Saturday, 18 January 2020

A good time for a new start - by Lu Hersey

Imbolc, or Candlemas (1st February) is fast approaching. In the Celtic seasonal calendar it marks the first stirrings of new life, when lambing starts and snowdrops bloom - winter is by no means over, but there are signals that spring is coming.

swan feathers, snowdrops and candlelight for Imbolc

According to Wikipedia (okay, I got lazy), the word Imbolc is probably derived from the Old Irish i mbolc meaning 'in the belly', as with pregnant ewes, or possibly Old Irish Imb-fholc, meaning 'to wash or cleanse oneself', referring to a ritual cleansing.

The festival marks the quickening of the year, when the earth is awakening, the light is returning and everything is about to burst into life - and you can apply this to your creativity too. If you have an idea for a new book, or any new project, it's a good time to let it grow, ready to come into being.

Imbolc honours Brigid (or Brigit, Brighid, Bride), a pagan goddess so popular, the Christians took her on board as St Bridget. She is a goddess of healing, poetry, and smithies. A goddess of fire, the sun and of the hearth, she brings fertility to the land and its people - and might help you find fresh inspiration.

To pave the way, it's a good idea to start cleaning out the old and making space for the new. Spring cleaning doesn't just have to apply to your house (though cleaning and junk clearance is a good way to begin - and makes a brilliant displacement activity) - it's also a time to try clearing your mind to allow inspiration to enter a new cycle.

Symbolic actions can be very helpful. Dedicate a space in your home to symbolise your new beginnings. Traditionally this space is decorated with snowdrops, swan feathers and green candles - but you might want to go a step further and make a Brigid cross, symbolic of Brigid's firewheel. (It's a kind of simple corn dolly made with reeds or willow - you can even make one with pipe cleaners or strips of paper.)

Supposedly made simple with pipe cleaners...

Follow the diagram above if it makes sense (or find a YouTube video) to make your cross. When it's the size you want it to be, you'll need to tie the four ends (or four quarters) with string or ribbon. If you like, you can decorate your cross in a way that's meaningful to you.

Reckon that's too much of a faff and you'd much rather make a cake? Fine. Here's a recipe for a traditional Imbolc seed cake that I nicked from the internet:

Imbolc Seed Cake

10oz/300gms flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
4oz/125gms butter
1 oz/25gms caraway seeds
6 oz/175gms sugar
2 eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons of water

Set the oven to 200C or 400F, grease and line a 6" cake tin
Sieve flour, salt and baking powder into your mixing bowl, then rub in the butter. As you do this, think of family and friends and your wishes for everyone as spring approaches.Visualise light flowing into the mix, the fire of creativity.
Stir in the seeds and sugar and then the eggs, mixing with just enough water to create a mix that softly drops off your spoon. Stir in patience for the coming spring, as this is still a time of waiting.
Pour the mix into the tin and cook for an hour before reducing the temperature to 175C/375F for a further half hour, or until the cake is golden brown and well risen. Leave it to cool in the tin before taking it out and tying it round with green and white ribbons.

Still too much effort? Try something much simpler. Plant some seeds. Any ritual is about intent, so think about what you want to bring into your life as you sew them. (If you're doing this outside, calendula is a good thing to plant at this time of the year, as it's very hardy.)

Lastly, Imbolc is about bringing back the light. So if nothing else, light some candles in your home and make wishes for the coming year, for you and your family and friends - the simplest form of candle magic.

Good luck. Remember to set your intentions, and hopefully the rest will follow.

Lu Hersey
twitter: @LuWrites


Susan Mann said...

Love this. Will give the craft a go x

LuWrites said...

Good luck, Susan! The YouTube video is easier to follow - and if all else fails, just light a candle :)

Rowena House said...

Oh, thank you & bless Brigid! Definitely need to light candles and plant seeds, and see the tips of green thrusting in the hedgerows this year. Wishing SASSIEs and readers happy new beginnings everywhere. x

LuWrites said...

thanks Rowena - yes to happy new beginnings for writers and readers everywhere!