Danu's Cauldron: Wisewoman's Ways, and Wild Fey Magic
Living in a sacred landscape, walking between the worlds in the veil of Avalon Glastonbury. Where the old gods roam the hills, and the sidhe dance beneath the moon...wander into the mists with me and let us see what we may find...
A Wisewoman's Imbolc
The 2nd of February is of course, the Celtic festival of Imbolc, which means 'in the belly' referring to the pregnant ewes giving birth at this time. One of its other names, Oimelc meaning 'ewes milk', also referring to the birth of the lambs, and the return of milk to the household. Sacred to the goddess Brighid, who became St Brigit with the coming of Christianity this time is known as Gŵyl Fair y Canhwyllau in Wales, and more generally the Christian festival of Candlemass.
Brighid may well have given her name to Britannia the sovereign goddess of Britain, but she is best known as a goddess of the hearth and home, as well as milking, midwifery, healing, smithcraft and poetry. Brighid is a fiery goddess, connected to the rising Kundalini in the earth at this time, bringing the spring. She is said in Scottish folklore to have to defeat the Cailleach or goddess of winter each year to bring life back to the land.
Each year I use this traditional welcome to invite Her into my home, by opening the doors wide and calling in Her blessings for the whole family
‘The bride has come! The bride is welcome! Goddess Brighid, this is your day, I welcome you to our home, beloved guest. Blessed be!’
I also light the fire in the hearth afresh asking for Her blessings and put a glass of milk out in a special place for Her as a thank you. Then I also put a special white cloth, or Brat Bhride (mantle of the bride)outside on a bush for the Goddess to bless as she passes, to be imbued with Her healing powers, for use throughout the year ahead. I use this cloth to cover sleeping children, as well as anyone unwell or in distress in the house as a magical comfort blanket.
Here in Somerset, UK the harshest of winter weather may occur now, and the wild spirits of storm and flood may be about, turning the Isle of Avalon into an island indeed, surrounded by mirror clear lakes reflecting the wintery skies for miles around. Look out for a red sky at dusk, heralding storms to come, as does a ruddy full moon, indicating there will be tempests aplenty before it wanes. Also take note of any cats being frisky and fighting shadows by the fire indoors at night, as they may be playing with the sprites and elementals of the wind and rain.
Now is the time to spot foxes foraging at dusk and dawn, even in towns and cities, and late at night, badgers may wander briefly from their dens in hopes of food or drink, and will welcome finding peanuts on their circuit. For those in the country, brown hares begin their mating rituals now to continue until spring is underway, with unreceptive females boxing off suitors, sometimes several at a time, and lapwings can sometimes be seen flocking in the fields. Here in Avalon, the starling murmurations are still at their height, arcing overhead in such vast numbers, that their wings sound like crashing waves.
Late winter is an excellent time to look out for mosses and lichens on rocks and trees, as well as to go in search of oak galls, also known as oak apples. These are made by 'gall wasps' for their larvae to develop inside. In summer they are green and soft, but are hard and brown by midwinter, and can be found at the foot of trees or on twigs and dried leaves still hanging on the bough. They will have a hole in them left by the emerging wasp. These wonderful objects were magical talismans to our ancestors, and were used in many ways for divination and protection as well as for fertility charms. They were known as 'serpent’s eggs' by the ancient druids, and were said to be able to confer wisdom and peace.
'A farmer should on Candlemas day, have half his corn and half his hay.' So goes the country saying- meaning that while spring may feel near, by February winter is only really halfway through, and there will be plenty of rough weather still to come. However, even in this the earliest dawn of the year new life is beginning to be seen.
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