Getting ready for Imbolc

As I was working on getting things ready for North Georgia Solitaries' Imbolc celebration, I looked over some notes in my book on Imbolc traditions. I thought it might be fun to join every other witchy forum, blog and facebook page and post some Imbolc traditions.

We prepare for renewal and growth at Imbolc by ridding ourselves of the old and making way for the new. This is the halfway point of the dark half of the year. Consider what it would have been like to live back in the days when you only ate what you raised. At this time of year, the harvest is far behind you. The days are short and cold. You and your family have eaten a good part of the food you put away for the winter. You are keeping a wary eye on how much food you have left and how much longer the winter will last. You start to see little tips of green plants sprouting through the snow. You start to get a few sunnier days as the days grow longer. Farm animals are giving birth. Suddenly, there is hope. Hope that your family will make it through the long winter. These are some of the reasons we celebrate Imbolc. Other names for this festival are Feast of Lights, Feast of Torches, Feast of the Virgin, Feast of the Waxing Light, Festival of the Ewe's Milk, Festival of Lights, Imbolgc Brigantia, Lupercus, Candelaria, Snowdrop Festival, Greater Sabbat, Solar Festival, the festival of the Maiden Brighid and the basis for Groundhog Day.

Imbolc Traditions

- Burn Yule greens to send Winter on its way
- Corn dollies were created from oat or wheat and rest in baskets with white flower bedding. Girls would carry them from house to house where gifts were bestowed upon the dollies.
- Make the Bride's Bed on February 1 - add the corn or wheat doll made the previous Lughnasadh dressed in white or blue wearing a necklace to represent all seasons. Lay her in a basket decorated with ribbons next to a fireplace (if you have one). Light white candles on either side of the basket. Say words of welcome to her. Lay a wand, decorated with white and blue ribbons beside her to represent the coming of the Sun God. Say words of welcome to him. Let the candles burn for a while - snuff out before going to bed. The next morning, look for any marks in the hearth dust (sign of activity of the Lord - early Spring) - remove the dress, scatter the wheat outdoors or if corn doll - hand in a tree for the squirrels and birds.
- On Imbolc Eve, leave buttered bread in a bowl indoors for the Fairies, who travel with the Lady. Dispose of the next day as the essence is gone.
- Place three ears of corn on the door as a symbol of the Triple Goddess and leave until Ostara.
- Cleanse your magick work area with an incense of rosemary and vervain
- Cleanse your home by carrying a white candle and sandlewood incense throughout.
- Make dream pillows stuffed with batting and herbs for everyone in your family
- Brighid's Crosses are created from wheat stalks and exchanged as symbols of protection and prosperity.
- Hearth fires were put out and re-lit.
- Place a besom by the front door to symbolize sweeping out the old and welcoming the new.
- Light candles and place in each room to honor the re-birth of the Sun.
- The plough is a traditional symbol of Imbolc. In areas where this was the first of ploughing, a decorated plough was pulled from home to home. Costumed children would follow, asking for refreshment or money. If they were refused, the house's front garden was ploughed over. In other places, ploughes were decorated and whiskey was poured over them.
- Cheese and bread can be left by your tools as offering to the nature spirits.
- Make a wand out of stick and decorate with acorns, bells, gold, yellow, green and brown ribbons or yarn.

Traditional Imbolc Correspondences

Symbols - white flowers, snowflakes, besoms, candle wheels, Brighid crosses, wands, ploughs
Colors - white, light green, yellow, brown, pink, red
Crystals - ruby, garnet, amethyst, bloodstone, turquoise, and onyx
Flowers - violets, wisteria, heather, iris and white and yellow flowers
Herbs and Incense - bay leaves, angelica, cinnamon, basil, celandine, myrrh, coltsfoot, laurel, vanilla, blackberry and tansy
Food and Drink - all dairy products, breads, cakes, scones, muffins, raisins, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, greens, bell peppers, onions, garlic, herbal teas, ale, mead and spiced wines

If you happen to be in the north Atlanta area next weekend, you might consider joining us for our celebration. It will be a family ritual, complete with something for the children. One of our more active members is hosting it at her home so directions will be sent to everyone that signs up in the database on the NGS Yahoo Group.

Hearth Magick for today's Hearth

This time of year is a great time for reflection. We are past the hustle and bustle of the holidays and the weather invites us to stay indoors. The daylight hours are shorter so we have more time in the darkness. Even the hours when the sun is up are not as bright as the other seasons. Many of us have fireplaces and try to spend as much time near them as possible. This is a great time for hearth magick.

Hearth magick is often thought of as kitchen magick. Hearth is a symbol of the womb. In the days of old the hearth was the focal point of Pagan life. Food was prepared in the hearth, family time was spent there and some ancestral shrines were place over the hearth. Spirits were said to gather at the hearth. Vesta, the Roman Goddess was connected to the hearth and home. She was the symbol of divinity within a living flame. The family and the fireplace were the territory of the mother in the home. She was one that tended the fire, keeping the flame alive. With no matches or lighters in that time, keeping hot embers was an important role.

Today, we are going to focus on magick for the hearths of today. Most of us have our fireplaces in our family rooms so that is where our hearths are located.

Let's think about the word "hearth" for a moment in today's context. It is pronounced "harth" like "heart". It is often at the heart of the home. When someone speaks of the hearth, it often brings to mind the picture of a fireplace with a cozy fire and people gathered around it. At least that is the picture that comes to my mind. When growing up my family would often spend time sitting near the fire playing board games or putting together puzzles, watching tv together, reading or just enjoying the warmth of the fire.

With that in mind, let's explore some of the things you can do magickally at your hearth.

- Toss a handful of oak leaves, cloves, holly, rosemary, frankincense, cinnamon, or nettles onto the smoldering fire to protect your home.

- Place a besom (broom) near the fireplace to block negativity from entering the house through the fireplace.

- Place a design of three concentric circles (circles that share the same center point) above the opening to protect the home by the Triple Goddess.

- Hang a pouch containing grain from the early harvest over the mantle to call on the god Lugh to protect the home.

- Dry herbs by hanging them near the hearth.

- Scry by gazing into the fire for visions.

- You can predict the future by looking at how the wood burns.

- fire has the energy of transformation - write changes you want to bring about (things you want to bring into your life or things you want to banish) and burn them in your fireplace along with an herbal offering to the gods you are calling

Look into the energies you want to harness and use your imagination. Come up with ways you can work hearth magick in your home this winter.