Blessings of Imbolc and Lughnasadh

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TWH – The turning of the wheel has brought those of us in the northern hemisphere to the celebration of Imbolc, and in the southern hemisphere, Lughnasadh or Lammas.

This wintry season in the northern hemisphere is celebrated by different traditions under a variety of names – the twelve-day observance of Entschtanning (the emergence), the Shinto Festival of Setsubun (February 3), the feast day of Saint Brigid of Ireland (February 1), and of course for many Pagans, the fire festival of Imbolc with the Goddess Brigid at its heart.

Brigid’s Well – Kildare – courtesy s. bustamonte 2006

Author Lilith Dorsey told TWH, “This is one of my absolute favorite times of year. I get the chance to celebrate the ‘fiery one,’ the Goddess Brigit.”

She went on to point out yet another spiritual celebration observed within polytheist communities that occurs at the same time, the feast of Maman Brigitte.

“However, it is also the feast of Maman Brigitte in the Haitian Vodou and New Orleans Voodoo pantheon. She is a powerful Lwa of the Dead, a fore mother dedicated to justice and wisdom. My own spiritual house is dedicated to her and me and my godchildren take special care to honor her at this time.”

As we have now collectively made an entire turning of the wheel under the stress, grief,  and restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve continued to adapt in how we celebrate our holidays and perform our rituals. Virtual events, rituals, and gatherings have become the new normal, if anything about the current pandemic cycle we are in can be called “normal.”

Re-igniting, or just banking the fire of the season, to hold within us a little longer the power and light of the potential for new growth that is still weeks away for most.

It is also a time to clear away those things that no longer serve and continue to plan and prepare.

Author Thorn Mooney shared with TWH her perspective of Imbolc as more of a full season, rather than just a few days, “Because our contemporary sabbat celebrations are made up of traditions from multiple sources, I think it’s most helpful to think of them as whole seasons rather than single days.”

Mooney briefly outlined her practices for the season, “For me, this is the time for clearing, cleansing, and focusing on lighting up the remaining darkness of winter. I clean my home, plan my garden, refresh the goals I set for myself at New Year’s, and have fun making notoriously ugly taper candles. It’s about finding joy, even though life may still be hard.”

And life has been hard for so many as the entire global community navigates its way through the maze of pandemic functioning with the unwanted companion of the virus, SARS-CoV-2, hovering invisible yet undeniable at our sides day in and day out.

In the southern hemisphere, it is the celebration of the first harvest, Lammas. For a perspective on the season there, we reached out to TWH contributor, Damon Leff in South Africa.

“To paraphrase [the rock band] The Byrds, ‘to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose.’ [From the song, Turn, Turn, Turn] This year’s season of thanksgiving is tinged with both joy and sorrow.”

Leff highlights the bounty of the harvest this year that comes in not just apples and produce, but also in the promise of modern medicine.

“I give thanks for a fruitful apple harvest from my own orchard and rejoice in seeing bounteous fields of corn and grain on neighbouring farms. The agricultural year has been a good one.”

“But this harvest season also coincides with the arrival of the first 1 million AstraZeneca vaccines for 1.2 million frontline healthcare workers, with another 500 000 vaccines to arrive later this month. Whilst the vaccines undergo 14 days of quarantine and quality assurance by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority, Pagans in South Africa will be breathing a sigh of relief in gratitude, and offering prayers in remorse for those we have lost to the pandemic so far.”

Apples ready for the harvest – Image credit: Damon Leff

Leff continued, “It is perhaps soberly appropriate then that the apple, in Latin, is both mālum (apple), and mălum (evil). From misfortune, unexpected good fortune might flow. In my prayers of thanksgiving to Vertumnus and Pomona, I will be honouring this year’s harvest with apples and cider in remembrance of those who have joined our ancestors. I will pray for an end to the endless waves of sorrow and despair, and for the renewal of hope in the hearts of women and men, everywhere.”

The mixing of grief with jubilation has perhaps never been so poignant in recent times as it has been over the course of the past year, and remains with us as we move forward. Our hopes and fears stand in stark relief to one another, and at the same time are mirror images of one another.

Together and individually we all continue to move forward as the wheel turns, turns, turns.

The Wild Hunt wishes our readers a Blessed Imbolc and a Bountiful Lammas!