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The Wheel of the Year is the engine that drives NeoPagan practice. Explore thw magick of the season beyond the Eight Great Sabbats.

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Breaking ice: Deep Winter and Imbolc

Driving past the reservoir the other day, I saw something on the surface of the water I have not seen in a while: sunshine. When the lake's frozen, as it has been since December's deep freeze, it's a somber picture of dull grey snow and slush, dotted with unhappy geese clustered along the shore. But it was a sunny day, and had followed a few other sunny days, and the ice had melted away in a large spot in the center. It was this unexpected ring of bright water that caught the light, and suddenly the turn toward Spring was revealed.

It was the light that caught my eye, because it's been so dark. Now that the lights and decorations of the Solstice have been taken down, nights are very dark indeed. The days are still short and freezing cold. And my body is not done hibernating. It's Winter, and we're still in repose, along with land. I look out in my snow-covered yard, and although I want to start plotting how I'm going to set up my garden this year, plotting is all I can do. Everything is still in the Underworld, the seeds, sleeping animals, my own thoughts, my energy. And even as much as that gleam of pale sunlight on dark water cheered me up, it still feels right to feel the dark of Winter all around, to linger in the dark even as we notice the returning light.

We are changed by the Descent into the dark of the year, and by our time in the dark of the Underworld. We can';t help it. Because everything that goes into the dark emerges from it changed. The bear who went into his den fat and glossy at the end of summer, emerges starved and bony. The squirrel emerges from her nest accompanied by babies. I never know which bulbs are going to pop up in the garden, whether the aconite or lily of the valley will appear, whether the apple trees will blossom. And we never know what we ourselves will encounter in the dark, when we make the descent in the Autumn, or what treasures we will bring back into the light with us. Some treasures buried in the dark come unwilling into the daylight, but they are deeper and more precious for all the fallow time. Although there is plenty more Winter left to come, more snow and ice and freezing winds, although the tree branches are still bare and hard as wire, the ice has begun to break, the Sun has begun to climb in the sky. Slowly, things are about to start waking up. But that moment is not yet. There is more time for me to steep in the cold dark, more time for the dark to touch us and deepen our magick.

In a week, it will be time to celebrate Imbolc. We acknowledge that moment where we stand between the dark and the light, between the waning cold and the waxing light. I've celebrated Imbolc on days that were icy cold, days where the snow poured down, as well as days with blue skies and gentle breezes that hinted of sweeter seasons yet to come. But Imbolc always begins in the dark and sheds light on our lives, our world and our work, giving us clues and illuminating our path into an awakened world when Spring arrives. Make the most of these last weeks of Winter!


  • Keep up with the internal work. Once the weather warms up, people tend to get busy. In the relative quiet of the end of Winter, don't fall off with your meditation and other inward practices. This is a great time to start tracking your dreams, journal more often, and practice divination.

  • It's not Spring cleaning yet, but purification is a large part of Imbolc traditions. Clean up your altar and shrine spaces, tidy your tools and storage areas, smudge and asperge your home. Even if it's just a quick airing out of your ritual space, the energy will clear up and be refreshed.

  • Spend some time thinking about what you truly want for this Year. Formal intentions and dedications are great, but really consider where you want to put your energy this Year, what you want and what you want to change. Are there things you want to learn, places you want to travel, what is your main focus for the year? Have you already abandoned your New year's resolutions? Journal and collage on these topics and see what comes up. Don't try to program any answers, just be receptive to what clues you receive. This is the perfect time of year for charting our course, or at least seeing where the flow is taking us.

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Leni Hester is a Witch and writer from Denver, Colorado. Her work appears in the Immanion anthologies "Pop Culture Grimoire," "Women's Voices in Magick" and "Manifesting Prosperity". She is a frequent contributor to Witches and Pagans and Sagewoman Magazines.


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