Tag Archives: Imbolc

An Imbolc Tale


“Now the phoenix burst, as phoenixes will do,” the boy’s Nonna said, “into flame, but our hero didn’t see it.”

“Instead, he was focused on the small well to the East of his Nonna’s yard. When he had climbed down from the tree, determined to look underneath his feet, inside his Nonna’s land, and to connect with what was there, he had stopped worrying about the phoenix. Instead, he had turned his attention to the darkness at the heart of the land, trying to discern what his ancestors had brought across the ocean that gave the trolls a foothold there.

“For many and many a day our hero sat staring deep into the well. Sometimes the sun shone into the well, making sparkling jewels on the surface of the water and our hero tried to discern a message. And sometimes clouds covered the sky and the water was as dull and steel-grey as the trolls’ factories and our hero tried not to shiver too much. And sometimes snow fell from the sky, and settled on a thin skin of ice that sat upon the water, and our hero huddled into himself, wishing that he were back inside, under the covers, drinking hot chocolate, and eating chocolate croissants, and not worried about the trolls. But because he was a hero, every time that he was about to give up, he would remind himself how much he wanted to free his lands from the trolls and that would help him to stay just a bit longer, staring into the well.

“Now a day came when it seemed to the hero that sunrise came a bit earlier than it had been coming. And it seemed to him that the sun warmed him a bit more than had been its wont of late. And it seemed to him that the local fox hunted with a special urgency that almost smelled of kits deep inside a den. And it seemed to him that he could see some movement at the bottom of the well. He blew into his hands to warm them and he watched as the tiny white blossom of a snowdrop opened up at the base of an old maple tree.

“‘Been here long?’ the strong woman asked. Our hero almost jumped, and he did stand, quickly, as he had been always taught to be respectful, and he touched the knitted cap upon his head and answered, ‘Yes, Lady. I’ve been sitting here since Yule, since the shortest night of the year. And I’m not sure what day it is, but I do know that it’s been a long time because the days are starting sooner and the snowdrops are opening.’

“‘What would make a fine young person sit outside from Yule to Imbolc?’ the Lady asked, and our hero noted that she carried a small flame in her hand and that a young lamb suckled at her breast. He felt warmer as she came nearer to him and he could see more snowdrops opening in her footsteps. Her footsteps sounded as if a hammer were striking a musical anvil somewhere far away, maybe deep underground. And each step brought her and her warmth closer and closer to where he stood beside the well.

“‘I want to free my land from the trolls and their factories and evil mimes,’ the hero said. ‘And an old man told me to find the phoenix because she could tell me. And the phoenix told me to look into the heart of the land to find out what my ancestors brought with them to this land that gave the trolls a chance to work their greedy magic. And I’ve been sitting here, looking into this deep well, all Winter, but all that I’ve seen has been sunlight, and clouds, and ice, and snow. And sometimes I wanted to go inside and get warm, and eat, and drink, but I don’t want to leave until I know the answer. Can you help me, Lady? Please?’

“The lady smiled, and said to the hero, ‘You don’t remember me, do you? I was there when you were a day old and had jaundice. I have an interest in newborn children and I was there when they had to prick your heel with a needle to test your blood. Do you remember at all?’

“Wait!” the boy said. “Nonna, that’s just like me. Remember you told me how I had jaundice, which means yellow, and how you were there when they stuck a needle into my heel? And how the nurse from England swaddled me up so it wouldn’t hurt too much? Remember?”

And Nonna said, “Yes, the hero was just like you in that way. And perhaps some others.” And she continued:

“And our hero wasn’t completely sure whether he remembered it of his own doing, or if what he was remembering was from the time that his Nonna had told him about it, but he did, somehow, remember the pinprick in his heel, and a sense of warmth that helped him through that, and, just now, he could feel a tingling in his left foot. ‘Lady,’ he said, ‘I think that I may remember it, a bit, and I am grateful to you. My Nonna told me how happy my mother was to finally bring me home and how my father, who later taught me to hike the mountain, smiled when they put me into my mother’s arms to go home. Because Nonna was there and she saw it all, and somehow, maybe you and my Nonna are mixed up in my memory, as if she would sometimes try very hard to bring your energy into the room, but, well, really, I don’t know . . . . Can you help me to save my land?’

“‘Well, as to that,’ the Lady said, ‘I am She Who Attends All Beginnings and, so, of course, I was here when your ancestors came to this place. And I saw what they brought with them, off of their ships, and I have watched how some good came, and some evil came, and how, as is always the case, there have been Unintended Consequences. There’s a history that is the focus of this month. But what I could tell you wouldn’t help you; you must find out the truth for yourself. And I must know if you are true of heart and can work for your land and not be overtaken by greed. So, look, now, deep into the well and tell me what you see.’

“And the Lady held her flame directly above the well, and our hero looked as deep into the well as he had ever looked, and there, below the surface of the water, pictures began to take shape. Our hero saw flat pictures of ships, ships smaller than the one his hoary ancestor had sailed, ships that slipped between waves, heading ever towards the West. He grew sleepy, watching those ships, and finally, warmed, at last, by the Lady’s flame, he fell asleep, dreaming of ships and lands to the West. And just as he fell all the way asleep, he saw deep into the holds of the ships and cried out in despair, while a jazz riff played softly in his ears.

“And now,” the boy’s Nonna said, “it really is time for sleep.”

“Wait!” the boy said. “What did he see? Did he save his land from the trolls? What happened?”

“That,” Nonna said, “is a tale for a warmer day.” And that was all that she would say.

Picture found here.


A Story for Imbolc


Christmas, it seemed, had been a long time ago. So many days, at least so it seemed to him, had gone by since the boy went with his family to Nonna’s for Yule, the holiday that she had instead of Christmas, and Nonna had told the story about the glittering eggs, and the Viking ancestors, and the phoenix bird in the magnolia tree, and there had been presents. It was still cold and the days still seemed short, although, as Mommy pointed out on the drive home from his school’s after-care, the days were getting longer because they could now see sunsets most of the way home, instead of driving home in the dark. “Mmm-hmm,” the boy said, playing a video game on Mommy’s iPad from his car seat in the back.

That weekend, after the basketball game, Daddy drove him to Nonna’s to spend the night.

Nonna was sure to have some art projects in her art drawer and some card games to play. And she would certainly order in Thai food for supper. In the morning, he and Nonna were going to go get waffles at the diner and then see the new Hobbit movie. “Smaaaauuuuuggg,” the boy liked to say. He said it exactly the way that the announcer said it on tv when there were ads for the movie. Even though it was PG13, his parents let him go with Nonna since she wanted it so much and the orcs never scared him.

After breakfast at the diner, and after seeing Smaug (which, of course, included a big plastic cup of root beer, and some popcorn, and some Twizzlers, and the 3-D glasses), and after a trip to the neighborhood toy store for Pokemon cards, and after several games of Uno and several games of Chinese checkers, almost all of which the boy won and Nonna just barely lost, and after they went down to Nonna’s basement and played a game about fishing for River Monsters, and after a treasure hunt that the elves had left for the boy to discover, and after a warm bath where Nonna let the boy mix lavender oil, and olive oil, and almond oil, as much as he liked, because it was winter and everyone’s skin gets dry and everyone wants to smell something nice, and he felt a bit like a doctor, or scientist, or (this was one of Nonna’s words) an alchemist — it was, despite his best efforts, time for the boy to go to bed. And, of course, Nonna read a chapter from their latest book, and set the night light that made a pattern of the solar system on the ceiling, and told a funny story about when Daddy was a boy, and sang the song about hoof and horn.

And, then, just as Nonna was about to smooth the extra covers that the boy liked to have Nonna put on his bed and go, the boy said, “Nonna, what happened when the phoenix in the magnolia told that hero to connect with what was in the deep dark at the heart of his land to find the cure for the trolls? Did he figure out what his ancestors brought across the ocean that let the trolls get established on the shores of the Chesapeake and the Potomac? You never finished the story when we were here for Yule.”

And so, as you will see in a day or so my beloveds, his Nonna told some more of the story. She began by saying, “Once upon a time, there was a young man. He was older than seven, but younger than twelve, as heroes often are.”

“No, I know that part,” the boy said. “The hero was older than seven and younger than twelve, and I’m going to be eight in just over a month. Tell the part about what happened when he climbed down from the magnolia tree.”

“Well,” his Nonna said, “I’m getting there. Just wait a tiny minute while I freshen up my mug of tea with some more hot water. I’ll be right back, my love.”

And it was hot water, mostly, that Nonna added to her tea. And then she began in earnest . . . . And, of course, you, you brilliant readers you, you know that she said, “The boy climbed down to the ground. And, suddenly, the phoenix in the nest atop the magnolia tree burst into flame . . . .”

Picture found here.

Just Two Weeks to Imbolc!

Tuesday Poetry Blogging

Snowdrops in Late Winter

Snowdrops in Late Winter

The Crone’s Song

~ Doris Henderson

She gave to me a witching ring,
a wraith of clouds, a song to sing,
a whispered voice in the leafing tree,
the melting waters of an ice cold sea.

The winter is gone, the hills are bare.
The rabbit wakes from her darkened lair.
My heart is hungry and my soul is free —
O Goddess, give a sign to me.

A bird in flight, so black of wing,
across my path in the early spring.
She casts her eye, she holds me fast;
I see her shadow in the tangled grass.

O Hecate pale, your call I know;
my hand grows cold like the nettle’s sting:
the blackbird turns, and lets me go.
She gives to me another spring.

The chilly wind a-rushing free,
the pale green veils of the willow tree,
the circling hills, the melting snows,
the sheltered rock where the crocus grows.

The Beltane fires will burn once more,
like fifty summers I’ve known before.
The icy blue sky, the falling rain . . .
She gives me back my life again.

Poem found in Casting the Circle: A Women’s Book of Ritual by Diane Stein

Picture found here.

Saturday Night Poetry Blogging



Two sticks in drifted snow
mark the trench where I laid the leeks
in cool dirt in October.
Now I dig down through old
frozen crust to damp dark hay
to the thick grey green leaves
of the leeks and pull them
from the piled earth and
shake dirt from their white
hairy roots. They come up
like creatures from under
the ocean. In the half-cold,
half-light the odor of earth
gone all these long months
wraps around me, and it is as if
these leeks have come from
a world where there are great
pleasures of the body, where
the mind grows smaller, where
libraries mold in the dark,
where worms in purple and brown
rule the streets, and the corridors
of power are moist and rich
in a way that radio voices
can’t conceive of, and the talk
is of the thick trunk
of seasons, the nose
of rootedness, the eye
that works its way through,
hair that feels its way,
the skull that follows,
the toad of desire, the beetle
of bone density, the grub
of grief, the larva of longing,
the moon coming up and the quiet
at the end of February.

I pick up the pile of leeks
and carry them to the kitchen.
I wash them clean. I chop them
on the old board. I cook them
in oil and salt. I taste
their great sweetness. I remember
that the earth will hum into spring.

~ Abbot Cutler

Picture found here.

Eighth Annual Poety Slam

This year is the Eighth Annual Brigid Poetry Slam, organized by Anne Hill in honor of Brigid, the Goddess of smithcraft and poetry.

I love so many poems; it’s difficult to pick just one. But this year, I think that I will offer Rilke’s The Swan:

What Beth Owl’s Daugher Said


Absolutely great post about Hecate and Imbolc.

Picture found here