Imbolc

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I had my first pagan ceremony today! It was very interesting. A neighbor had lent me a book on Wicca, and while reading it I realized a very important day of the year was coming–Imbolc. Irish imbolc derives from the Old Irish i mbolg “in the belly”. This refers to the pregnancy of ewes. A medieval glossary etymologizes the term as oimelc “ewe’s milk”.  It marks the halfway point between the winter and spring equinoxes. Catholics call it Candelmas; North Americans call it Groundhog Day. Celts call it the Festival of St. Brigid (Brid). I decided to recognize the day in the traditional Celtic fashion–being Scotch-Irish and a redhead. Water and fire seemed to be the primary focus of the festival, so I collected 50 candles of various shades of red, white and green. Red being the color of the god, green the color of the goddess, and white the color of the ewes milk–which Brigid was bathed in upon her birth. I built an altar with candles of red and white, calla lilies (white), fragrant evergreens, chalices, a wand (borrowed from my neighbor), sea salt, a corn-husk doll representing Brigid, and melting ice within a womb-shaped trifle dish to signify winter melting into spring. It looked quite beautiful!

Five participated in the ceremony: my husband and I, my nephew, and our neighbor and her daughter. We read the mythologies surrounding the day and the significance of everything. Then said various blessings as we lit the last seven candles of red and white. Then we partook in Sabbat cakes (simple little cookies with a refreshing lemony taste), beer/mineral water, cheese, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Celtic music played in the background and everyone seemed to find the whole affair very soothing.

Afterward, as my neighbor and I sat outside on the chill evening by the bonfire we had built in honor of the occasion, I asked her what she thought of the ceremony. She said she thought it was beautiful and thanked me for including her. She went on to tell me how important God was to her. I asked her, “What do you mean God?” The foregoing ceremony would be labeled positively demonic by the adherents of my childhood religion. Did she mean a Christian God? Her answer? “God is…” That was it. God is not small enough to be sheltered within the tight confines of Christianity. “There is a reason for everything,” she said. “I cannot accept that life has no reason.” So, God is above and all spiritual pursuits  honor  him. A very comforting belief. But is it true? It would be nice if it was. I, however, was raised to believe in a God that had such exacting requirements that few, if any, could fulfill them. So, if her beliefs are true, tonights ceremony was genuinely spiritual and acceptable to God. If my beliefs were true, we are all  pretty much damned–in a strictly non-hellfire sort of way. How do I feel? When I erected the altar last night, I was alone as my husband was in a welding class. I remember thinking that my old beliefs would find such an altar an open invitation to demons. I didn’t feel anything. My house felt normal. The altar felt right. So, either my previous system of beliefs is wrong, or I am so far gone my conscience  has been “marked as with a branding iron” (1 Timothy 4:2).  What do you think? Is God in all systems of beliefs or just one?

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