Imbloc, Feburary 2nd, we welcome the first stirrings of spring, and to say farewell to the cold and welcome the warmth. The day's focus is to open our mind, soul, heart, and body to the changing season, to connect with the waxing solar year. The things in life that we all wish for: financial security; a trusting, loving partner; supportive friends; and true peace of mind knowing that you are living the life you were meant to lead.
On the eve of Imbloc sweep away the negative vibe from each room of your home, then rest the broom at the side of your alter. Carry a brown colored candle through each room and say a few words to banish negative energy; to attract and encourage good. Imbloc translates as "in milk". Add a drink of milk in ritual. The day of, outside pay close attention to the snow covered ground for a bird's feather that would foretell what the future would be.
According to ancient British weather lore it is the hedgehog that emerges at Imbloc, to fortell if winter will soon be over. When a hedgehog wakes from a deep sleep, and emerges from its burrow in mid-winter and sees its shadow, because the sun is shining, it will forecast that winter will only continue for another six weeks. If the weather will be bad, the hedgehog will remain inside its burrow.
An eighteenth century American rhyme advises:
"Observe which way the hedgehog builds her nest, to front the north or south or east or west, for if 'tis true what common people say, the wind will blow quite contrary way."
Quote taken from-Cassell Dictionary of Superstitions Author-David Pickering
Since Imbolc is just around the corner I thought I would share with you the first draft of my teen romance, “Enchantment". This manuscript is about a year away from my publisher's viewing.
In this young adult romance novel Avril is one of eight teenage girls who meet almost every Sunday to be schooled in white witchcraft-Earth religion as part of their transition from childhood into maidenhood.
It’s been forty six-days since Avril attended the School of Magick in the Victorian mansion. Now, returning Avril and her friends have the opportunity to meet prospective suitors.
Corrina believes her childhood crush would choose her. Lilith definitely disagrees, and will do anything to capture his heart - even if it means dabbling in the black arts.
I present to you the first chapter - IMBLOC, THE FIRE FESTIVAL
Avril woke before dawn. Bundled in layers of warm clothing under her winter hooded black cape, she followed the cow path moving quickly the frosty wind was at her back. The route she took was nature at its finest, a wonderful scenic area with wooded hills, forest, valleys, peaceful farm fields and winding country roads. The wind blew across a cold winter land. Scanning the hills and fields, she spotted several wolves running across the snowy landscape before disappearing from her view into the forest. She smiled to herself knowing she was lucky to catch a glimpse of the magnificent animals.
Her heart pounded with anticipation at what was to come. The short, dark, cold snow and icy winds of winter had made it impossible to visit the Coven’s Victorian mansion. She thought to herself, what a great place to grow up. A day spent at the Victorian mansion was never a waste of time. It was a place where neighbors, family, friends and allies have magical powers to cast spells, predict, and utter incantations to clear the madness from their minds. It is a magical home where she had been taught to tap into the Higher Forces of Nature, apply psychic abilities to work through any problems, and to live a contented life as an individual. Her introduction into the craft was experienced with youthful abandonment. Growing up in the community of wise women taught her the power of rhythmical spells for desire, incantations to achieve goals and to read the signs in nature to predict. To promote growth, she learned to push her mind past time and space to connect with spirit, to accept the past, live today and dream for tomorrow. She had become super sensitive to both the seen and the unseen world while harming none, oppressing none and ever seeking balance and harmony.
The forty-three days away from her mentors, family and sister-friends during winter break had weighed heavily within. Forced by the elements to stay indoors, she looked forward to seeing all again today at the Imbolc celebrations. The great Celtic Sabbat to cast off the darkness. The Fire Festival would ensure abundant light and energy. The Sun is waxing and daylight is growing longer. Rites would be done to banish the darkness from the coven’s lives and encourage the return of life. It was a time to cleanse, purify and be open to new possibilities, mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically.
Avril was close enough for a good view of the large Victorian mansion. The Mystery School for Girls was a beautiful place inside with a very large farm style kitchen, ample dining area, and the unusually spacious living area and den. The floorboards were made from hardwood with old-fashioned twelve foot ceilings and fireplaces to keep home and people warm from the severe cold in almost every room. At the back of the mansion were situated the cozy bed chambers. The second floor rooms were the learning areas for children aged five to eleven. The attic, on the third floor, had two classrooms for students aged twelve to eighteen.
Anxious to put the cold winter behind, Avril rushed to join with family and friends who had arrived to banish the dark days.
Three large bonfires burned bright. The flames rose straight up in an uneven flow. About three hundred women and children of all ages had arrived to celebrate the Fire Festival. Avril stepped on to the property. The moment she saw her best sister-friend, Hailey, dressed in a midnight blue winter hooded cloak standing by a large, twisted stump her heart skipped a beat in joy. Seconds later, she bounded through the snow to greet her. “Merry Meet Hailey,” she called out moving toward her.
“Merry Meet my friend, she said as they stretched their arms round each other’s upper body and pulled one another closer in a tender embrace. Avril thought of the times, since age five, when they came together, stood firm empowered by love and respect, only to separate to experience others, to join again to share. Their relationship was built on trust by compromising and communicating. Avril was proud of their strong commitment to honor, love and cherished their attachment.
Hailey’s golden brown hair flew against the wind. Her deep green eyes dazzled. She gave Avril a blinding smile. “I’m so happy we are together again,” she said, her voice full of excitement.
“I missed you too,” she answered, wiggling for freedom. “It’s nice to be back.”
“Are you hungry? Did you want to grab some scrambled eggs?”
Avril glanced toward the crowd enjoying breakfast in the eating area and said, “Sure.”
Hailey reached out and took Avril’s hand. As they wandered about the crowd Avril scanned the grounds. Candles of every shape and color burned. The bright flames swayed with the wind. Conversation filled with joy and laughter could be heard as families gathered together. The two moved through females, young, mature and old, who ate and drank the feast of milk products offered.
Hailey pointed to an Elder woman dressed in a black, long skirt, cape with the hood up and her young helper wearing ceremonial garb. Avril glanced over to see the two traveling to each of the younger coven members. The young helper looked frantic as she tried to keep up and hold a large scroll steady for the Elder to view. The two quickened their steps toward Hailey and Avril.
“Merry We Meet young ladies, will you be attending Sunday session when The Mystery School for Girls resumes?” The Elder quickly asked.
“Yes,” enthusiastically, they answered.
The young helper checked off their names from the list on the scroll.
“On February six report to the attic, to Priestess Angelica. And Avril don’t be tardy,” she said, her eyes on her.
The Elder wished them a good day. She simply gestured to her young helper, and then scurried away into the crowd.
“I’m happy that the New Year will be spent together advancing our craft,” Hailey beamed
Avril smiled with approval and said, “Me too!”
The wind howled as they made their walked past a bonfire. The timber loudly crackled as it was devoured by the red hot flames. To get rid of the past and look to the future, Yule decorations were being burned.
“Oh, there you are Avril! Come here, the High Priestess Ceasera is about to perform the annual weather forecasting ritual,” her Grandmother dressed in a full length black winter cloak said, her eyes on her.
Avril rushed to her grandmother’s side. Hailey followed close behind.
Avril shifted her boots in the snow, listening to the conversation between her grandmother and Hailey’s with her eyes on the brown candle’s wicks beautiful golden light that streamed outward from each and every window in the Victorian mansion.
“It warmed my heart to witness so many of the Elders after sunset join to light every lamp and candle within the dwelling in honor of the Sun’s re-birth,” Avril’s grandmother said staring at the flickering flames through the small plates of glass.
“It was nearly dawn by the time the brown colored candle was carried through each room to banish darkness and encourage the light - to attract the good and to keep the negative at bay,” Hailey’s grandmother said. She automatically, shifted her weight, maneuvering her walking stick.
“I’m pleased the candles that were left to burn in the windows to ensure the coven members a safe return are still burning.” Avril’s grandmother said, adjusting the wool scarf around her neck. She focused on the sea of black moving about here and there, and said, “What a wonderful turnout for the annual weather forecasting ritual. The groundhog shadow seeking ceremony gives a glimmer of hope for an early spring.”
“According to an ancient British weather superstition, it is the hedgehog that emerges at Imbolc to foretell if winter is over,” Hailey’s grandmother remarked. “When it emerges from its burrow in mid-winter and sees its shadow because the sun is shining, it will go back in and the winter will be prolonged by another six weeks. If the weather is bad, it will remain outside, but if it is fine, the groundhog will reach the optimistic conclusion that winter cannot last and it will return to its burrow.”
“The groundhog forecasts over many generations have had a ninety percent accuracy rate,” Avril’s grandmother reminded her.
“The whole event is an excuse to see family and friends and celebrate that winter is half over,” she chuckled.
The wind rose. The bare branches creaked. Avril closed her eyes turning up her face to the sun and took a moment in silence to absorb the heat from the fire flames.
When she opened her eyes she saw the coven had begun to position themselves around the three bonfires in a perfect circle. Females were squeezed tightly together, close enough to see, while row upon row stood impacted behind them. All faced inward toward the High Priestess Ceaserea in a floor length black over-cape with the hood pulled loosely about her creased face, standing center to say farewell to the final days and nights of the cold, icy winter.
All went silent. Instinctively, Avril’s attention was drawn to the High Priestess. Although there was silver in her long hair and her skin wrinkled, she radiated power. She stood before a wooden altar draped in a clean white cloth. White petals had been sprinkled on the surface. Avril caught the scent of rosemary incense, to remind all of their purpose and spiritual journey, to cleanse the aura and attract confidence and clarity, was lit. Snow melted in a large gold chalice. The sun reflected from the blade of a sword and gold pentacle. A large orange candle stood center for creativity and excellent imagination and relates to emotions in relationships. Avril was sure the candle would be anointed with rosemary oil. The wick of the large orange candle on the altar burned straight upward with a blue flame, indicating there were Spirits present. Evergreen and willow boughs, the traditional plants of Imbloc, rested at the base. The broom which had been used last eve to sweep the negativity from each room, then outdoors, rested at the side.
Ceaserea slowly raised her head and clasped her hands in front of her. Her voice trumpeted through the air. “We gather today to banish winter and welcome the first stirrings of spring, to say farewell to the cold and dark and greet the birth of every living thing. Today’s focus is to open our minds, souls, hearts and bodies to the changing season; to connect with energy of the waxing solar year. Daylight hours are gradually lengthening. Earth is now touched by the growing heat from the Sun. There is hope that the darkness will give birth to the light.” Her voice echoed outward as she announced, “Imbolc the Festival of Lights, is the beginning of light from the Sun, until fully born again at Beltane in May. Particular attention is paid to the state of the weather to give a glimmer of hope of an early spring.”
Ceaserea walked to the front of the altar and sat back and relaxed on a beautiful wooden outdoor chair. The coven waited for a groundhog to pop out of its burrow and predict the end of winter.
A few minutes after the sun rose in the eastern sky the groundhog managed to squirm out of the burrow and saw his shadow on the snow.
The High Priestess shook with slight movement standing up very straight and announced, “The groundhog’s furry forecaster predicts six more weeks of winter.”
Cheers greeted the prediction. The frozen earth pulsated as the conveners adjourned to take part in the traditions of Imbolc. Avril looked around at her extended family that had great importance in her life smiling to herself. She lived with the security of knowledge that she belonged. She could reach out at any time and receive compassion and understanding. She lived with the experience of a supportive community. Their experiences together are not without traumas or drama, but each made life easier, not just because they lessened the burdens, but each one taught her to love.