Imbolc, Crafts, and Burning Curtains

Merry meet brothers and sisters.

Happy Imbolc!  The light is returning and the cold is beginning to loosen it’s hold.  I hope you’ve done your spring cleaning, if not, it’s time to start.  Take down any remaining holiday greenery and, provided it’s not plastic, burn it to purify the home….Please dear Goddess, do not try to burn the plastic.  I am NOT recommending that anyone burn an artificial holiday wreath in the yard.  You’re eyes will burn, your nose will bleed, and it will not be a happy Imbolc. Plus that smell never goes away.

If you have a fireplace, start a fire.  If you have a cauldron or a fire pit, start a fire in that.  If, like me, you are bereft of cast iron or chimney, feel free to cover your altar with tea lights.  When the sun sets tonight, walk a candle through your home, focusing on welcoming the return of the light.  I like to cover my altar room with candles….up high though.  Again with the puffy cat’s tail that frequently catches fire.  I wouldn’t recommend this with toddlers or pyromaniacal children either.  I was one and I recall gathering several household items and using candles to light various possessions on fire, including a large chunk of my little sister’s hair which I liberated from her head during a nap.  Another smell that never goes away.  Let’s be practical if you don’t wish to spend your ritual celebration ripping flaming curtains off your windows….the neighbors might stare.

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It’s traditional to honor Brigid during Imbolc.  She’s commonly depicted as the Celtic goddess of fire, so if you’re interested in performing a working in addition to celebration tonight, consider utilizing the element of fire.  Brigid is associated with healing, childbirth, midwives, the hearth, poetry, intelligence, and craftsmanship.  Many midwives and traditional healers use Imbolc as an opportunity to charge something called a Bratach Bree.  Take a large piece of cloth, a blanket or a shawl, and lay it on a window sill or drape it over porch railing.  Leave it overnight so Brigid can pass by and touch it, infusing it with her power and blessing.  Set this cloth aside for healing purposes only.  Lay it over birthing women or animals, over sick children, over weak babies.  Keep it and recharge it every year at Imbolc and it will accumulate healing energies year after to year until it is a sacred family heirloom.

A simple craft you can try is creating a cross of Brigid.  If you’re like me, you fancy yourself crafty and collect piles of DIY recipes and directions, but you lack the materials and honest skills to pull it off.  So trust that if I can make this, you can.  It’s a simple, soothing process that can be small and easy or large and ornate.  Hang it in your home to protect from fires and lightning, or above your bed to guard you while you sleep throughout the year.  If you made one last year, move it to the attic and hang it in the rafters to continue watching over your home.

Here’s a simple pattern for a Brigid’s Cross made of straw:
http://gingerbreadsnowflakes.com/node/143

Or you can make a god’s eye, which serves the same purpose but looks a little different and can be made with two sticks and yarn:

DIY God’s Eye

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While you’re making it, focus on honor Brigid and welcoming the return of the light.

The goddess Brigid was known by many names,
Breed, Brigit, and Bride–you are all one and the same.
On this Imbolc Sabbat, I call you by candlelight,
Bless me with creativity and purpose this night.
By light and magic, this spell is spun,
For the good of all, with harm to none.
(Witches’ Spell-A-Day Almanac, Llewellyn 2016)

 

Allow your candles to burn down through the night.  Celebrate the light and hearth and home.  Revel in the warmth of the fire and think of the warmth of the sun to come.  Happy Imbolc Sabbat and Blessed Be.

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New Moon – Jan 9, 2016

Happy New Moon!

This is the first new moon of the year and, as a time for beginnings, marks the true beginning of the new year, for me.  The first eight days, those were just practice; a last minute, get-your-shit-together, procrastinator’s grace period before getting down to the business of 2016.

<long suffering sigh>  Yes, I’m a procrastinator, but that’s all going to change, soon….later….after my nap.  “Procrastination” is such a dirty word.  I choose to view it as more of a stop-and-smell-the-roses lifestyle; philosophical dawdling, the meditative mosey, pleasantly sauntering through life instead of an all out sprint that would inevitably result in sweat stains and shin splints.

I do, however, have to keep myself on track in order to avoid moving back in with my folks, going too long without a pedicure, or running out of wine, which I think we can all agree is a likely harbinger of the apocalypse.  Also the cats get a little cranky when I don’t feed them.  Cranky, as in, watching me sleep with cold, calculating stares while they telepathically plot my demise so they can feast on my rotting corpse.  Of course, they haven’t followed through yet, but there have been warnings.  If a smelly surprise in my house slippers doesn’t effectively communicate feline displeasure, then I don’t know what does.

So, in order to thrive and afford tasty canned placations for my two, fuzzy, semi-domesticated, house demons, I set quarterly goals.  It’s been my experience that these goals are much easier to accomplish than resolutions that require an entire year.  I’m more motivated with looming deadlines, specific objectives, and a detailed plan of action.  The target dates for these quarterly resolutions are typically the first of every third month.  As a Wicca, however, I find it beneficial to align my secular and spiritual pursuits with natural rhythms, such as the seasons or lunar phases.  This year I’ve chosen lunar phases.  There are 13 new moons in 2016, the first of which on January 9, 2016.  The first three quarters will encompass three new moons, and the final quarter will encompass four.  I figure this is only fair as the end of the year tends to be more chaotic and demanding.

First quarter:  January 9-April 6, 2016
Second quarter:  April 7-July 3, 2016
Third quarter:  July 4-September 29, 2016
Fourth quarter:  September 30-December     28, 2016

Last night was my new moon ritual, during which I performed three exercises.  1) Honoring the new moon 2) Releasing 2015 and setting my intent for 2016 and 3) Dedicating my quarterly goals.  Step one was casting a circle.  Rituals work better outside, under the open sky, out in nature….but nature was frigid last night and I had planned on plenty of time meditating, relaxing, and resting in the dark of the new moon.  I covered my general dislike of cold and lack of arctic survival gear in the last post, so it should come as no surprise that I elected to do an indoor ritual, as I will likely continue to do with lengthy rituals till Spring.

Circle cast in the comfort of my home, I sat in a comfortable half lotus before the altar in thin cotton pajamas.  I chose a single white candle for the altar, to honor the moon.  I lit it and asked the Lord and Lady to observe my rite, lend me their protection and guidance, and to bless my workings.  I then spoke a brief, impromptu prayer thanking the moon for her light when she is full and for her darkness when she is new; for allowing me to rest in the spiritual womb of darkness before time to begin anew.  I asked that she lend me respite in the circle, grant me gentle relaxation as I allow inspiration to flow freely through my mind in order reach affirmation.

Then I meditated, drawing slowly into myself, feeling safe to pull completely inward with the protection of the elements and the deities.  I pulled deep into my inner dark space, feeling the rush of my natural energies quiet and subside to a gentle current.  I rested there for a while.  Meditation can be as short or as long as you want, depending upon your needs and level of experience.  I’ve been meditating for over a decade, so it’s easy to lose track of time for an hour or two.  What’s important is that you meditate as long or as briefly as feels natural for you.  Don’t force it, don’t cut it short, the new moon is a time of rest and of unhurried centering.goddesses-moon-goddess

Meditation accomplished, I set about releasing the previous year.  I wrote out aspects about my mentality and behavior in the past year I regretted and have no wish to carry with me any further.  I took these words one by one, lit them, and let them burn to ash in a fire-safe, lidded bowl.  I cannot stress enough that this bowl must be fire-safe with some depth.  Small, flaming pieces of paper have a tendency to fly and roll.  If you set it on a flat stone or metal surface, you WILL burn a hole in your altar cloth, which is both costly and undignified if you’re prone to cussing while patting our errant flames with your bare hands.  Tweezers are also a good idea here to avoid singeing your fingertips.  While the words burn, one by one, visualize yourself free of their influence.  Affirm the positive, opposing traits. (e.g., If you wrote “fear,” affirm courage in your life.)  Do as many or as few as you want.  There are no requirements and no need to limit yourself.  When you’ve finished and the ashes have cooled, collect them and bury them as you speak….

Fears and flaws you go to ground,
From you I’ll no more flee;
Released to Earth, full and round,
Reclaimed with love.  So mote it be.

I used one of my potted plants.  The moon was in Capricorn, which is an Earth sign, so these workings are most effective when they go to ground.

Next is intent for the coming year.  I chose to pull out my sketchpad, color pencils, and doodle while allowing my mind to flow, newly freed from the burdens of the past year.  I had a glass of warm, spiced wine, and a few pieces of chocolate to enjoy while I did this.  I poured a sip of wine and pressed a piece of chocolate into the soil as an offering while I spoke a brief prayer to the earth and moon, asking and thanking them for inspiration.  Then I doodled.  It’s not necessary to create a work of art, just allow yourself to enjoy the process.  If you’re not inclined to draw, it’s alright to jot notes as ideas come to you, hum, lay in the candlelight and stare at the shadows, whatever you want as long as it’s restful to you.  Write as many or as few affirmations as you feel led to make.  When you’ve finished, jot them down on a separate piece of paper, keep the original to display, and go over the list, one by one, imagining yourself manifesting these changes in yourself and your life.  Then bury it deep and speak….

Blessing words, you are a seed
Go to ground, carry my need.
Take root and grow strong in me,
Blossom as truth.  So mote it be. 

Finally, I pulled out my pre-prepared list of specific, quarterly goals, read them out, and said a prayer of blessing and dedication over them, then of gratitude to the energies that had lent themselves to the workings and dedications.a9c5fbc4a93c217a8f26e4d2a1a6b549

During these final minutes of prayer, one of my snarky little felines had decided she’d had enough of this closed-door nonsense and very cleverly popped the door open.  She sauntered in, hopping right over my circle marked in salt, claimed my lap with a huff, and began grooming herself.  I had frozen when she leapt through the protective barrier, afraid she had broken it.  I tried to sense any tears or gaps that may have been left in her wake, but found none, and concluded, that barriers simply don’t apply to cats, which is probably what makes them such ideal witches’ companions….and what prompts them to linger irritatingly in doorways.  I removed her from my lap and set her next to the altar, tail twitching and a scowl on her face that clearly said I would not be excluding her in the future.  A wary eye on her feather duster of a tail (she’s set it on fire before….more than once) I bid farewell to the Lord and Lady, then the elements one by one, thanking each in turn.

Hope y’all have a restful, inspirational new moon.  Try not to catch anything on fire, and don’t even bother closing the door on your cat.  It’s possible she can walk through walls

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Winter Wonder-Ass

I’m not a winter person.  This is why I’ve chosen to remain in the glorious South to which I was born.  Days in triple digit heat, I can handle.  Hell, I even enjoy the slow baking sensation of an August afternoon.  All anyone needs to survive summertime is a sun hat, sun block, a spot of shade for your daily siesta, and a large supply of sticky sweet tea.  That’s it!  Winter?  That’s a whole different ball game….a hellish, bizarre, absurd, how-do-you-people-live-like-this ball game.

Once temperatures begin to fall below sixty degrees I get a little twitchy.  That’s alright.  A jog on a brisk morning can be invigorating and I switch from flip flops and mini-skirts, to sneakers and pants, no big deal.  When temperatures drop below fifty degrees I get downright pissy.  Windows must be layered with insulation, faucets must drip through the night, pipes bust at 3AM as temperature drops below freezing.  I have to unpack the box in the back of my closet to pull out my one winter coat, two pair of thick boot socks, and gloves.  I don’t own winter clothes.  What’s the point?  Eight months out of the year it’s gauzy blouses, tank tops, short shorts, and mini skirts because anything touching your skin causes you to break out in a light sweat.

So what do I do for winter?  I throw a coat over my summer clothes, pull out extra quilts, and pray for it to be over; all the while muttering my mantra….”This is ridiculous.”  I lay shivering in the night, listening to the unsettling rattle of a space heater that’s collected dust for the last eight months and smelling the suspicious burning odor of electric heat.  I wake in the morning, debating how long I can hold my bladder before I have to leave the comfort of my covers for the mad dash to an ice cold toilet seat, which inevitably induces an enraged yowl that alerts my roommates that the warrior princess is up and on her morning rampage.

The worst part about winter, is the loss of sunshine.  Sure, there are sunny days, but the cold is so bitter and I’m wearing so many clothes, that it’s nurturing light seldom touches my skin.  Luckily, I live in a region of the South famous as a meteorological vortex in which the laws of quantum mechanics dictate that it is both sunny and cloudy, rainy and clear, summer and winter, simultaneously….Texas.  Today temperatures rose to about 60, the sun beamed down in all it’s golden glory, and I wasted no time stripping down, grabbing a book, and laying out buck naked in the back yard.  I wallowed in the luxury of heat, hoping the light’s reflection off my winter pale ass would not be blinding to any aircraft en route to DFW airport.

As I lay there, absorbing my cherished sunlight, I could feel the solar energy seeping through my skin and evicting the cold that had taken root in my body the last few weeks.  I wished for some way to store the light and heat for days to come as the forecast is predicting gray skies with temperatures in the twenties for the next week.

Normally I sit in half lotus position to perform a working as this feels the most natural position for my body to root the base of my spine into the earth and open my crown to the sky.  This time, however, it felt important to spread my body fully before the light of the sun, exposing as much skin as possible for the working.  I cast a small, quick circle around my sunning blanket, threaded my fingers into the cool grass as an anchor, and centered myself.  Through meditation I stretched my third eye up into the sky towards the source of daylight and heat.  I welcomed the fiery white energy down through me and into my body.  I wove it into my hair, painted my skin golden with it, poured it into my blood, and filled my bones with its brilliant light as I whispered…

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Sun I seek you, clouds no more,
Sky now is an open door.
In my body, find ye rest
Beyond your fall to the West.
Your light and heat now fill my form
For days to come shall not be warm.
Through ice and snow, my company
Is your soft glow. So mote it be.

It’s important to cast a protective circle before invoking this invitation in order to avoid inviting anything but the pure, warm energy of sunlight.  It does not need to be amplified with tools, symbols, herbs, or stones because the infusion you want is gentle and slow so as to avoid over charging your body or burning.  This is a powerful source we’re working with.  Seek only a tender, soft saturation.  Be careful to pull the energy in through the base of your spine, allowing it to steep in your core and spread slowly through your limbs.  Root the heat in your bones.  You don’t want it circulating haphazardly through your body causing headaches and mood swings.  It’s more likely to dissipate quickly this way, too.

If another sunny, warm day comes quickly, before all your solar energy has dissipated out naturally, be sure to return the energy to the sun, especially if you intend to repeat the process.  Sit outside in half lotus, palms upward, and offer the light back to the sun with gratitude, allowing the energy to flow out through your hands.

Always take time to thank the sun for lending you it’s warmth and light.  You can make an offering of the appropriate herbs and flowers, though those are in short supply in the cold of winter.  I like to make a pomander with an orange and cloves and hang it in a sunny window.  It can also be as simple as tying a red or yellow ribbon on a tree branch in your yard, kneeling in the light, and sending a brief prayer of thanks.

Love and light to you all….and beware all DFW bound aircraft.  I’m sure it will be some time before my winter white rear turns peachy again.

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the cat, the novice, & the closet….

Merry Meet!

So, it’s January 3rd, which means I have chosen to join the eager throngs of newbie bloggers; each of us envisioning hordes of hungry readers, salivating for the intimate details of our quotidian lives.  We hunch over our laptops in the dark, sipping cheap coffee and wearing sweat pants so stained and gross we reserve them only for break-ups, Twilight marathons, and mustering the courage to address our readers.

Fingers tap across keyboards with the alacrity of riverdancers as we swear by every god in heaven and earth that we WILL hold fast to our New Year’s resolutions this year….not at all like last year.  Last year was a fluke.  Last year was for car payments, jazzercise, and failed attempts to grow our own avocados.

Where am I going with this?….New Year’s resolutions.  I’m here to establish my practice.  That’s Practice in the Zen sense of the word.  In living daily by principles and exercises, the primary goal of which, is itself…practice.

I’m coming out of the broom closet and fully embracing my calling as a witch.  It’s time to invest in study and practice.  I’m a novice in every sense of the word. The cultivation of my personal spirituality has lasted years, but I’m new to active practice that incorporates those spiritual beliefs.

It is my intention to document and share the process for other beginners, or for the amusement of onlookers as my klutzy tendencies regularly result in spontaneous bouts of hilarity.  Combine this with candles and the potential for setting things on fire guarantees perilously ludicrous results to report.

Wish me luck, say a blessing, send me protective charms.  Fingers crossed that I make it out of this without gashing myself with an athame, asphyxiating on toxic smudge stick fumes, or singeing my eyebrows off when rogue candles catch my clothes on fire.  Of course I could always practice naked, but cacti….ouch.

…and, just to complete the cliche, here’s the cat.  Snarky little tramp, but I guess she’ll do as a familiar.

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