_Usually Imbolc is one of those festivals which leaves me a bit meh!

It comes in the depths of Winter and whilst intellectually I know that this is the festival to celebrate the first, imperceptible stirrings
of Spring, in my heart it feels like darkest Winter.  Unlike Solstice
which gets caught up in the general festivities of Christmas the rest
of the world is not celebrating with me and it feels iron and cold.
This year Imbolc has been different, I have been thinking about it
differently and feeling differently even though the iron cold is here
as Siberian winds are chilling the whole of the UK.

This year when my working group started to talk about Imbolc, instead of going with the flow I really started to engage.  It was like my brain had tripped into a gear that it previously hadn't worked with before. I could feel the idea of Imbolc starting to form in my mind from that point on, at work, on the train, on my long walks I was aware of something burning away and it was Imbolc.

When I feel so very moved to celebrate a festival then I like to spin
it out over several events.  Yule/Christmas is perhaps the best
example of this, putting up a tree, feasting on both the 21st and
25th, attending solstice ceremonies and of course lots of kissing
under the mistletoe.  Easy to do when the Western world is celebrating at the same time. This creates a sort of carnival of festivities and provides many opportunities for me to connect with the spirituality behind the season.  Festivals where I rock up to one single religious ceremony for a couple of hours just don't do it for me in the same way.  Because Imbolc is so moving me  and so I am trying a new way of celebrating the year as a continuing wheel rather than as single points of light and with a strike of inspiration I though how much this has to do with Immanence.

Immanence is the concept that the divine is in the material world,
rather than Transcendence where the divine exists outside the physical .

By bringing much more of Imbolc into my life and having it glowing
away in the back of my mind as I go about my daily business I am
bringing my spiritual and the physical closer together. There are so
many great Pagan books which give you sample rituals and ideas for
celebration but very few which explicitly state that whilst we have
a special day for each festival, the week before and week after can also have a similar resonance which we can attune to.  

So my Imbolc celebrations this year started around the beginning of January when my working group first discussed the festival, on the 29th January I took a mini-spiritual retreat at home alone for the afternoon and this included setting up my Imbolc altar, making offerings of milk and mead and offering up prayers to Bridgit. I read and enjoyed many blog posts, poetry and songs about Imbolc and Bridgit, posted on the web. January the 31st I attended an Imbolc celebration with my working group and on 2nd February itself I ate a special meal of lamb casserole and baked custard, quiet by candlelight in honour of the season…and of course as the dust settles on Imbolc I am rounding it up by posting my own blog entry. 

How amazing would it be to keep this going for a full cycle, to be constantly celebrating the wheel of the year not as special events to look forward to as a break from daily life but as a way of living a fully spiritual and enchanted Life every day.
As part of my Imbolc celebrations this year (big post on that coming soon!) I sat down with my festive meal and thought about asking Bridgit to fill my heart with inspiration for the coming year.

As I was sitting thinking about this I had my own flash of inspiration:  "Antara, don't be asking Bridgit for inspiration without having a plan for finding it yourself."  The essence of this thought being, I should draw up my own plan for getting lots of inspiration and then ask Bridgit to top me up. In this way I was making my own commitment to getting inspiration before asking Bridgit to bestow it on me - showing Her that I was indeed serious about it and ensuring I had also made that commitment to myself.

I think it is likely that having made this commitment to get inspiration then it will come to me - because I'll be open to it and sub-consciously seeking it out!

So over Imbolc I completed a list of 5 things I can do to keep the inspiration fire burning brightly.

What can I do to keep the Fire of Inspiration Burning inside me?

1. I will read and listen and watch films, go for walks, dance and play and immerse myself in inspiring things created by others.  I will live a life suffused with the creativity of others and appreciate it.  Plays, poetry, books, blogs, ideas, films, art and nature - if I live in
these I will always have an inspirational fire.  SARK speaks and
writes eloquently about how living surrounded by books and other
people's art and creativity has kept her well of inspiration overflowing for years and I love that idea, that inspirations in others feeds the inspiration in us.  Inspiration is not a zero-sum game people!

2. I will write and continue to publish my words.  I trust that the
more I use my inspired creativity the more I will get.  Inspiration
and Creativity are renewable resources!

3. I will acknowledge and seek out people who inspire me and soak up their lessons.  When I find inspiring people, I will tell them they
inspire me, to inspire them to keep doing what they are doing!

4. I will schedule in time to switch off, laptops, phones, television,
music and just listen to the quiet voices within.

5. I will offer up my own creative works to Bridgit in honour of Her
and in return ask for Her Fire to help me create more and more things.
I have had a meditation sitting on my computer for a long time (about 3 years) and I have been meaning to give it a quick tweak and publish it for ages.  Well tonight with a little bit of an Imbolc push and some help from Bridgit's inspirational fire, it is done.

Meditation on the Source

I have put it up in the free resources section.  At this stage it is only a transcript - one day I hope to record it with my plummy Brit accent.
_I have been thinking long and hard recently about recommending
Pagan/Magickal/Spiritual reading material.  This has been partly
sparked by my Pagan Book Club - over the two years it has been running we have read more than our fair share of rubbish.  But it is
also informed by an interesting exchange on email with a friend.  I
was explaining how much I was getting into a particular book when they responded with "would you recommend it?" This brought me up a little short because I wasn't sure I would recommend it, not because I didn’t like the book (it was amazing and I am about to reread it), it was well written, contained a great deal of useful, practical information and was very inspiring.  But part of the reason I found it so good was because it came at the right time for me to read right now.  Some of the ideas dovetail and extend ideas of my own I have been developing - would it be quite so "right" for someone else right now.  Well honestly I have no idea.

But if we take this line of thinking to its natural conclusion then I
would never recommend any spiritual books and I do believe word of mouth is necessary to sort the pearls from the dross. There are a lot of Pagan and Spiritual books out there which I judge and judge harshly.  However, any recommendation I make has to contain the caveat from now on... that the book was meaningful to me at a particular time in my life, I hope this is the right time for you to read it but it may not be.
_Early in my path I was more heavily influenced by Wicca than I am
today.  It was by far the most accessible and easiest route to
Paganism and Magick and many of the first Pagans I met were also
influenced by Wicca.  This meant that my first brush with polarity
(besides "reversing the polarity of the neutron flow") was a binary
gender polarity - the male and female in perfect harmony, Goddess and Consort itself a definite heterosexual relationship.   The idea of
codifying socially constructed gender ideas into a religious and
Magickal system was and is highly unappealing to me.  Later I
came to see how exclusionary it was for GBLT Pagans whose relationships and live experiences were ignored and marginalised by the traditional God and Goddess coupling.  So I pretty much left polarity alone - I ceased calling both God and Goddess into the circle unless I had a specific reason to; the world did not end and my Deities didn't seem to care much.

So I was incredibly intrigued to see that the first part of Fiat Lux
(T.Thorn Coyle's online mystery school) was all about Polarity.  The
first installment went up in October but I have only just finished it;
it did not disappoint.  I have written before about how impressive
T.Thorn Coyle was speaking at Treadwells last year and I have read a previous article here by T.Thorn Coyle on gender and so I knew I would be getting something far more interesting than just *male and female energy*. Fiat Lux did not disappoint!

The working for the month was about uncovering the polarities in our own lives, framed very much in  terms of our own experience - I
naturally chose the push and pull between Driving Stress and Complete Relaxation, two poles I am buffeted between regularly. The starting point is learning to sit between the poles and simply be.  Sounds simple, but if it was so simple I wouldn't have spent so much of my life desperately seeking relaxation and lurching off after stress.  I would imagine that most people have a polarity struggle in their lives of some sort in their lives and it is really valuable to pause and think about how much it might be affecting, consuming or interfering with you achieving your dreams.

I am currently working and dreaming towards a more integrated Magickal Life. Achieving a state where I am at peace with both these forces and being able to stand in the space between them would be hugely liberating and, for the split second I achieved it in the Fiat Lux practice, it was immense. Standing tall in the middle and holding the space between felt almost overwhelmingly powerful and empowering.  Strong stuff I can tell you.

It threw up a reminder of one more thing.  A few years ago I was struggling with learning to drive and did some work on this both with hypnotherapy and the Chariot Tarot card.  Fiat Lux has reminded me of the polarity in the Chariot and I think I might need to go and take another look at it.  Clearly the Chariot is not done with me yet!
The 3rd edition of the Gaian Times is now published and I have another controversial article on Team Building for Pagans.
Gathered outside the Globe.
_For some years now the Lion's Part an unusual theatre group have been running the Twelfth Night Revels.  A curious set of old British
traditions are played out on the South Bank outside the Globe
Theatre on the nearest Sunday to the Twelfth Night. This was my second outing to the Revels and, this year, at least we enjoyed clear weather, cold but dry!

We arrived early to find a group of players in costume and immediately threw ourselves into the tudor dancing whilst waiting for the Revels to formally start. More and more people arrived and  then more people in costume arrived until at last we were all huddled around a small part of the riverbank waiting for the Holly Man to be ferried up the river.  I love this part of the revels, there is a truly Pagan sense of anticipation in waiting for the Holly Man to come back to London. Obviously returning far too early for the Wheel of the Year calender but as one of the Players remarked "People just really like seeing the Green Man" and of course they do - we are all looking for the hope of Summer at this time of year.

_When the Holly Man emerges from the river the whole assembled company Wassails the boat, hoping for safe passage for the year for the sailors and this signal my favourite part of the proceedings.  I love Wassailing, I love standing with a group of disparate strangers
wishing for good cheers, safe passage and the tongues of poets to set
fire to the Globe.  Because once the boat and an apple tree are
wassailed the company always wassails the Globe Theatre for a fine
year of Playing.  I am not really much of a patriotic person but I was
proud to stand and wassail the globe for another fine year of creative endeavour.

The formal Revels end with a traditional Mumming play which was great fun, St. George battled the Cuts and stood as Protector of the Welfare State, the Doctor and assembled company healed St. George with magic wands when he fell in battle and all was well. The cakes were passed around and inside two a pea and bean led to the Crowning of King Bean and Queen Pea - in true 21st century style they were both, in fact, women busting those normative gender roles!

We didn’t go to the George pub afterwards for more stories, dancing
and the Kissing Wishing Tree but instead travelled our weary way home. But I feel like I have started the New Year off properly, seeing the Holly Man really does raise my spirit and wassailing everything in sight creates an amazing sense of community amongst strangers, however temporary.

Wassail.  Drink Hail.
Shards in the aftermath
_New Year, new beginnings and what this has brought to the UK is a
barrage of winter storms.  The Element of Air has been stalking the
land, throwing around cars like toys, wreaking havoc, destruction and even causing two deaths, in fair Albion.
_As someone who has grown to identify closely with the element of Air this has been an interesting time for me. Most lunchtimes I take a long walk down by the canal and despite the wind and occasional rain Thursday was no exception.  I always find my lunchtime walks essential to calming my mood, lifting my spirits and reinvigorating me for the afternoon but Thursday was something very special.  On reaching my usual avenue of trees I could see the devastation of the last few days; many big, old branches had been torn from the trees and in one case a venerable old tree had snapped in half, it's whole
top-heavy end lying on the ground.  Looking at the cast off branches
and the corpse of the shattered tree I could see they were often dry and brittle with the heartwood rotted out.  Heavy, ancient
branches that no longer served the trees they clung to were swept away by Air and… it made me start to rethink the element of Air.
_It is usually Fire we think of as active and destructive, burning away
that which no longer serves us.  Fire is the element cleanses and
purifies even as it lays waste.  But here I was watching a more
selective, yet still very destructive cleansing.  The air was ripping
away those branches which could no longer bend and move with the
flow, but the rest of the tree remained intact.

When we think of a cleansing with Air we tend to imagine the gentle incense or smudge smoke curling up and around our tools, homes and ourselves permeates and surrounding us. The image is not one of a gale force wind literally blowing away the deadwood.  But as I took my walk and felt the wind and saw the trees I took a cleansing as well.  I saw the wind blowing through my aetheric self, stripping away any negativity that clung to me, polishing my aura until it was a bright shiny thing.

I would love to hear of non-traditional ways you have worked with and used the elements so let me know below!
The adventure starts here!
What an interesting place this is on the cusp of 2012.  Firstly, I love this time of year, there is so much energy around as everyone is feeling they have a fresh start.  The internet is full of lists, declarations of hopes and dreams and resolutions - there is an inspiration in the air which is infectious and intoxicating. 

But this is also 2012 - the year which has been the source of speculation, rumour and mystery for a very long time indeed.  There have been so many books, films and conspiracy theories that there is a different sort of anticipation this year and a lot of people are just waiting to see what will happen.

My own take is that this is an exciting time and we are moving into uncharted territory.  I intend to jump in tongue first and make sure that this year is an amazing year for the whole planet. I am starting right now. 

I have been working through the fantastic Goddess Workbook 2012 from Goddess Leonie, recognising what I achieved in 2011 and making plans for 2012. 

So 2012 is going to be the year that:

1. I learn to manage my stress completely;
2. I take my creativity to the next level and remake it as a way to financial independence;
3. I integrate my spirituality even more closely into my life;
4. I finish my Masters; and
5. I build a sacred mind temple.

Because I believe that time isn't something that happens to you, it is a resource for you to spend, I am going to make 2012 something very special.

The 3 words summing up the 2012 I am going to make are:


How are you planning on crafting your 2012?
_Let's get festive - a bumper Yule inspiration pack to get you in the mood! This may seem a bit Chrismassy for a Pagan Blog but since the Pagan roots of CH

First my favourite seasonal recipe.

Mulled Apple Juice

1 litre of apple juice
3-4 slices of orange/lemon
4 whole cloves
1/2 tsp of cinnamon (Or a small stick)
3-4 allspice berries
1/2 tsp nutmeg
(sugar to taste if you want to)

(or a sachet of mulled wine spice instead of the spices)

I like to put everything in a slow cooker and then leave it to infuse
for a good long time maybe an hour as there is no alcohol in this you
don't have to worry about accidentally burning it off. You could use a saucepan on the hob instead but I wouldn't leave it as long, maybe a gentle heat for 15 mins and check the taste.

The TV is saturated with Christmas films this time of year and as
popular as they are I have never really managed to get into "It's a
Wonderful Life" or "Miracle on 34th Street", sacrilege I know!  But
that doesn't mean I don't love a bit of Christmas TV even though I am a Pagan, so I have listed my top 4 below if you want to try them out.

A Christmas Carol (the 1984 version please!) is a story I read every
year at Christmas.  I am sure this story started the tradition of
ghost stories at Christmas and couldn't be more appropriate in this
day and age, we could all do with a bit of the Milk of Human Kindness at the moment.

The Children of Green Knowe - set in post-war England at Christmas time, a charming tale of friendship and more ghosts, but it remains responsible for my lingering fear of Peacock cries!
__The Box of Delights - Carols, Herne the Hunter, snow, a
Punch and Judy show and a magical box.  The Wolves are running!

The Blue Carbuncle (Sherlock Holmes) - An adventure from the great detective set at Christmas time in the heart of the Victorian
Christmas revival.  Missing jewels and a missing Christmas Goose - it will not disappoint!

Finally Music for the Season (Remember how I said I couldn't quit the folk music!)

Steeleye Span "Winter" Album, especially the Mistletoe Bough for real Pagan flavour! See track 8 on the link.

Loreen McKennit "A Midwinter Night's Dream" especially my perennial favourite carols "Holly & the Ivy" and "In the Bleak Midwinter".