Last year, I gave you lots of lovely information about the goddess Bridget, and how to get your fire back after those January blues! So much has changed for me since then.
Last year, I decided that I would make a beautiful Imbolc cloak in honour of Bridget, and while it is nearly finished, it isn’t quite there. Rather than being hard on myself, I have decided to be kind to myself and remember that Imbolc is a season, as well as a special day on the calendar.
Imbolc marks that time when we feel a glimmer of new energy – a spark – the first stirrings of our movement from stillness to action. Tiny, tentative shoots are emerging; snowdrops herald Spring and mirror the green and white of Bridget’s cloak.
It is easy to feel frustrated at this quiet time of year. We are looking to the year ahead, but sometimes things just don’t move quickly enough, and January can seem endless! One way to relieve this is to bring old projects (like the Imbolc cloak) to completion, thus clearing the way for the new.
Below are some other useful ideas to connect with Bridget and the energy of Imbolc:
Connecting with Bridget
Sweep your ritual place – whether that is the area around your altar, a corner of your garden, or a temple room – symbolically with your broom.
Good old Spring cleaning! Let go of old energy by de-cluttering on the physical plane.
Sweep your home, pushing all the stuck, stagnant energy out through the back door, then open the front door to let the new energies in.
Imbolc is also known as Candlemas. This year I am drawn to putting lots of candles on my altar. Every year at Imbolc, I put a lit candle in every window of the house to invoke Bridget of the flame, and every year I add something new to my Bride doll.
What will you do to honour this time of returning light?
Bridget is one of my favourite Goddesses; she has helped me many times in my life with her healing and inspiration, and I wanted to make a cloak that would honour her.
This cloak has been a year in the making. I bought the fabric immediately when I saw it, just over a year ago. I just loved the pale green colour, how the fabric felt so divine and had a very slight sheen, and that it was a silk/linen mix, which means it drapes beautifully.
The Imbolc cloak – one year in the making!
I really wanted to make the cloak last year, in the energies of Imbolc and its promise of new beginings, but I was just too busy with other sewing projects. So although I cut out the fabric then, only now has it all been sewn together.
White fur around the hood was a must-have – to represent the snow that can still be on the ground at this time of year. The addition of the trim of pale green, earthy colours and silver sequins just seemed to finish it off nicely. To me they represent new shoots, bare earth and frost.
The Imbolc cloak is not completely finished yet. I still want to add some appliquéd snowdrops around the lower hem and maybe some swans’ wings (Bridget’s totem) on the back, but once again, I am too busy with orders so I will have to wait patiently.
In a way, I like the idea of this cloak being a blank canvas as we come into its season. I plan to journey with Bridget at Imbolc (this coming Tuesday, 2nd February) and ask her what images she would like to be sewn into her very special cloak. I will then set about finishing this project after I have blessed the space, lit my candle and incense and asked Bridget to be with me whilst I sew.
Janus is most famous as the ‘two-faced God’. He looks forwards and back, into the past and the future. The month of January draws its name from him.
In his earliest depictions, he was shown with two faces joined at the back of the head, looking in opposite directions. One was a bare and the other bearded, symbolizing both youth and age. This embodies a typical pagan viewpoint; every end is also a new beginning.
We live our lives in a spiral, rather than in a straight line: birth, growth, maturity, wisdom, death and then rebirth.
As the god of transitions and transformations, he can help us with our choices about which path to take going forwards. Write a list of all those things you want to release from your life and ask Janus to send them away as you burn the list. Then write a list of all the good things you would like to attract into your life this year and ask Janus to help bring them to you. Leave your list on your altar with a note to Janus: “Please Janus help me to…”
Someone once told me that the future is behind us (we can’t see it) and the past is in front of us. I have found this a good way of thinking of approaching the future, and how to make decisions, when we can’t really see where we are going!
After you have made a decision, back yourself up, stick to it and remember to walk forwards ‘in perfect love and perfect trust’. The Lord and Lady will surely support you in your decisions.
(With thanks to Elizabeth Barrette for her information on Janus.)
Will you be leaving out any offerings this Yule for a bearded, jolly old man? You probably grew out of all that years ago, but you might just reconsider if we look deeper at who that old man with the white beard really is…
Santa Claus is a figure of our childhoods, supposedly based on a 4th century Turkish Bishop by the name of St Nicholas of Myra who gave out gifts to the poor, but look deeper an consider this – do they have many reindeer in Turkey? And how come Santa is said to live at the North Pole or in Lapland? Why, if Santa is based on St Nicholas, does he not live in Turkey? Snow features heavily in the idea of Yule, yet a white Christmas is pretty elusive.
Perhaps the origins of Santa lie further North in Scandinavia, where reindeer and snow are far more commonplace. The ancient legends of the North feature Odin, god of Wisdom, Magick and War. Odin has only one eye, having exchanged the other for wisdom at the well of Mimir, and he traditionally has a long, grey beard. According to the ancient Skaldic poem Óðins Nöfn (Odin’s names) he was known as, amongst other things, “Langbarðr” (Longbeard) even “Jólnir” (Yuleman). Odin is a fascinating deity; He is interested in gaining as much wisdom as He possibly can, and wanders through the worlds as a traveller, sometimes on foot and sometimes riding out to lead the Wild Hunt.
Eight-legged Sleipnir and Santa’s reindeer
The Wild Hunt is known throughout Europe and led by many different gods, goddesses and heroes, depending on local lore. It is a spectral hunt featuring lost souls or monsters, and to see the Wild Hunt was considered a very ill omen indeed. The Wild Hunt is also said to ride out during the winter, most famously at Samhain and Yule. Odin’s steed for the Wild Hunt is the magickal, eight-legged horse Sleipnir, who, according to legend, could traverse great distances in very little or no time at all – exactly as Santa’s reindeer are said to do on Christmas Eve. Sleipnir’s eight legs eventually became the eight traditional reindeer, before Rudolph joined the team.
One gift always calls for another
According to Phyllis Siefker in her book Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men: The Origins and Evolution of Saint Nicholas, Spanning 50,000 Years, the practice of children leaving out offerings of food and drink for Santa and his reindeer is a leftover from the Norse practice of leaving out gifts for Odin and Sleipnir. In the Havamal (‘Sayings of the High One’ – in other words: Odin) there is the line “one gift always calls for another”, so Odin was said to leave behind gifts of sweets and blessings in exchange for the offerings. In this Odin was given the name Oski (Wish-giver).
The origins of Lapland’s flying reindeer
Norse children would put carrots or straw into their shoes as food for Sleipnir and this is reminiscent of the custom of leaving out stockings. The Sámi peoples of Sápmi, better known as Lapland, traditionally used straw instead of stockings in their boots, which were often made of reindeer skin. The Sámi peoples are most famously linked in our imaginations with reindeer herding and brightly coloured clothing. They have a custom of feeding the red and white Fly-Agaric mushroom to their reindeer and collecting the urine to drink. The reindeer’s digestive system gets rid of the more harmful toxins, and leaves much of the hallucinogenic substances behind. Could this be the origin of flying reindeer?
Odin could travel great distances at speed
When Odin travelled in the world of Men, he was often elusive, transitory and disguised. He wore a pointed hat, with a wide brim and long flowing robes and carried a special spear, his equivalent of St Nick’s Crosier. Odin is a shapeshifter and magician, two characteristics that Santa also shares – after all, Santa can allegedly stop time, not to mention get down the chimney.
Odin’s little helpers
Like Santa, Odin was also acquainted with Elves. The word Elf comes from the Germanic Alf, and the Svartalfs (Dwarves) created gifts for the Gods such as Odin’s spear and a special ring that could magically duplicate itself.
Odin sits on a High Seat from which he can see all the Nine Worlds. Two black ravens called Huginn and Muginn tell him all that has happened in the Worlds. Could these be the origins of the Black Jacks or Black Peter who spy on us all throughout the year? Yet another of Odin’s names was Sanngetal (Truth-finder).
The true meaning of Yule
Odin’s real gift is not sweets or other transient blessings, but wisdom. He discovered the Runes, and in some accounts, gave them to mankind. So this Yule, think about sharing the old stories with their wisdom. It may be time to reinvigorate the tradition of leaving a little something out for Odin and Sleipnir, too.
Have a magical Yule!
Ceri is a Priestess of Brighid and perpetual student of the earth’s mysteries. She is a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and her fourth thriller is out now. Ceri also makes Pagan jewellery and prayer beads for her online shop, Land Sea Sky Treasures.
Samhain is the Celtic New Year, the end of summer.
Samhain is the time of death; of all that has grown in the past year now withering and dying, composting back to the earth in order to be transformed into a rebirth in the spring.
As pagans we think about death, and those we have known who have died this year and in years gone by, and we honour their memory. We also think about what is stripping away and leaving us in our own lives and work on releasing all that no longer serves us; trusting in the process of death and renewal.
Death is a dirty word
In our western society with our busy, outward focused lives we often don’t want to think about or acknowledge death. It’s a dirty word, as we try so hard to focus on the business of life and living it to the full. Of course we need death; for it is part of life, but we are not good at coming to terms with it, or even helping others deal with it. In our hectic modern lives we are often not given the time to fully grieve; a long process of adjustment and are expected to get back into the game of life again too quickly for our souls to properly adjust.
Honour Yourself as well as Your Ancestors
This Samhain honour yourself as well as honouring your ancestors. Acknowledge all the losses and transitions that have taken place in your life to date. Give yourself a little time to let go, either in meditation or by having a fire if you can. It’s no co-incdence that Bonfire night is so close to Samhain. The ancient peoples would burn all the things that they no longer needed at this time. We know that fire is meditative and I’m sure they would have put their thoughts and intentions into the flames as they watched it burn as well.
Your Cloak as Magical Equipment.
If you are working outdoors throughout the wheel of the year, think about investing in a warm, winter wool cloak that will last you many, many years to come. You will never regret buying it. It will become part of your magical equipment; being practical as well as building power and enchantment as you wear it throughout each of the seasonal wheel celebrations.