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.