Imbolc: The Light in the Darkness

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As the new solar year gets under way, it is nearing the time of Imbolc. In Druidry, and indeed for many neo-Pagans, this is a festival that marks the returning of spring. The light has started to return to us following the Winter Solstice, or Yule, and the first signs of new life can begin to be seen. It is associated with a return to youth, light in the last dark months of winter, a time for stirring from our post-holiday stupor, as it were.

I do quite honestly believe that this year is the first year in which I feel these things in any sort of real sense. For several years, my practice often completely overlooked the festival altogether. How could I celebrate the coming of spring when I’m up to my rear in snow? Where was the light at the end of the tunnel when we’d hit only about a quarter of the way through the Winter Semester of the academic year? After the solar New Year’s glimmer and excitement had faded, it was altogether much more difficult for me to find that same light still burning by the time we had reached Imbolc. A bit of a seasonal rut and bout of depression seemed to hit every February without fail as I juggled work, school, and social life, as well as trying to even find the motivation for the simplest of continuances of my pagan practice. Celebration and ritual generally wasn’t in the schedule for me.

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This year feels different, and I’m a little disappointed that it a) took me this long to find a connection with that idea of hope and of light returning for this sabbat, and b)is occurring right before I move to a drastically different climate where I’ll have to learn again the patterns of the Wheel of the Year as they unfold in the tropics rather than in my rather temperate home state. Perhaps it’s the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having; I was able to take a walk in the ravines this afternoon without gloves or anything of the sort because it was nearing forty degrees Fahrenheit. I’m almost more willing to believe that spring is nearing this year. It might also be that I’ve something new to look forward to in the coming months: graduation and the start of a new life.

Early January was sort of riddled with a deep depression that I had sunken into, but now that things have started to move forward, I’m gradually feeling a bit better. There’s something stirring, and I’m hoping it’s something better than last year had to offer about this time.

Here’s hoping you all have a blessed sabbat however you do- or don’t!- celebrate it. May the quiet and steadfast light of hope and life reborn be with you as The Wheel continues to turn.

Forest Blessings,
Rachel

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Re-Thinking the Wheel: First Harvest

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Van Gogh’s Wheat Fields

As part of rebuilding my practice, I’ve wanted to begin reexamining how I celebrate the sabbats- if at all. Like many, I’ve found that the Wheel of the Year that has been used across the Pagan community at large, just simply doesn’t fit for a number of reasons: my local climate not quite lining up just right for the sabbats, simply not connecting with certain holidays, etc.

So, being that it is the first sabbat since the creation of this blog, we begin with Lughnasadh… The name for this sabbat comes from the Irish god of the Sun, light, and just about any skill under the bright blue sky. While I find the tales of Lugh quite enjoyable, I don’t feel myself exactly called to work with him, and thus find using the name Lughnasadh (the more I really think about it anyway) to be something that also doesn’t quite jive with me- nor do I really care for the way Lammas rolls off the tongue. I’ve begun my personal reflection on this sabbat by simply calling it First Harvest. It feels much more appropriate for the celebration.

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Corn Dolly crafted by Walking On Fire.

Working with a group over the last several years has created a number of traditions and associations with the first harvest of the year. For me, it signals that Summer is coming to an end. Summer fruits and grains are ready to be harvested, days are gradually growing shorter, and for the great majority of my life, it has meant that school would be beginning in just a few weeks. Typically, there aren’t many big summer projects or trips taken after this date (at least in my circle of friends and family). So, for me, this has always been a time to give thanks for the fun and the work that I’ve gotten done during the summer. It’s also been a time for preparing what I need for the coming fall and winter months. School, generally, starts shortly after this sabbat, and I like to take this time to set intentions for the academic year. I reflect on lessons learned in the previous year, release old and useless patterns, and set about manifesting what I need for the coming one.

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Beautiful Lughnasadh Altar by Vandrake Druidstone

Traditionally, my group and I have a bonfire at this festival. We create a wickerman (a small, corn-dolly sized one), and fill it with bread and our energy of giving thanks for what has come of the summer. The wickerman is then burned in our fire. We also have a tradition of tying clooties to one of the trees in my yard, baking bread and having a potluck, making herbal sachets and poppets for manifestation for the coming academic year, and doing tarot and oracle readings for the darker months as well.

Tonight, we’ll be engaging in these activities again. I’m looking forward to getting together with everyone once more. I’ve got plenty of plans for this school year’s releasing and manifesting; I can’t wait to get them started.

First Harvest/Lughnasadh/Lammas Blessings to you all,
~Rachel