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January 29, 2019
Officially celebrated on February 1 at sunset, Imbolc, or Imbolg, signals the halfway point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. Its name derives from Celtic meaning "in the belly,” as it refers to the “just-showing” pregnancy or a stirring of new life that has just begun. At its core, this Pagan holiday is a clearing and cleansing preparing us for rebirth. Imbolc focuses on fertility and the promise of returning light in the spring season.
However, Imbolc’s claim to fame is the Irish Goddess Brigid, also spelled Brigit, Bride, or Brighid. She was considered a triple goddess or triune representing maiden, mother, and crone. In this way she had several facets to her symbolism of fire, hearth, poetry, and smithcraft. Brigit was believed to bring fertility to land and its people and therefore also has a close connection to midwives and other healing touch. With Imbolc, Brigit takes on her maiden aspect as being pregnant with possibility with sacred fires representing inspiration, creativity, and cleansing.
As with most Earth-based holidays, Christianity adopted its own versions and the well-loved Brigit was honored as Saint Brigid. With the Christianization of Ireland, Candlemas was celebrated on February 2 instead of Imbolc. It was instead renamed the “Feast of Purification” and paid homage to the fertility and purification of Virgin Mary and her guiding light instead of Brigit’s flame.
Fortunately in both the Pagan and Christian versions of Imbolc, the Brigit’s Cross remains sacred symbolism. Usually made of reeds, it is a solar cross or wheel—she was a Sun goddess of sorts--woven together and used for protection. According to some Neo-Pagan rituals, a new one was made every year and then the old one was burned.
Other traditional celebrations of Imbolc included putting out the main home fire and doing a thorough cleaning of the hearth. In other cases, entire fields purified with fire rituals or bread offerings to the Grain Goddesses. The adapted holiday Candlemas was honored in the Roman Catholic Church as a day to cleanse and bless the church candles. Below are more modern ways to celebrate Imbolc, Candlemas, or Brigit and her fiery fertility:
Rebecca Farrar of Wild Witch of the West has her M.A. in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness, and has worked with many renowned astrologists and cosmologists. Read her bio here, and catch more of her work on Witch of the West.
Read more on astrology, horoscopes, occultism, magick & ritual on our blog, Esoteric Insights!
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June 13, 2019
What an excellent and abundant Full Moon! The Sun and the Moon are making their monthly opposition to one another in the opposite signs of Gemini and Sagittarius. Both representing ideas, communication, expansion. But Sagittarius is more prone to filtering out the noise and trying to expand the BIG PICTURE. Sagittarians are natural born story tellers. So what’s your story? This is a time to really sit down and ask yourself; what is it you want? Who or what do you want to be? What do you believe in? Where is your life heading? Your answer may be very far off from where you stand now, and that’s ok. If you’ve been spinning your wheels, and are ready to make some changes now is the time....
As with many aspects of the esoteric and occult and even mainstream religion, magic is composed of dualities. The most obvious divide is that of black ("bad") magic and white ("good") magic. From time to time, when acquaintances find out that I mess with the craft, they immediately ask "but you're doing the good kind of magic, right?" So, I personally prefer the Latin terms Maleficium and Beneficium. These better encapsulate the difference between working with ill intentions (malice) and working to heal (benefit). Although something of a trope, a sort of stereotype rooted more in both folklore and mass media than in how real magic is done in the world, this duality still helps classify our knowledge of the magical arts.
June 06, 2019