An Early Imbolc

Budding Daffodils
Imbolc Blessings to you all! 

As the sky lightens earlier and the days grow visibly longer, I can feel the energies changing and see the land begin to awaken once again, life slowly returns to the land with the sun and we celebrate the turn of the wheel as the Maiden draws near and the Crone drifts away until Samhain. Imbolc is a fire festival to welcome the rebirth of Goddess as maiden known to some as Brigid/Brighde/Bride or Brigit's Day, it's name possibly meaning Ewe's milk referring to the lactating Ewe's - one of the first signs of the approaching Spring. Also known as Candlemas - the Christian festival celebrating the Virgin Mary's purification following the birth of Christ. This long standing tradition held that Women needed to be cleansed from the blood and bodily trauma of childbirth and received back for blessings from the Church, often referred to as 'churching' a long time after the child's christening which were held very early on due to high infant mortality. I'd like to think that this was for the exhausted women to recover from the birth in peace and designed as a celebration of the wonder of birth, but I suspect not and much prefer the more earthy celebrations of Imbolc!
A Bracing Cliff Top Walk

Friday found me with a precious day off, so I roped my lovely parents into a drive out to the East Sussex coast for a somewhat bracing walk with their dog Scrumpy, relishing the nostalgia of sitting in the back of their car again as we headed of to some new destination - a park, a castle or a town to explore as we did most weekends of my childhood. We headed for a country park that we used to visit when we stayed nearby in our caravan many years ago - the comparison of remembering feeling like a small child and the changing energy of the Maiden as we approach Imbolc not lost on me at all, the bracing winds on the cliff top blowing away the final vestiges of Crone energy.
The country park is known locally as the Fire Hills due to the flame colours of the Broom and Gorse that grow there - the difference between them being that Gorse (also known as Furze and Whin) has spiny
Windswept Gorse
thorns and Broom doesn't although they share very similar flowers my Dad informed me, and closer inspection revealed him to be right - as usual!  I can remember these cliff tops being ablaze with bright yellow and vivid yellowy-orange blooms  - very apt for the approach of a fiery Goddess at Imbolc! 

Interestingly a bit of research* has suggested that Gorse is one of the plants sacred to the Callieach Bheare in the Scottish Highlands - a Crone associated with Winter and that this 'furze' was milled to provide fodder for horses through the winter, both ideas speak of connections to the changing energy and the qualities and associations
Oak  Marble Galls ?
of my Goddess Ker to me!

As we walked back to the car, we found these - what we thought looked like oak apples on an odd looking tree, a shrivelled oak leaf on this low and sprawling tree the only way to identify it, so unlike an oak that it took us a while to figure out exactly what it was, then trying to decide whether it was an oak apple or an oak marble - apparently this is dependant on the exact type of wasp larvae that grows there and then ejects chemicals over the leaf buds that produce these odd anomalies. Our jury of 3 decided on an Oak Marble Gall albeit with the aid of Google images when we got back to our house! It never fails to amaze me, this level of understanding and  countryside knowledge of my parents (evidence of ancient bloodlines and wisdom in all of us?) along with the fear that in just 1 or 2 generations this could easily be lost along with the green spaces around us. What has already been lost from living memory that we may never rediscover?

Our family's Imbolc celebration started early on Saturday at a  local Italian restaurant to celebrate our son Dan's 21st Birthday - to say that I am amazingly proud of him is an understatement, it has been a truly wondrous journey to learn from him as he has grown from a cheeky, loving boy into a  wonderful man!
It was a typical family occasion, all the generations regaling each other with anecdotes, family legends and antics..... you know the usual embarrassing stories of when I got head stuck in the high chair as a toddler and made myself sandals out of a weetabix box and string ..classy huh?! The conversation turned to the mound in the woods that I found last week and all sorts of theories were suggested and discussed before it was decided to visit the Local Archives in the very near future to pore over old maps and documents to see what was actually there!
Impromptu Altar
Today I cleared my kitchen altar and will leave it empty over night to clear energies as well as smudging the house before starting to adorn it again tomorrow for Imbolc and the Maiden Energy. I took the ivy from the altar down to the woods, ok - to my special mound, that just seems to welcome me, found a spot that felt right - between the Yew and a Holly bush, made a circle of the ivy and lit a candle to give thanks for the peace of the place and to mark the turn of the wheel at such a beautiful site. Again the place was deserted apart from bird song and calls and the gentle sound of the wind playing with the boughs above me, no one came by at all and the energy felt stronger and slightly different to when I had visited last week with Mark, but not in a bad way. It almost as though the woodland was waiting to see what I was going to do next , don't ask me I'm still learning and feel the stir of the maiden energy so anything is possible!

Have a wonderful Imbolc and A Blessed Week xx



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