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The Story of Imbolc
Imbolc Is The Season for Cleansing
13 Ways to Celebrate Imbolc
A Spell For Imbolc
Brighid Lore for Imbolc
Imbolc and Grain Dollies
Milk Magick
Solitary Imbolc Rite
Imbolc Ceremony
Lighting Fires At Imbolc
The Imbolc Love Necklace Spell
Crescent Cakes For Imbolc
Imbolc Purification Candle Oil Recipe
The Story of Imbolc At Imbolc the spark of light born at Yule becomes a flame to warm people and the land. Now we see the first signs of spring. The trees are in bud and some flowers (snowdrops for example) begin to blossom. The word 'Imbolc' means 'in the belly', whilst 'Oimelc' means 'ewe's milk'. Both refer to the fact that many ewes are pregnant at this time and in a mild year the first lambs will be born about now. Imbolc is the quickening of the year, the time when the Earth is made pregnant with the promise of summer fruitfulness and the harvest to come. At Imbolc the Goddess casts aside the robes of Wise One and returns as Maiden, dressed in white. In some groups a Maiden will be chosen and will wear a crown of lights and a white robe or cloak for the ritual. It is worth noting that up until relatively recently, the term 'maiden' was used to denote a female who had not yet given birth to child, so that even an obviously pregnant married woman could be a maiden and take this role in ritual. The God, who was reborn at Yule, is now seen as a young man, full of vigour, and his pursuit of the Maiden starts at this sabbath. Imbolc is the time when the last of Yule's festive evergreens are removed. In some places it is still traditional to hold on to the (undecorated) Christmas fir until Imbolc, when it is taken and burned on the Imbolc fires. These days few of us can afford to keep the tree in place, especially as our modern forced and treated trees find it hard to keep their needles until January, let alone a whole month later. However, there is a practical alternative. As part of your Imbolc celebrations, take all the Yule and Christmas cards you have been given and recycle them, either making them into gift tags for the following year or cutting out the pictures to give to a local playgroup. In ancient Rome this was a festival of Pan and the priests of Pan, called the Luperci, would run through the streets dressed in goatskin cloth whipping the people, especially women, to make them fertile for the coming year. In many parts of the British Isles you will find wells dedicated to Bride or to the Christian St Bridget. Originally these would have been associated with the Goddess. If you are lucky enough to live near one of these, or able to visit one, look for a nearby tree with scraps of fabric tied to its branches. This will be a 'wishing tree'. Many people, whether Witches, Pagans or otherwise, visit these places to make an offering to the Goddess in the hope of having a wish granted. Such offerings are usually a strip of cloth, but it is not unusual to see necklaces of plaited grasses, small posies of flowers and even a child's shoe tied to a wishing tree. If you do visit such a site and wish to leave an offering, try to make it something which will soon return to the earth - a small circlet of grass plaited whilst thinking about your wish, or a hair from your own head, offered as a form of sacrifice. Look in your local press for notices of well-dressing celebrations, as many of these still take place at this time of year. Imbolc Is The Season for Cleansing This Sabbat is a time of cleansing and newborn lambs, a good time for the Blessing of seeds. It is a festival of the Maiden in preparation for growth and renewal. Imbolc is a time to honor the Virgin Goddesses, along with the first signs of returning life in a frozen Winterland. In many places, the crocus flower is one of the first to show itself popping up through the snow, and so it is also a symbol of this Sabbat. Candlemas is a Festival of Light and is therefore celebrated by the use of many candles. Symbolically, many Pagans choose to represent Imbolc by the use of Candle Wheels, Grain Dollies, and Sun Wheels – these may be used in ritual or simply as decoration. Candle Wheels are generally round decorated “crowns" made of straw or some type of natural woven substance which is ringed with either eight or thirteen red, pink or white candles and decorated with colored ribbons. In many Imbolc rituals, it is traditional for the High Priestess or the Maiden to wear this “crown" during the ritual at some point. 13 Ways to Celebrate Imbolc Regardless of what religion we grew up with, most of us have favorite memories of things we did every year for specific holidays. These traditions were what made our celebrations special. So what do you do when the holidays you celebrate now aren’t the same ones you grew up with? How do you share the joys of Imbolc with your family? Imbolc (or Candlemas/Brigid/whatever you choose to call this celebration) falls on February 2nd and is a time to honor the quickening of the earth and the first manifestations of spring emerging from winter. This Sabbat is sacred to the goddess Brigid in particular, and is a wonderful time to acknowledge your own creativity, expand your knowledge, and practice the healing arts. Here are my suggestions to get you started developing your own family traditions! 1. Help your kids go through all their clothes, toys, and books to find the unwanted and outgrown items. Donate everything to a charity that will give the items to children who need them. 2. Collect canned goods from family and friends to give to a food bank. Yule isn’t the only time people are in need. 3. Go for a walk! Search for signs of spring. Take off your shoes and socks and squish your toes in the mud. 4.Open all the doors and windows and turn on every light in the house for a few minutes. Let the kids sweep all the old energies out the doors. 5. Lead the family on a parade around the outside of your home, banging on pots and pans or playing musical instruments to awaken the spirits of the land. 6. Make corn dollies and a cradle for them to sleep in. 7. Create a sun wheel out of stalks of grain and hang it on your front door. 8. Meditate as a family. Have everyone explore what it would feel like to be a seed deep in the earth, feeling the first stirrings of life. Lie on the floor and put out tendrils. Stretch and bloom. 9. Have your children hold some herb seeds in their hands. Talk to the seeds. Bless them with growth and happiness. Fill them with love. Plant an in-door herb garden. 10. Decorate candles with stickers, metallic markers, paint and anything else you can think of! Light your candles and give thanks to Brigid for her inspiration. 11. Help your kids make a special feast! Spicy foods and dairy dishes are traditional. Try Mexican or Indian cuisine. Top it off with poppy seed cake. Drink milk or spiced cider. 12. Set a fabulous dinner table with your candles, evergreen boughs spring flowers, dragons, sun symbols, or whatever says Imbolc to you. Use the good china. 13. Let your children make their beds in a special way to represent Brigid’s bed. Go camp style with sleeping bags or build a makeshift canopy! Have sweet dreams… A Spell For Imbolc You Will Need: 1 large piece of ice, an icicle, a snowball, or several ice cubes. 1 bowl 1 candle. Procedure: Take the ice into your dominant hand (your right if right handed, your left if left handed). Hold it over a bowl and think about winter and whatever it is that has been frozen in your own life. This represents the Crone, Lady of Winter, of the time when the land is still and resting. But as winter's thaw begins, so the Lady casts off her robes of stillness and becomes once more the Maiden. Full of movement, like the cool waters of spring, she flows once more to bring life and hope to all the land'. Now ask the Maiden to bring fire and warmth to your own life so that your energy will flow and your own spring will come. Imagine the frozen places in your life melting just as the ice in your hand is melting. Place the melting ice into the bowl, say a warm thank-you. Light a small candle and as you do, think about how your life will begin to grow and change. Once the ice has fully melted, keep the resulting water to put on your favourite plant, either indoors or in the garden. (Please wait until the water has reached a reasonable temperature before you do this.) Brighid Lore for Imbolc The goddess Brighid (also known as Brigit, Bride, Biddy and other names throughout Europe) is a goddess who is near and dear to my heart for many reasons. I like the fact that she is associated with both water (her wells in Kildare and other parts of Ireland) and fire (her fire pit in Kildare). I like the fact that she spans both the pagan and Christian worlds and some of her traditions are still celebrated today. Since the festival of Imbolc (also called Óimelc) is this weekend I thought I’d write a few thoughts for those who aren’t familiar with her (and perhaps renew an acquaintance for those who already were). Imbolc is the time of the year that the ewes lactated, and the successful timing of this event was approximate, so the exact date of Imbolc could vary from region to region and from year to year depending on the climate. Production of this milk supply was very important to both man and animal. From the milk comes butter and cheese. Newly calved cows were also put under Brighid’s protection. Here’s an old saying: Samhain Eve without food, Christmas night without bread, St. Brighid’s Eve without butter, That is a sorry complaint. Cormac mac Cuillenàin, who lived in the 9th century said, “Brighid i.e. a learned woman, daughter of the Dagda. That is Brighid of learning, i.e. a goddess who filid worshipped. For her protecting care was very great and very wonderful. So they call her a goddess of poets. Her sisters were Brighid woman of healing, and Brighid woman of smithcraft, daughters of the Dagda, from whose names among all the Irish a goddess used to be called Brighid" In this writing, Cormac mentions her triple aspect of three sisters, common among the Celts. I often call on one or more of her aspects of creativity, writing and healing, but she is much more than that. The Christian aspects of Brighid and the pagan aspects often overlap, so it’s difficult to figure out which stories have pre-Christian beginnings. I think there is a seed of paganism in many of the later stories associated with her. We’ll never know for sure, but in my own private practice I take many of her current customs and use them for my own worship of her – and I don’t worry about the pre-Christian aspect of the story or not. Your mileage may vary, of course. On the eve of Imbolc, a piece of linen, other cloth or ribbons is placed outside (some folks put them on their window sill). This piece of cloth is called Brighid’s Brat or Brighid’s Mantle. It is said that Brighid travels all over the land on Imbolc eve and if she sees this cloth, she will bless it and give it healing powers. Some folks in Ireland say that the older your brat is, the more powerful it is. Mugwort Grove (the grove to which I belong) destroys ours from year to year. We put out a whole piece of linen and tear it into strips for members of the Grove during our Imbolc ritual. People take the strips home to use for healing and some are kept on personal altars throughout the year. Other folklore says that if the mantle gets bigger overnight, you will be especially blessed. It’s a nice tradition, especially if you have a lot of illness to overcome for the following year, and a brat is nice to have for healing rituals later in the year. Brighid’s fiery aspect makes her the perfect goddess of the hearth – in fact, my hearth at home is dedicated to Brighid. There are many hearth prayers dedicated to Brighid, especially concerning smooring. Ashes and embers were often deposited in the fields. Also, indoor activity associated with Imbolc often took place near the hearth, and if there was a feast, an extra place was set for Brighid. It is also considered bad luck to do any type of spinning on Brighid’s Day. There is also the custom of Brighid’s Bed. A small bed is made near the hearth and a doll (called a Brídeog), often made from a sheaf of corn and made into the likeness of a woman and is sometimes placed in the bed. In Ireland the doll was often made from a churn dash decorated in clothing (associations t milk again). Sometimes the doll was carried around town to visit houses in the neighborhood. Songs, music and dances are performed – then prayers are said to St. Brighid for blessings upon the house (this is similar to wassailing in other countries around Christmas). Then the family is asked to contribute a donation – which used to be bread and butter (there’s that dairy again!) but now it’s often money (sometimes given to charity). There is much, much more about Brighid I could share, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. A bit of trivia – Brighid is so loved by the Irish people that in 1942 a survey was taken on “The Feast of St. Brighid". The replies about the customs run to 2,435 manuscript pages. A great book, if you can find it, is The Festival of Brighid Celtic Goddess and Holy Woman by Séamas Ó Catháin. There are many really cool stories and legends about her. Last but not least one of the other interesting aspects of Brighid is a prayer attributed to her from the 11th century which goes like this. Say: I would like a great lake of ale, for the King of the Kings I would like the angels of Heaven to be among us. I would like an abundance of peace. I would like full vessels of charity. I would like rich treasures of mercy. I would like cheerfulness to preside over all. I would like Jesus to be present. I would like the three Marys of illustrious renown to be with us. I would like the friends of Heaven to be gathered around us from all parts. I would like myself to be a rent payer to the Lord; that I should suffer distress, that he would bestow a good blessing upon me. I would like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings. I would like to be watching Heaven’s family drinking it through all eternity. Drink up! Imbolc and Grain Dollies Grain Dollies can be made many different ways, and need not take on human shape unless you desire. They are made of wheat or sheaves of other grains such as straw, corn or barley. The sheaves are formed into some semblance of a “dolly" by folding, tucking and tying here and there. They can then be “dressed" in white cotton or satin and lace to represent the bride. You may even choose to create a “bed" (from a basket usually) for your grain dolly, commonly called a “Bride’s Bed". There are many Pagan books available on how to create Candle Wheels, Grain Dollies, and Sun Wheels. Imbolc is also represented by burrowing animals, and the bride. Some other altar decorations may include a besom (Witch’s broom) to symbolize the sweeping out of the old, a sprig of evergreen, or a small Goddess statue representing Her in the Maiden aspect. Imbolc Ritual You Will Need: 1 white candle 1 Imbolc candle purification oil 1 representation of the season such as a cut out of a snowflake, or if you have it, real snow. Procedure: Place these items on the table that you plan to use as the altar. With a sharp object, scratch you’re your wishes for the new season into the candle wax. Anoint the candle with three drops of the oil by massaging them into the writing on the candle and recite these words. Say: This is the time of the feast of torches, when every lamp blazes and shines to welcome the rebirth of the God. I celebrate the Goddess, I celebrate the God; all Earth celebrates Beneath its mantle of sleep. Light the candle and recite these words. Say: All the land is wrapped in winter. The air is chilled and frost envelops the Earth. But Lord of the Sun, Horned One of animals and wild places, unseen you have been reborn of the gracious Mother Goddess, Lady of all fertility. Hail Great God! Hail and welcome! Stand before the altar, holding aloft the candle. Gaze at its flame. Visualize your life blossoming with creativity, with renewed energy and strength. Your ritual is now complete. Celebrate with a simple feast with friends and family. Milk Magick Imbolc is the festival of the lactating sheep. It is derived from the Gaelic word "oimelc" which means "ewes milk". It's a great time for crafting spells using milk. Here we have a short list of the magical uses for milk: Cow's milk is one of the best magickal ingredients for spells to summon nurturing, prosperity, and protection. Goat's milk brings power and success. Use soy milk for job success. Coconut milk is great for protection and spiritual cleansing. You can bathe in all types of milk for ritual purposes. The best time for milk baths is on Mondays or new or full moons. Solitary Imbolc Rite A symbol of the season, such as a representation of a snow flake, a white flower, or perhaps some snow in a crystal container can be placed on the altar. An orange candle anointed with musk, cinnamon, frankincense or rosemary oil, unlit, should also be there. Snow can be melted and used for the water during the circle casting. Arrange the altar, light the candles and censer, and cast the Circle of Stones. Recite the Blessing Chant. Invoke the Goddess and God. Say: This is the time of the feast of torches, when every lamp blazes and shines to welcome the rebirth of the God. I celebrate the Goddess, I celebrate the God; all Earth celebrates Beneath its mantle of sleep. Light the orange taper from the red candle on the altar (or at the Southern point of the circle). Slowly walk the circle clockwise, bearing the candle before you. Say: All the land is wrapped in winter. The air is chilled and frost envelopes the Earth. But Lord of the Sun, Horned One of animals and wild places, unseen you have been reborn of the gracious Mother Goddess, Lady of all fertility. Hail Great God! Hail and welcome! Stop before the altar, holding aloft the candle. Gaze at its flame. Visualize your life blossoming with creativity, with renewed energy and strength. If you need to look into the future or past, now is an ideal time. Works of magic, if necessary, may follow. Celebrate the Simple Feast. The circle is released. Imbolc Ceremony ~ by Ara Purpose: To celebrate Imbolc (Princess Bridget's Day) by purifying you and your space. You Will Need: salt (as much as you can get easily) dried sage spice (optional) 4 black or white candles (optional) fire proof dish or something safe to burn sage in Preparation: This is a great time to cleanse any tools or stones that you use on a regular basis. Place the items that you would like to cleanse and anything you care to offer the gods on your altar (optional). Place quarter candles in the North, South, East and West of your space (optional). Place the bowl with sage in front of you (optional). Procedure: Relax! No matter how you have to do it. You know what works for you. Try not to take anything that is mind altering. You want a clear mind from your own energy. Opening Circle: Say: I open my circle to Princess Bridget. May she bring cleansing to my heart, mind, body, soul and spirit. I thank Princess Bridget for all the fae folk far and near. You are a deity that I hold dear. You are the light at the end of a long day. Come what will. Come what may. To Bridget, goddess of the fairy. Thank you and Namaste. Quarter Call: Light the North candle (optional). Face North. Say: Spirits of the North, please help cleanse the Earth. Light the east candle (optional). Face East. Say: Spirits of the East, please bring clean air to the beast. Light the South candle (optional). Face South. Say: Spirits of the South, please cleanse with fire the word of mouth. Light the West candle (optional). Face West. Say: Spirits of the West, please cleanse the water so we are blessed. Center and be seated. Say: All the entities on earth that watch over me, Please rid this space of negativity. I want my home to be safe from harm. Please keep me in your arms. Cleanse me and my space. So I can show my face. Light the sage (optional). Say 3 times: One, two, three I thank the powers at be. Four, five, six accept this sage mix. Seven eight, nine, ten keep me cleansed again and again. Thank to every entity! So mote it be. Now you need to call in good entities to fill the void. If you do not the void might be filled with the evil that you just got rid of. Say: I light this candle with all my respect. Cleansing is what I expect. Bridget makes heaven a place on earth. It marks the day of cleansing and birth. Cleanse this space from all evil entities here. Make my vessle full of love, hope and cheer. Today we celebrate Princess Bridget. So we get fairy lights every day. This sage is lit with all my heart and soul to cleanse me and to make me whole. Celebrate with me. So mote it be! To get a get a good seal on your newly cleansed space you will need salt. Put it in the doorways that you use for example the front door of your house or your bedroom door. Put salt on your altar. While you are spreading the salt... Say: Please make this space safe from evil things, all that walks and those with wings. Save this space that I create from now and any future date. Let all evil inside be freed. So mote it be. Blessed be! Say this repeatedly until you feel safe again. Let the candles and sage burn out or snuff them out. DON'T BLOW OUT THE CANDLES or SAGE!!! Lighting Fires At Imbolc If you have been living in the Northwest for long, you must be used to frigid aluminum-gray skies glistening with cold soggy drizzle. Barren tree branches scratch the side of the house as if the chill will come in, past the walls, past your skin into your very bones — and it shouldn’t scare you anymore. Clouds obscure the pale, faint sun till you can’t remember the feeling of it fiery hot on your shoulders. Darkness falls for so many months on end that every so often you must turn every light in the house on just to have some brightness in your world. Wild windstorms knock out the power for hours and days at a time, so you have to use candles for light and heat with the fireplace. It is the time of year that, for me, best reminds me of how things were, way back when. It is the time of year that I can best appreciate the contrast between cold darkness and warm light. I am ready for change! I am ready for the return of the light to my world! Seattle winters are dreary, and by the time we get to Imbolc, we are all more than ready for a little lightheartedness and to leave the darkness behind, at least for a few hours. We are ready for purification from the heaviness of the long winter months, and we are ready to celebrate, if not the warming of the land, at least the hope that the heat will soon return and we will yet again bask in the sunshine. There are many traditional ways to celebrate Imbolc or Bride. These include decorating natural springs and sacred wells, leaving wishes tied on the branches of trees and making corn dollies in honor of the Celtic goddess Brigid (another name for Bride). Making Celtic crosses or Bride’s crosses from wheat straw and braided cornhusks and making and charging (or blessing) candles are other traditional tasks for this time of year. The holiday is also known as Candlemas, this name taken when the Christian church adapted the pagan holiday and made it a candle blessing and the feast of Saint Brigid. In this culture, most of us were raised to go outside on this day and look for our shadow. If we saw it, there would be six more weeks of winter, as this is a weather marker day — also known as Groundhog’s Day. One of my sisters had the audacity to be born on Imbolc, and she’s seemingly been running from her shadow every since! You can find more about Imbolc traditions in a multitude of published books. Following, I will tell you about some of my favorite ways to celebrate, purify and get in touch with the energy of fire, water and the earth and that of the Goddess at this time of year. Creating Beeswax Candles One of the things we almost always do in our coven is make candles. We save the glass containers from seven-day candles and at Imbolc wash and reuse them to make our own magickal candles. On this day, I also like to create rolled beeswax candles with herbs, oils and stones and infuse them with a specific purpose, for my own personal use all year long. Making candles is easier than you might think. We ran an article on making your own seven-day candles last year. This year, I’ll talk a bit about the beeswax type, since you can make one, a few or a bunch with little muss and fuss. First, you’ll want to visit some place that sells candle-making supplies, I personally like Pourette, located in Ballard, that bastion of pagan life. Pourette has been in business for a long time, and the employees there can tell you most anything you want to know about how to make candles and what you will need for a particular kind of effect. Not the magickal effects, unfortunately, but then that’s your department, right? First, decide what magickal intentions you want to make the candles for — you can have more than one, just concentrate on one at a time. Choose colors accordingly and get a few sheets of the colors of beeswax that you want to work with. For example, if you want to work for money and prosperity, you might choose green. For healing, you might want blue. Psychic work and divination would be white or purple; for love and sex, you might choose red or pink. Look up color correspondences in the back of some of your books; Scott Cunningham has some good correspondence tables for herbs, flowers, stones and oils as well as colors and astrological influences. Don’t forget that your own associations are also important. If gold means money to you, then use that. You’ll want some kind of cotton wicking as well. You can also include in your candles runes, little bits of paper or parchment with the purpose written on them rolled up in the candle, symbolic charms or figures representing what you want and bits of paper money (corners work well) or stones. The more thought and effort you put into creating your candles, the better results you will have. Gather all of your ingredients together, planning to make one type of candle at a time. You’ll want a clean, soft surface to work on so as not to crush the beeswax pattern; for this, you can put down an old towel or T-shirt as padding. Also, you should decide at this point how large a candle you want to end up with. I usually cut the sheet of wax into two pieces, so I have two sheets about 4 inches high each. Otherwise, you end up with a fairly tall candle. With herbs, oils and magick inside, they tend to burn very hot. An 8-inch candle can burn up rather quickly. When you begin, you will want the room to be reasonably warm, so that the wax stays pliable and does not crack when you roll it. I commonly put down the beeswax, then cut a piece of wick the desired length, about an inch or so longer than the wax is tall. Then I get out a bit of everything I want to put into the candle. I use eyedroppers for essential oils and rub a small quantity of oil on what will be the inside of the candle after the wax is rolled around the wick (the part of the wax that’s facing up). Next, I sprinkle a small amount of each flower or herb I am using onto the wax, so they are evenly distributed from top to bottom. I generally try to keep things simple and only use one or two kinds of herbs in any given candle. Then I include the other things: stones, symbols, paper, and so on that have meaning for me. Next, I slowly and carefully roll the candle tightly around the wick. It helps to fold the wax over the wick a little bit prior to adding the ingredients. Being careful to keep the wax level so I don’t disturb the ingredients’ distribution, I keep rolling until the whole candle is rolled around itself. During this process, I think about the desired results of my magickal candle, as if they have already manifest. I keep the purpose in mind during the whole process and put as much positive energy into it as possible. When you finish rolling, you’ll want to gently heat the edge of the wax (a hairdryer works well for this) so that you can press the wax into itself and seal the candle, being careful not to crush it in the practice. This process gets easier the more you do it. Don’t be discouraged if your first efforts are a tad messy. You’ll get the hang of it! When you have finished all of the candles you wish to create at this time, you’ll want to bless and charge them with energy. To do so, cast your circle and do a ritual imbuing them with your purpose. Then you can burn them in your spell work for the rest of the year. Make sure when you burn these candles that you attend them closely, keeping in mind that they should be on a nonflammable surface and being cautious that there is nothing in the vicinity that can catch on fire. When candles have flower petals, herbs, oils and paper inside them and are magickally charged, they tend to burn like an inferno. Your candle may be burning nicely and then all of a sudden flare up and be consumed in a matter of seconds. So guard them closely! Making Bride’s Water Another thing I like to do at Imbolc or Bride is to make Bride’s water, water holy to Brigid. We usually do this during a ritual where we invoke Brigid and raise energy for the many things that she represents to us. She is the patron goddess of wells, fire, the forge, music, storytelling, poetry, arts and crafts and much more. She is central to my artistic inspiration, and so I honor her at this time of year by purifying myself with her holy water and with fire (more on that later). To makes Brigid’s water, we place a huge cauldron in the center of the altar, filled with alcohol and Epsom salts; when lit, it emits a beautiful blue flame. We have ready purified and blessed water in a large container, several pieces of charcoal, some long barbecue tongs and enough small containers with corks that we can each take some Brigid’s water home. Once we cast the circle and invoke the goddess, we raise energy for Her by chanting, dancing or whatever we have determined. During the energy raising, the charcoal (self-lighting incense charcoal, not barbecue charcoal!) is lit from the fire in the cauldron, and it is allowed to burn for a few minutes until it is glowing red. At the apex of the energy raising, we chant, “Bride, Bride, Bride, purify me… Bride transform me!" Then when we all stop, the charcoal is thrust into the water with a great amount of sizzling, smoke and steam. We then file past the fire and water and are anointed and blessed with the Brigid’s water for purification and inspiration. Each covener takes some home to use much as one would any holy water, to bless and purify house, tools, self family, and so on. Purifying with Fire My very favorite form of purification is that of fire. It is odd to think that I — a Pisces with Cancer rising, very watery signs — would enjoy fire so much, but I do have a lot of Aries in my chart, as well as Moon in Leo. A veteran firewalker since 1984, I have a good and close personal relationship with the powerful fire elementals. They are a means to profound transformation, bringing change wherever they occur, whether we like it or not! I have been working with fire for so long that it takes me by surprise when people are irrationally afraid of it. Don’t get me wrong, I have a healthy fear and respect for what fire can do if I am not careful! I have seen people badly burned, and when I lead my coven in firewalking rituals, I admonish them to be very, very afraid. But I add that if you allow fear to stop you in life, you’ll never do anything worthwhile. Don’t be careless with fire, though, or it will most definitely teach you the hard way! With this in mind, I offer my version of purification by fire. You can do this as the first part of the former ritual or all on its own; it is very powerful all by itself! If you want to do a combination, do the water ritual second, as a blessing after purification by fire. For the fire purification, you’ll need a cauldron full of 90 percent rubbing alcohol and Epsom salts, which you will light. You can also use 151-proof rum for the alcohol content. Use alcohol and salts about 50/50 by volume; the alcohol should just cover the salts. Be sure to take safety precautions, such as having a number of wet towels and a fire extinguisher available within reach. Move all furniture out of the way and pull back the drapes, or just do the ritual outside, away from anything flammable if you can. Take off any loose clothing that could catch and tie up your hair if it’s long. It helps if the participants are skyclad, or at least topless, as it is easy to accidentally catch clothing and extremely difficult to put it out! Then get ready for an intense encounter with fire. Depending on whether you want to in fact light people on fire (very temporarily, and safely) or just allow them to experience the energy of fire, you’ll need one or two torches — one torch if you’re not lighting people, two if you are. If you are not lighting people, you can pass the lit torch slowly over various parts of the body so that the fire just touches the skin. It is instinct to pull away, and it sometimes takes a few moments for people to allow the fire to interact with them. That’s okay. Take time and go slowly, and you will have better results. If you do want to actually light people on fire, you’ll need a couple small torches. You can make these by wrapping cotton batting around a wooden rod that’s about 10 to 12 inches long and small enough around to be comfortable in your hand (see drawing below). Wrap the cotton around the rod five or six times, then follow that with a complete wrapping of plain gauze. Wrap the gauze around the cotton six to ten times until you have covered it all, and you have a good torch. Finish the torch by tying it with cotton thread wound around the handle at the top and bottom and around the middle several times, so the thread goes from the bottom up, around and ends up back at the bottom. The thread winding ensures the torch stays together. To light people on fire, you’ll need 70 percent rubbing alcohol. Do not use a higher concentrate than this, or you’ll really burn people! Put the alcohol in a small spray bottle with a mist capability. Before working with a whole coven, it’s not a bad idea for you and a friend or two to try this out yourselves first, just to get familiar with how it works, timing, the feeling it has on different body parts and so on. During the ritual, you’ll want to have a person or two who do nothing but “spot" people and be ready to put them out if necessary. You put the fire on skin out by using a petting action from the top down, smoothing out the fire. Don’t allow any body part to burn for more than about 5 to 10 seconds, or it may scorch the skin, and you’ll end up with a sunburnlike burn. Be sure and go over the safety procedures before anything is lit! If anything gets out of hand, use the wet towels on people, the fire extinguisher on objects. When you are ready, the cauldron is lit and the chanting or music begins. Whoever does the lighting holds two torches, one to spray with alcohol and apply to people’s skin, one to remain lit. To light the ongoing torch, spray it generously with alcohol, being very careful not to drip or get any alcohol on anything else. Then, light the torch from the fire in the cauldron. Next, spray the second torch with two or three mists of alcohol. You’ll then use this torch to apply alcohol to the body part to light. The safest body part to light is the hands. Have participants hold these out, palms up very flat and together. When you apply alcohol, make sure not get ritualists’ hands too wet or to let alcohol pool on their hands. After you have applied alcohol, light it with the lit torch, saying something like: “Be transformed!" Let the flame burn for a moment or two and then have the ritualists clap or rub their hands together to put it out. Don’t let them shake their hands in the air while lit; that just makes the fire burn hotter. The fire will go out of its own accord fairly quickly as the alcohol burns away, but it is more empowering for people to feel able to control it and put it out on their own. The first inclination will be for them to want to put it out right away, as soon as it’s lit. Let them try it a few times, and as they learn that it won’t hurt them, they will be more inclined to allow it to flicker for a few seconds. Suggest that they put their hands on a body part that they want purified by the fire energy, such as over their heart, but only after the fire on their hands is completely out! We have done this ritual many times with only minor incidents. One year, when we were doing symbols on people’s backs, one man who had said he only wanted to light his hands changed his mind and wanted us to light a symbol on his back. He had longish hair that wasn’t tied up, and though we had him bend over, he stood up before the fire was out and his hair caught slightly and was singed a bit. It wasn’t a disaster, but it was scary enough that I want to reiterate the precautions. If you intend to light anything, including hands, be very careful and do a practice session out of ritual space first. We use this very powerful energy to transform ourselves, our projects and our lives — coming out from darkness and lighting up our purposes. This ritual has a tendency to be very intense, so keep in mind that people can get carried away by the energy and forget the safety precautions! Make sure to be responsible with the fire and always err on the side of caution. Afterward, breathe and ground well and share your experiences of the fire energy with one another. It’s amazing the different perceptions people will have. Whether you choose to enjoy one or more of these suggestions or something else entirely, have a great Imbolc and a wonderful year! The Imbolc Love Necklace Spell Say: Ancient mystery, magic night Cut pink rosebuds by fireside bright. Thread of white, a needle sharp Candle red to stay the dark. Place all upon the altar stone Consecrate from witches bones. Cast a circle from outstretched hand Call the quarters, make it grand. Elements are good, and angels too Universal love can be their cue. Banish winter, out, out, out Raise your staff, turn thrice about. Throw Yule greens in the fire, Dance to bring in Spring's desire. Dress the dolly, corn she be The harvest bride from last year's seed. String the rose buds, one by one Circle and tie when you are done. Empower it now, hold it high Ask the Gods to bring love nigh. Raise your energy, bright and strong Hum a tune of loving song. Release your power, quickly please Ground and center, feel at ease. Dismiss your quarters, circle down Open the space with a rapping sound. In the morning, when the sun doth rise Place the dolly under new day skies. Leave her there, without the gown To summon prosperity all year round. When Autumn chill doth kiss your cheek Return the doll to the ground or creek. Save the necklace, keep it close Give it to whom you love the most. Kiss them once upon the lips Tell them it's an Imbolc gift. Crescent Cakes For Imbolc Baking is appropriate for celebrating Imbolc, and we often make Crescent cakes for the end of our Imbolc ritual. Here is our circle’s favorite recipe: This recipe yields 20 to 25 crescents. You Will Need: 1 1/4 cups Flour 3/4 cup Sugar 1 cup Finely Ground Almonds 3 drops Almond Extract 1/2 cup Butter or Margarine, softened 1 tablespoon Honey 1 Egg Yolk Procedure: In a large mixing bowl, combine the first four ingredients. Add the butter, honey and egg yolk and mix together well. Cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap, and then chill for 1 1/2 to 2 hours in the refrigerator. When ready, pinch off pieces of the dough (about the size of plums) and shape them into crescents. Place the crescents on a well-greased cookie sheet and bake in a 325-degree preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes. Imbolc Purification Candle Oil Recipe You Will Need: 1/8 cup olive oil 3 drops juniper oil 2 drops eucalyptus oil 1 drop pine oil Mix all ingredients together in a glass jar and use to anoint candles. Store any remaining oil in refrigerator. Click for the Site Index