Cailleach Bheur was a blue hag of the Scottish Highlands. She personified the winter, ruling over the weather from Samhain (All Hallow’s Eve or Halloween) to Beltane (May Day). She would tap the ground with her magical wooden staff, freezing the ground as she went. She loved snow, and in Scotland snow was sometimes referred to as Cailleach’s Plaid. By the beginning of February, though, her stores of firewood would run low, and she would need to collect fallen tree branches. If it were a sunny day, she would head out to gather more wood and thus be prepared for more wintry weather. If it were a cloudy, grey day, however, she would stay inside and work her magic to end the winter weather. When the warm weather did arrive, she would turn to stone and sleep until the next winter.
This connection to stone is a unique one. The ancients considered Stone–a thing of the earth–to be the home of spirit. Because of its durability and longevity, Stone was thought to hold psychic energy better than, say, a tree which has a shorter life cycle.
Imbolc ceremonies traditionally included fires (to honor Brighid, Celtic goddess of fire); foods such as nuts, dried meats, and root vegetables; and rituals that honor the coming change of the goddess from Crone back to Maiden.
How will you release the old and welcome the new this year?
Information for this post taken from “Llewellyn’s 2013 Sabbats Almanac” and http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/scotland/folklore/the-caillech-bheur.html.
February 2nd is the ancient holiday of Imbolc. This celebration has survived in several forms, including Candlemas, St. Brigid’s Day, and Groundhog Day.
In the symbolism of the Old Ways, the Winter Solstice represented the end of the reign of the Holly King (the dark half of the year) and the coming of the Oak King (the light half of the year). Additionally, the Goddess has given birth to the infant Sun; light and longer days are on the way! Moving along the Wheel of Life and approaching Spring, then, Imbolc represents the fertility of the Goddess. She continues to raise the infant Sun, while also sustaining the new life within her.
At Imbolc, not only are we heralding the coming Spring and the accompanying growth, but we are also assessing our resources. Traditionally, this was the time when food and supplies were running low. Having survived the worst of the winter, we look forward to the coming of the Vernal Equinox and new growth.
We can continue to honor the meaning of Imbolc today by taking stock of ourselves. Much like our ancestors who had to see what stores remained in the pantry after a long winter, we can assess our own life. What has gone bad and needs to be tossed out? What do we have that is still viable?
Consider writing out a list of all that no longer serves you, whether it’s bad habits or fruitless projects. On February 2nd, remember Imbolc and burn the list, letting go of the old and welcoming the new. Get ready for your new growth!
Brighid, Celtic Goddess of Fire
(The information here was taken from “Llewellyn’s 2013 Sabbats Almanac,” available at www.llewellyn.com.)
Happy Birthday, Robert Burns! The much-lauded Scottish poet was born on this day in 1759. All across the UK, people celebrate Robert Burns Night with feasting, drinking, and toasting. Of course, haggis will grace many a party table, in honor of the poet’s Address to a Haggis: http://www.robertburns.org/works/147.shtml.
For today’s Friday Fun, compose a short, simple ode to your favorite food or drink!
If you’d prefer just to host your own Robert Burns Night party instead, check here for some great tips: http://www.robertburns.org/suppers/
Scotland’s National Bard, Robert Burns
Long before Stonehenge, man has felt connected to the rocks and stones of the Earth. Symbolically speaking, the very density and durability of rocks implies that they are dependable containers of energy. Quartz crystals have been used in spiritual ceremonies by Native Americans, Egyptians, Celts, and Australian Aboriginals (among others) since ancient times. There are even legends about the inhabitants of Atlantis using quartz crystals for the creation of their incredible civilization.
Buddhists consider quartz to be one of the seven precious substances. Romans used it to reduce fevers. And in the Scottish Highlands it was thought to heal kidney disease if worn on the back.
Rose quartz, the lovely white-pink crystal, is the one that most will be familiar with. Citrine (yellow) and amethyst (purple) are two other common examples. Rose quartz is often associated with gentleness and love, and is thought to bring peace and calm to relationships. Astrologically, it is connected to the signs of Taurus and Libra. Citrine is said to enhance mental focus and communication, and is therefore related to the sign of Gemini. Amethyst is a stone of spirituality and meditation. It was often used on the breastplate of the high priest in ancient times and is associated with the sign of Pisces.
In my own astrology chart, I have a grand trine of the earth signs, so maybe I’m more attracted to rocks than the average bear. Or maybe I just think they are pretty. Whatever the explanation, I’ve got both citrine and amethyst crystals in my writing corner. Ahhhhh. . . . . . 🙂
Examples of quartz crystals
It’s winter here in North America. Today is an especially grey, chilly day. A chance of snow according to my weather app. Cold weather and limited daylight make for a sleepy, uninspired combination in my book. It’s no wonder our animal friends invented hibernation for this time of year. We humans seem to invent holidays and reasons to have parties to get us through the winter.
Solitude and introspection are difficult, and I sometimes think we come up with ways to avoid it. Sitting with our thoughts and feelings can be painful, humbling, and even depressing. It’s much more fun to come up with St. Knut’s Day and National Cornchip Day and Superbowl parties to distract us. We are a “seek pleasure, avoid pain” kind of people, aren’t we?
But what if we weathered the storm of our thoughts? What if we allowed ourselves to experience the winter and the cycle of light and dark? What could we learn if we bravely faced our internal January?
Remember, spring will come again. . . .
Many of us have childhood memories of Saturday morning spent in our PJs, watching cartoons, and eating a big bowl of cereal (in order to get the prize at the bottom of the box, of course). For today’s Friday Fun, invent a new cartoon character and write a sentence or two about him/her. Is your character an animal? A crime fighter? Let your imagination run wild, child!
Dear Mother Nature,
Thank you for Coffee. In your wisdom, you have created so many wondrous earthly treats: pineapple, sunsets, Apolo Ohno, just to name a few. But in Coffee, you have outdone yourself. Warm, yummy, joyful. Mmmmmm. . . . And yes, even beneficial to our health.
And you, Dear Mother Nature, were smart enough to give us many ways to enjoy the Bean. We can savor a mug of hot coffee in the winter to warm us, a glass of iced coffee to cool us in summer. And did you know that the folks at New Chapter figured out how to get the whole coffee fruit into a supplement? That way, people who might not like to drink coffee can still get the extraordinary antioxidant benefits. Go here to see for yourself: http://www.newchapter.com/targeted-herbal-formulas/coffeeberry
Mother Nature, you rock.
Mankind has long been fascinated by numbers. Numbers and mathmatetical concepts allowed us to understand our world better and to share ideas across cultures, even if the spoken languages were different. Our ancient ancestors also gave symbolic meanings to numbers, giving rise to concepts like numerology and sacred geometry.
Since it’s January 14th, the number fourteen appealed to me today. In most numerological philosophies, the number 14 would be reduced to five (1 + 4 = 5). Only “master numbers” like 11 and 22 are allowed to stay in double digits.
The number five can represent new directions, adventure, and curiosity. It’s associated with the lotus flower, the pentagram, and the five senses. When I created the aim4wisdom logo, I purposely chose a five-petaled flower in order to convey these meanings.
In the deck of tarot cards, the XIV card is Temperance, which signifies growth, reconciliation, and compromise. The picture on the card is a female figure near a body of water; she is also known as the Angel of Time. She is often shown with her toe dipped into the water, symbolizing her connection with the unconscious.
What number speaks to you today?
Today’s Friday Fun writing challenge is just that. . . a challenge! Think of a common saying or proverb, and then put a little twist on it. Turn it on its head, make it funnier, make it darker! Here’s an example, putting a twist on the old maxim “Less is more.”
Les is Moor, and while he was somewhat pleased with being a living aphorism, it didn’t make up for the harrassment at airport security.
Have fun getting twisty!
A September 2012 report from Packaged Facts (a market research company) suggests that we need to redefine what healthful foods are. The New Healthful: Culinary Trend Mapping Report begins by saying, “This notion of promoting good health also focuses on the presence of beneficial nutrients and the use of inherently nutritious foods, instead of just the absence of certain ingredients that may negatively affect health when over-consumed.” It then goes on to highlights certain foods that go beyond the traditional meaning of healthful, including raw foods, plant-based foods, and foods that are created with sustainability in mind.
According to this report, we can expect to see the following trends in the near future:
- Superior tap water and customized beverages
- Heirloom whole-grain breads
- Beans and greens for breakfast
- Healthier vending machine options
- Vegan fare on restaurant menus, especially veggie burgers
- Healthy kid’s fare
Hmmmmm. . . . . While I certainly like the idea of promoting healthy and nutritious foods, I also have a part of me that is hesitating. The very notion of defining “healthy” opens up the proverbial can of worms, in my opinion. For example, I am sure there is a whole mob of Paleo and Whole30 enthusiasts rebelling at the list above. Where’s the beef, they no doubt cry. Then the Celiac folks chime in, bristling at the inclusion of whole-grain breads.
I know that The New Healthful is just reporting the trends, and not trying to make the rules. But it does make me wonder about the inherent trickiness of defining something. Inevitably, someone will feel left out. Someone else will feel righteously vindicated. Someone else will not care. How do we make these kinds of broad decisions then?
Personally, I think dilemmas like this are exactly why we need to learn about and know ourselves. Feel better eating meat? Go for it! Discovering that you are not built for speed but can go forever? Awesome! Educate yourself, try some different approaches, and then walk your own path. I’m all for being the Wise Individual living within the Society.