Greetings and a Blessed Imbolc to all!
Today more commonly known as Groundhog’s day, is the ancient Celtic Quarter Cross Day, also sometimes referred to as Brigit’s Day. The midway point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, this day was and still is celebrated by many as the first inklings of spring begin to pull at our bodies, the songs of the birds fill the air more, the snowdrops and other shoots pop up from the ground, here on the West Coast the Rhododendrons are blooming and the cherry blossoms and magnolias are budding. Our minds and bodies begin to stir and perhaps like me fresh raw greens begin to excite your palate and your skin craves the kiss of the sun.
In Chinese Medicine it is the time when water starts to give rise to wood. In the Winter, Water is the dominant element, it is the deepest parts of ourselves, the collective unconscious, our bones, the wisdom of our ancestors we carry in our DNA or Jing in TCM. Winter is a time to go deep within and revitalize and restore ourselves, listen to the wisdom of our bones and the still waters of nature. From this place of strength, stillness and power we begin to set our true intentions for the coming spring. Just as the melting snow and ice give rise to water to nourish the bulbs and seeds in the ground, so do the waters of our bodies, the deep wisdom of our DNA help to give rise to our own soul intentions, those things that we wish to manifest into form, our own shoots, trees, and flowers.
So I invite you all to sit with yourself in the next few days (where the water meets the trees if you can) and listen to the rhythm and voice of your bones, your DNA, the water within and see what wishes to be birthed forth in the coming spring. I would suggest you write these down and place them upon your altar or plant them with some seeds to create a living remembrance and ritual of your intentions.
And if you are interested in keeping alive the ancient Celtic ways and honouring the sacred rhythms of nature, you may call upon Brigit, the goddess of healing and poets, midwives and blacksmiths to help you make three wishes: one a universal wish to all beings, one a wish for your family and one a wish for yourself. With each wish light a candle and call upon Brigit, the elements of water and wood and your own helping spirits to support these becoming reality. When you are completed light a fourth candle to welcome back the sun that is growing stronger in the sky each day. Allow all the candles to burn down while you envision these wishes becoming reality and embody the gratitude you feel for this magic, this life and the support of all our many helpers, seen and unseen.
And so it is!!
Blessings and Love,
Here in BC, Nettles are growing everywhere at this time of year. You can find them in the local parks and out in the rainforest. Nettle is an amazing healing wild food and I love to go and pick it each spring. Drying some for tea through the year and making it into soup, spanakopita, pesto, really anything that greens go in.
Here are some of the amazing nutritional facts about Nettles, you can find out more info at Organic Facts.
Some of the most important health benefits of stinging nettle include its ability to detoxify the body, improve metabolic efficiency, boost immune health, increase circulation, improve energy levels, manage menstruation, minimize menopausal symptoms, heal skin conditions, protect kidney and gallbladder health, lower inflammation, increase muscle mass, regulate hormonal activity, prevent diabetes, lower blood pressure, soothe hemorrhoids, and improve respiratory conditions.
In preparing for my equinox/eclipse ritual I wanted to include some recipes that would help us to ingest and align with the energies of spring and the wood element. So I revised a favourite old Italian farmhouse recipe of mine with nettle pesto! You can find my other recipe for Ponderosa Pine Resin Chocolate here.
3 cloves garlic
1 red thai chile
1 loose handful basil leaves
100g nettles, blanched
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 handfuls cashew nuts
1 handful Parmesan Cheese
1 handful Asiago Cheese
Extra Virgin Olive oil
Salt and pepper
First boil a pot of water and add the nettle leaves, allowing them to gently boil for a few minutes to remove the Formic acid. Remove it from the water, rinse under cool water and drain. Use a cheese cloth or paper towel to squeeze out the extra liquid. (You can save the liquid that you boiled and use it to cook pasta or as a tonic drink)
Next, Combine all ingredients into a food processor or Vitamix, starting with about 1/2 a cup of Olive Oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Adding more oil and salt and pepper till you get the desired taste and consistency you like.
You can substitute several things in this recipe, use only nettles or add another green instead like parsley or cilantro. You can use only Parmesan or another mix some other hard sharp cheeses. You can use the traditional pine nuts or another nut. And of course you can omit or add more chile and garlic.
This sauce can be used for all sorts of things; on pasta, with spaghetti squash, as a dip or sandwich spread. I have chosen to use it with layered Panigacci. Panigacci is much like crepes and so I like to use a basic crepe recipe substituting wheat for Spelt.
Spelt Crepe Recipe
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup spelt flour
1 1/4 cups milk (I use almond milk)
Butter for melting
Whisk eggs and salt in large bowl. Gradually whisk in flour, then 1 1/4 cups milk. Let stand 1 hour.
If necessary, add more milk by tablespoonfuls to batter to thin to consistency of heavy whipping cream.
Heat 8-inch-diameter nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Brush with melted butter. Pour 3 tablespoons batter into skillet and swirl to coat bottom evenly. Cook until top appears dry, loosening sides of crepe with spatula, about 45 seconds. Turn and cook until brown spots appear on second side, about 30 seconds. Turn crepe out onto plate. Repeat with remaining batter, brushing skillet with butter and stacking crepes on plate.
Now that you have your pesto and your crepes you can begin the magic of layering them!! lay one crepe down on a plate and cover generously with pesto, place another crepe on top and cover with pesto again, continue this process until your tower has reached your desired height.
To serve cut into triangles.
This weekend I spent the day walking through the rainforest filling up on the energies of the spring equinox and the elements of wind and wood. Here on the West Coast of Canada, the feeling of spring is alive and abundant wherever you go. The cherry blossoms and magnolias are blooming, the daffodils and tulips are waving from the ground. The desire to sprout and grow is palpable all around and within myself. It is the time of Ostara (the spring equinox), a time of balance, when the length of light and dark are equal and it calls to us to find our own internal balance, balance between masculine and feminine, inward reflection and outward action, yin and yang…. I personally have a much easier time on the inward planes and often find myself dreaming and wanting to live in my head, but I now one of my greatest lessons is to move these dreams outward into the world and that is when fear takes hold of me and I begin to question who am I to create this, who will listen, who will come and yet in the wise words of Marianne Williamson:
“…..Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
So I am peeling more layers of the onion away and breaking free of these fears and offering my perspective and shining my light, in doing so I hope to share what inspires me and inspire others to do the same, until we have all broken free and are living from a place of heart spirit that allows all beings to flourish.
And with the start of spring I offer to you an Equinox/Eclipse perspective and ritual to help you connect with the seeds within that desire to be planted, find the support that is needed to birth them and let go of what no longer serves, aligning your body and mind to great spirit and the new energies that are here for us to utilize.
Since the dawn of humanity, people have lived in balance with the rhythms of the earth and the planets, using these as markers of time and ritual. Our Ancestors, Shamans, Pagans, Druids, Witches, Indigenous wisdom keepers and all others who honour and have honoured the changing of the seasons and astrological events know the immense power in working with these elements and attuning our bodies and minds to them. This week we have many powerful influences to attune to; the Spring Equinox, Ostara, Eostre, Easter and the full moon lunar eclipse in Libra. The Spring Equinox being a time of even light and dark and the start of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, means it is a time of balance, as well as, a time to honour the birthing that can be seen outwardly in nature and felt within. Traditionally, this time was celebrated by Agricultural people as a time of fertility, praying to the land to nourish the seeds planted and that the long death of winter has ended and life is resurrected once again. Many of us associate this time with Easter and the resurrection of Christ. This is one of the many stories and celebrations of our ancestors that has been adopted by the church to help ease conversion from the old gods and goddesses and worship of nature. But no matter is you are Pagan, Christian, Jewish or Hindu, these rituals hold immense power and still help us to come to balance with our existence here on mama earth.
In Chinese Medicine, this is the season of the wood element which gives to us the power of blossoming, the courage to make decisions in our lives and go forth into the world to make them a reality. Trees are the perfect example of the spring equinox time, they have gathered up the wisdom of winter (water) that lies deep within the earth and using this wisdom they grow forth towards the heavens, standing firm in their truth and shining their light for all to see while remaining flexible to the ever changing flow of life. The wood element is associated with our liver and gallbladder and the emotion of Anger. When our liver, gallbladder and Anger are in balance they allow us to plan, have courage, make changes and transform our lives. When they are out of balance we may become overly oppressive and while trying to make changes we will try and change others in our path or we may become resigned to our fate and lose the will to make decisions or take action. To help our wood element function better we can spend time with trees, asking for their help and aligning to their energy, eating seasonally available foods like wild spring greens: nettles, dandelion, garlic mustard, as well as garlic, onion, leeks, mushrooms, kale, lemons, high quality vinegars and brassicas to support our liver and gallbladder, getting acupuncture and honouring the wood element through ritual and ceremony.
The final powerful influence this week is the Full moon lunar eclipse in Libra, I see eclipses as also being a balancing act between light and dark and with Libra being the sign of balance. This whole week is calling us to balance. The full moon is a time of fulfillment, our intentions set at the new moon are being birthed and so we are called to celebrate and honour what has appeared in our lives and begin to shed what is blocking our continued evolution. With Libra being ruled by Venus; love, relationships, balance, diplomacy, the feminine, beauty and appearance may be particular areas that are called to attention or that you may want to reflect on.
Here is the ritual that I have created to work with and balance these energies, I hope you enjoy and please feel free to pass them along to others.
Sacred Spring: An Equinox/Eclipse Ritual
What you will need:
- an altar cloth, objects or pictures that represent the four directions; East (incense, feather), South (candle, flowers), West (water, ancestors) and North (salt, crystals), The masculine and feminine, the wood element and anything you hold dear or wish to charge up (ie jewellery)
- Clothes appropriate for the weather
- a yoga mat, sheep skin or blanket to lie on
- something to listen to the downloaded drum journey and music for dancing
- sage, tobacco or palo santo to cleanse with
- some delicious treats symbolic of the spring
- something for offering: tobacco, cornmeal, fruit, milk, beer,..
To begin choose where you will do the ceremony, I suggest outside near a tree, but you could do it inside as well. Using your sage, tobacco or palo santo cleanse the area and yourself, remembering to thank and program your cleansing tool with instructions to clear away any low vibrational energies, protecting and filling the space with light.
Now set down your altar cloth and assemble your altar as you feel called to, putting the symbols for each direction facing that direction and lay down your offering to the South and your treats to the North. You want it to be beautiful and filled with light to attract the helping spirits.
In order, to set the container for your ritual, imagine an octahedron around your ceremony space, including the tree and room for yourself to lie down and dance. Program this octahedron to only allow in loving, high vibrational energies and ask your angels and guides to help protect the space. you may also put one around yourself.
Once your altar is laid, call in the spirits to help you. I like to call them in the following way, but you may do it as you feel called to:
“Great Spirit of the East, so bright with the new days light, brimming with new hopes and dreams. I welcome you and ask you to help guide me through the land of all possibility and find the seed that is waiting there for me. Thank you, Aho!
Great Spirit of the South, so full and pregnant with life and beauty. I welcome you and ask you to help me live in full bloom and seek the support I need to live a life of spirit. Thank you, Aho!
Great Spirit of the West, bursting with the harvest, preparing for slumber and moving inwards. I welcome you and ask for your help in letting go of what does not serve me and dreaming a new dream for myself and the world. Thank you, Aho!
Great Spirit of the North, slumbering giant of power and wisdom. I welcome you and ask you to fill me up with power so I may make my dreams a reality and serve my community and spirit. Thank you, Aho!
Father Sky, Sun, Moon, Star and Planets, thank you so for your wisdom, your light and inspiration. I welcome you and ask you to fill me with light and align me with the great wisdom and plan of spirit. Thank you, Aho!
Mother Earth, thank you for nourishing me, supporting me, letting me rest and walk upon you. I welcome you and ask you for your support, love, strength and nourishment, helping me to live in balance with you and bring spirit into living form. Thank you, Aho!
Spirits of the land, thank you for allowing us to live here, nourishing us with your beauty. I welcome you and ask you to help support our ritual with the energies of the spring and changing seasons and offer you any healing you need from this ritual. Thank you, Aho!
Great spirit, thank you for my life, my family, my friends, all the blessings around and within me! I welcome you and ask for your continued guidance and support in living a life in alignment with you. Thank you, Aho!!
Spirit of Wood, so strong and flexible, I welcome you and ask you to help me harness the wisdom for below and make it manifest in my life, to have the courage to move forward and the flexibility to bend when needed. Thank you, Aho!”
Now lay down your mat or blanket to the east and listen to this drum journey I have prepared to visit the spirit of the east.
Return to the altar and thank the spirit of the East and turn to the spirit of the South and welcome it in.
Now that you have your seed of wisdom, you will be asking for support and alignment with the element of wood. Sit or Stand in front of a tree and introduce yourself. Thank it for its beauty, strength, courage, flexibility and ask for its support. Tell it what your seed is, what dreams you have for it and what fears or blocks you may have of making it a reality. Let the tree spirit align with you and ask for courage, strength and any other support you wish from it. Once you feel complete thank the tree for its support and guidance and leave it a small offering.
Return to the altar and thank the spirit of the south and turn to the spirit of the west and welcome it in.
The spirit of the West is all about letting go and dreaming a new dream. In order to work with these energies and let go of what might be blocking us from manifesting our seeds, you will perform a bone dance. You may do this in silence or you may put on some music to dance and shake to. The purpose of this is to shake and dance each layer of our beings off; skin, fat, fascia, muscle, nerves, blood vessels, organs, bones. Imagining each layer is falling to the earth like leaves being composted by the earth. Once there is nothing left of you but spirit enjoy this freedom of spirit for a few minutes and then slowly begin to dance each layer back onto you, imagining that it is in perfect health and has been aligned to your new dream and the highest vibration you can hold at this time.
Once you are completely reassembled, return to the altar, thank the spirit of the West and welcome in the spirit of the North.
Move your mat or blanket to align with the north and the full moon and lay down upon it. The moon is a powerful source of energy and we can ask for it to fill us with power to help us manifest our dreams and have the strength and energy to put our seeds into action. Firstly, Introduce yourself to the moon and thank it for it’s light and beauty and wisdom of balance. Ask it to fill you up with power and begin to breath that power into your body, feel each and every cell being filled with moonlight. Continue this until you feel you are full and then thank the moon.
Return to your altar and sit in front of the north and the treats you have prepared for this time of spring and wood, begin by offering some to the land and all the helping spirits and giving gratitude to all the plants, animals and people that helped bring this beautiful nourishment to you. Then slowly enjoy them feeling the energies of the spring and the wood element enter your body, nourish your liver and gallbladder and making your tastebuds dance. Finally sit in this energy and the gratitude for all that is and the opportunity to practice and honour in this way.
Close your circle by releasing each of the elements in the reverse order that you called them. Thanking them for their gifts, releasing them from the ritual and asking for their continued support.
Wood, great spirit, mother earth, father sky, north, west, south, east.
Here are the recipes for what I am making to invoke the Spring and Wood element:
Nettle Pesto Layered Panigacci
Ponderosa Pine Essence Chocolate
May you be blessed with love, light, laughter, courage and balance and set further into your light and power!
With deep gratitude and love for sharing in this with me,
Pisces calls to our highest selves, the part of us that knows we are divine manifestations and from this place asks of us to be of service to the greatest good of all beings in this universe. Being the last sign before the coming spring and rebirth of Aries, Pisces holds in it the wisdom of a full lived life and the intuition and imagination of one who has seen all things come to pass. In conjunction with Chiron (the wounded healer) We are given a chance to look at our woundings with the most compassionate and loving eyes and from this place transform our stories and become empowered by them. Realizing we are the makers of our own fate, we can remember that we chose this path and it has made us who we are today. Through taking back our power and no longer playing the victims in our lives we can heal ourselves and share this wisdom of our empowerment.
I have shared my own story here on my dear friend Jenn’s blog, please give it a read and in honour of this powerful time I wish to offer you a ritual to work with your own empowerment. I will be offering these rituals each month, one for the new moon and one for the full moon, to help us all move into greater connection with spirit.
Find a quiet place, cleanse it, light a candle and call in your guides and helpers.
Grounding- tree exercise- asking for wisdom from the sun, moon, and chiron
write down the story of your wounding or a story that you hold that you are a victim to at the moment.
Reread it and focus on the feelings, energies and impressions you get from it.
Reflect on how this story has helped to strengthen you and make you who you are today
Now take your story and thank spirit for the lessons you have learned and burn it in the flames of your candle feeling the energy of it dissolve.
Rewrite the story from a place of gratitude and power, focusing on the strength you have gained and the lessons you have learned
Place your new story on your altar or in a special place where you can see it throughout your day until the full moon.
Thank your guides, spirit and helpers and blow out your candle, clearing the space again.
The darkness is always deepest just before the light returns and though it has been a very mild winter here on the West Coast of Canada I have still felt the darkness. The desire to hide away from all and sit in quiet stillness by the hearth knitting or in the warmth of the kitchen cooking and eating with friends. I find it hard to really move into this space of deep wisdom that resides in my bones and the water of the body while living in the city, studying full time and working. Yet the fatigue I have been experiencing is a message from my ever wise body that I need to slow down, to move in and just be. I have nourished this desire with many evenings alone in the bath or out in the quiet of the forest, letting the stillness take me over. This remembering of the need for quiet and just being has been one of my greatest lessons this winter. Listening to the wisdom of my body and not feeling guilty for not constantly doing has been a daily ritual. We all need times of stillness and reflection, to move into our shadow and become acquainted with it, for by doing this we get in touch with our true selves and can observe where we stop ourselves from living that truth. Ancient traditions have understood that through the mere act of observation our thoughts are transformed, no effort need be applied or anything done. Just take a moment to watch and witness your mind, your body, your emotions. They all have wisdom they are whispering to you and hopefully for the last three months of darkness you have garnered some wisdom from within.
At the threshold of spring the snowdrops and crocuses are popping up and even some of the trees are flowering here on Vancouver Island, the sun is breaking through the clouds and though there is still a chill in the air, the potential for rebirth is palpable. This is the time of Imbolc, Candlemas, Lupercalia, the fire festivals of my ancestors that marked the transition from the Crone to the Maiden and the rising of the sun god full of youth and direction. Festivals honouring the natural rhythms of the earth were once found all over the world and today there are those who still live in connection with these great markers of transformation and utilize them to reflect and grow on a personal and collective level. In classical Chinese medicine this time marks the transition from the water element, ruled by the kidneys which hold our deepest essence and our ancestoral wisdom to the wood element, ruled by the liver which allows us to move forward in our lives, make plans and decisions and have the gall to act up on them. It is a powerful time to take the insights you have garnered from the winter months and make your plan, plant your seeds and stick to your committed choice, utilizing the discipline of the liver to make it happen.
Tonight I will gather with friends and we will set about to personally and collectively honour this time with candles, prayers, seeds, offerings and good food to share. We will be modifying the ritual offered by Michelle Skye on Llewellyn worldwide, adding some of my shamanic traditions and the personal flavours of each person present. If you are looking for some inspiration here it is:
You will need:
- flowers, candles, leaves, crystals, dieties for your altar
- 4 small candles, one for each direction
- 1 large candle to represent spirit/the goddess
- one bowl of dirt and one pot of dirt
- a vessel for water
- some seeds
- tobacco, sage or palo santo for cleansing
Begin by cleansing your space and yourself with the tobacco, sage or palo santo.
Build your altar in the center of the room or outside where you will be, placing the spirit candle in the center and the four direction candles on the outside marking each direction.
Call in the directions as you feel. I like to work from the east-south-west-north-father sky-mother earth-spirits of the land-Great spirit/goddess. Make sure you light each candle as you call the directions
As this festival is associated with Brighid, call her in now and light the final candle.
Now sit comfortably with your bowl of dirt in front of you and reflect upon these months of darkness, what have you learned, what have you transformed, what are you ready to let go of. Sink your hands deep into the bowl and release all that does not serve to mother earth, who will transform this for you and create light from the dark. Once you are fully complete thank mother earth and place the bowl at the foot of the altar.
Gather your seeds and your pot of dirt. Hold the seeds in your hand and call into your mind, body and spirit what it is you wish to birth in this coming season. Fill your pores with it and breath it into the seeds, calling on Brighid, great spirit, the ancestors and any guides to support you in this birthing. plant the seeds into the dirt and water them. Putting all of your intention into them. Thank your helpers and place the pot at the foot of the altar.
Pick up your bowl of dirt and your offerings and go outside to a place where you can offer them to mother earth, Brighid, the ancestors and your guides. Thanking each of them, sprinkle the dirt over the ground and pour or sprinkle your offering on top. Taking a moment to hold gratitude in your heart for all you have learned and all you have birthed so far in your life.
Return to your altar and release the directions in the opposite order. Brighid-Spirit-spirits of the land-mother earth-father sky-north-west-south-east. Blowing out each candle as you go.
Once you are done take a candle to each room of your house and light it, and then sit and share delicious food with your friends and family. Dairy is traditional as the ewe’s will have started nursing their young and there is no greater nourishment for new life than mother’s milk.
Your seeds in the pot can be nurtured daily by you. Each time you see them or water them hold your intention in your heart and watch it grow with your plant.
A very Blessed Imbolc to all. May all your seeds grow and flourish with love, grace and gratitude.