Posts Tagged ‘Fertility’

On Valentine’s Day, Lupercalia & Love ~

The Rosemary Raven  by Nethersphere

The origins of Valentine’s Day trace back to the ancient Roman celebration of Lupercalia. Held on February 15, Lupercalia honored the gods Lupercus and Faunus, as well as the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. The men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain.

The Roman romantics “were drunk (and)…naked,” says Noel Lenski, a historian at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Young women would actually line up for the men to hit them, Lenski says. They believed this would make them fertile.

The brutal fete included a matchmaking lottery, in which young men drew the names of women from a jar. The couple would then be, um, coupled up for the duration of the festival — or longer, if the match was right.

The ancient Romans may also be responsible for the name of our modern day of love. It wasn’t called “Valentine’s Day” until a priest named Valentine came along. Valentine, a romantic at heart, disobeyed Emperor Claudius II’s decree that soldiers remain bachelors. Claudius handed down this decree believing that soldiers would be distracted and unable to concentrate on fighting if they were married or engaged. Valentine defied the emperor and secretly performed marriage ceremonies. As a result of his defiance, Valentine was put to death on February 14.
After Valentine’s death, he was named a saint. As Christianity spread through Rome, the priests moved Lupercalia from February 15 to February 14 and renamed it St. Valentine’s Day to honor Saint Valentine.

Later, Pope Gelasius I muddled things in the 5th century by combining St. Valentine’s Day with Lupercalia to expel the pagan rituals. But the festival was more of a theatrical interpretation of what it had once been. Lenski adds, “It was a little more of a drunken revel, but the Christians put clothes back on it. That didn’t stop it from being a day of fertility and love.”

As the years went on, the holiday grew sweeter. Chaucer and Shakespeare romanticized it in their work, and it gained popularity throughout Britain and the rest of Europe. Medieval scholar Henry Ansgar Kelly (author of “Chaucer and the Cult of Saint Valentine”) credits Chaucer as the one who first linked St. Valentine’s Day with romance.
In medieval France and England it was believed that birds mated on February 14. Hence, Chaucer used the image of birds as the symbol of lovers in poems dedicated to the day. In Chaucer’s “The Parliament of Fowls,” the royal engagement, the mating season of birds, and St. Valentine’s Day are related:

“For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate.”

By the Middle Ages, Valentine became one of the most popular saints in England and France. Despite attempts by the Christian church to sanctify the holiday, the association of Valentine’s Day with romance and courtship continues through the Middle Ages to this day.

 

To celebrate this day enjoy my machinima animation The Elf Knight & The Faerie Queene. Inspired by Spencer’s poem ”The Faerie Queene” c 1590+1596 which celebrates ”Queen Elizabeth I”, and the Scottish folk song ”The Elfin Knight”.  Set to ”Scarborough Fair” sung by Gretchen Cornwall of World Tree Music, the song and this tale present the story of a man who tells the listener to ask his former love to perform a series of impossible tasks to win his love back. In this version the task setter is the Faerie Queene, ”Gloriana”.

 

 

At Valentines Day I do declare,
True Love illumines everywhere.
To those whose hearts are unrequite,
I offer hope for tender plight.
To those whose hearts are happy found,
I celebrate with joy profound.

At Valentines Day I do declare,
True love will ever guide you there.

c.Celestial Elf 2014.

 

Happy Valentines / Lupercalia Day !!

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Mandrake, Tree Of Knowledge ~

“The Mandrake is the ‘Tree of Knowledge’ and the burning love ignited by its pleasure is the origin of the human race.” – Hugo Rahner. 
The Mandrake ( Mandragora officinarum -also known as Herb of Circe, Wild Lemon, Womandrake ) holds the special distinction as being the most famous of all magical plants due to its many ritual and medical uses and the immense amount of mythology it has generated over historical ages.

During the Middle Ages the Mandrake became popular throughout Europe as a magical plant and miracle talisman, capable of curing nearly anything. These roots were thought to be powerful allies who could perform magic for their masters – from attracting love and gaining wealth and good fortune, to warding off misfortunes and evil spells, even to becoming invincible in battle.

The Mandrake was also considered a potent aid to fertility. Historians have determined that the earliest mention of the mandrake refers to its use in Babylon, in the cuneiform tablets of the Assyrians and in the Old Testament as evidenced in chapter 30 of the Book of Genesis where the childless Rachael asks her sister Leah for the loan of the mandrakes which her son had brought in from the fields.It is widely believed that the Old Testament contains multiple references to the ‘love apples’ – the fruits of the mandrake as an aphrodisiac. The first of these instances is again in Genesis, where the scent of the mandrake’s yellow fruits are described as having aphrodisiac properties.

Some evidence exists that the mandrake was used in secret mystical rites in ancient Israel; one of the factors supporting this hypothesis is the significance of the mandrake in Kabbalism as a symbol for ‘becoming One’….
Similarly, in ancient Egypt it appears that mandrake fruits may have been eaten as aphrodisiacs and ancient Greeks also used the mandrake as a sacred love plant.
Ancient Germanic people also often made use of the plant, in particular Germanic Seeresses, who were known for their clairvoyant abilities far outside of Europe, used mandrake regularly as an ally. The modern German name ‘Alraune’ can be traced back to the ancient Germanic term “Alrun”, which translates to ‘all knowing’ or ‘he who knows the runes’…
Mandrake  roots have long been used in magic rituals then and still are used today in contemporary pagan traditions such as Wicca and Odinism.

According to Linnaeus, the great botanist of the 18th century, white and black mandrake are varieties of the same plant that have evolved for northern Europe (white) and southern Europe (black). White mandrake flowers June-July and black mandrake in the fall.  The leaves of white mandrake can be one foot long and grow in a rosette (like leaf lettuce) rather than from a central stalk, like most plants. The flowers are greenish white, bell-shaped blue or violet flowers grow, making this rosette uniquely identifiable to the mandrake.They turn into yellow berries that are similar in flavor to tomatoes, and its leaves smell much like fresh tobacco.The whole plant grows to about 4-10 in tall and the taproot fattens quickly. At all other times throughout the year the plant is hidden underground.

Although mandrake found its way into Britain around the 11th century, the herb did not grow naturally here and due to the high cost of the root, other roots such as ash root and the Briony have been used instead.Those in search of its medicinal effects turned to Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) a closely related herb with a similar pharmacological profile to mandrake but a more northerly distribution. Henbane was a potent ingredient in the various midnight brews and flying ointments beloved of witches. Those seeking to profit from the demand for mandrake charms would have found Henbane a disappointment, for it possessed only a small fibrous root. For this purpose they turned instead to the white Bryony (Bryonia dioica) a hedgerow plant of south-east England with a large multilobed taproot.

The following is taken from The History and Practice of Magic by Paul Christian. (pp. 402–403)1963:

Would you like to make a Mandragora, as powerful as the homunculus (little man in a bottle) so praised by Paracelsus? Then find a root of the plant called bryony. Take it out of the ground on a Monday (the day of the moon), a little time after the vernal equinox. Cut off the ends of the root and bury it at night in some country churchyard in a dead man’s grave. For thirty days water it with cow’s milk in which three bats have been drowned. When the thirty-first day arrives, take out the root in the middle of the night and dry it in an oven heated with branches of verbena; then wrap it up in a piece of a dead man’s winding-sheet and carry it with you everywhere.

Mandragora 0fficinarum

The Mandrake plant is a member of the Nightshade family. Mandrake roots contains hyoscine a powerful alkaloid known to cause intense hallucinations, delirium and in larger doses, coma, when eaten. All parts of the plant are poisonous.
Mandrake’s use as a surgical anaesthetic was first described by the Greek physician Dioscorides around AD 60, and its use as a tincture known as mandragora, or in combination with other herbs such as opium, hemlock and henbane is described in documents from pre-Roman times onwards. It was the presence of this alkaloid, as well as the shape of the root, that led to the mandrake’s association with magic, witchcraft and the supernatural.

The Mandrake is an important ‘Witches Herb’ and constitutes one of the key ingredients of the fabled Flying Ointment or ‘witches’ brew’ of ancient European witchcraft, and was probably the most potent entheogenic ingredient of the blend. The demonization of mandrake begun once Germany became dominated by Christianity. In today’s nature conscious Pagan and Wiccan resurgence, witches herbs and even Mandrake Ointment are more readily available once again.

Available from the Poisoners Apothecary here
Magickal Uses: 

Mandrake is placed on the mantle to bring prosperity, fertility and happiness to the home, a protector warding off of evil spirits or spells.
Among the old Anglo-Saxon herbals both Mandrake and Periwinkle are endowed with mysterious powers against demoniacal possession. Its human-like forked root was thought to be in the power of dark earth spirits. At the end of a description of the Mandrake in the Herbarium of Apuleius there is this prescription:
    ‘For witlessness, that is devil sickness or demoniacal possession, take from the body of this said wort mandrake by the weight of three pennies, administer to drink in warm water as he may find most convenient – soon he will be healed.’
Flavius Josephus says that the Mandragora, which he calls Baaras, has but one virtue, that of expelling demons from sick persons, as the demons cannot bear either its smell or its presence 
(Wars of the Jews, book vii, cap. vi.).
It is worn as a talisman or amulet to attract love and repel diseases. As a flying ointment and for its ability to engender shamanic trances.
Mandrake is also said to protect against demonic possession, possibly because it was used by ancient herbalists to sedate manics. To activate a dried root, one must display it prominently in the home for three days, after which it is soaked in water overnight. The water can then be sprinkled on entryways, windows, and people to purify them. The root is now ready for magickal use.
Medicinal Uses:

It has been said that the mandrake had perhaps the greatest number of uses of any medicinal plant of ancient times. It was the most heavily utilized narcotic / anesthetic and sleeping agent of ancient times and the Middle Ages.
Similar in composition to Belladonna and Datura, the roots were pressed for their juice, which was combined with wine and then reduced by boiling. This was taken as an anesthetic prior to surgery. The dosage was rather crucial, as too much would put the patient to sleep permanently.
Specifically, mandrake root was used for the following conditions: abscesses, arthritis, bone pains, callosities, cramps, discharge, erysipelas, eye disease and inflammation, gout, headaches, hemorrhoids, hip pains, hysteria, infertility, inflammation, labor complications, liver pains, loss of speech, melancholy, menstrual problems, pain, painful joints, possession, scrofula, skin inflammation, sleeplessness, snakebite, spleen pains, stomach ailments, swollen glands, tubercles, tumors, ulcers, uterine inflammation, worms, and wounds. It was also used as a treatment for anxiety and depression.
Parts Used: 
Roots, leaves, fruits.
Actions: 
Sedative, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, parasympathetic depressant, hallucinogen, and hypnotic. Most hypnotics produce low alphoid and spindle alpha brain-wave activity, similar to that found in REM sleep, or the dreaming or trance state. This rhythm does not allow deep sleep to occur although it does lower brain patterns. Mandrake root causes delirium and hallucinations.. 

Traditional Preperation: 

Caution! Poisonous. Pregnant women should not use this herb. 

Do not use this herb without the proper guidance from a professional!

Burning and inhaling the smoke of the mandrake is the least effective method of experiencing its psychoactive properties. The leaves are picked before the end of the fruiting season, dried in the shade, and used in a smoking blend (either with tobacco or other herbs) or as incense. The root works as incense as well; the smoke is rather easy to inhale, although its smell is not entirely pleasant.
Fresh leaves may be chewed, and fresh mandrake fruits may be consumed. Consuming fresh mandrake fruits is incredibly safe; there have been no known overdoses even after consuming multiple fruits. The root is hardly ever eaten. It is mostly extracted either into water or alcohol; both methods seem to be equally effective (Ratsch 1998, 346-347).
Mandrake root has long been implemented in the making of beer and wine, either as an additive or the basis of the fermentation. When mandrake root is the main ingredient in the brewing process, cinnamon and saffron are sometimes added to improve its taste. Mandrake beer is quite potent, with dosages rarely exceeding one liter — drink with caution.
The ancient Greeks used fresh or dried mandrake in wine as an aphrodisiac. To make mandrake wine, add a handful of chopped mandrake root to a .75 liter bottle of wine and steep for one week. For maximum potency, it is best not to filter the root pieces out until the wine is gone, and the more sour the wine, the more effective the extraction. Two or three cinnamon sticks and a tablespoon of saffron can be added to improve the flavor.
Another popular recipe involves chopping up a large handful each of cinnamon sticks, rhubarb root, vanilla pods, and mandrake root, and steeping in a bottle of white wine for two weeks. The plant matter is then drained, and the beverage is colored with St. John’s wort or saffron and sweetened if desired, most effectively with a combination of royal jelly and honey. Spirits are also an effective choice for mixing with mandrake, though the only place in the world where this practice is still prevalent is Romania (Ratsch 1998, 348).

Such a powerful magical ally is of course not easy to come by.
Mandrake roots became highly sought after and attempts to protect them from theft are thought to have been the source of the second mandrake myth, which stated that a demon inhabited the root and would kill anyone who attempted to uproot it.
The Mandrake does not take very kindly to being dug up and has been reported to vanish before an irksome intruder could get to it, and famously gives an ear-piercing scream as it is pulled from the earth that would instantly kill anybody within earshot. In order to acquire the plant one must approach it on a Friday before sunrise. After plugging your ears very tightly with cotton, wax or pitch, set out with a black dog – who must not have spots of any other color on his body. Draw three magic circles around the mandrake plant and carefully dig a circle all around it so that only a few fibers of root remain in the earth. Then tie the plant around its base with string to the dog’s tail, show the dog a piece of meat and run away with it. The dog will chase you and thus quickly pull out the root. But the dog will ;likely  also drop dead when he hears the groaning screams emanating from the mandrake under extraction.
An old document declares,
“Therefore, they did tye some dogge or other living beast unto the roots thereof with a corde … and in the mean tyme stopped there own ears for fear of the terrible shriek and cry of the mandrake. In which cry it doth not only dye itselfe but the feare thereof killeth the dogge….”
After the plant had been freed from the earth, it could be used for “beneficent” purposes, such as healing, inducing love, facilitating pregnancy, and providing soothing sleep or “malevolent” such as the “main-de-gloire”.
 Alternately, death (your own) or the need to use and kill a dog, could be avoided by a loud blast on a horn at the critical moment.

Once in possession of this precious root, your troubles are not over, as it is no easy task to satisfy a Mandrakes’ extensive whims. First pick up and wash the plant until clean with red wine, wrap it in a white or red silk cloth and place it in a small chest. Henceforward and by way of maintenance, wash it every Friday again in red wine, give it a new white or red silk shirt every new moon and feed it specific kinds of food (its exact dietary requirements were and are still an endless source of debate). Even if all its demands are met it is possible that the mandrake might not perform its duties, in which case it would be best to get rid of it as swiftly as possible. However one cannot just give a failing plant away and if no buyer can be found for such an uncooperative Mandrake, the root would have to stay with its owner,  a distinct disadvantage because its power can in some cases turn against them, causing bad luck instead of good.

Mandrake by Sandra Arteaga.

However if you have unearthed a friendly and cooperative Mandrake, when you ask your Mandrake a question, it will respond and reveal concealed mysteries regarding your future welfare and prosperity. From that time forth you will have no enemies, you can never become poor and if you have no children your marriage will soon be blessed, if you are not married and wish to be – you soon shall. If you place a coin next to the mandrake at night, the next morning you will find twice as much. If you want to enjoy the services of your Mandrake plant for a very long time and make sure that it does not die, never overtax it.

Knitting plan used to create this friend here
Many thanks to my marvelous Mother In Law for crafting this magical Mandrake friend for me. 
The works of William Shakespeare contain many references to the mandrake and its myths and are remarkable both for the depth of knowledge they reveal and for their accuracy.
“…Not poppy, nor mandragora,
Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world,
Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep
Which thou owedst yesterday.”

Shakespeare: Othello III.iii
“Would curses kill, as doth the mandrake’s groan”
King Henry VI part II III.ii

Around the Middle Ages an apparently new myth began to circulate that a mandrake would spring up from ground contaminated by human blood or semen such as at the foot of a gallows. Once again, Dr Turner, who had spent some years in Europe, was quick to condemn those responsible:
‘But it groweth not under gallosses as a certain dotyng doctor of Colon in hys physick lecture dyd tych hys auditores; nether doth it ryse of the sede of man that falleth from hym that is hanged; Neither is it called Mandragora because it came of man’s sede, as ye forsayd doctor dremed’.
Playwrights, nonetheless, wasted little time in taking this new myth to their hearts and, in his corspe-strewn tragedy The White Devil John Webster (1578—c. 1630) (erroneously) unites the mistletoe and mandrake, good and evil, with the tree which, with its horizontal lower branches, had long made a convenient impromptu gallows:
‘But as we seldom find the mistletoe
Sacred to physic on the builder oak,
Without a mandrake by it, so in our quest of gain’    ‘
”Above all else never internally ingest any of these plants as they have an ability to be deadly.  If you do happen to have some fall into your hands always be sure to wash your hands and keep away from your eyes and mouth at all costs. Never proceed to create ointments or unguents without a firm knowledge of the plants you are working with as all have the potential to be deadly”.  Thank you Wild Witche for this sensible caution.

Bright Blessings By Stone & Star ~

Freyr

My hand-carved Freyr charm

Freyr, Frey -Old Norse Mythology lord of the sun, rain and harvests,
He is a shining god, bringing fertility and prosperity to all.
Freyr was one of the Vanir gods that went to live in Asgard after the War between the Æsir and Vanir.

He is the noblest of the gods. Together with his sister, Freyja, he brings peace and prosperity to men and the blessings of fertility to the home and the field. The Norsemen made sacrifices to Freyr ’til árs ok friðar’ (for frutifulness and peace).

Left to right: Njörðr, Skaði, Freyr. From the book The Elder or Poetic Edda; commonly known as Sæmund’s Edda. Edited and translated with introduction and notes by Olive Bray. Illustrated by W.G. Collingwood.

His home is Alfheim and he is known as God of the dead: those interred in the kin mounds and Lord of the land of the Alfs (Elves). This place was later called Elfhame and Elphame, and in more modern times Elfland or Elfenland.
Symbolism, Stags antler, Ship, Wagon, Boar, Rays of the sun, Phallic symbolism (and consequently the modern suggestion of a horn of plenty)
Sacred Animals, Boar, Horse, Stag.
* A Freyr idol with a priestess (or the god’s “wife”) would go on procession round villages to bless the fields during harvest.
* His holy places could not have weapons or outlaws within them and no blood shed.

The possible connections of Freyr with Ingui and their similarities have been noted.
It is known that, according to Norse mythology, Freyr was closely linked with the Sun. He was the god of peace and fertility. His parents were the sea god, Njord and the giantess, Skadi. He translates as the most prominent and most beautiful of the male members of the Vanir, and is often referred to as ‘God of the World’. Subsequent the merging of the Aesir and the Vanir, Freyr is known as ‘the Lord of the Aesir’. Freyr is also called upon by common folk to grant fertile marriages.

Ingui, or Ing, is the rather obscure name of a god in the Anglo-Saxon heathen tradition who was the god of sun and rain, and the patron of bountiful harvests. He was both a god of peace and a brave warrior. He was also the ruler of the elves.

If as many schools believe, he is one and the same as the Norse god, Freyr, then Ingui’s social standing as a god among the Anglo-Saxon heathens could have been one of great veneration.

Evidence connecting the Anglo-Saxon Ingui to the Norse Freyr is that another name for Freyr is Yngvi or Yngvi-Freyr, the Yngvi element is phonetically cognate with the Anglo-Saxon Ingui. It’s possible that the Anglo-Saxon Yngvi-Freyr may have been called Ingui-Frea, Frea being the Anglo-Saxon cognate of Freyr.

Freyr’s Return;

As important for the individual
and development of the world
as the revival of the Divine Feminine
in all Her myriad forms,
is the retrieval of the Passionate, 

Vibrant Masculine.

We might rediscover the caring masculine energies
to be a vital part of the cosmological balance
of universal and interpersonal forces.

Praise Be To Freyr!

Praise Be To Freyr!
To Life, to Spirit, to Freedom!
Praise be Green Hills and Verdant Valleys Forever!
Fertility to the Fields and Flowers!
The Birds and Bees!
The Deer and the Does!
Praise to Dancing and Drinking!
To Frolicksome Freols!
Lifter of Hefts and Hafts!
Unbinder! Lord of the Elf Fields!
May my life be a tribute to the Freedom you o’ersee!
May my life be filled with your festivity and frith!
Praise Be to Freyr!
The Mighty Elf Lord of Freedom!
© Siegfried Goodfellow 2005

In heathenism and paganism, poetry becomes prayer through which we enter into the magic of being in touch with all the holy powers that make this life a sacred blessing.

May You Be Blessed ~

Happy Eostre ~

Equal Day and Equal Night, Ostara’s circle brings the Light,
Eostre’s celestial satellite singing, of Spring’s beginning and new life bringing.

Farewell to the Winter whose dark days were drawing,
As Stars blinked in wonder and the cold winds were falling,
To your secrets of Silence and of Snow gently calling,
Farewell to your slower-time of fireside dreams and sleep Yawing.

We drank the cup of your deepness, as Earth in your Shadow..
We tended goat sheep and cattle, kept flame as fields fallow.

Now, calls the Guardian of all growing things, tender and tall,
Now the veil rises, opening the new magic to all.
And as your sacred Hare paints the egg under the Infinite Tree,
We awaken refreshed to set your spring delight free.

Welcome Now then, to the sun bright and subtle,
As your warmth shimmers lightly, unfolding seeds all a-futtle,
With your Green-blood, our Red-blood, in the dance of your rhythm,
As bird breeze and bee quicken your message and mission.

Welcome to the creatures of the life-tide arising,
Under the blueness of blue-sky, beside the fast fox surprising.
Now to give thanks, for your Life Song deep and high,
We call out loud as a flower, from our hearts to the sky!

Come one and come all to this Mystery Renewed,
For the Lord of the Dance soon among us imbued,
And to you who make fertile the Earth and her Children,
For your Geomancic ways of the Sun Moon and Whirtle,

We give thanks for your blessings, and to our bright kindred three,
Our Rite here at an end, Happy Eostre to Thee !

Original Poem c. Celestial Elf

Very grateful thanks to Lisa Thiel for personally granting me permission
to use her beautiful song for this machinima film,
Ostara Song (c) 2005 Lisa Thiel via Sacred Dream .com
( http://www.sacreddream.com/ )

………………………………………..

The March equinox will occur on March 20 in 2011,
marking the beginning of Spring in the northern hemisphere and fall (Autumn) in the southern hemisphere.
The word “equinox” derives from the Latin words meaning “equal night” and refers to the time when the sun crosses the equator. At such times, day and night are everywhere of nearly equal length everywhere in the world.

Marking the end of Winter and the first day of Spring.
The Earth is becoming green and birds are beginning to sing, Trees are in bud, foals and calves are being born, and early summer crops are sprouting or ready to be planted…

Some Pagans now call this first day of Spring, this Vernal Equinox, Ostara.
It is a day for all to celebrate longer daylight hours, returning warmth and the start of planting.
Ostara is sacred to Eostre the Ancient Goddess of fertility,
(from whence we get the word estrogen)
Her two symbols were the Cosmic Egg and the Mad March Hare, latterly abducted and morphed into the Easter rabbit.
The myth of the Mad, Moon Gazing Hare reflects ancient beliefs that seeing a moon gazing hare would bring growth, re-birth, abundance, new-beginnings and good fortune.
The Hare however, as the symbol of Eostre, also represents fertility and fecundity.
In other words, the hare is the symbol of the rebirth of life under the new Spring. The Egg is also the most basic symbol of rebirth, renewal, and new growth.

Happy Eostre to You ~

Imbolc Blessings…

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Imbolc (February 1st) is a time of new beginnings,
Of Welcoming the first Light of Spring and of Honouring the Celtic Goddess Brighid.

It also marks the center point of the dark half of the year.
There is in Ancient traditions a Spiritual reality and a Physical reality associated with each Season.
At this time as the ewe’s become ready for conception in Spring when their milk will flow, the focus is upon the as yet Unrealised Fertility of Nature in this New Year.
For this reason, Imbolc was also called Oimealg by the Druids, from the Gaelic word “oimelc” which means “ewes milk”
As the Maiden Goddess of this time & because of these reasons of fertility, Brighid was symbolised by White flowers, the Stars and the Milky Way.
Most importantly, as Her womb now becomes ripe with fertility,
She symbolizes the great potential of everything yet to come.
Yet much of her power also resides in the uncertainties of this fecundity.
It is therefore considered taboo to cut plants during this time,
as this would destroy the blessing of new life given by the Goddess to the Earth.

Imbolc is the festival of this Maiden Goddess then,
& from this day to March 21st is her season to prepare for growth and renewal.


(video by Paganboynuneaton)

The meanings of Imbolc are deeply bound with Natures cycles,
As is the case for all Ancient Spiritual ways.

Imbolc is a particularly important date in this natural calendar as it marks the beginning of the agricultural year.
Preparations for spring sowing would begin at this time, and included blessing the seeds and consecrating the agricultural tools, particularly the plough…
In some areas, this is the first day of ploughing in preparation for planting of crops, and the plough woud be decorated to celebrate its importance.
Pieces of cheese and bread were sometimes left by the plough and within the newly turned furrows, as offerings to the nature spirits.

Spring Cleaning,
Prior to the eve of Imbolc the home would be given a thorough cleaning in preparation for a visit from the Goddess.
The fireplace especially should be cleaned very well and a birch branch should be used to symbolically sweep the floors.
Birch has strong associations with Brighid, and has long been used for rites of purification and new beginnings.

Offerings,
A small dish of butter (referencing the fertility of the ewes & The Goddess)should be placed on a windowsill and a fresh fire kindled (evoking the return of the Sun)in the hearth, to honor the Goddess and the new Life that she brings.

Candles,
The lighting of candles honoring the re-birth of the Sun but dedicated to Brighid & floated on the waters of Lake, River and Ocean, emphasized the balance between male fire and female water energies, an essential harmony if the forces of Nature would sucessfully conjoin and beget fruitfullness.
Thus the candles also symbolised The(Re-)Union of the Goddess and the God.

Brideog or Corn Dolls,
Ideally made by the man of the household (again balancing the procreative energies of nature)before the traditional family or communal feast.
Long pieces of straw or rushes would be woven into the shape of a doll and wrapped with white cloth to represent a dress.
She would then be decorated with greenery, flowers, and shells or stones and consecrated with a sprinkle of sacred water whilst invoking Brighid’s blessings.
These dolls were then placed in baskets with white flower bedding, and set before the hearth..

Brighid’s Crosses,
This is the most widely practiced custom associated with Imbolc.
These are woven (solar as opposed to later christian) crosses of straw.
Old crosses from previous years should be removed to the rafters and the new crosses hung near or over doorways.
These are thought especially effective in protecting the household from fire and lightning, as well as blessing all who pass under thhem.

Divination,
The eve of Imbolc is traditionally the best time of the year to perform divinations enquiring after the future of your family & the best choices to be made.
This is because Imbolc as the approach of Spring was held to be one of the Sacred Times when the Otherworlds were more easily communicated with.
This channel of communication was more Open at such special times (including dawn and dusk, but also at some special locations..) due to the Seasons changes in the Cosmological Wheel of Nature, impacting the balance Light & Darkness, and of the Spirit worlds.

As ever on this path of learning & sharing what I learn about these Ancient ways,
I am reminded once more that All of these rituals and practises celebrating the Seasons, the Sacred Times and Tides at work in our Lives and in the Nature which clothes, sustains and surrounds us,
All of these practises are not arcane and mysterious arts.
These are Light Hearted, Hopeful and Bright-Shinning Ways to Honour and Celebrate the Life we are given,
to make the most of the Nature around us and the Communities with which we share.
I should rather rename these Pagan(means ‘Nature’) Traditions as
Good Husbandry/Wifery for sucessful integrated living with our Selves and our Sacred Earth.

Happy Imbolc
Bright Blessings to All.

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