February

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Winter is never my favourite season mainly due to the fact that I don’t like the cold and damp, so I can always be relied upon to be a bit biased but this year Winter already seems so long. January seemed to last forever for some reason and I know from conversations with people that I am not alone in feeling this. This year I was more than happy to have actually turned to the new calendar month of February and the beginning of Spring.

A few years ago after spending much of my life telling anyone that would listen that February was my least favourite month, one that I was always glad to have over with the promise of better days ahead, I did some exploring. I discovered that this was in fact the month where we really begin to welcome back the light that we have been waiting for since Winter Solstice and there certainly does seem to be a stretch in the days now. I also learnt that the original Roman name for February was Februarius, named after the Latin Februum meaning Purification. I found out 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 so that has some purpose By  connecting with it in a different way I am beginning to appreciate it more fully.

I now try to use the month of February to cleanse, purify and prepare myself for the months ahead. By doing this I am know I preparing the ground for the seeds of whatever I want to bring in during the coming months. I have been doing this now for the last couple of years and am finding that each year it takes a different form. Sometimes I am drawn to a physical cleanse, other times it is an energetic one and some years a mixture of both.

The Romans would have made the whole month a time of cleansing and purification which seems a bit OTT and spring cleaning the whole house sounds like hard work but there are always a few nooks and crannies that I know get overlooked during the quick lick and polish it gets usually.  Already this month the house has been given a thorough hoover, working with the element of water floors have been washed and the doors and windows opened wide both in the house and the healing room to let the element of air do its work. In the shower this morning I was also mindful of taking time to cleanse my body, paying attention to how it was feeling and enjoying spending time with myself rather then rushing as I usually am.

Maybe this is partly what cleansing and purification does. By taking time, paying attention, seeing and sensing what is there we are more mindful of what we are doing. The more mindful we are, the more we can see what really needs to be done. If we spend time living with awareness as we cleanse and purify we can see beyond the surface, beyond the superficial. This is then something that may also be good to carry forward into the rest of our lives, what better way to sow the seeds for the months ahead than to use February to learn to live each moment with awareness.

 

 

 

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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 🙂

 

 

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.

 

More of a Spring Clean than I’d realised

I think the idea of my using February for its ancient purpose of cleansing and purification really took hold this year and looking back on the first day of March I can see how much of a spring clean I have been having this year.

In my home there has been a good bit of clearing out ensuring that several visits to the recycling plant were needed. This has meant not only taking to the plant what was in the house but also everything that was in the shed or garden from previous clear outs. Our old television has found a new home with friends who’s children can make use of it, or at least they will if we ever find the lead for it. We delivered the TV along with what we thought were all the cables only to find we had given them our video lead by mistake. As it would happen we had been going to get rid of the video anyway and it turns out they needed one. I just love synchronicity and how in this case at least some of our pre loved things have found a new home.

The garden is looking ready for Spring in a way it hasn’t for years. Hedges are trimmed, our ‘dead hedges’, for in the end we constructed two of these, are all ready for new life to find a home there, spring bulbs have been stunning in both variety and colour and having cleared and tidied, this year we can really see them.

I have also made decisions that have meant letting go of things I am doing which don’t feel right any more. One of these is blogging as part of Monday Musings with The Pagan Experience. Nothing at all wrong with it there but it wasn’t a good fit for me and rather than struggling on I have decided to dip out and do my own thing which means I only have myself as a resource for my blog this year. Now I write that I realise that’s a slightly scary prospect as I won’t have anyone emailing once a week to remind me to blog, so I now need to be all grown up and remember all on my own.

I have also stopped pretending that I am working ‘full time’. I have reached a point in my life when there are many other things I want to do with my life, so officially I am now only working two days a week seeing clients (although this does stretch a little sometimes) and then teaching at weekends when courses are on. This in theory gives me time to write, blog, work on the Ovate level with the OBOD, paint, draw, go to my art group and the million and one other things that seem to find their way into every week.

I haven’t yet cleared out my contacts in my mobile phone, nor have I been through Facebook and deleted all those ‘friends’ that I can’t recognise as people I actually know, but then February only has 28 days so I don’t think I’ve done too badly and there is no reason to stop just because it is now March is there 🙂

Building a Dead Hedge

imageWe have been tidying up in our large and much neglected garden recently, part of my February spring clean perhaps. Part of this has meant curtailing the growth of our buddleia and fuchsia hedging and as you can probably guess, we have been left with a large amount of hedge offcuts in need of a home. We have a multi fuel stove and so larger offcuts have been trimmed and stored to dry out for later use as have small sticks for kindling but this still left a lot remaining.

As luck would have it, in the Sunday Times the other weekend was an article on how to make a ‘dead hedge’ and this had immediately captured our attention. Our garden is ‘neglected’ because we like it to look natural and to provide a habitat for wildlife if we can. On top of this I am always very reluctant to do any serious tidying up without working with the agreement of the spirits of the plants, however sometimes there does come a point where tidying just has to happen. What a ‘dead hedge’ does is provide a place where trimmed hedges can be laid out in such a way as to become, as they decay and die back, a habitat for wildlife. What wonderful recycling!

Stakes or poles are pushed into the soil in a line around 2ft apart, a second line of stakes is pushed in around 2ft from and parallel to the first. Offcuts of the trimmed hedges are then laid between the stakes. The bottom few layers are trodden down to compress them as much as possible so that they compress and can die back into the earth. In time the hedge will pack down so new layers can be added.

The buddleia hedging which had been neglected for several years looked too thick to make the ‘dead hedge’ but the thinner whippier fuchsia was perfect and so the ‘dead hedge’ in our garden has begun to take form. It is only a short length at present as it seemed sensible to try on a relatively small scale first and see how it worked, but we can add to it over time. The photo shows how it looked as we began to build it.

I for one am looking forward to observing the changes in the ‘dead hedge’ as the seasons come and go, to watching the lower layers begin to decay and to seeing what wildlife is attracted to make its home there.

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.