Posts Tagged ‘imbolc’
In the final part of our Imbolc excursion to Cumbria I will be showing you another new site for us - Maiden Castle – near the village of Wreay above the north end of Ullswater Lake. The story of how we found it is the real tale here, and the communion we had while there adds the final flourish to the whole episode.
Having already taken a wrong turn trying to find the narrow lane that led to the field in which the castle was supposed to be, according to the maps, we were somewhat exasperated already as we cruised along the hillside at slow speed trying to get a visual fix on any form of earthwork or stone cluster that might indicate a ‘castle’. Kal had been fully expecting a proper castle with turrets, flags and portcullis, but I assured him that we were looking form something far more mundane and far less spectacular!
The light was beginning to dim. The sun was descending behind the huge distant hills around Ullswater Lake. I had joked at the beginning of the day that we would probably arrive at the castle for sunset, and the joke was becoming a reality. Would we find the castle site before it got dark and too treacherous to locate?
We were about to give up. I stopped the car and insisted that Kal dowse whether we should continue looking or go to somewhere nearby like Castlerigg. I ditched the OS map and instead used the Viewranger pinpoint that I had preset the day before.
NOTE: Viewranger is superb for outdoor work of this kind such as finding sacred sites. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a complete lifesaver sometimes.
Go check them out if you like walking, running or discovering new places.
This was a precise fix on the castle and should allow us to home in on it. Kal returned – we had to find Maiden Castle, there were no alternatives! What now?
At that exact moment, sat in the car wondering whether to drive home or head out into the dim light in search of something we were both startled from our thoughts. A hawk burst out of a bush next to the car and flew across the bonnet. It swooped down into the vale below and disappeared again. Well – did we need any better sign? One glance was enough – we were decided – that was the sign we needed to venture forth. Then we noticed the footpath sign next to the car. Well, obviously, that would take us to the castle, right? Let’s hope so.
In the clear blue sky day of Imbolc this year the sight of Skiddaw mountain was a breathtaking, awe-inspiring experience. The mountain formed the scenic backdrop for your next sacred site – a stone circle that we had never visited before. The circle is called Elva Plain stone circle near the village of Embleton just north and west of Bassenthwaite Lake in Cumbria.
You can’t see the circle from the road,nor can you spot it when walking up the muddy track to the farm that manages the fields around the circle. Some advice tells you to try to reach the stone circle via the farmyard. Maybe in Summer that would be feasible. In Winter after much rain I don’t recommend that. Kal and I struggled up the sides of the track trying to avoid the worst of the mud whilst wondering how a couple who had set off just before us had managed to get so far so quickly. It was heavy going! Only for the dedicated, this one.
Once we reached the top of the track – not much of a climb compared to many circles we visit – then you get a fine view of Skiddaw and the surroundings. The circle can be seen in a field behind the farm below. The easiest approach is from the hill behind the circle where you could get a good view of the approach, and decide for yourself whether you wanted to wade through the mud patches.
Our second sacred site to visit on this glorious Imbolc day – February 2nd actually – was the church of The Bride herself - St Bridget’s in Bridekirk. Well, what else could you call a church in a village called Bridekirk – “kirk” being the old word for “church”? It’s The Bride’s church!
We must have missed all the fuss the day before when it was the official celebration day, because we were coming out on the 2nd February instead of the 1st. In every way the second felt like the better day! The weather was better, the day warmer, drier, and the scenery at least viewable on this day! Bridget wouldn’t mind, we felt.
As I wandered gently through the churchyard I saw a sight that caught my eye. It was a section of a yew tree, and it had been decorated with stones and other objects - like the Yule Log of old tradition, I thought to myself. How odd! But how nice too.
As we continued through the churchyard Kal zoomed off. I switched on my dowsing senses but not using the dowsing rods, only using my dowsing sense. I asked to be taken to a place where I need to be. It turned out to be quite an unusual place!
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.
I have been using the term “The Quiet Time” in recent posts and thought it was time that I explained this phrase better, and what the concepts are that I associate with this phrase.
The Quiet Time is a period in the cycle of the Wheel of the Year, the turning of one season to another. In my definition this phrase refers to the period between Samhain (October 31st/November 1st) until Imbolc (February 1st/2nd). During this part of the year the intention is to refrain from doing any energetic work, or any druidic activity.
There are several reasons for doing this:-
- The land is going quiet itself – the earth energy, particularly the male earth energy, retreats into the depths of the earth and is unavailable for use
- Trees and other sentient organisms and entities go into hibernation, and their interaction and energy is also unavailable to be worked with
- It is helpful for the energy worker to replenish their own personal energy by having a restful period to recuperate and regenerate
- Wisdom can be extracted from the knowledge acquired over the course of the ‘working year’ by changing the perspective on that work through reflection, consolidation and re-visiting the work that has been done throughout the year
Putting together all these reasons to take a break from working in the land it can be seen that there are tremendous benefits to “going quiet” over this period. Going quiet does not preclude going out into the land, however. Ironically, there are often many more opportunities for taking time off from your job during the Yule period, and this year I was specifically directed to go out to a sacred site for the Winter Solstice. I would, of course, encourage you to get out into the cold, the snow, the winter landscape, and discover how it changes and how it feels in those conditions. This actually makes the return of the energies in Spring so much more exciting!
There is a down side to taking a break for such a long period. Your rituals and routines become stale – but I just see this as an opportunity to review them in Spring. Another issue can be sheer frustration – looking out at the bad weather and wishing you were out in the land working – but really there’s nothing to be done, and nothing to work with at this time of year anyway – so chill out! Relax. Learn patience. Do other things. If you must work, do something different! This year I have done a house clearance during The Quiet Time, for example. This used only my own energies to do, and so it was ideal for me.
However, on the whole, I spend this time reflecting, writing, resolving what happened in the previous year, and preparing for the next year’s work. I have already discussed what I intend to do for Imbolc, and soon I will be discussing how I will be approaching the Spring Equinox. The planning starts in The Quiet Time with tarot readings, reflection, learning, reading, writing and restoring health and vitality. Enjoy the silence!
I have a new set of oracular divination cards. I call them this because they’re not really tarot cards in the usual sense. They describe themselves as an Oracle card set and I will go with this description. Especially given that I am going to Delphi soon to see THE Oracle. Seems appropriate that I should “gem up” on this ovatic tradition.
The set was devised by that eminent Celtic mythology scholar and druidical wise one – John Matthews. Of course, he got Will Worthington to do the artwork for the cards. Any sensible person in this field would do. I have several other sets of tarot cards featuring his excellent artwork (e.g. The Wildwood Tarot, The Druidcraft Tarot) and I highly recommend them for anyone in the field of druidic divination.
As you know, though, my work has been taking on an Arthurian bent over the past few years. Since 2010, when I encountered Merlin as a tutor and guide along my spiritual path, I have found that I have been working through Arthurian archetypes each year. This year seems like no exception to that, but trying to find information about Galahad/Gwalchaved is very difficult. Hence, I felt I needed a meditation tool that would allow me to get into “the spirit” of this archetype. When I saw the Camelot Oracle, and that it was written by John Matthews, then I needed only a split second to decide to buy it.
I have only read the manual about them – I haven’t tried using them yet. This being The Quiet Time I’m not wanting to stir things up just yet. I will get acquainted with the set first, for the next few weeks, and then when it comes to that all-important Imbolc or Spring Equinox moment when the year begins in earnest I will do my first draw with these cards and then report back on their efficacy for me.
As the set uses the Arthurian Archetypes I fully expect that I will be aligned to their output. I need first to confirm that my “champion” for this year is what I expect it to be. Once this is done I’m off – full flow – and let’s see where it takes me this year.
The festival of Imbolc has several elements which are of interest to the energy worker and druid:-
- It sees the return of the male earth energies that have been so weak as to be non-existent during the Winter months.
- It is the time when the energy form Brigid (or Bridget, Bride) can be felt, seen and interacted with at sites that are associated with her.
Some call this time of year The Quickening in recognition of the fact that the subtle energies and the life forces of this side of the planet are becoming more alive and vibrant. Astrologically the Imbolc event coincides with when the Sun crosses the middle degree of the constellation of Aquarius - the water bearer (or bringer of the waters for the Spring growth). The Moon will be just before Last Quarter on 2nd February, so there will be an average amount of female energy around this Imbolc.
Imbolc is associated in the Celtic tradition with Brigid, the virginal first form of The Triple Goddess - a complex mutating energy form that can be felt in various vibrational states during the course of the year. This female energy changes in tone and strength as the seasons progress. At the beginning of the year She is in her beginning form – bright, light and sparkling, but still quite weak in comparison to how she feels at Beltane in May.
In this form she is known as Brigid (amongst many other variations of this name and with many other names in different cultures). Encountering this energy form is exciting and inspirational, and I highly recommend that you visit a site traditionally associated with Brigid at this time of the year in order to feel this energy for yourself. I’m sure it will inspire you to actions that will only progress you on your spiritual path.
Perhaps she is called The Bride because Imbolc sees the first ‘marriage’ of the two energy polarities - the returning male energy and the ever-present female energy combining to create a vibrant and creative impulse which inspires one to action. Certainly, something special is happening at this time of the year, and celebration is the order of the day.
For me personally, I will be doing a number of activities to celebrate Imbolc. Over the course of the few days around Imbolc I will be:-
- Investigating and potentially re-balancing some dark energy from a known troubled area in the Derbyshire hills
- Renewing some previous work I have done to create healing energy at a sacred site by adding the Brigid energy to the circuit I created.
- Asking for a new Spirit Guide to work with for this year after the departure of my last one. I don;t know yet whether this is necessary, but I hope to find out at Imbolc.
- Confirming which branch of the Arthurian Cross I will be dealing with this year. Last year it was West/Gwalchmai and that related to the Water element (didn’t it just!?).
I’m very much looking forward to the start of the new year. I begin to get jittery at this point in the cycle, and Imbolc is such a good starting point to re-ignite a spiritual quest. Can’t wait!