Category: Festivals - The Witches Table
 
_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.
 
_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".
 
I hope you all had a wonderful Samhain yesterday. 

I had a beautiful low key evening with Amalthea and the veil was certainly stretched out thin last night.  There was definitely magic and Witches abroad.
 
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This year for the first time I have been sending out a tweet every day noting at least one thing in the world around me which has signalled the move from Summer to Autumn.  I do find in the UK that each season has a particular energy to it. The longer I have been on the magical path the more sensitive I get to that energy and I need to make a conscious shift inside myself from one season to another in order to make sure I am vibrating in tune with the season and not fighting against it.  This allows me to truly revel in the season and the weather and I can safely say that I have no favourite, I enjoy the seasons all equally. I would advocate learning to love all the seasons for two reasons.

Firstly being in tune with the energy in the weather and the seasons is incredibly helpful in my own magickal practices.  You have to work with what you have and a piece of magick that resonates best with the particular emotions and feelings captured by long hot balmy summer nights works less well in the dead of Winter covered in frost and snow.  Better attuning yourself to the energies of the season allows you to understand the best way to perform your magick in harmony with the energy available to you. It is simply another form of energy and power to utilise in your workings and one that is varied and abundant.  However it is also a fickle and changeable energy which is why it is important to attune yourself.  Whether you are Wiccan or not, the eight Sabbat festivals of the year which mark a mixture of Solstices, Equinoxes and important agricultural dates give a good basic framework for attuning yourself to the changing energy of the seasons.  They provide a great template for the big energy peaks but I want to delve a little deeper that this.  Whilst a night of celebration is great fun and can be spiritually moving, I don’t agree that one big party for a couple of hours is really the full story.  The seasons change gradually through a number of small signs, my method of working is to slowly absorb and notice those signs, gradually moving myself into a different energetic state by a small amount each day at the same pace as the season itself changes.  The festival is then a ultimate celebration – a feeling of having arrived, but importantly I have made a journey to reach that arrival.  This is a more organic way of noticing and attuning and it allows you to really luxuriate in the changes which is important for point number two…

Secondly I want to enjoy my life.  I don’t want to spend each Winter pining for the Summer, wishing my life away.  Looking for the good things in each season may sound like an annoyingly Pollyanna way of working, however when it comes to the weather (especially in the UK) the only thing you can rely on and control is your own reaction.  I do not mean to dismiss those people who suffer SAD, I think that they have an unfortunate burden to bear which no amount of positive thinking can erase.  However for the rest of us we can find the good in all the seasons and by finding what is enjoyable we can start to enjoy them.

I love the first frost and the first daffodils, I love the bare skeletons of Winter trees and the lush abundance of my Summer garden.  I love it all, no matter how wet or annoyed I may get at times.