Used things can be a boon or a bane. Often, it’s a bit of both.
Ritual purification was (and still is) a huge thing in many polytheist traditions, including Heathenry. For the next nine weeks (nine being a holy number), I’m going to focus on simple ways to examine the energy entering our lives and help keep it clean. For me, that’s a part of preparing for and welcoming the purifying aspects of Imbolc (Disablot/Tyr’s feast for some Heathens), prior Spring Equinox’s renewal.
As we move past the Sabbat of Imbolc, we feel its energy of new beginnings. As we have learned from the recent events on the American political and social landscape, change can be both a wondrous and a terrifying thing. In either case, it galvanizes our sense of purpose and moves us down the path of our chosen desires. Whether we are promoting a change or resisting it, the energy of Imbolc calls us to action.
The bat is a wonderful totem for initiation and transformation. When these little Goth mascots come flitting out of their night time sanctuaries, they symbolize rebirth. Again, they symbolize both the beautiful and the frightening within the archetype of transformation. They tend to be stigmatized due to their habitat and their nocturnal ways. Since we associate them with creepy haunted houses and dreary caves, we see them as symbols of death. In reality, bats are important pollinators. Their control of insects like mosquitoes also protects us from disease. I will go into the bat in more detail in an upcoming issue (probably issue 92) of SageWoman. For now, let's suffice it to say that the bat is a really good representation of the scary side of change.
Imbolc tends to be associated with snowdrops – which is reasonable enough because they do reliably turn up at this time. We don’t talk about blackthorn much, but for me it is the tree of the festival. Blackthorn can come into flower around this time of year, too (in my experience) and it’s an ogham tree as well.
The Woodland Trust site has blackthorn down as flowering between March and April so it may be in part about where you live. The Woodland Trust covers the whole of the UK, and I’ve never lived further north than the Midlands. There are significant regional differences. I’ve always seen blackthorn as one of the first flowerings in the year. There was a roadside tree on the way to my Midlands ritual place that always came into flower around the time of Imbolc rituals, which gave me the association. At present I’ve got a wild plum locally that flowers very early and is likely to open any day now. It points to the way in which tree events can be very specific and local, depending on microclimates, and the unpredictable nature of trees.
It seems like winter juster arrived, but already it’s on its way out. Today is Imbolc, the Celtic festival celebrating the end of winter and the beginning of spring (though most of us don’t regard that to happen until the Equinox). It’s also approximated by St Brighid’s Day, Candlemas, Groundhog Day, Setsubun in Japan, and the Spring Festival in China (better known in the West as the Chinese New Year’s). Basically, a time to celebrate impending the return of warmth and the sun after months of cold and snow.
As usual we’ve gathered all of our related stories as well as those we found across the web that we thought were interesting. We hope you enjoy and have an enjoyable month and a half on the way to the equinox!
My seed catalogs have started to arrive in the mail. The glossy summer-bright photos are inspiring and awe-inducing (Moon and Stars Melons! Nebraska Wedding Tomatoes!), and also humbling. Each packet of seeds contains worlds of potential What in this universe holds more promise than a seed? Each tiny package is a life in stasis. Every seed on this planet contains knowledge: knowledge of self, knowledge of its needs and its future. A seed knows not to grow until it has been placed in the proper environment. Each seed knows when to allow itself to break apart and become something else, stretching toward the sun's light and the future.
Every seed is aware of its purpose. It knows why it was placed in this world and what it needs to do to achieve that purpose. We are not so fortunate. We lack the inner instruction manual that seeds possess. All too often we feel as though we are floundering, struggling to break out of our confines and grow into the Self we are meant to be.