Ostara 2022: What We Plant

To create the ritual for my upcoming Ostara ceremony, I revisited my research looking for themes. The vernal equinox marks the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere, which is associated with rebirth, revitalization, growth, and fertility. The equinox is also the time of balance when the daylight and dark are approximately equal. And there is spring cleaning to be done. But none of those themes were calling to me.

hands of two people holidng plant seedling

Image by Shameer Pk from Pixabay

Like the Christian Easter, Ostara is symbolized by spring things like baby animals, eggs, seedlings, and the early flowers that emerge from bulbs such as crocuses and tulips. These symbols represent new life and affirm the hope we cultivated at Imbolc. Although my ritual would be at winter’s end, I was not feeling ready to leave hope behind, and began to think about what we plant with our intentions.

I pulled on the threads of hope, intentions, and planting to create a ritual that felt empowering, then set that aside to work on other things. A few days later, Russia invaded Ukraine, and suddenly the context for hopeful intentions expanded beyond our individual desires.

What if we plant an intention for world peace? Does that seem too big? I wondered if such a lofty intention would have the effect of being ultimately disempowering. After all, some humans have been wishing for peace, as well as slightly less ambitious things like an equitable response to climate change, for a long time without seeing much movement in that direction. Even those of us with a big reserve of hope can feel discouraged.

In the end, I decided to go big. We are, after all, powerful changemakers, so let us have our magic reflect and reinforce that. What we plant matters, not because we will be immediately rewarded, but because the collective force of shared intentions will eventually reach a critical mass. Combining our power is, after all, why we come together for ritual.

The Ostara ceremony for world peace will take place, virtually, on Tuesday, March 22, 2022. Visit the ceremonies page for details and registration.

Imbolc 2022: Meeting Brigid, Again

My year of Druidic studies was intended to be ecology-focused, but I find I am curiously revisiting the Celtic pantheon as well. The goddess Brigid, who is honored at Imbolc, was one I had gotten to know in 2013. I opened my journal from that time and saw that I had noted that after Imbolc that year I had been drawn to all things Celtic and Druid for a while. Funny how I find myself there again.

Brigid is one of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the fey who ruled Ireland until Milesius’ invaders (the “final Irish”) sent them into hiding in the fairy mounds. She is a mother goddess with three aspects. She is the patroness of poetry and the creative arts, and was revered by the Bards, who memorized her in poetry in the Druid oral tradition.

Brigid the patroness of healing and fertility, particularly the fertility of ewes, dairy cows and other livestock. Herbal medicine and midwifery are part of her healing arts. She is also the patroness of smithcraft and the martial arts, and so was honored by the warriors who, at the time, would have battled with swords.

candles and a Brigid's cross made of twigs

My 2013 Imbolc altar included a Brigid’s cross I made from twigs found here.

Fire, particularly the hearth fire, is associated with Brigid. At Imbolc, her fire energy is represented by lots of candles, and some people include making candles for the year ahead as part of their Imbolc activities. Although the fire that warms our house is hidden in a furnace, I have an appreciation for the importance of the hearth fire for comfort and survival during cold North Country winters.

Brigid is also associated with water, but mainly wells and springs. These are thought to be portals to other worlds and are a source of wisdom and healing. There are many springs in Ireland named for Brigid. Her ties to both water and smithcraft may have given her a place in the Arthur legends, which I love. Some believe that the Lady of the Lake, who forged Excalibur, King Arthur’s unbeatable sword, was Brigid.

Imbolc crafts include Brigid’s crosses, small, equal armed crosses typically woven from rushes. The crosses were hung on doors and windows of homes and barns for protection. She was so beloved that she was made a Catholic saint and Imbolc is now called St. Brigid’s Day in Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and some Anglican churches.

Please celebrate Imbolc with me, virtually, on Thursday, February 3, 2022. Visit the ceremonies page for details and registration.

Imbolc 2022: Let There Be Hope

herd of sheep in snowy field are a symbol of Imbolc and hope

Image by scott payne from Pixabay

I had wanted Yule and the end of the Gregorian year to feel magical and peaceful, but 2021 refused to leave quietly. Nor did hanging my new calendar create an instant reset. In addition to the kind of drama which is typical when the family gathers for holidays and our old house gets snowed on, surging COVID-19 cases, a string of natural disasters related to climate change, and the lack of progress towards justice on any front left me feeling wrung out and not the least bit calm or bright.

Still carrying that heaviness, I began to create the ceremony I will offer for Imbolc, the Pagan midwinter festival. “Imbolc” is an Irish word that is translated as “in the belly” or “ewe’s milk,” and marks one of the earliest signs of spring: milk coming in for gestating cows and sheep. Imbolc is usually celebrated on February 1st or 2nd, and associated weather divination is believed to be the root of Groundhog Day. Before there was refrigeration and grocers, the middle of winter was a time when food stores might be getting low. Although we can certainly do without it now, the availability of cow and sheep’s milk then could help humans survive the second half of winter. With the flow of milk came hope.

I look around at the pandemic, devastating weather events and wildfires, and system-based injustices, I hear the anguished cries of frustrated and burnt-out activists, and I say, “Let there be hope.”

It is with the intention to restore hope that I am writing the Imbolc ceremony script. While my reach is limited to the number of people my Zoom room will hold, I know whatever work we do there will reverberate out. The ripples of our hopefulness will flow around the world and reignite passion for change. It doesn’t get more magical than that.

Please join us for a virtual Imbolc ceremony on Thursday, February 3rd, 2022, at 7:30pmEST. You will find more details and easy online registration on my ceremonies page. I hope to see you in the Zoom room.

In the Season of Hope

A couple of days ago, Americans acknowledged the festival of Imbolc (or Candlemas) by practicing the art of weather divination. In other words, some folks woke up a groundhog and, because the groundhog saw his shadow, declared there will be six more weeks of winter bleakness.

For the most part, I don’t mind winter and enjoy the snow, but sometimes it does seem to drag on and on. I suspect the Celts thought so, too, since they chose to celebrate the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It’s kind of an “over the hump” thing – the Wednesday of winter.

The temperatures this season have bounced between “too warm for winter” and “too cold for my liking,” and rain has alternated with snow leaving a thick layer of ice on places like my front steps. The political and social climate in the United States has been equally inconsistent and icy.

Yet, here we are at the middle of winter, and there is reason to hope. Can you feel into that?

We may be gathering in protest rather than in celebration, but we are gathering. We are leaving our homes, risking icy steps and, for some, arrest, to declare that we still have hope. After all, if we didn’t believe good things are still possible, why would we bother?

This is the spirit of Imbolc. It is a time to shake off the winter doldrums and cultural apathy and joyfully declare, “I know that spring is coming. We can get through this dark time.”

During our last Goddess Circle, the women who gathered took part in a simple ritual for Imbolc – burning the greens to show our faith that the green of spring would return. We had some boughs from my Yule tree on the altar, and took turns pinching off some of the green needles and dropping them on a lit tealight in a cast iron cauldron. As her pinch of greens burned, the woman spoke of something she hoped for the future. There was lots of hope in our circle that night.

You can do this ritual on your own or in your circle. If you don’t have a cauldron, anything fire proof will do. A terra cotta pot works well. You could also throw your greens into a bonfire or fire pit if you’d prefer to be outside. You can be creative with the ritual. It’s the intention that is important.

In this season of hope, what are you hoping for?

Appreciating fall days: 4 quotes honoring autumn

We are at the peak of the fall foliage viewing in the Adirondack mountains. I love the quiet splendor of the fall colors. This is my favorite time of year. What season makes you feel most alive?