Imbolc: a time for shaping dreams

The winter months are when we can regroup ourselves after a busy year. The first phase, right after Samhain, is the time of shedding and sorting, after which the time of processing reaches us at the winter solstice. It is with this first spark of light that the impetus comes to understand our past experiences and recycle them into resources for the next cycle.

That part is familiar to anyone celebrating the festivals. That part we generally accept and are even grateful for. For we were tired and we needed rest. And so we accepted the coming of winter. Only… then we had the promise of renewal beginning to take hold: the promise of renewed life, even though it is not yet visible in the outside world.

But still: we have been allowed a brief vision of the future, and as a result the continuing reign of darkness makes that we begin to feel restless. Was it then mere illusion?

This will change at Imbolc. At this time, the hold of darkness on the land begins to loosen. And if you pay attention to the energies, you can feel how at this time the land breathes a sigh of relief. It welcomes the returning light and begins to turn its gaze towards the sun.

imbolc1

And yet…

We still find ourself in the middle of winter, with part of the harshest weather still ahead of us. So we have to take care to not let hope carry us away into foolishness. This is seen in the planetary associations with this time of the year: there is the spirit of revolution we know as Uranus, which is ushered in by the light that is returning. At the same time, there is the necessity of restraint that is forced on us by Saturn.

But let us not see these forces combining as a contradiction, but rather as an opportunity for growth and learning of a type that will not present itself at other times of the year.

What this season invites us to do is to give shape to our dreams, and to create a blueprint for change and growth that can fuel us through the coming year. The following ritual suggests a way to harness the magic of the season.

Candles-Candlemas

The ritual

What you will need:

  • a candle
  • A box ( something that feels like a treasure-box to you)

The rite

  • open sacred space in your usual way. As you draw a circle, you may want it to be opened and closed in the northeast, the place of Imbolc.
  • Begin by calling on the spirit of the season, and inviting her into your life ( use whatever version that speaks to you most: this might be the goddess Brighid, another goddess, the rising sun,…)
  • As you make your call, stand in the northeast, and light your candle as soon as you sense her presence. Welcome her and, if it feels right, present her with an offering (this will depend on your personal practice)
  • Now, take some time to sit in silence in the northeast, while you contemplate the light of the candle. Open yourself to its influence, and feel its blessing and inspiration flow through you.
  • Then, take your box and hold it to your heart. Make a wish, and ask that the box be filled with all the inspiration and understanding needed to allow you to fulfill your dream. Visualize how the light of the candle grows brighter, and a shaft of light illuminates the box. Notice how the box feels notably heavier afterwards.
  • Give thanks and close the ritual. Do NOT open the box. If possible, allow the candle to burn up fully, with the box sitting next to it, continuing the impregnation process.

The contents of the box represents the period of incubation between Imbolc and the beginning of spring. If you open it, ideas will spread prematurely and the magic will be lost. Instead, over the coming days and weeks, hold the box during meditation, or place it right next to your bed, and ask that you may be granted the inspiration to help you fulfill your dreams.

 

A love song of earth and sky.

Every Pagan is familiar with the wheel of the year. Usually the story is told from the perspective of the earth. In this blog I will try to explore the meaning of the festivals from the perspective of the sky.

sky

Before we can do this, let us start with some general considerations. It is obvious what the role is of the earth within our lives. She is our mother: she gives birth to us, she nurtures us, she carries us throughout our lives.

And yet we should not forget that there is a second factor in play as well: the sky. The air that surrounds us, that gives us the breath of life, that is a conductor for the light and warmth of the sun. The one that shields us from the deadly environment that exists outside the earthly atmosphere. It is in the embrace of these two forces that we are given life.

The cycle begins at Imbolc, when the first whispers of the sun begin to stir the earth back to the memory of embodied life. A call that is first taken up by the snowdrop. We are called back to existence, while still sheltered from the worst cold by a cover of snow. That covering is a gift from the sky. A reminder that warmth can be generated in even the most dire of circumstances. A call of love: be not afraid. If you decide to embark on this adventure, I will be here to protect you.

snowdrop

There will still be time before life is in full bloom, but around the Spring Equinox the first definite signs can be seen that the call was heard. And the sky keeps its promise: along with the birth of greenery come the gentle spring rains. A clear message: dare to grow. You are held. In need, you will find the sky to be your biggest supporter.

This gives confidence, and the example of the early pioneers is soon followed by the rest of the natural world. And the call is infectious, and the urge to create new life is strong. The time of Beltane comes. And once again, the sky shows its support, with the coming of warmer days. You must not be afraid to make new life of your own. In the coming months, life will be warm and gentle, and the light of my love will shine on you.

As the first fruits come to ripeness, and the pups play in the grass, a first gentle warning is voiced at the Summer Solstice. I am your father, and I love you dearly, but be aware that my resources are finite. This is your call to grow up. I will give you all my love and shelter you for as long as you can. But make sure that in the coming months, you create the memories and stories that will shine for you as a beacon in the darkness the next winter.

Not that there is any urgency just quite yet. At Lughnasadh, the realization that life will not last forever is a distant background warning. The sky is gentle, and clouds cover the brightness of the sun every now and then to make sure that its children are not burned. The rains support the making of memories, and allow the fruits to swell to magnificence.

harvest-fruit

There is however a time when final preparations need to be made, and once again the sky is there with a gentle warning. At the Autumn Equinox, the winds of change begin to blow, a warning that is passed on by the rustling of the leaves. Not just a warning, but an invitation as well. Together, let us celebrate the abundance of life one final time. Tell me your stories, and I will carry them in my memory, and repeat them for future generations when you will no longer be around.

Then, a sudden change. The sky seems to have taken on a different guise: from protector of life, at Samhain he turns into a taker of lives, as the first frosts open up the gates of the Otherworlds. But there is always that whispering. Have no fear. I will guide you onwards. I have come to be your guide in difficult times. When your earthly body is taken away from you, you will find shelter in me. Your spirits shall be my body and together we shall go and be the memory of Earth.

For at the darkest time, at the Winter Solstice, it will be us who sing the sun back to life. It is us who have lived who will carry the hopes and dreams of the next generations. We are always with you. For we who once were earth have now become the sky. And we love you dearly. And together we will make sure the cycle continues. Now and forever. As long as love is at the center of your life, you will live forever.