I feel like this is the first proper post of the year. Imbolc always feels like a door opening, a gateway swinging wide to let in the rush of the new year’s energies. This year especially so, for some reason. The anticipation, as always, had been eager, and so like two whippets let loose from a leash Kal and I hurtled towards Cumbria’s finest fells in the spring-fresh morning of an awakening sun. The day was bright, clear, the sky blue and uncovered. The Bride was waiting at the altar, and we were heading down the aisle to meet her – like… two whippets? That analogy so totally doesn’t work when you carry it through!
Our first stop on a packed itinerary was a well. I hadn’t actually planned the day to coincide with my recent Camelot Oracle draw – the agenda had been set even before that – yet the first card I had drawn for that reading was to place Merlin at The Wells on Imbolc. Sometimes the cards are so accurate that I wonder how we have any free choice at all!
A Morning Dip
Anna’s Well, or Stanger Spa, is a recently renovated saline well, which is unusual because it’s quite far away from any obvious salt source, unless there is chlorine or rock salt underneath somewhere. Normally we choose to go to a well first so that I can do some form of purification ritual. I like to cleanse myself of the worldly energies before embarking on a new year’s work and a new quest. This day I would be hoping for both a new quest and a new spirit guide. Absolution through a saline solution seemed appropriate. First, however, we have to get there.
Anna is probably a christianisation (if that’s a proper verb) of the earlier pagan Annan – a form of the triple goddess. Seemed highly appropriate on this, the first of the goddess’ feast days.
As we walked along a well-used bridleway we imagined that the going would be easy, however as is usually the case we were soon to meet an obstacle that would challenge our resolve and determination. We rounded a corner to meet the shining sight of a long iced-over pool of water that practically barred our path. Even in sturdy walking boots I baulked at the prospect of wading through the icy water. Then a foolish thought chimed in – would Kal fall, or would his new waterproof shoes save him waterlogged feet from the outset today? I raced to the end of the track to get a good vantage point on the forthcoming action!
Something was helping Kal this day. He stayed both dry and upright! Maybe I’ll have to sack the sidekick? He’s not providing the usual levels of comedy value these days! We made it over the water, the hill and across the frozen marshland to reach the well’s building.
All’s well at Anna’s Well
A de-camped at a tree in sunlight, the scene captivating us. Then we split up to go about our separate business as usual. My first action was to simply stand in the sunlight feeling the tree’s aura pulsing with new vibrancy. Ahh…Imbolc – the return of the mating energies. How wonderful! The sap is slowly rising.
The first thing I needed to do, I felt was to open up. I used the dappled sunlight to go into trance, and the let whatever images came to appear in my mind. The first image was of my hand, reaching into the frozen waters of the well to break the ice and drink from the well. Really? Drink the still, saline waters of a ground well? Hmmm….I know they sold the waters at one stage, but this didn’t sound very safe. Nevertheless the image wouldn’t leave me. So I did it. Exactly as the image had suggested. And actually the water was really pleasant! Cold, pure, refreshing and then with a hint of salt in the after-taste It was lovely! I dabbed the remaining water across my face making the sign of a cross – this would be my cleansing before the real work began.
These days dowsing is a tool of confirmation, and a means with which to give my brain and senses the space to work without using all my focus. I let my intuition begin to feed into the feel of the place – what should I be doing, I asked? Free the Spirit of Place, came the response. I didn’t even need to ask how because already I was grabbing my staff and heading off to walk around the building in an anti-clockwise circle three times. The going underfoot was treacherous, but only a small part of my attention needed to work on that – the rest was moving, dragging, swirling and playing with the energies as I walked around with intent.
As I came to a standstill by the sunlit tree I had a vision of a young lithe blonde woman throwing her hands into the air in a gesture of freedom and joyous expression, her legs striding in a balletic dance as she skipped skywards in a huge leap filled with a love of life. Wow – she was really pleased to be “free” and out into the world again!
Later, when I chatted to Kal he talked about how lively Anna was, and how she had jumped over him in an exuberant leap. What an incredible confirmation that was! Either we were sharing mental projections, had shared cultural histories, or we had experienced the same energetic form of Anna. I’ll leave you to decide which, psychology fans.
I called Anna over to see if there was anything I could learn from her. She asked if I wanted to meet my new spirit guide – I said not yet – it wasn’t the right time or place just yet. Instead she guided me to Merlin, saying that he was available if I wanted to speak to him instead. How could I not, given the Camelot Oracle draw? I had to.
Merlin reveals the symbols of the year
I met Merlin at the power centre that my dowsing rods discovered – a small lit spot between young saplings near the back of the Well. I began to do a grounding and centring visualisation. I use the same visualisation but the exact form seems to change all year every year. This time, instead of connecting with the sun and moon as usual, the strands of energy wrapped around these two celestial objects, then reached up to the Pole Star too. The shape was the hilt and pommel of a sword. When the energy came back down it was a long straight blade that cut into the Earth.
As I brought the energy into a ball around me I saw a rounded shield covering me from any angle that I turned to face. Hmm.. what was this, I asked. The voice of Merlin spoke. He spoke of the year to come. He said that I would need to arm myself with The Sword and The Shield whenever I did any important work this year. This didn’t make any sense at this point, but let’s see what the rest of the day would bring?
Some additional details arose about the symbols. The sword was pointing downwards, its tip embedded into the Earth. As it touched the earth it drew up the energy. The shield was more circular than its usual “shield” shape – it was an all-surrounding form of shield, one that would protect from all angles. It was like the shield that the angel Michael has described with his sword when I saw a vision of him on Angel Hill on Iona in Scotland last year. I came back to consciousness and saw the plain surroundings of the bare trees and dead grass. It was time to leave.
Kal was ready to leave now too. I said goodbye to the beautiful spirit of Anna, and thanked her for her help, wishing her a beautiful year herself. On the way out Kal and I stopped off at an old oak tree that called out to us. Just to say “Hello” and wish it a fruitful year. That’s just the kind of thing we do these days. Anyone would think we’re mad.
Walking back up the hill towards the car the blue sky background really highlighted a lone silver birch tree on the top of a hill as we walked towards it. It was a stunning sight, and a fitting symbol of the freshness and vitality of the day. This was going to be an exciting Imbolc!
Coincidences in Cockermouth
With sword and shields firmly in mind we drove back into Cockermouth – our de facto base for the day. On the way into town Kal shouted out – stop! He’d just seen an angel standing over a sword and a shield. WHat he’d seen was a War Memorial. The angel perched on top drew us toward it. Then I saw some things that made me shiver.
At the base of the memorial were a series of wooden crosses. Of course I had seen such things a million times, but today they had a new resonance… the little swords pointing downwards, and the shields at their centre….. it felt special. The Sword and The Shield. Whatever next?
Next we would head to the nearby village of Bridekirk where we would search for the spirit of Brigid on her fire feast day.