Imbolc: Life Springs Eternal

Imbolc (pronounced ee-molk), also known as Candlemas or Brigid’s Day, marks the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.  Celebrated Feb 1-2, it’s sort of the tipping point that reminds us that winter won’t last forever.  The warmth will return, along with the growth of new life, as we turn towards spring.

The word Imbolc means “ewe’s milk”, as this is the time of year many animals are birthing the Spring flocks.  Sheep, goats, etc. are giving birth and need special attention to help ensure safe deliveries.

Saint_Brigid's_cross
St. Brighid’s Cross 

St. Brighit (Brigid, Bride, and various other spellings – pronounced ‘Bree’ or, sometimes,  ‘Bri-jit’) started as a Celtic goddess and, as other Pagan deities have to encourage conversions, became adopted as a Catholic saint.  Between the two faiths, she’s known as a patron of fertility, the arts, poetry, healing, charity, and prophecy.  She is celebrated still, particularly in the British Isles, by crafting an effigy doll or a St. Brigit’s Cross (‘how-to’ in the link) and with the lighting of lamps or candles.  Another tribute to the ever-lengthening days. 

An Imbolc rit my church did one year involved planting a seed in an eggshell and a visualization on the ways we wanted to grow in the coming seasons.  Eggs and freshly planted seeds are also means of celebrating this time-honored Sabbat.  Sometimes we need the reminder that, no matter what is happening in life, new things will continue to emerge.  There’s always room to grow, and learn, and evolve, and improve.

Yesterday, I focused more on the planting of new seeds than anything else.  Now that I’m working outside the home (more steady than freelancing allowed for), I’m saving up to repair the elements of my garden.  I didn’t use it at all last year and the cats have since destroyed the flimsy fence we threw together to section the garden from the yard and it’s become overgrown.  This year, I intend to revive and improve it.  Instead of trying to go big, all at once, I’m keeping it basic and will add to it as I go, as I’m able.

Garden beds
Something like this is what I’m after – will post before/after pics as able!

As a side note, yesterday was also a waxing moon in Taurus.  Today is, as well.  A waxing moon in a fertile sign is always good for planting, transplanting, etc.  Things planted under Taurus are believed to grow sturdy and be productive.  I considered this occurring on a fertile holiday my sign to get seeds started.

At some point, I’ll have to do a series on what I’ve learned about ‘Planting by the Signs’ and how it’s been a tradition in both Europe and Appalachia for centuries (probably millennia).  Only becoming a dying art over the last hundred years, it’s reviving now as another “Old-Time Wisdom” we shouldn’t lose.

Whether you celebrate Imbolc, the more secular Groundhog’s Day, or just treat Feb. 1-2 as ‘another day’, I hope it’s spent with loved ones and enjoyed.  Remember that Spring is just around the corner…in another 6-7 weeks (sorry, Groundhog, it’s always another 6 weeks of winter, technically 🙂 ).

Happy Lughnasadh!

I wanted to pop in today to wish everyone, Pagan or not, a Happy Lughnasadh.  For the record, as it’s a dicey looking word (many Gaelic words are), it’s pronounced “loo-nah-sod” or “loo-nah-sad”.

In Pagan tradition, Lughnasadh (or Lammas, meaning ‘loaf-mass’) is the first of the 3* harvests.  It introduces the transition of summer into autumn and is often celebrated as a grain festival.  By some contrast, the next holiday, Mabon (or Autumn Equinox) is often considered a wine festival.

There are many ways to celebrate, from a simple meditation to a full-blown ritual.  It could be a baking of bread that is consecrated (blessed) before eating.  If eating freshly harvested foods, don’t forget to save the seeds, for it is said that, if they sprout the next year, one should plant it as a connection with the Divine.  This seems to go especially for trees, such as apple.  However one chooses to revel, the main point is to mindfully recognize where the Wheel of the Year currently sits and express gratitude for/reflect on/celebrate/etc. your place as part of Nature.

There is also some lore involved with the holiday, much of it Celtic, but I won’t get too far into it today.  I intend to create a series on the Pagan holidays soon enough, so there’s no need to be redundant. 🙂

As I said before, whether you’re Pagan or not…enjoy your day!

 

*According to some traditions, Samhain (pronounced sow-en, not sam-hane) is not counted as the third harvest.

 

The Garden’s Coming Along Nicely

I know.  It’s been a while since my last post and I missed this past week’s Misplaced Myths.  I apologize.  A lot’s been happening and there were unforeseen complications recovering from my recent surgery.  Life happens, but I’m still here because I’m too far gone 😉

One of the things I wanted to use this blog for is to document my adventures as a wannabe homesteader.  I say wannabe because I’ve barely gotten the garden together, after several years of trying. In my defense, my problems with keeping plants alive started only when I tried to over-do it and go too big at once.  This year, I decided to start small.

We took down the fence last year and rebuilt it this year.  It delayed putting the garden in, so I didn’t get my cools in this spring and worried I was too late with my warms.  In the garden, I got some maters, okra, sweet peppers and a watermelon plant in.  In the shady side at the back, I transferred collards and 2 types of lettuce.  In the “corn/grain patch” on the other side of the barn, I planted heirloom corn and came back a couple weeks later and planted green beans with them and transplanted my yellow squash.

Fast forward, something like 1 or 1.5 month, and things are coming along nicely.  The corn’s near shoulder-height (so glad I went with a 90 day heirloom and not the typical 120 day sweet corn!) and some yellow squash are forming.  The maters are flowering, as is the watermelon plant, and the okra is gaining on the maters.  The collards and lettuces are lively and growing.

Of the failures, it looks like the peppers may not have survived and the green beans don’t seem to have sprouted at all.  I may have misjudged the peppers readiness for transplant, though, and the green bean seeds were from a couple years back.  May be contributing factors…

The yields aren’t likely to be huge, since I only planted a small bit, so there won’t be any canning this year.  I will probably be processing some to freeze, if it isn’t all eaten fresh.  I may still try to put in some cools for a fall harvest before it’s too late.  Been a while since I’ve had carrots I grew myself.  May try for those and some beets, cabbage and what-not.  I have seed onion, shallots and purple potatoes that I’ll give a go…I believe they can over-winter for a late spring harvest if planted and thickly mulched before the frost (but don’t quote me on that – I’m still a novice).  I’m hopeful for a more cultivated green thumb and an ever-expanding garden as time goes on.

I wish I had a picture to post.  Still gotta replace my worn-out digital cam.  Maybe there will be a pic come harvest time.

If you’re gardening this year, how are your plants coming along?  Leave a comment and let me know!