Imbolc is the first cross quarter festival of the new solar cycle and of the calendar year, falling half way between Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Astrologically, it comes midway through the sign of Aquarius, the sign of fixed air. Aquarius is idealistic, visionary and far-thinking. During Aquarius season, we are called not only to align ourselves with collective energies but to contribute to and even change them. Aquarius is the sign of potential, of breaking away from what has been established to try something new, even radical. This is one of the most inclusive of all the signs, reaching for genuine equality and breaking away from hierarchy and tradition, honouring honesty and original thinking. Aquarius energy is about the greater good, the bigger picture, about remembering that there’s more to life than our individual journey. As individuals, we are all part of a wider pattern and Aquarius asks us to acknowledge that pattern and do what we can to fulfil the potential it, and we, carry.
Nature is beginning to awaken at Imbolc and as the days lengthen and the light begins to return we find a sense of clarity and an ability to open up, to stretch mind and body and let go of the sometimes stifling energy of winter and too much time spent indoors. Aquarius is clear cold skies full of stars, the purity of a landscape covered in snow and ice. We can imagine standing on a mountain or a high hill, seeing the land curve away below us, gaining a sense of perspective as we stand above and reach beyond our everyday concerns. Aquarius brings energy from the unconscious and makes it conscious, just as our new vision emerges at Imbolc and we begin to make plans to manifest all the inner growth and change of the winter season in our outer reality.
Traditionally, Aquarius is known as the water bearer and the image for the sign shows a person (for Aquarius is above all a sign of humanity) carrying a jug or urn, allowing the water to flow. Aquarians are often seen as detached or even reserved, expressing themselves through the intellect rather than their feelings and this is often true. But they carry their feelings as well as their ideals, pouring them out for the benefit of humanity. As the Water Bearer, Aquarius contains and observes feelings, seeking to avoid overwhelm and chaos. Their role as the water bearer brings Aquarius an association with fertility and the seeds of life which resonates with the emergence of new life at Imbolc, the beginning of a new phase of growth. The ancient symbol of the urn is associated with the Sumerian goddess Gula, goddess of healing and childbirth, as well as with the Egyptian Nut, the star goddess who poured the milky way from her breasts and the waters of life from her womb to bring humanity into being. The urn of Aquarius has also been associated with the cauldron of Cerridwen, symbolising not just personal transformation but the ability to use that transformation in service of a greater good.
Aquarius is co-ruled by two planets, with Saturn as the traditional ruler and Uranus as the modern. Uranus is the great awakener, mirrored in the awakening of the land at this time. The dynamic between these two great planetary energies describes the mythology of the season. Saturn is the Cailleach, the powerful crone goddess of winter who brings the cold and the frost, still powerful at Imbolc. And Uranus is the process of awakening, of breaking out of the frozen energies of winter to make space for new growth and understanding. At Imbolc we pay attention to the lightning flash of Uranian intuition, the deep inner knowing which shows us the path ahead or at least the first steps along it. Aquarius energy honours independence and self reliance, and so can be associated with virgin goddesses, in the ancient sense of a woman unique and true to herself. Athena, Isis, Minerva and Aphrodite have all been associated with this sign, carrying the potential for fertility as well as staying true to themselves. Aquarius energy is also sometimes associated with the Fates, the weavers of reality who remind us that our personal journey is woven into a much greater whole.
Astrological Magic for Imbolc
We’ve all gazed at the sky and found shapes in the clouds and it’s easy to extend this and make it a divination practice. As with any divination, start by framing a clear but open question. Make sure its focused enough to give you the answer you need, without being so complicated it’s too difficult to hold in mind. To perform your divination, find a place with a clear view of the sky, whether its a hill top close to home or simply the view from an upstairs window. Gaze at the sky and allow your attention to rest on it gently, at the same time as bringing your attention to your breath. As your breath in, know that you are taking in the air around you, and as you breath out, offer your energy in exchange with the sky before you. When you feel ready, ask your question clearly, ideally out loud. Allow your eyes and your mind to rest on the sky before you and let yourself settle. Don’t be in a rush to “see” the answer, instead engage with your intuition and your feelings. You may see visible images in the clouds or you may see them in your mind. Either way, allow yourself plenty of time to receive your message. When you’ve finished, write about the experience in your journal and perhaps eat a little food to ground yourself.
Water Magic – a cleansing bath or shower
The element of water is often strong at Imbolc, either in the form of ice and snow, the cold rushing waters as the ice and snow begin to melt, or the rain which brings floods and fertile mud. We can allow these waters to carry away stagnant energy, cleansing and purifying us ready for a new season of growth. A cleansing bath or shower is a powerful way to do this as well as a great way to incorporate magical practice into your daily rhythm. Mixing herbs and a few drops of essential oils with Epsom salts as a skin scrub works to detoxify on every level. Suggestions for a cleansing herb mixture include juniper, traditionally used for both cleansing and protection, with antiseptic and circulation stimulating properties. Vervain is also a powerful herb of cleansing and protection with the added benefit of increasing divine inspiration. As you wash yourself with your herb mixture, visualise any stagnant energy flowing away down the plughole, leaving you sparkling inside and out.
Observing the stars opens us up to an awareness of patterns and the wider web of life, reminding us of our place in the universe. Spend some time simply observing, watching the stars as they wheel through the heavens, the patterns shifting and changing from our perspective as the earth turns beneath us. Then pick one star to make a focus for your meditation, perhaps a particularly bright star or one that you spot regularly. Visualise the light of the star in it’s long journey to reach earth and feel the bright white light bathing you in pure, clear energy. Offer the energy of your breath in exchange and know that you too are made of star stuff, that we are all part of the same universe.
Lys is a pagan astrologer and tarot reader based in London, you can find her on Instagram @wildstarlys or on her website
When I was first learning witchcraft and magick my teacher at the time taught me that you can only become so powerful using your own personal energy. Eventually you must seek the aid of the spirits. That is where powerful magick lies. You must call upon and work with a variety of spirits in order to manifest change in the world and the Universe. I have kept these words to heart my entire magical career. Many years later I still think of this wisdom. The Universe is filled with many spirits. There are more spirits in the Universe than there are people or animals. It will help our magick a great deal if we call upon them in magick. Even better, we should have a relationship with them. Pagans have always called upon the spirits. Indigenous healers and shamans create bonds with a variety of spirits in order to seek wisdom and heal the community. Witches from all over the world speak of having animal familiars and calling up the dead for magick. Ceremonial magicians summon the spirits of the angels and planets to create change in the world as well.
There are many different kinds of spirits that the witch seeks to work with. There are gods and goddesses, angels, and planetary spirits of the heavens. There are our ancestors and the hidden company of the below worlds. There are also faeries, elves, animal spirits, and plant spirits who dwell within the land itself. I think it is very helpful for witches to begin with the spirits of the land when they are first learning to work with spirits. It has often been said that we are spiritual beings having an earthly experience. This is a powerful statement. In patriarchal religions it is often taught that the earth is bad or sinful but the heavens are godly and holy. In paganism and witchcraft the earth is seen as our holy mother who gave life to us all. We are also taught that we are incarnated on earth in order to have physical experiences to help us spiritually evolve. The earth is sacred just as the heavens are sacred.
As pagans and witches we celebrate the earth and her cycles. We celebrate the moon cycles and her mysteries. The moon has the power to change the tides of the oceans and affect human emotions and our psychic abilities. We also celebrate how the sun relates to the earth with her different seasons and energies. We honor the planting season, the growing season, the harvest season, and the dark season. All these energies of the earth are important for our survival. It is important to remember that to us magical folk, we see energies as spirits. In fact, we know that all things upon the earth have a spirit. Everything from human beings and animals to trees, rocks, clouds, and rain all have spirits. I remember it this way, just as human bodies have a spirit so to do all Lphysical things of nature have a spirit. These spirits we can call into our spells and rituals for powerful magick.
There are many spirits of the land that we can begin a relationship with. Every tree has its own spirit. Every rock, stone, and crystal has its own spirit. Every flower and plant has its own spirit. Yes, even the rivers, lakes, ponds, and oceans have their own spirits. These beings are sacred and they will teach you so much about natural magick, paganism, and witchcraft. Our physical bodies are of the earth so the spirits of the earth can help us heal our bodies. We must eat, sleep, and have shelter, so these land spirits can help us obtain these things that we need. The spirits of the land can especially teach us the magical and healing properties of herbs, crystals, stones, and trees. Human teachers and books are great, but it’s far more powerful to learn from the spirits themselves. Who better to teach you about nature magick than nature?
Over the last thousand years we have lost our connection to the spirits of the earth. It’s only the few witches, Spirit Walkers, and faery doctors who have retained the remnants of this sacred knowledge. It seems that the more industrial we have become the more we have lost our connection to the spirits of the land. The big question now is how do we reconnect to the spirits of the land?
Anyone can have a relationship with the spirits of the land. You can be from the country, city, or suburb, and you can still gain land spirit allies. The only thing you need to do is be willing to put some time into cultivating a friendship with these spirits. The first thing you will need to do is learn about the geographical history of the land where you live. Even in a city, the land has a rich history of nature spirits. You will need to go online and research what the land was like before it became a metropolitan area. The reason for this is because many times even after the natural land has gone the spirits still remain. If you live in the countryside or suburb it is more likely that the original spirits still inhabit the land. It will help you a great deal to learn the history of the land you live on. What happened there? Did it always look like it does now? Were there any changes?
The next step in establishing a relationship with the land spirits in learning to tune into them and connect. Go outside and take a few breaths. Imagine your heart chakra opening up and being open to the energies of the land. How do you feel? What scents do you smell? What does the land look like? What do you hear? Spend some time simply connecting to the energies of the land. Try not to judge your experience. Just feel. Just breathe. Do this exercise during the day and at night. I will tell you that the energies are very different from day to night. Always remember to journal your experiences.
Once you have spent a few days connecting with the energies of the land it is a good idea to leave offerings. Offerings can be water, food for the animals, wine or ale, bread and honey, or anything you think is appropriate. Even though bread and honey is traditional, remember that bread is not good for animals to eat. By the way, if an animal eats food offerings this is a sign that your offerings were accepted. However, if animals do not eat your offerings it’s ok because the spirits received the energies of the offering. When we give offerings to the spirits of the land we are establishing an energetic and spiritual connection. Think of it like this, when we do something nice for a friend they will know you care about them and want to do something for you.
At this point you can go further in your understanding and connection to the land spirits. One of my favorite things to do is to perform an energetic heart connection to the spirits of the land. It’s a very easy technique but so powerful. Find a tree, rock, bush, or plant that you are spiritually attracted to. Leave a little offering of water or wine. Place your dominant hand on the tree, rock, bush, or plant. Now send a beam of love from your heart to the spirit at the center of the natural object. Now, wait a few moments. In response, the natural object will send a beam of energy to your heart. Keep sending the energy back and forth. You can also speak to the land spirit. Introduce yourself and speak with the spirit just as you would to anyone. Spirits sometimes speak directly to your mind in words, but sometimes they don't. They may speak to your heart and you may feel what they are feeling. This is good because it's simply a different way of communicating. By doing this technique over time you will learn to speak the language of the land spirit. Once this is done and you feel that your relationship with the spirits of the land is strong you may invite them into your spells and rituals for powerful magick and healing.
Written by Chris Allaun
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Our Sarah reviewed Chris' book this week too, to have a looksie at what she thought click here