolised by Snowdrops pushing through the snow and ewe’s milk, meaning new life and fresh meat is on the way. The circle turns once more and life goes on regardless of the circumstances around. Out of the dark comes the light. Winter does not last forever and the cold will eventually warm as the Sun returns, so enjoy the purity of the winter and embody the strength of Skadi when challenged. Light a fire, stay warm and dry, and snuggle up with those you love till Spring gets here!
Crystals to empower your wish…
In days gone by, Imbolc was also the time to collect magickal stones and crystals, to help, heal and protect for the forthcoming year. These stones could be placed on your magickal altar or sacred space, or kept on your person, as in jewellery or a medicine pouch, and would help to fulfil your wish above.
Amethyst – to help you with your spiritual path
Quartz clear – for direction or focus on one particular goal
Rose quartz – for love and friendship
Citrine – for health, wealth and happiness
Tiger Eye – gives the energy of the sun to deal with life’s dilemmas
Aventurine – talisman of protection
Calcite – for wealth (green) and balance (any colour)
Carnelian – for justice
Hematite – for aiming high without boundaries
Lapis Lazuli – for healing and psychism
Moonstone – the female’s stone of fertility and protection
Agate – for courage and new beginnings
Fluorite – for flawless health and spring-cleaning your life
Tourmaline – weight loss (green) and protection (black)
More Spells for Imbolc…
Light your bathroom with a few scattered tea lights plus a green candle placed on the edge of the bath near the taps. Run your bath, adding one large or 3 small aventurine crystals and scent the water with patchouli oil. Now get into the bath, relax in it’s warmth, close your eyes and really think about your immediate prosperity wishes… what you need and what you want. Remember – need not greed so none of this “let’s win the lottery jackpot” – money doesn’t necessarily bring you happiness – just misery in more comfortable surroundings. So think about what you need to pay, what you need to have done (as in get the leak fixed and the bathroom redecorated, not buy a new house) and have some left over for a bit of fun. When you have decided, concentrate on the green candle at the end of the bath, visualising those things being done & paid and state:
On this New (or full, as applicable) moon, my intention is set. New luck will be mine and all my needs met
With harm to none, please bring this to me, this is my will, so mote it be.
Another thing you could do…
involves fire. Decide what things you could do with removing from your life during the coming year, and tie together a little bundle of straw with black thread or ribbon for each issue you want to remove from your life, whether a habit or addiction you want rid of or a person you need closure on…you get the idea. When you have your gathering of little straw bundles (and I mean little if you are doing this indoors), you need to burn them somewhere. If you are lucky enough to have an open fire, then use that or use your cauldron if you have one, setting fire to them inside the cauldron, as the straw may go up quickly (take care whatever you are doing!). Failing that, you could even light a little tidy-the-garden type of bonfire outside and do a ritualistic burning of your problems and habits outside with nature – it won’t take long and, on a clear night, could even be quite peaceful and give you a sense of completion and closure. Just make sure you focus first on each issue and then see it no longer a problem to you as your little bundle burns away to ash. When it is all done, leave the situation knowing that each of these issues will be dealt with. The secret of witchcraft is not in how fancy a spell you perform or how many fancy words you say, but in knowing your actions will make it happen. You must be able to trust in what you do. Any doubt will doom your actions to failure. Remember the words – This is my will, so mote it is. Say them with conviction. Believe these little words and it will be so.
The single ones amongst us may like to try this bit of fun (or is it??) On 2nd Feb, should you see birds flying in a certain direction, and this is the direction from which your future partner will come and home made. Another Scottish tradition is to look out your window on the morning of the 2nd and the first man you see would have the same name as your future husband!!
Those of you on our own should carry an emerald around, should you want to actively seek a partner. Cleanse and programme the emerald to bring your love to you and then carry around on your person next to your heart, but it must be hidden. The person attracted to you must not see the stone!!
Blessing from Brigid for the newborn
On the next Imbolc after baby’s birth, on Brigit’s day, do this Blessing for Brigid: Light a white candle to her, present baby and say:
Goddess of Fire, we present to you our newest member of the family.
We ask you to welcome him (or her) and love him, bless him and protect him.
Watch over him as he grows, as he loves, and as he lives
This we ask of you Brigid; may you love him and take care of him as we will
This promise we make to you as you do to us, so mote it be
Keep a picture of baby on your altar/family mantelpiece with the white candle, and burn it whenever baby needs extra help. Thank Brigid for any help she gives you. Renew the candle and update baby’s photo every Imbolc.
Valentine’s Day 14th Feb
This festival came to be as it is the general date that birds select their partner for the season. The Victorians used it as a time to send cards and gifts to a secret love so they would know someone liked them and this was how the industry of greetings cards came about. Valentine’s day is about unrequited love and not the festival for florists and restaurants that it has been turned into today. So, if you don’t fall for all the hype, don’t feel guilty – you have grasped the true meaning of the occasion. You don’t need a special day to tell your partner you love them and give them flowers – you can do it any day you want to. Be different and use one of the other 364 days instead and avoid being ripped off at the same time.
29 Feb (Leap year)
So girls; who fancies popping the question to him this Leap Year?? Leap year only comes about once every four years to realign the yearly calendar with the Sun. It was thus named because English law didn’t recognise this extra day in law so all rules were “leapt” passed and consequently, traditions became null and void just for the one day. In Ireland in the 5th century, St Bridget petitioned St Patrick to allow women to have more choice in who they married(and Imbolc is Brigit’s Day) so he gave them 29th Feb to break with tradition and propose to the man they would have liked to be with. In Scotland, it was even against the law to refuse such a proposal and any man would be greatly fined should they’d done so!! So, go on, go on, go on…if your single and in love with the man of your dreams, because love is in the air…as they say!!