Imbolc and the First Signs of Spring

It’s hard to believe that spring is around the corner, especially given the harsh winter weather some of us are experiencing now.  However, sleeping under the snow lie the first tender vestiges of warmer days. As much as I love fall and winter, there is something about crocus, tulips and daffodils peaking up through the snow that makes my heart excited for this sign of the renewal cycle of life.

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Imbolc is a celebration of life. The ewes are lambing and fresh milk is flowing. There is hope that the dwindling winter stores of food, will soon be filled again. The brightest green grass, nourished by their blanket of protective snow, now begins to peek up through the brown blades of fall. Trees begin to bud, Dogwood, Buckeye and Wild Plum. Honey bees come out and start pollinating their bright blooms.

The days are now growing longer and the angle of the sun casts a particular light on the stark lemon yellow green leaves of the tall trees. Warm winds rustle their  boughs and song birds begin to take flight.

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In celebration of the very first signs of life returning, our ancestors turned to the Goddess Brigid.  Daughter of the chief of the gods, The Dagda, she was known as the Goddess of childbirth, poets, healing and inspiration.  She is part of the Triple Aspect of the Goddess, the Mother as she represents the birth of new life.

Things you can do to celebrate Imbolc:

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Light a simple white or green candle and say:

“I call upon the fire to melt the snow. 

The warmth of the mother to make things grow.”

 

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Make Triple Goddess Moon Cookies! (A great activity with your little ones or yourself alone!)

1 cup (2 sticks/220 grams) butter or margarine, softened
1 1/4 cups (250 grams) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups (185 grams) flour
1 teaspoon vanilla, lavender or peppermint extract

 

In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla extract until fluffy and light. Mix the lemon peel, and salt. In increments, add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar. Mix until well blended. Cover and chill thoroughly for at least 2 hours.

(Pre-Heat your oven to 375 degrees)

When the dough is chilled, roll it to a thickness of 1/8 inch, and cut with a crescent moon cookie cutter.

If you can’t find a crescent moon cookie cutter, you can use a circular cookie cutter and cut a curved line in the middle, then roll the excess dough from the cookies and repeat.

Place cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper approximately 1/4 to 1/2 inches apart.

Bake for 7-12 minutes! (I love my cookies crisp so I live dangerously at the 12 minute mark!)

 

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Take a Nature Walk!

Lastly, take a long walk through nature. Try to find a trail or field if possible but any area with grass and trees will do! Take note of how some creatures and the flora are awakening from their winter sleep. Breath in the clean air and if you wish, say some simple affirmation magic spells.

“As nature awakens, so do I.”

“As the world grows fresh and new, so do I.”

“Nature gets a fresh start, dropping her brown, shriveled mantle, so do I.”

 

Thanks for reading!

Will you share your Imbolc traditions with me?

-Cass

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Suburban Samhain

Samhain

 

About 2,000 years ago, Samhain was the division of the year between the lighter half (summer) and the darker half (winter.) Even our modern day clocks “fall back” the following weekend after Samhain.  However Samhain is more than just a split of our year. Samhain is one of the most important holidays of the year if not the most important for many Pagans.  This is the when the thinning of the veils happens, when the separation between the living realm and the spirit realm grows weak.  Missing a loved one or want to reach out to an ancestor in your distant past?

Samhain is the perfect time to reach out and making your connection.

Besides honoring your ancestors, now is also the time ward your home from unwanted spirits or intentions.  In the past, people wore masks and costumes to scare off these sorts of things, now we wear costumes for fun! This is a great way to easily incorporate children into process.  While they are enjoying dressing up for Trick or Treating, you can remind them of the original reason people once had for wearing costumes.

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Another way to help ward your house from any ill will is to plant or keep rosemary near your door.  Rosemary has long been associated with protection of ones physical and spiritual world.  It’s purification properties make it ideal to drive away any negative energy. As a bonus it smells great!  Wrap a few sprigs up with orange ribbon and be festive with it!

In addition to our modern day Trick or Treat costume tradition, the simple act of handing out candy and treats also hearkens back to the days of old.  As part of honoring our ancestors offering food for those who have gone beyond or offering food to those less fortunate than ourselves, we are bringing good fortune to our family and community.

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Lastly if possible, build a fire or if you have no place to set a bonfire such as a fire pit, use some candles instead.  Light the darkness and guide the good spirits and your ancestors to the flame.  This is when you can tell stories of loved ones and friends who are on the other side.  Make offerings of food and drink. Toast to them! Include your little ones. Tell them your best memories of time spent with their ancestors.  Let them ask questions. My girls are fond of talking to their great grandparents whom they have never even met! I encourage them to share things from their lives with them.  It is always a positive experience for us all.

So this Halloween night, build a big fire, gather around your love ones, make a toast to those who’ve gone before us, dress up and scare away the bad spirits and hand out candy and treats to all you meet.  Celebrate!

 

Blessings and Skol my fellow Suburban Pagans!

What is the Suburban Pagan Family?

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That’s a great question!

Paganism today is so different from the Paganism of 100 years ago.  You will not find most pagans today with ratty robes, warts on their noses, putting eye of newt in a bubbling black cauldron.  In my home, we don’t stuff children in ovens, we stuff fresh bread dough in them! Bread dough that was kneaded by little hands and created with love and thankfulness stirred in.

In the average pagan home, you will find some trappings of the old world and the new. Sunlight plants on a windowsill, glittering crystals and smokey incense (or a misty diffuser!) thoughtfully arranged on a kitchen counter or perhaps bright colorful fabrics and beautiful statues of Gods and Goddess.  Maybe there are soft furs draped across sofa backs and tall drinking horns full of mead. How about an ornate wheel of the year hanging prominently on the wall next to the family portraits?

What if this house was in a densely packed neighborhood?

This is some of what is Paganism today.  This is my kind of Paganism.

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The above example describes my home. The home where I raise and live with my family. It’s complicated and chaotic. It’s peaceful and moving and yes, sometimes difficult and sad.  It is the average family, in an average town in your average neighborhood.  We don’t live in some dark hollow (though I admit that would be nice sometimes!) We interact with our neighbors on a daily basis.  Our children play with all the neighborhood kids.  We host dinners on occasion and enjoy going out on the weekends to hike or visit fun “nerdy” conventions.

Do we stand out in our neighborhood? Yes sometimes we do.  We are in the deep south. I’m in an interracial marriage and instead of a Jesus fish bumper sticker or church logo, my mom issued minivan sports Goddess and Odin ones! Ha!  Sometimes I catch people giving me the strangest looks from my rear view mirror.

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We are also rabid animal and nature lovers.  Well at least I am, my husband takes a more conservative role behind the scenes. I am out front, leading the charge, teaching my children that they should stand up for what they believe in.  Whether it be saving the old trees at the park or their religious freedom.

Generally speaking however, our lives are very tame and no different than our more mainstream neighbors. We celebrate almost all the same holidays even if we call them by different names. We have more Gods and Goddesses to embrace and seek guidance. We believe in magic, both real and implied. I teach my children to honor their ancestors and the magical creatures that surround our home.  We roast marshmallows by the firepit  and discuss the ancient tales that have been passed down from our forefathers.

So what makes the modern pagan family? You do, your family and mine.

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