Cleansing and Purifcation

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I have blogged before about how I used to really dislike the month of February, how after the Winter Solstice, the seasonal celebrations, the period of recovery, of getting back to normal, it always felt a bit flat, a bit nothing in particular and that I was always relieved when it was over. I then discovered that historically February was the month of cleansing and purification and it all felt a bit better. Yet here I am on Imbolc itself, the first day of spring with the wind howling and the rain lashing, if ever it felt a time for closing down and hibernating, today, and if the forecast is right, the next couple of days are it, never mind a spring clean and a purification of home and of body. This is a good reminder for me of why I am usually delighted and not a small bit relieved for it to be March with its promise of better things to come. Mind I have until 15th February before the historical period of Purification began so there is still time…..she says hopefully.

This does seem a good time for me to share two of my past blogs which contain information about February, pagan rituals and ideas for cleansing and purification, again this should save you trawling back through the archives for them:

Cleansing 

Spring Cleaning 

This year, on the whole so far, the winter has been mild, the winds often slack and our windows have been wide open more than they have been closed so the need I usually have to open them wide and allow the element of air to move through and do its work is needed less than usual it seems. The garden is not covered in bits of windfall from the ash and hawthorn and so I have no need to go gathering kindling, at the moment anyway. So unless anything changes as the month unfolds, this February my cleansing and purification is going to focus on ME 🙂

Since the summer I have been working in a gym again, the first time for six of seven years. I am discovering muscles I hadn’t seen for a long time and a physical strength that I had thought was lost forever. My 2017 cleansing and purification rituals then are going to be used to get to know it again, how it is now, to deeply cleanse by spending time with it rather than the quick in and out of the shower it is used to. The purification will be through what I eat which will be as healthy and light as I can make it during the winter. So lots of fresh fish, vegetables, salads, meals made from scratch and of course the odd bar of chocolate and glass of wine 🙂

 

 

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Sowing Seeds


With Imbolc almost upon us, although many rituals are about purification for me it is the perfect time to think about sowing seeds, the seeds that will then have chance to germinate as we move through the spring and this gives everything a head start.  

I am of course not talking about actual seeds in the garden, as the earth is too cold for us to do that still, at least it is where I live, but the seeds of ideas, plans, intentions for the things that we would like to bring in during the coming year.

If, like me, you have been using the past weeks to reflect and let go of whatever is no longer needed, then space has been cleared for the new to come in, if not then there is still time to do this, no one says this can only be done once a year or only during the winter. The more space there is in our lives the more we can co-create, without space it is a bit like piling more and more in the wardrobe without moving anything out, something I am  unfortunalty very guilty of. Fortunately in the rest of my life I am much better at having a regular clear out 🙂 

As an OBOD Ovate I have plenty of access to rituals, but as a shamanic and energy healer I much prefer to use my intuition, listen to my guides and allies and work with the energy of both the place I am holding my ritual in and of course the day itself. Consequently I have no idea what type of ritual or ceremony I will have for Imbolc yet.

These are just two ways that could be used to sow seeds at Imbolc though :

1. Planting Actual Seeds

  • Prepare a pot with soil and have a handful of seeds ready. 
  • Take one seed and hold it in your hand, focus on ONE thing you want to bring in and breathe this into the seed
  • Plant the seed in the pot 
  • Repeat with one seed for each idea
  • Water the seeds and place the pot where you will see it regularly 
  • Every time you see the pot, every time you water the seeds think of all the things you are growing 

2. Working with the Elements Fire and Air

  • Take a sheet of paper and cut it into strips
  • On each strip write one idea, plan or intention 
  • Find a safe place to have a small fire, or use a burning bowl, 
  • Taking one piece of paper at a time read what you have written there.
  •  Do this twice, once internally for your heart and once out loud using your voice and the air of your breath to give your intention power.
  • Place this piece of paper into the flame so the element of fire can transform the energy of your idea. 
  • Repeat with each piece of paper
  • When the fire has dies down and the ashes are cool, blow or throw them into the air doe the element Air can breathe life into your ideas. 

Brigid and Brigid’s Cross

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One of the first things that I learnt to do when I moved to Ireland was to make a St Brigid’s cross. I hadn’t heard of them at all before I moved and had to be taught not only how to make it but also what to do with it when it was made.

Describing how to make one is complicated without diagrams so having found this online today I thought I would share it in case anyone else is drawn to make one. This link includes a nice video if a child making one, it’s not difficult 🙂 I like that the instructions say to use straws or reeds for there are a special type of reed that grow in wetlands, used to make them here, a reed I recognise whenever I come across it, but the site of which I always forget come February.

I was told that it was the tradition where I live, to make a new Brigid’s cross every year and to place it in the loft on a rafter to protect the house from fire, which used to be a common problem in old houses in Ireland. In old houses chimneys were left unlined and any chimney fire could easily escape and leap through the loft space taking the roof and very often the whole house. I have since discovered that they are also used to ward off evil but maybe I looked too innocent to be told that I might need to do this 🙂 It was a long time ago!

So who was Brigid?

Brigid was a Pre-Christian, Celtic goddess who was associated with smithcraft, poetry, healing, childbirth. She is sometimes spoken of as a Triple Goddess and is always closely associated with fire. In fact the fire associations are so strong that a perpetual fire was set at Kildare in her honour, a fire which still burns today. Brigid is also known of as  Brid, Bride, Brighid, Brigit, Brigantia, Briginda, and Brigdu.

In Irish mythology Brigid appears as a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann and was the daughter of the Dagda, wife of Bres and had a son named Ruadán. To the Catholic Church though she is known as Saint Brigid and spoken of only as sharing her name with the Celtic goddess. It is said that St Brigid was the child of  Brocca, a Christian woman baptized by Saint Patrick, and that her father was Dubthach, a Leinster chieftain. As Brocca was a slave, Brigid was born into slavery. Some stories say that Brigid was baptised by St Patrick, others that she grew up as his friend.

If you would like to read more about Brigid, the Celtic goddess though the OBOD have an article that can be accessed here and which contains a lot of additional information.

What is known is that the the pagan festival of Imbolc or Imbolg, is associated with the goddess Brigid. The festival marks the beginning of spring has been celebrated since ancient times. It is a Cross Quarter Day, midway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.  It can actually fall anywhere between 2nd & 7th of February as it is calculated as the mid point between the astronomical Winter Solstice and the astronomical Spring Equinox, however it is often celebrated on 1st February, which is the same date as the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion celebrate St Brigid’s Day.

And what about Brigid’s crosses?

There are many stories her as to how the tradition of these crosses originated and this is just one of them:

There was an old pagan Chieftain who was on his deathbed in Kildare when his servants summoned Brigid to his beside in the hope that the she might be able to calm his restless spirit. Brigid is said to have sat by his bed, consoling and calming him . Whilst she was here she picked up some rushes from the floor and began weaving them into the distinctive cross pattern. As she weaved, she explained the meaning of the cross to the sick Chieftain and it is thought her calming words brought peace to his soul and requested that he be baptised as a Christian  before his passing. Ever since that day it has been customary on the eve of Brigid’s Feast Day on 1st February, to fashion a St Brigid’s Cross of straw or rushes and place it in the roof of the house over the door as a means of protecting the house.

Brigid has always been held in high regard in Ireland, many wells in all parts of the country are named after her, the symbol of her cross is to be found in many Irish designs and there is even a pilgrimage route that can be walked, known as an the Brigid’s Way an Ancient Path between Sky and Earth

 

Imbolc

  

Today was Imbolc, or tomorrow depending on whether you believe it is on 1st or 2nd February this year. Me I’m going for today, for Imbolc is the first of the three spring festivals in the Celtic Wheel of the Year and today certainly felt like spring 🙂

Despite being in the midst of the eight storm of the winter, Storm Henry, the winds were blowing over us, the sun shone and the garden was calm and sheltered for once. Outside in the fresh air it was warm and undoubtably the nicest day we have had for a very long time now.

I should have been hoovering the house, which had been the plan, but instead having hung the washing out in the fresh air, well pegged on I might add, I pottered around collecting up the branches of our ash and hawthorn, branches that had been given up by them none of the other storms. I broke branches into smaller pieces and filled not one, but two large containers of kindling for the fire.

Other years it has been far less clear in February that this is the start of anything yet alone spring, but it was easy today to feel the turn of the wheel, to know that the seasons are shifting, to be able to see that this is a time when things to germinate, maybe break through the surface, ready to grow when the wheel turns again.

 

Spring Cleaning

imageI can always feel my heart lift slightly when February comes to an end because I know then that the sun has more strength, the days are growing steadily longer and the cold weather, even if it has one, or two final encores, will soon lose its grip.

I am really not a winter person, I don’t enjoy the cold but if I am allowing myself to fully align with the seasons, I should learn to how to really appreciate that we need this time, knowing that seeds are being sown and germination is taking place deep within my being as it is within the earth.

So here I am at the start of February, not at the end no matter how much I might wish it could be so, and I fully intend to embrace this time of the year even though I may find it goes against all I would wish for.

A few years ago I discovered that Februarius was the original Roman name for February and that it was named after the Latin Februum meaning Purification. I also learnt that every year on 15th February, the night of the full moon in the old Roman Lunar calendar, a Purification ceremony known as Februa was held. February is also where we find the period known in the pagan wheel of the year as Imbolc which may have got its name from the old Irish Imb-tholc meaning to wash or cleanse oneself in a ritual cleansing. This may also of course be where our idea of Spring Cleaning came from. These discoveries gave me a way to approach the month that for me anyway, gives it a real purpose and helps me to both connect with it and appreciate it more fully.

So for me, using the month of February as a time of cleansing and purification makes complete sense and by doing so I know I am really preparing myself for the months ahead. In this way I am preparing the ground for the seeds of whatever I want to bring in during the year ahead. I have been doing this for the last few years but each year it takes a different form. This year I am much more drawn to a physical cleanse than I am to an energetic one which is what I would have been doing during previous years.

Now I’m not about to do as the Romans did and make the whole month a time of cleansing and purification, nor am I about to spring clean my whole house but I can think of a few places in the house and my healing room where I know I am holding onto books, papers and notes that I can’t ever imagine needing again, so probably this is a good place to start. I can already imagine a bit of recycling, a lot of re homing and of course some ritual burning to be going on with as well as the cleansing of the space that follows. It’s always nice to get guidance on the best way to do something like this though so I journeyed to gain insight into the most appropriate way for me this particular February.

I am sitting by a fire with my two teacher guides, around us the earth is covered in snow but despite this tiny snowdrops are in bloom, clusters of them, heads up looking cheerful against the cold snow. The fire is burning brightly and warming the ground around us creating a circle of heat, we are all wrapped up in blankets and I am told that even though I am looking to cleanse and purify I have no need to strip off and roll in the snow, I also need to keep warm and there is nothing wrong with this which I am delighted to hear. As we sit there I become aware of the sound of a horse and carriage and shortly one draws up nearby, a box is offloaded and handed to me. As I open it I see it is full of things that belong to me, photographs, notebooks, papers, files and so on. As I begin to take things out I am told to sort it carefully that it is important not to throw everything away. I begin to sort it into piles. One is of photographs; of me, my family and of my ancestors, some of whom are unknown to me. The next is of my notebooks, my journals, things that are important for they represent my journey here. The final pile is everything else and it is this pile I know I can release and recycle. I carefully pack up the things I am keeping, tying them up in small bundles with coloured ribbons. These I place back in the box and on the box I write the word Memories. I am handed herbs, pine and lemon grass and I place these in the fire breathing in the delicious cleansing fragrance as they begin to burn. I am then told to place the remaining pile on the fire, all the things I wish to clear out, but to do it one piece at a time so that I spend time with what I am giving away. I am told that it is important to do this with clear intention so I am fully aware of what I am doing as I cleanse and purify my life at this time.

As with all journeys everything here is symbolic and it is up to me to make sense of it, to interpret, not at face value only but to make sure that any deeper meaning is brought to light. Although this journey was for me I undertook it whilst writing this blog and so I am sharing it here as it may resonate with some of you reading this. If so then please put yourself in the place of the one cleansing and purifying, preparing the ground and feel free to interpret in a way that makes sense to you.

Monday Musings – Imbolc

imageI am, what in Ireland where I now live, is known as a ‘blow in’ i.e. someone not from the area, or in my case, country. The first year I was living here I was shown how to make a St Brigid’s Cross and this was my first introduction to what I now, as a Pagan, know as Imbolc.

Imbolc is a Pagan festival, just as Brigid was a Pagan Goddess but with the arrival of Christianity both Brigid and St Brigid’s Day, as Imbolc became known were adopted by the Church.

Usually celebrated around the 1st or 2nd February in the Northern Helisphere, Imbolc in the Pagan Wheel of the Year, is the first of the three Spring festivals.

For me Imbolc is a time to reconnect with the land around me, with the new shoots that are beginning to be seen peeping through the earth where they have been nurtured over the winter. It is a time for clearing, cleaning and tidying both on a personal level and in the garden. It is also a time for sowing seeds again both those that will grow into plants later in the year and also the seeds of what I wish to grow in my own life in the coming year.

This is exactly what I have been doing over the last few days in preparation for Imbolc. In the garden bushes are being tidied up with dead wood, grass and plants cleared away to leave space for new growth. In my home I have been tidying, clothes have been straightened up in drawers, boxes that have been on the floor waiting to be moved have now found their rightful home, cupboards and work tops in the kitchen have been cleared and spruced up, shelves lined and pots rearranged and as with the garden I have found new space, space that either wasn’t there or which I hadn’t noticed before. In my work I have also been preparing for the next phase as it were, things have been completed, new aspects of my work begun and I have put firmly to one side anything which no longer feels right and which is taking up space energetically.

So what of my St Brigid’s Cross? I still have the very first one I made. I was told then that it was tradition to make a new one every year and to place it in the rafters of the home so that St Brigid would protect the home from fire. The crosses are made from a particular reed which I recognise later in the year when I see it growing but which I never remember to cut, leave to dry and put to one side for Imbolc so my first St Brigid’s Cross is my only one. The fact that these crosses are said to protect from Fire though is highly appropriate as the goddess Brigid was known as the triple goddess, goddess of Healing, Poetry and Smithcraft as well as fertility. As the goddess of Smithcraft, she would have mastered the element Fire so is surely the perfect one to know how to protect a home from it.

Imbolc Inspiration

Imbolc is approaching fast so I thought I’d share with you some of the things that myself and a few of my fellow authors at Moon Books will be doing at the weekend.

It was put together by a colleague as a blog post, if you click on this link it will take you straight there 🙂

Moon Books Authors Imbolc Plans