Sunday, February 6, 2011

Imbolc 2011

Here's my altar for Imbolc (or Oimelc), or Candlemass. Between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, we begin to see spring emerging (even though it doesn't get much colder in Texas!), and the long nights begin to be noticeably shorter, signifying the renewal of life and the promises of another spring. The cross/wheel is St. Brigid's cross, and the little piece of bread you see is a section of a braided bread circle, every braid plaited with a prayer, shared with friends. We also had custard, indicating the time of year as well, as this is the time in which sheep begin their milking (hence Oimelc or Ewe-Milk).

I enjoy observing the passage of the year, it gives me grounding. Last year I taught a class on Neo-Paganism in Britain and America. I taught it from a highly skeptical perspective, one that spoke of my pagan friends affectionately, but dispassionately. I thought that it was just another manifestation of the great cultural washing-out, another aspect of a dying romanticism.
But I no longer think so. While the religion certainly has deep problems, I now see Neo-Paganism, especially Heathenism, Traditional and Progressive Witchcraft, and Druids, as a way of dealing with the problems of modernity without throwing out the good things about our generation. They keep the sense of community and ties to the land and rhythm with the seasonal changes and valuable crafts and knowledge, and still can be individualistic! Of course, not all Neo-Pagans are like that, but most at least have a sense of it. Am I still speaking from outside the faith? The year has caught me in its whorl, just like the rolling prairies of Texas caught me as a child. Perhaps that's why I never really understood Christianity's strange antipathy to pagans. I see why, certainly, reading the accounts of martyrs. Not only that, but Christians originally kept the good things about paganism... why do you think Christmas is so important to us, and Easter? It gives us a base, keeps time from rolling steadily out of our minds. But recent Christianity took out all the Saints' Days, and all the festivals (because the were pagan), so what are we left with? Christmas and Easter and Halloween (although they're not sure if they like that one). That's not enough to build a calender around!

I will celebrate the wheel of the year throughout this entire year. I want to experience firsthand the grounding, the putting down of roots in time itself, the grasping of a spoke as the wheel turns inexorably forward. At least I'll know where I am.

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