To this awakening goddess, celebrating holidays has more to do with personal history than traditional roots.  Imbolc, the modern Pagan celebration of an ancient Gaelic festival, means so much more to me now than it did when I first started studying Wicca and Paganism thirteen years ago.

Thirteen years ago, I found a home in Paganism at my very first public ritual, which was a celebration of Imbolc conducted by popular Pagan writer Ann Moura and her Ladies Tea Circle.  I entered my first circle at that festival, and won a raffle for the first time in my life – an amethyst earring and pendant set and an hour-long session with a psychic who would become my mentor on my path to developing my own metaphysical interests and abilities.

Six years ago, I gave birth to my first child on February 4th, and that Imbolc oversaw my rebirth as Mother.  My first son’s birth was the most beautiful, empowering experience of my life so far.  I tell the whole story in the final chapter of my first book, Not My Mother: A Memoir, but to summarize here – I had him at home with a knowledgeable and spiritual midwife.  I had no medication, no pain, no fear.  My labor was five hours long, and he came out weighing nine pounds without tearing me.  I had been obese my entire life, hating myself and hating my body.  I went into that labor weighing 320 pounds, not expecting to fall in love with my body for the first time.  The waves and surges of power my body generated to get my baby out overwhelmed me in the best way.  I felt powerful, I felt strong, I felt magical, like I could do anything – it was my personal awakening as Goddess.

However I still suffered from Major Depressive Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder stemming from my childhood.  Depression is an overwhelming sense of helplessness, hopelessness, powerlessness.  Depression could not live in the same body as the Goddess awakening inside me, so She provided me with the means and path to overcome it.  She led me to the worst part of my life so that I could hit rock bottom, and to paraphrase J.K. Rowling, make my personal rock bottom the firm foundation on which I built the recovery of my life.

When my son was fifteen months old, my former fiancé left us homeless at the Florida Pagan Gathering celebrating Samhain, the Celtic New Year.  All I had was what I managed to stuff in his car without any help, while caring for my toddler and drained by my mental illness.  Everything I left behind he threw away.

My son and I never had to sleep in the street or at a shelter – my friends both from college and from the mothering group I joined when I was in the process of losing my milk helped by giving us short term shelter, child care, and rides to help me look for work.  Constantly moving and being left with strangers traumatized my son…and me.  With every week that passed with me unable to find work or steady shelter, my sense of helplessness, hopelessness, powerlessness grew until I forgot what I’d learned at my son’s birth.  I could no longer sense Goddess within me, and my faith in divinity faded.

I hit rock bottom just before the following Imbolc, and you can read about that in more detail here and here, as I don’t have the heart to write about it again except to say that rock bottom was a choice – give up, or surrender.  Giving up for me would have been literal – give up my child, who was my life, and end my misery the permanent way.  Surrender meant to give up my fears and to have faith in a power bigger than I Who loved us and would help me.  Rock Bottom meant an end to my suffering either way – through a literal end, death; or through my rebirth in this life as a person empowered by faith and hope.

I prayed that night, really poured my heart out to Goddess and begged for help.  My patron Goddess, the one I’d chosen to dedicate myself to and felt chosen by, was Brighid, the Gaelic Goddess of healing, poetry, and blacksmithing, among other things.  Imbolc is sacred to Brighid. My ancestors would invite Brighid to their homes asking for blessings of protection in the coming year.  I begged Brighid for a home for my tiny family, for help healing and getting back on my feet.

She answered.

The weekend before my son’s second birthday, his sperm donor met him for the first time.  When I applied for state aid, I had to sue him for child support, and since he had to pay for the child that he admittedly had little interest in, he decided he might as well meet him.  The sperm donor brought his girlfriend to this first meeting, a woman born on Imbolc, who called herself Lorax.

Lorax and I hit it off immediately, and she invited me to attend a festival called Brighid’s Fire with her a week or so later.  She watched my son while I went into a sweatlodge that Friday night, and in the lodge when it was time to pray for myself, I begged for a home.

Two weeks later, Lorax invited me to move in with her, her son and daughter, and my son’s sperm donor. I accepted, and Lorax provided me with a safe environment and strict orders to focus on my healing.  We named our new family Clan Brighid, and opened bank accounts in that name to cover food and other expenses.

 

The focus of my life shifted from survival to healing the damage barely surviving for so long had caused, especially the damage to myself as a mother and my relationship with my son.  Living with Lorax allowed me to heal myself of the depression that had plagued my entire life.  I moved back to my hometown, Orlando, in 2013 and faced homelessness initially but used my newfound skills and strong faith to get us through it in a couple of weeks.  Six months later I owned my own home, a three bedroom two bathroom manufactured home that needed some work, but was all mine.  The security of home ownership healed something in my soul that I hadn’t realized needed healing.

 

This Imbolc finds me pregnant and due to give my son a little brother any day now.  Imbolc is traditionally a time of spring cleaning, and I have been nesting all week, decluttering, organizing, scrubbing, making our home ready for my little miracle waiting to be birthed, and for myself to be reborn as a mother of two.

That’s my Imbolc story, so far.  I look forward to many more beautiful awakenings in Imbolc Future.

 

What does Imbolc awaken in you?  What’s your Imbolc story, or if you don’t have one yet, what would you like it to be?