As we stretch our way toward midwinter...the point in the Wheel of the Year that marks a time of renewal for many cultures and (here in the Northern Hemisphere) we feel the first fertile stirrings of growth within the earth. The pagan sabbat Imbolc (pronounced EE-MOLG, meaning "in the belly") is, like so many other festivals from nature-based spirituality: a rejoicing in the return light/sun/flame that is so dear to us as a human species. It is also a time to celebrate this first emergence of the green things, the animal young, and the coming abundance of nature after a long, cold winter. This time is also celebrated as (St.) Brighid's Day, Candlemas and this Chinese New Year of the Water Tiger!
Just as it is with many plants and herbs, the cold and dark of winter invites us to go deep within ourselves and investigate our inner seed: our needs, dreams and thoughts; and also to allow what no longer serves us to die back. So when we finally make it to the time of Imbolc we feel ready and encouraged to nurture and grow those healthy seeds within and around ourselves.
I know most of us aren't looking for more things to add to our to-do list but if we look at this less as a task and more as a way to distill what is most meaningful to us in a loving way and allowing the transformative fire of intention and gentle action to allow those precious things to grow to their fullest potential.
So cleanse and reset those altars! Set your intention and your space and light the candles with gratitude and clear thought! Our colors for this time are white, yellow and pale green and mirror those brave seedlings and flowers like snowdrop and narcissus who greet us in the midwinter and remind us that spring will come soon enough! Herbs for this sabbat are cleansing and protective and include: Angelica, Basil, Coltsfoot, Myrrh, Ginger, Violet, Tansy, Bay Laurel, Blackberry, and all yellow flowers.
Check out these simple solo rituals by Seasonal Soul you can do in the comfort of home!
Whether or not one follows a pagan path, this is a beautiful time to set clear intentions, reconnect with nature, and make healthier choices in our emotional and physical bodies. This can be done through cleansing and purifying our homespace and ourselves, taking walks in the woods or by the ocean (or even just down the garden path!), planting our seedlings and caring for them until it is safe to put them in the earth, and using our gentlest hearts to share kindness and compassion with ourselves and those around us.
Chai-puerh-ri Tea for Imbolc
1 part Puerh Tea (optional)
1/2 part Rose petals
1/4 part dried Orange Peel
1/8 part Cinnamon chips
1/8 part Nutmeg
1/16 part Clove buds
Star Anise to taste
1. Blend herbs in a bowl. 2. To infuse, steep in hot water for 5 - 10 minutes. 3. Enjoy on it's own or with honey and some lemon!
2 parts Cedar tips
2 parts Frankincense resin
1 part Garden sage or Rosemary (sacred plants of St. Brighid)
1 part Orange peel
1/2 part Rose petals
Combine herbs and burn in a fire-safe dish. You can also grind everything down and sprinkle over a lit charcoal.
Simple Stirring Spell
As you are blending your teas, Imbolc cake batters, teas, etc. Utilize this simple rhyming spell to bring/enhance your intentions and energies.
Continuous motion, May all things flow.
Circles of magic, Let the power grow.
Elements mixing, Accept my plea.
As I wish, So mote it be.
by M S Saille., The Kitchen Cauldron
For you herbal crafters out there looking forward to Valentine's Day, now is the time to start your tinctures & elixirs if you haven't already! Here are a couple of delicious elixir recipes you may want to try:
The Elixir adapted from a recipe by The PlantHunter
32oz mason jar
12-13oz of your preferred brandy, whiskey, etc.
~6oz of a more "liquid-like" honey (local is always ideal!)
2/3oz Damiana leaf
2/3oz Rose petals
2/3oz Angelica root
Very optional for flavor: 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1 whole vanilla pod (split) and a pinch of saffron – all aphrodisiac spices in their own right)
1/2oz whole Cardamom pods
Sterilize your jar by pouring in boiled water and swishing around, including the lid. Drain dry on a clean cloth.
Pour in the brandy/whiskey, etc. and slowly drizzle the honey in, swirling the mixture around and imagining all the elements you want to capture (perhaps using the stirring spell above...). Make sure the honey has fully dissolved. It should look like a golden nectar.
In a mortar and pestle/Vitamix, etc., add the angelica root, cardamom and cinnamon. Grind down to a coarse texture. Fine texture or powders are ok, just bear in mind that they will be harder to strain out. Breathe in that beautiful fragrance!
Spoon by spoon, add your ground herbal mixture to the honey/alcohol. Breathe deep and focus on your intention.
"Sprinkle in the rose petals and tell them what part of your heart needs soothing. Be specific and honest. A touch of vulnerability will make this elixir all the more effective. Allow your imagination to get a bit wild, picturing the part of your creativity or sensuality you’re wanting to harness….Whatever that means for you. With that in mind, add in the damiana and stir to mix in."
Cover with lid and give everything a roll & shake to mix and blend.
Place on shelf or in a cupboard where you will see it daily, shake everyday for 3 weeks to a month to ensure everything is blending.
At the 2 1/2 to 3 week mark, strain a bit (or dip in a finger if it's just for you!) to taste if your elixir is ready. Once you've decided it is, strain well and pour into clean bottles.
Cap, label, and consume.
Suggested Use: "Enjoy 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of this elixir at the end of the day. Have as is, add to a hot cacao, or mix with cream and enjoy with berries whilst telling stories to your lover. If they haven’t arrived yet, tell stories to yourself. The secret, creative, soulful kind.
Plant medicines work in subtle ways. You’re welcoming their energy into your body and allowing them to work through you. Don’t expect a lightening bolt surge of passion. Just nurture the opening and be delighted by what it brings. Just as the plants do."
Hawthorne Cacao Elixir from Rebecca's Apothecary in Boulder, CO.
The following recipe is a delicious heart tonifying, spiced, aphrodisiac syrup! Add 1-2 tablespoons to warm water or tea, on dessert (ice cream, pie) or in a Hot Toddy on a cold night. (yields approximately 16 oz. of elixir)
Combine the following ingredients in 2 cups of water:
1 heavy tablespoon Hawthorne berries
½ teaspoon dried Ginger root
½ teaspoon Cinnamon chips
1-2 Cardamom pods
Pinch of Orange peel (if desired)
Cover and decoct (a very gentle simmer) until reduced by half, about 30 minutes.
While waiting for your Hawthorn decoction, very gently heat 1 cup of honey in a double boiler or warm water bath until it becomes runny in consistency. Feel free to use a honey that has been previously infused with herbs, or toss in a few slices of raw ginger while it’s gently heating—don’t forget to remove the slices before completing your elixir!
Strain your Hawthorne decoction, remove honey from heat, and combine 1 cup of decoction & 1 cup of honey.
Stir in ¼ cup of Cacao tincture, and a tiny pinch of Cayenne powder (can also be prepared without Cacao tincture). Mix well. Enjoy!