What to Remember When Waking
In that first hardly noticed moment in which you wake,
coming back to this life from the other
more secret, moveable and frighteningly honest world
where everything began,
there is a small opening into the new day
which closes the moment you begin your plans.
What you can plan is too small for you to live.
What you can live wholeheartedly will make plans enough
for the vitality hidden in your sleep.
To be human is to become visible
while carrying what is hidden as a gift to others.
To remember the other world in this world
is to live in your true inheritance.
You are not a troubled guest on this earth,
you are not an accident amidst other accidents
you were invited from another and greater night
than the one from which you have just emerged.
Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?
Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the writing desk?
by David Whyte, from The House of Belonging, Many Rivers Press
(inspired by the Imbolc essay by Jude Murray of Ceibhfhion.)
Because I have spent most of the day offline, I am late getting this posted. Consider it my way of lighting a sacred candle for you now, at sunset, here in North Carolina. I hope it will still speak to you, and feed the sweet fire in your heart on this holy day.
This is a cross-quarter Sabbat, meaning that it falls halfway between the astronomical times of Solstice and Equinox, making it between Feb. 1 and 3, depending on your tradition and desire for celestial precision. Another sky marker of Imbolc for those of us above the Equator is that it is celebrated when the Pleiades are at their zenith in the sky at sunset.
By whichever name or method you like, Imbolc (often pronounced “Imm’-ulg”) is the time when we of the Old Ways dedicate to new studies, renew our spiritual devotions, undergo initiation to a new level of practice, or perhaps simply bless the seeds of our intentions for the coming year.
Those of us who align our lives with Mother Earth’s seasons, the rhythms of stars, Moon, and sky, and the moving arc of light and dark across the Wheel of the Year know that regardless of the self-destructing paradigm and human-created drama and chaos, the time of rebirth and renewal has come.
Even though there is still harsh Winter ahead for many more weeks, the dark time of the year is truly over. With the newly born lambs now coming in, and the first callings of mating birds, hope is assured. Imbolc is Life’s Promise: no matter what craziness and dark fear the human race is conjuring, Nature is bigger, stronger, and will abide.
Feel the shift, inhale fragrant winds of change. Dawn comes earlier each day. Buds on the trees are swelling. Blossoms are plotting their debut. Roots are feeding the green shoots that will soon burst through snow and cold mud.
Pay attention to this.
Limit your news diet to only what you need, in order to act on behalf of what you value. More is toxic to the spirit and runs quite counter to the Divine Promise of this time. Indeed, the dying system and its hateful, desperate machinations would love to trick us into doubting our power, and the power of our mother, Gaia.
Trust this Turning. It is far older and more potent than the foul little men currently mugging on the world’s stage.
The dawning of the time of healing, growing, and life’s vigor is inevitable and assured. The curtain is rising on the bright new year, and the changing of the age, too.
Courage, my darlings! Be of good cheer. Remember our candles at Yule, our prayers made, our Circle of magic, and the healing that is firmly underway.
For now the light has assuredly grown longer and stronger since Solstice, and we can surely feel the stirrings of life’s renewal in the land. We harmonize with this energy by choosing new ways to nurture our spiritual growth and service.
One of my favorite ways to observe this holiday is to bless some actual seeds that I will be planting, once the ground is warm and the danger of frost has passed. And in splendid timing, this year, Imbolc falls during the deep balsamic Moon phase. Monday’s New Moon will be ideal for seed-blessings.
Your seeds may represent a creative dream you have for the coming growing season, or fondest wishes and hopes about your cherished relationships. Or they may simply be seeds chosen to help feed your wild neighbors in Nature.
Here at Laurel Hill, our home in northern Durham County, North Carolina, we are blessed with fresh, sweet water that gushes from a well with its source deep in our sacred land.
So at this time, especially mindful of recent droughts and other threats to plentiful drinking water, we humbly ask Brighid to bless and protect our well and, indeed, all the waters of the world. (To read even more about the Goddess, Brighid, whose time this also is, you can Part One and Two of my Goddess Sundays series starting here).
Even if you use city tap water, blessing your faucets, sinks, and pipes with thanksgiving, song, and other devotional practices would be appropriate at this time.
It’s easy to take it for granted that most of us can turn on the tap and unlimited clean water comes out. But as tragic events around our nation and the world remind us, we are extremely fortunate for this life-giving gift, and it is one that can vanish or be poisoned, with little warning, and, evidently, little to no rehabilitation.
The Light of Awakening
Other rites you might consider at this time include celebrating the return of the Sun’s light. In many Pagan homes at sunset, it is a tradition to light every lamp in the home, for at least a few moments. Or you might like to light a special candle in every room. Alternately, light a red candle and place this in a prominent window.
If you have snow on the ground where you live, walk in it for a while, and draw a magical symbol of the Sun, as your message to the sleeping Earth, encouraging Her to awaken.
Whether you have snow or not, if the weather is not too dire today, take a mindful walk around the areas near your home. Recall how those places feel during High Summer. How are the sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings now different?
As you remember the Summertime, send that memory out to the trees, plants, creatures, devas, and other beings with whom you share your neighborhood. I personally like to do this by singing, humming, or chanting.
You, too, can call to Gaia’s slumbering children, reminding them that Winter’s grip is loosening, and soon you will be welcoming their presence. Or, like the traditional Morris Dancers, you can dance upon the sleeping Earth, ringing jingle bells, and smacking magical sticks together to awaken Her creatures.
With your songs and words, you are engaging in the original sense of the word en-chantment: to chant or sing with intention, to achieve a desired result. By doing so, you bless and bring to life all within the sound of your voice.
You can also do this to invoke the protectors of the Land — the ancient Underworld beings who are the guardians of Gaia’s well-being. I believe we are in great need of their assistance, so as you celebrate the strengthening of the Sun’s fire, take this opportunity to establish or deepen your cooperation with them.
I could go on and on, of course, but the day is moving on, and I have more enchantments of my own still to attend to.
So I will close for now, simply noting that in whatever ways you choose to honor this happy time, I wish you merry meet, and merry part, and merry we shall meet again.
May whatever shape waits in the seed of you, longing to grow and spread its branches against a future sky, be as beautiful and magical as your heart’s desire knows is so.
Brighid of the mantle, encompass us;
Lady of the lambs, protect us;
Keeper of the hearth, kindle us;
Beneath your mantle, gather us;
And restore us to memory.
~ Caitlín Matthews, A Blessing for Hearth Keepers
With deepest gratitude to RJ Stewart, Anastacia Nutt, and all the Shining Guardians and Teachers in my life.