A Merry Imbolc to You!

Today marks the Festival of Imbolc, one of the four celebrations that intersperse the four Equinoctial Festivals of the old Celtic Calendar. Imbolc was the Festival sacred to Brigid, a key aspect of the Triple Goddess. Her colour is white: white for the snowdrops that drizzle the woodlands at this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere. White for the White Goddess, muse and inspiration of so many poets.White for the virgin bride. And white for her crescent moon.

White too for the fleeces of the lambs born at this time of the year (the word Imbolc is said to refer to the lactation of sheep who so often give birth in the coldest months), symbols of the emergence of new life from the darkness.

The Anglo-Saxons called this festival Solmonath. It was now that they ploughed the first furrow in the fields, placing into the furrows either a cake or the corn dollies that were woven at last year’s harvest. It is a time of change, the midwinter-spring that TS Eliot calls “sempiturnal though sodden toward sundown”. There may be frosts in the morning, snow may even dust the ground, but things are stirring beneath the hard outer crust of the earth at our feet. Gentle tremors of new life are creeping along root and stem. Seeds are beginning to itch. The way is being paved for another spring.

The Church, following its usual pattern of creating a Holy Day to coincide with the pagan festival days, gave Imbolc the name Candlemas.

Whatever your religion (and wherever you are in the world), you might like to light a candle tonight. Watch its flame flicker and dance, knowing that the dawn always gives way to the day, giving thanks for the cycles of the seasons and the richness of the earth at our feet.

With best wishes,

Essi.

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Tree Magic – Welcome to the Rowan Tree Month!

Today marks the start of the Celtic month of the Rowan Tree, the tree most associated with protection, intuition and psychic powers.

I have a soft spot for Rowans. I’ve often come across them growing in some remote place, far from other trees, blown by the winds and yet still strong and graceful. There is something peculiarly magical about them; the smoothness of the bark, the delicateness of the leaves, the rich froth of their blossoms in May and the startling colour of their summer berries.

Even in the deeps of winter, Rowan trees bring magic. When covered in frost their bark reflects both Moon and stars so that they looked “star-dressed”. They bring a touch of fairie to our world. Try sitting underneath one and see what happens!

According to Greek myth the rowan was created because of the actions of Hebe, cup-bearer to the gods, from whom the demons stole the cup. The gods sent an eagle to retrieve the cup and in the following battle, wherever a feather or a drop of blood fell a Rowan Tree sprang up, which is why the tree has feathery leaves and blood-red berries to this day.

The Rowan Tree was sacred to the druids, perhaps because of the contrast of its white flowers and red berries (red and white being symbols of sacredness throughout the ages) but also because of its associations as a visionary aid, one of its names being “Delight of the Eye” which refers as much to the Third Eye as it does to the way to the tree actually appears.

Other names for the Rowan include quickbeam, quicken, witch-tree, witchwood and sorb apple – all of which contain references to the Rowan’s legendary ability to enhance psychic powers, prophecy and magic. It is the female equivalent of the Ash Tree (another name for it is Mountain Ash). In Scandinavian myth the first woman was born from a Rowan, the first man from an Ash.

Druids often planted Rowan Trees in their places of worship. You’ll sometimes find them still growing close to stone circles or where ley lines cross. It was once believed that the powers of the Rowan were essential to maintaining the health of the land. Perhaps they still are? They are certainly worth looking after, as are all trees.

The Celtic Festival of Imbolc falls within the Rowan Tree Month. Imbolc is the festival associated with the Goddess Brigid, daughter of Dagda, one of the Tuatha de Danaan, who brought four magical treasures to Ireland. The Rowan’s connection with Brigid links it with the fires of inspiration and with the rebirth of the Spirit, which comes at Imbolc.  Brigid is said to have had arrows made of rowan-wood which would burst into flames when she fired them.

This is most probably a reference to the psychic qualities said to be gained by imbibing the juice of rowan berries (be careful though, they are poisonous to children). Groves of Rowans were grown and tended as shrines of oracular practices…in other words they were places were people went if they wished to see more clearly into the future.

This year the Rowan Tree Month is especially important, because not only does the celebration of Imbolc fall within it, but the Chinese Year of the Dragon also starts during the same month (tomorrow in fact!). There is a long association between Rowan Trees and dragons, each of them being symbols of protection. Irish myths and legends are filled with stories of dragons guarding Rowans.

My guess is that this was a two-way street, the dragon guarding the tree, which in turn protected the lines of energy beneath the surface of the earth (the dragon-lines as they were once known).

Given that we only have a Year of the Dragon once every dozen years, this year may be a time for particular focus on developing your psychic abilities and listening to your intuitions. Let’s hope that it is also one of increased attention to the wellbeing of the earth itself!

Wishing you a month filled with Rowan Tree Magic…

With best wishes,

Essi.

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