Planting Seeds at Imbolc
By C. Cheek
When I was a student at UW, I walked to class every day from my apartment. Along the way, I’d pass some less-than-beautiful sights; empty lots, alleys, easements, and the crud that gathers near gutters in parking lots. Not to worry, I assured myself, come spring, flowers would grow, filling these ugly spots with bursts of color. But then April came, and May, and June, and the route I walked to school stayed barren. Nature provided the sun, soil and rain, but no one had planted seeds.
Sometimes life just hands us what we need. Sometimes all we have to do is wait. And sometimes we have to do a little helping on our own. An envelope sits in my coat pocket. Inside this envelope are seeds mixed with sand to make them spread farther. Some of the seeds I purchased at stores, some I gathered last summer. Now, whenever I pass a patch of dirt, I’ll sow some of those seeds, and with them, I’ll sow a little hope. Hope is the time between planting a seed and seeing it bloom, or die. Hope is when you hear the phone ring and don’t know yet if it’s your best friend. Hope is the moment between buying a lottery ticket and scratching off that final square. When I was child, my mother often told me that wanting was better than having. It took me many years to find out what she meant. Even if your seeds don’t sprout, even if it’s a telemarketer on the other end of the line, and even if you don’t win the lottery, for a brief moment, possibility shines.
Getting in touch with Imbolc means gathering a kernel of hope. For me, as a writer, this means sending out my manuscripts. I call it “applying for rejection letters.” I read the editor’s requirements, check over my story for loose commas, type up a query letter, double check the spelling of the editor’s name, put the pages in an envelope with an extra SASE, and wait. Query letters have a germination period of about three months. At the end of three months, I’ll usually get a tiny slip of paper, not much bigger than a cookie’s fortune, which reads “Thank you for your submission, but it does not suit our current needs.” These little slips of paper cut me, they wound me, they callously toss aside what I’ve spent months writing. So, I find another name, and send it out again. Why? Why do I keep sending the stories out again and again? Because for three months, I can imagine how great it will feel to get an acceptance letter. In my fantasies, an acceptance letter turns into a three-book contract. My daydreams take root, and soon I’m the next J. K. Rowling, with legions of adoring fans, and respect of fellow authors, and book tours in Europe and then… and then…
And then, most likely, I’ll get a slip of paper, or maybe even a letter written just for me, telling me “No thank you.” But for those three months, the daydreams flourish, as sweet as the bite of chocolate you imagine just before tearing off the foil and wrapper, when the bar of candy lies unopened, waiting in your hand. Hope is rich soil, seeded with maybes.Providencewill decide if I happen to write the right letter to the right editor, and if she’s in the mood to read my work. Nature decides if the wildflower seeds I scratched into the mud will grow into seedlings. Even if my efforts don’t bear fruit, I’m guaranteed a period of hope, while waiting to see what happens as the months pass.
The other gardening chore for early spring is pruning. Trees don’t have many ways of communication, but they “know” that sharp loppers shearing off branches early in the year means that it’s time to send out buds and shoots. Roses too, lie dormant in the winter and need the snip-snip of a gardener to wake them up. “Wake up,” I tell them, as I trim off last year’s growth. Inside the house, I peer out the window at the bare canes and think of the months of fragrant blooms lying under that frost-touched bark. When the weather warms, they’ll send out furled leaves, reddish then green, and buds will soon follow. As an inexperienced gardener, I didn’t trim the roses. It felt wrong, cruel somehow to cut back a perfectly healthy plant. The roses still bloomed, still grew, but the leaves didn’t get as large, and the flowers weren’t as numerous. I’ve learned my lesson now. My shears are sharp and ready.
Sometimes nature takes its course without our help, and sometimes it needs our assistance. Friendships are like that too. When I was at the store, I purchased a handful of postcards. Who buys these things, except tourists? Who sends postcards, except people who want to brag about how far they’ve gone on vacation? Well, I do. I got out my old address book and started writing down names of friends I hadn’t talked to in a while. It seems so hard to call people out of the blue. I’m always afraid of what they’ll think. She’ll think I need to borrow money, he’ll think I just broke up and am trying to flirt, my cousin will think I want a favor. So I write instead. No one, it seems, minds a postcard.
I’ve learned that I don’t have to write much. “Thinking of you,” seems to cover it. Or maybe, “I saw this postcard with a beagle on it, and remembered your old dog Spot. How are you and Spot doing?” People don’t often write back. Sometimes you have to send them four or five cards before they write you, sometimes they don’t write back at all. Sometimes they’ve moved, and don’t get the postcard. And sometimes, sometimes they’ve missed you too, and wondered why you’ve drifted apart. Sometimes they get out their address book, and pick up the phone, and call to ask you out to coffee. A rectangle of cardstock and a twenty-three cent stamp, and you automatically get a week of hope that you’re about to rekindle an old friendship. And even if that old co-worker doesn’t remember you, or if he’s moved and the postcard arrives at the house of a stranger, you’ve probably brightened someone’s day. That’s worth fifty cents.
Every day we pass people whose names we never learn. That pierced, pink-haired barista that you buy your latte from might have gone to your high school. That old woman who sits on the same spot in the bus might have important lessons to teach you about life. Your study-partner in that night class might be looking for someone to share his theater tickets with. Sure, they’re just strangers, people we don’t know, and don’t need to know. On the other hand, if you see the same person every day, or every week, how do you know that person isn’t meant to be in your life? It’s hard to be outgoing, hard to strike up conversations without an introduction or the comforting venue of a cocktail party. Seeds don’t need much to grow, a bit of warmth, a bit of rain, and nature takes its course. The wind changes, and flocks of birds know it’s time to return home. Maybe all it takes to turn “that girl from the coffee shop” into “Tina, who plays tennis with me on Mondays” is an extra smile, an extra nod, an extra moment of attention. We are each other’s sun, we are each other’s rain. We have the power to turn the barren soil of strangerhood into a small connection between fellow human beings. You don’t have to do it all, in fact, you can’t make a relationship develop by force any more than you can make a turnip grow faster by tugging at its root, but you do have to make an effort. Plant a small seed of possibility.
I’ve got a small stack of postcards on my desk, each one addressed and stamped and ready for the mailman. It took an hour, and half a booklet of stamps. I wrote just a sentence, or just a smiley face and my name. I’m already imagining how fun it would be to throw a party and invite people I haven’t seen for years. On my kitchen windowsill, tomato seeds wait in their peat pots. In my mind the tomatoes (which haven’t yet sprouted) taste like sunlight, miles better than any of the icy slices the guy at the deli puts on my sandwich. At lunch, I smile at the deli guy anyway, and comment on his funny button, and call him “Eddie,” from his nametag. He recognizes me when I come in now, and even though he calls me “No Peppers, Right?” it’s a start. A lottery ticket, unscratched, is stuck to my fridge with a magnet. It could win me ten thousand dollars–or maybe not. It’s fun to wonder, and hope. I’ve got my novel in the hands of an editor too. As February turns into March, and March turns into April, she’ll work her way down the stack to mine. She’ll read it, and she’ll send me a yes, or a no. I’m in no rush to get my SASE back with the answer. For now, I’ll just savor the possibility of what might happen. Few things in this world taste as sweet as hope.
13 Ways to Celebrate Imbolc
by Heather Evenstar Osterman
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!
- 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.
- Collect canned goods from family and friends to give to a food bank. Yule isn’t the only time people are in need.
- Go for a walk! Search for signs of spring. Take off your shoes and socks and squish your toes in the mud.
- 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.
- 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.
- Make corn dollies and a cradle for them to sleep in.
- Create a sun wheel out of stalks of grain and hang it on your front door.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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…
Heather Osterman is the Family Services Coordinator for the Aquarian Tabernacle Church.
Light a Candle, Cast a Spell
by Melanie Fire Salamander
In Northern European societies, Imbolc or Candlemas traditionally fell at a time when, with the end of winter in sight, families used the animal fat saved over the cold season to make candles. I don’t butcher stock, and I’m not planning to render meat fat to make candles, but I like connecting with the past through candle-making. And though the days are longer now than at solstice, they’re still short enough that a few candles help.
To further your magickal purposes, you can make a spell candle for Imbolc — a candle into which you imbue a particular magickal purpose. Once you’ve made and charged your spell candle, you burn it over time to further your intention. I find spell candles particularly good for goals that require a period of continued energy to manifest, for example a new job, and for things I desire recurrently, for example peace and harmony for myself and the people around me.
Also, Imbolc is traditionally a time of initiations, of divination and of all things sacred to the goddess Bride, including smithcraft, poetry and healing. To align with the season, consider making spell candles dedicated to these ends.
You can make two kinds of candle, dipped and molded. For spell candles, I’d recommend molded candles, so you can include herbs and other ingredients that wouldn’t mix evenly with dipping wax.
Things you need
- Cylindrical glass container or containers
- Paraffin-based candle wax
- Double boiler or other large pot in which to melt the wax
- Scissors to cut the wick
- Popsicle sticks (tongue depressors), one per candle
- Metal tab to anchor the bottom of each wick (a heavy paper clip will do)
- Crayons, old candles or candle coloring for color, if desired
- Small objects appropriate to your spell
- Herbs appropriate to your spell
- Scent appropriate to your spell
For your molding container, the best thing is the used glass from a seven-day candle. You can find seven-day candles all over, including at Larry’s Market. The Edge of the Circle Books has them, or check your local pagan store.
You can also use glass tumblers, jelly jars and the like. The larger the container, the bigger the possible candle and the longer it will burn. Seven-day candle containers have the advantage of having a good candle shape, so that the flame easily melts the wax at the sides of the glass. To accomplish your purpose, ideally you’ll burn the entire candle, leaving no stub, which is easiest to do in a container shaped like a seven-day candle’s. Make sure also that the glass of your container is fairly thick.
If you do use a seven-day candle, you’ll need to clean out any remaining wax. To do so, heat the glass in a pot of water to melt the wax. Be sure to heat the glass with the water, rather than introducing cold glass into boiling water, which might break the glass. You’ll need a bottle brush, detergent and some concentration, but it is possible to clean these containers.
Candle wax can be found at candle-supply stores and craft stores. It comes in blocks of two pounds each; the smallest amount you can buy is more than enough for several candles. For wick, again you’ll need a candle-supply or craft store. Lead-based wick, which has a thin thread of metal covered with cotton, is easiest to work with, but you can also use pure cotton wick. The popsicle stick, a craft store or drugstore item, is used to anchor the wick at the top of the candle.
If you do use a seven-day candle container, and the tin tab at the bottom hasn’t disappeared, save it. Such a tab anchors the wick to the bottom of the glass, making sure the wick lasts the length of the candle. If you haven’t saved the tab, you can use a heavy paperclip or buy the real thing at a candle-supply or craft store.
The remaining ingredients depend on the intention of your spell and should have associations appropriate to that intention. None of these ingredients is required — you can make a spell candle by simply making and charging it, or by charging an ordinary candle. However, as with any charm, the more energy you put into in its creation and enchantment, the stronger the spell. I give some ideas for ingredients following; for a full list of associations, check your favorite table of magickal correspondences, or see The Spiral Dance, by Starhawk; Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, by Scott Cunningham; or Aleister Crowley’s 777.
The easiest way to color candles is to melt crayons or old candles with your wax. To get a strong color, use more colored wax. Don’t mix colors, or you’ll end up with a muddy brown. You can also purchase candle coloring at a candle-supply or craft store. For color symbolism, check tables of correspondences; as always, your personal associations and preferences are the strongest and most resonant. Some common associations follow:
- Red: Lust, passion, health, animal vitality, courage, strength
- Pink: Love, affection, friendship, kindness
- Orange: Sexual energy, earth energy, adaptability, stimulation
- Brown: Earth energy, animals
- Yellow: Intellect, mental energy, concentration
- Green: Finances, money, prosperity, fertility, growth
- Blue: Calm, healing, patience, peace, clairvoyance
- Purple: Spirituality, the fey, meditation, divination
- Black: Waning moon, release, banishing, absorbing and destroying negativity, healing
- White: Waxing or full moon, pro-tection, purification, peace, awareness; good for most workings
Probably the most common small object to add to a spell candle is a written expression of intention. Candle makers often add semiprecious stones; you can add a stone appropriate to your intention, for example sacred to a deity who rules that area of life, or personally connected to you, say a birthstone. Depending on your spell, other small objects might suit. If you’re doing a spell to invoke the peace of the ocean on a still day, you could include sand or seashells. A candle to draw love might include small cut-out hearts, one to draw money pieces of dollar bill. Note that any added objects should ideally be flammable, or if not flammable small enough not to prevent your candle from burning.
You can use herbs suitable for incense to further your spell. Use herbs you can safely burn indoors. Herbs may make a candle smoke and can combine with the wick to create a large flame, so use them sparingly. Also, herbs tend to clump at the top and bottom of the candle, often producing a stub at the end that’s hard to burn. However, herbs are easy burnable ingredients to add in line with your intention, and if you choose the right herbs they’ll smell good. For lists of herbs, try any incense-making book, such as Scott Cunningham’s The Complete Book of Incense, Oils and Brews or Wylundt’s Book of Incense. To make sure your herbs smell sweet, burn a pinch first.
Both the preceding books also discuss scents, which you can incorporate also. For a strongly scented candle, you’ll need to add perfume. It’s best to use candle scent, found at candle-supply and craft shops, or synthetic perfume oil. Essential oils are volatile and break down in the wax, leaving your candle with no scent at all.
The candle making processAs with any spell, start by considering what you want and what symbols represent your goal. Likewise, as always, don’t try to compel someone who hasn’t consented. Remember that what you do returns to you threefold.
Start by collecting your ingredients and planning your candle-making for a day and hour appropriate to your intention. Imbolc this year falls just after the full moon, so for spells of increase you might want to wait till the moon turns. Or phrase your spell to release something negative. If you need money, banish poverty. If you want love, banish loneliness.
Give yourself a few hours to make your candle or candles, during a period when you’re unlikely to have your concentration broken. Just melting the wax alone, depending on the volume melted, can take from 15 minutes to an hour. You’ll be using the kitchen, so make sure you’ll have it to yourself or that any visitors will be attuned to your purpose.
First, melt the wax in the top of your double boiler. If you want all your candles to have the same color, add the crayons or old candles now. You can use a single pot if you’re willing to watch the wax closely — you don’t want it to burst into flames. Break the wax into small chunks beforehand, so it will melt faster. Heat the wax over medium heat, but don’t let it boil. If you want candles of different colors, you’ll need to melt the crayons or old candles separately, then add clear wax to about the right volume in the pot and mix before filling your containers. Add candle coloring according to package directions.
While the wax is melting, pad your working space well with newspaper, because you will almost certainly spill some wax. Make sure all your ingredients and tools are handy. If you have herbs in unmanageable sizes, for example whole rosemary stalks, break them down so the pieces are a size to burn without becoming small bonfires.
Once the wax is fully melted, turn the heat low and let the wax cool till the wax on the sides of the pot starts to set, at approximately 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooling the wax a little helps prevent the creation of large air bubbles in your finished candle.
Now you’re ready to start forming candles. I usually cast a working circle at this point, calling my patron deities to witness, but without a lot of tools or formal setup. You can work as elaborately or simply as you like. However, I would recommend making the candle with focused intention, as well as charging it later.
Take a moment, then, to focus your concept of your goal. You might create a running mantra to repeat through the rest of your candle-making, or consider an image or group of images to help you concentrate. Be sure to state your intention simply and firmly. If it seems appropriate, write your intention down.
First, if you want multiple candles with the same scent, or you’re only making one candle, scent the wax now.
Next, cut a wick for each candle. The wick needs to be as long as your candle container, plus several inches. Thread the end of the wick through the metal tab or paperclip, or other object appropriate to your spell — for a money spell, you might anchor the wick with a folded bill. Then, drop the weighted wick-end to the bottom of the glass container. Making sure the weighted end sits flush on the bottom and the wick stays as straight as possible, wrap the other wickend around a popsicle stick and set the popsicle stick across the mouth of the glass. Make sure the wick-tail is in the center of the candle-to-be. The more centered your wick, the more evenly your candle will burn.
If you’re using unleaded wicking, pour a little wax around the tab at the end, then let it harden firmly. Then gently stretch the wick taut, and rewrap the top around the popsicle stick.
Next, add the nonwax ingredients to your candle. Drop your folded written intention, if any, and any other objects into the bottom of the candle glass. As each falls, imagine it adding strength to your spell. You can add herbs now as well, or you can add them to the top after pouring, if you want them to float down through the wax and be distributed through the candle.
When your objects and initial herbs are in, pour the wax. Pour evenly and slowly, and try to make sure your wick stays in the candle’s center. If you want to add herbs after pouring, do so directly afterward. If you want to scent a candle singly, now’s the time.
The next part is the really hard part — set the candle out of the way, and leave it alone! It will take up to an hour to harden. You can continue to meditate on your purpose, set up an altar to formally charge your candle, or take down your circle for the time being. You might want to check your candle in this interim period, as the top’s center may form a depression, which you can top off with melted wax. To this end, keep some wax melted.
When your candle’s solid, cut off the extra wick at the top, leaving about a half-inch.
Next, energize the finished candle with your intention. Cut your circle and call any deities or spirit helpers you like, if you haven’t yet, and restate your purpose. Then raise energy in your chosen manner. When the energy’s at its height, send it into your candle, then ground any excess into the earth, keeping what you need for yourself.
Finally, burn your candle. One of the great things about burning a candle in a glass container is that you can keep it going night and day in relative safety. Make sure, however, that the candle is in a place where no human or pet can knock it over, and where no combustible thing can fall across it. Also, at the end of the candle’s life, you might want to burn it while you can watch; it’s during the last inch or so that the glass will break, if it’s going to. Either way, just in case, burn the candle on a nonflammable surface, say an earthenware plate or a tile floor.
If you don’t want to burn your candle every day, burn it on days appropriate to your spell. For example, burn a love candle on Fridays, a day sacred to Aphrodite, Freya and other love goddesses. Again, tables of correspondences can help you figure appropriate days, or you can determine them astrologically. Or you can burn your candle when you feel particular need.
Ingredients for different intentions
If you can’t find or don’t like any of the following ingredients, by all means cut them, substitute or better yet create your own recipe from scratch! The stronger the associations for you and the more personal your candle’s creation, the more effective your candle will be.
- For divination and psychic work: Purple coloring; a small image of an eye, for far-seeing; lemongrass, sandalwood, cloves, yarrow and a pinch of nutmeg; frankincense scent
- For protection: No coloring; basil, vervain, rosemary, St. John’s wort and a pinch of black pepper; vetiver or patchouli scent
- For healing: Pale blue coloring, bay, sandalwood, cedar, carnation, lemon balm; eucalyptus scent
- For peace and harmony: Pale blue or lavender coloring; lavender, meadowsweet and hops; lilac or any light floral scent
- For inspiration in the arts: Yellow coloring; a small image of a lightbulb; a piece of amber; bay, cinnamon, lavender, orange peel; scent of bergamot, or any citrus scent
- To attract love: Pink coloring; small silk or candy hearts; rose petals; jasmine scent
- To attract sex: Red coloring; sexual images; rose petals, ginger, damiana, ginseng, a vanilla bean; musk scent
- To attract money: Green coloring; a folded bill or shiny dime; dill, lavender, sage, cedar, wood aloe; oak moss, vetiver or patchouli scent, or some combination of these
- To get a job: Green coloring; a topaz or turquoise; pictures of tools you use in your work; bay, lavender, cedar, red clover, nutmeg; orange scent, or any citrus scent
As you make and burn your candle, attune to the season as well as your intention. Now is the time to ask Bride for inspiration and to light a new flame, beckoning the longer days to come.
by Mystic Amazon
There you are, Goddess,
With your streaming flame-red hair!
I hear the hammer of your smithy,
And the eloquent words of your poetry
Satisfy something in my soul.
I hear the chants of women
The priestesses of your sacred flame,
See smoke that carries your prophecies.
Artists, poets and musicians honor you
With the beauty of their work.
Holy Mother Brighid, Bless us!
Honor us with your shining presence,
Wash us in the waters of your healing wells.
Brigantia the warrior, give us courage!
We dance to the movement of your flames.
Beth Clare Johnson
Today’s Aromatherapy Tip – Perfume for the Hair
Blend a drop or two of your favorite essential oil or synergistic blend
with a drop or two of Jojoba Oil then gently run your fingers through your hair.
The scent will remain with you all day.Try a blend with Lavender, Rose and Patchouli..
‘THINK on THESE THINGS’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler
Human dignity is that silent something in us that keeps from falling below the level where others look down on us to make light of our very existence. None of us exists who cannot sense to some degree the feeling that others hold for us. It may create in us a “show them” attitude that takes us through life more successfully, but it will more likely destroy our desire to be anything more than what is expected of us.
It is an appalling thing to see others impose their superiority upon human dignity of those whose literacy may not be equal to their own. Only profound ignorance could convince anyone they have the right to see and idly judge another’s intelligence, or to insult the dignity of any human being.
The little silent people who have not yet discovered within themselves the abilities they need to lift themselves, still have the right and dignity of being human. A small amount of respect and direction might start them on the road to better things, though it might be all uphill. At least if they know it is all uphill they may work harder and reach and place where they can look back at those with lofty ideas about themselves, standing forever stagnant, and feel more compassion than they could ever have felt.
Available online! ‘Cherokee Feast of Days’
By Joyce Sequichie Hifler.
Elder’s Meditation of the Day – January 26
“All life is a circle.”
–Rolling Thunder, CHEROKEE
The atom is a circle, orbits are circles, the earth, moon, and sun are circles. The seasons are circles. The cycle of life is a circle: baby, youth, adult, elder. The sun gives life to the earth who feeds life to the trees whose seeds fall to the earth to grow new trees. We need to practice seeing the cycles that the Great Spirit gave us because this will help us more in our understanding of how things operate. We need to respect these cycles and live in harmony with them.
Great Spirit, let me grow in knowledge of the circle.