ritual

Springing Into Action

Between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox falls Imbolc – the beginning of Spring. While there is debate about when to celebrate the first day of Spring, for many Pagans Imbolc is celebrated in the Southern Hemisphere on the first of August. There are still cold Winter days ahead, but the first signs of Spring are beginning to show. Imbolc is a time of celebrating the growing light and the return of life to Earth.

One of the best things to do to celebrate Spring is spring cleaning. One reason for a spring clean is that places that have long, cold Winters are often shut up during Winter and become stuffy and claustrophobic. This was especially true when heating consisted of coal or wood fires. But the ritual of spring cleaning has been around for a long time. Many cultures have spring cleaning rituals which consist of giving the house a top to bottom cleaning. These rituals are also symbolic of sweeping away built up negative energies and are an opportunity for us to explore our accumulated personal baggage. Spring is a time to throw open the physical and metaphorical windows and shine a light on all our dark, hidden corners!

IMG_6271

In Australia, August is the perfect time to spring clean our backyards in preparation for snake and bushfire season. While we don’t have long, cold winters our homes can still be stuffy so a good clean might be needed. Those of us with flatulent French Bulldogs really appreciate being able to crack open the windows and let in some fresh air! Spring is also a perfect time for de-cluttering. But the most important part of spring cleaning for me is personal introspection and spiritual de-cluttering. Our psyches can certainly benefit from a yearly re-evaluation and spring clean.

For me, Imbolc heralds the return of snakes and Persephone. Both snakes and Persephone are mythologically considered chthonic – that is they spend part of their yearly life underground or in the Underworld. While snakes never completely hibernate in Australia they are less active or visible during winter. As the weather warms snakes slowly awake from their slumber and begin their re-entrance into the upper world. As the weather warms and the season slowly turns from Winter to Spring, Persephone also begins her ascent from the Underworld.

Like snakes and Persephone I like to have a Winter hibernation where I take a break from the world and draw my energies into myself. Sadly I didn’t manage to have a break this year but I still managed some sort of hibernation and introspection. Armed with my trusty Tarot cards I have spent many late evenings in Winter watching the Sun go down and consulting my cards. I am so glad I did this as I recently needed all my personal development skills!

I was reminded of the importance of vigorous personal spring cleaning last weekend. At a family function I was saddened by the behaviour of some relatives who seemed to be re-living and acting out old family patterns – and not very enlightened or positive ones! I was taken back to not so pleasant childhood memories. For a moment I was thrown back into the Underworld and a darkness settled on my soul. Thankfully it didn’t last. But it did remind me that it is time for a spring clean! I think this year is going to be a BIG one!

I approach a spring clean in a systematic way. My approach is quite straightforward although going through each stage can be challenging.

First, I take some time to be away from my day to day activities.

I then take a long hard look at myself and ask the following questions:

  • Do I have any habitual ways of thinking that I don’t want to continue?
  • Have I gone back to any bad habits?
  • When I look at my own thinking and actions do they seem similar to ones that I don’t like in others?
  • Where am I fooling myself – what thoughts do I have that contradict my values?
  • Is there anything else that pops up that I should also clean out?

I then think about how I would like to be and I nurture the behaviours in myself that I like and respect.

At the end of all this “mulling” it seems only fair to relax with a nice mulled wine!

Grenadine Mulled Wine

IMG_2447

Delicious mulled wine with a Persephonian kick of pomegranate.

Ingredients

1 ruby red grapefruit
10 whole cloves
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/2 cup water
2 sticks cinnamon
1/4 cup grenadine
1 bottle of riesling or other white wine

Method

Preheat oven to 180C / 350F.
Stud the grapefruit with the cloves.
Place on a baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the grapefruit is soft.
While the grapefruit is baking place the agave syrup and water in a small saucepan on medium heat. Stir until combined. Add the cinnamon sticks and simmer, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until the mixture becomes syrupy.
When ready, remove the grapefruit from the oven and place in a medium saucepan on low heat. Add the syrup, grenadine and wine. Cover and simmer, without boiling, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove grapefruit and cinnamon sticks.
Ladle into heatproof cups.

Any variety of grapefruit can be used in this recipe.
Grenadine is a syrup made from pomegranates.

Advertisements

A Breath of Frankincense

I found myself in a catholic church this week and no I didn’t burst into flames!

I did what I always do – fall over the kneeling rail, then sit down and take in my surroundings.

When it comes to religion and spirituality I’m a bit of a Fox Mulder – I Want To Believe. But no matter how many brushes I’ve had with deity, I’m still an agnostic bordering on atheist. Basically I’m a gothic, pagan, agnostic, witch. It’s often a hard road to travel! So I’m always stunned at how I feel when I enter the more pagan of the churches – those that still have pomp and ceremony.

As I looked around I admired the artworks, the statues, the stained glass windows, the architecture and the outfits. When the incense started burning and the smell of frankincense filled the church, I felt a deep sense of peace, of familiarity, of coming home. That smell of frankincense took me back to the churches of my youth. Not catholic ones but orthodox ones.

My earliest memory of going to church was being told that I had to kiss the portraits of the saints as I went in. I couldn’t do it. Not for religious reasons but for cleanliness. I mean how many people had kissed those saints before me? Three planets in fastidious Virgo overruled any fear. I would lean down and pretend to kiss the saints – but my lips never touched the glass!

After braving the gauntlet of glassed saints I would have to endure the boring sermons filled with fear and retribution. I rarely listened to them. I was too busy checking out the really scary elements in the church – the women – or as many of them were whispered to be – witches!! Some of them were clad in spooky all black outfits; their heads covered with black scarves. Others were dressed in normal clothes. They were feared and respected for they could do something that the male priest trying to preach to them couldn’t do. They could cast curses. Throughout the service the thurible would waft the deep, intoxicating smell of frankincense down the aisle and into my soul.

After the service we would mingle outside, trying desperately not to offend the witchy women. It’s what I remember most of those orthodox days; the powerful women and the smell of frankincense.

We stopped going to church as a family early in my youth. The orthodox days were replaced by the catholic years. For some reason many of my school friends were catholics and catholics joined our family. I happily went to all the major celebrations, enduring the sermons by closing my eyes and smelling the frankincense. The catholic years intertwined with the pagan years but those pagan celebrations are a tale for another day.

Now I find myself back in a catholic church. The scent of frankincense fills my senses. I’m dressed in black and have a red shawl draped over my shoulders. Many attending this service know what I am. They know I’m a witch. I’m now one of the women I once feared.

ethiopian coffee

a treat for the senses

coffee & frankincense

a perfect blend of worship – traditional ethiopian coffee served with a side order of frankincense