I am part of a wonderful circle of seasoned mediums, healers and shamanic practitioners. Each member of the group has at least 7 years of experience and some 30 years plus! Each time the group meets, a different member leads the circle so that we all benefit from the unique experience of each member. This past Friday, I led our circle through an explanation of Imbolc, a discussion on land spirits, an invocation to Brigid, two meditations, and a despacho ceremony.
Imbolc is a Celtic holiday, and a “despacho”… well, is not Celtic. So if you are purist or traditionalist, this may be a “no, no,” but I love weaving traditions with common threads across cultural boundaries. I am a European shamanic practitioner and my heart is in European traditions and practices, but I also learn from other shamanic paradigms as well. Years ago, I fell in love with the “despacho” ceremonies of the Andean shamans. It is a beautiful way to express “sacred reciprocity” – offering and asking, giving and receiving.
Below are pictures from the group despacho we co-created this past Friday with offerings to Mother Earth, Brigid, and our land and home spirits. We asked for clearing, abundance, joy, harmony, good health, and more to flourish on this Imbolc and through the reminder of the year.
As a Home & Hearth Healer, I believe that our sacred spaces of land and home must be tended to in order to keep them healthy, balanced and high vibrational. When we tend to the energy and spirits of our land and home, our “spirit ecosystem,” we create fertile ground for our energetic seeds to manifest and wellness to grow.
I hope you enjoy the pictures of our despacho ceremony below. If you are interested in learning how to create a simple despacho, the book “Living Sacred Ceremony” by Natalia Karoway is a good resource. We chose to burn our despacho, as opposed to bury it or send it down running water, to release our intentions, prayers and offerings to the Universe and Spirit. It seemed appropriate for the Celtic fire festival Imbolc! If you have time, look closely at the fire pictures – they contains spirit messages for the group. Can you see the “7” and Inguz rune? Fire scrying your offerings can provide meaningful guidance for the upcoming spring!
For those who follow the Wheel of the Year, Imbolc is approaching! Imbolc is the half-way point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. It is celebrated on February 1 or 2nd. Historically, this Celtic festival marked the approach of spring in Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. The name “Imbolc” means “in the belly,” and ewe’s milk, both images of pregnancy and new life. During the cold months of January and February, food was scarce in times past and the risk of starvation very real for those living on the British Isles. Imbolc was a reminder that hidden in the belly of the Earth was new life. This festival provided assurances that the cold of winter would soon give way to spring.
Imbolc was (and is) a time for preparing the land to be sown with new seeds. For this reason, water from holy wells was poured on land, as was milk, to bless the land ahead of it being sown. Imbolc is also associated with hearth and home. It is where the idea of “spring cleaning” originates.
The Celtic Goddess Brigid, a powerful triple goddess, was honored on Imbolc, as was St. Bridget– her Christian form. Brigid is associated with fertility, the protection of hearth and land, and is a goddess of poetry and craft. On Imbolc, food and drink were left for her as an offering.
The festival of Imbolc is also associated with another goddess – Cailleach – the goddess of winter and weather. It was believed that on Imbolc, Cailleach would venture out to collect firewood for the remainder of winter. If the day was sunny and pleasant, she would extend winter longer and use her firewood; but if the weather was bad, she would remain asleep through Imbolc and spring would soon come. If this reminds you of Groundhog Day on February 2nd – you would be correct! The story about Cailleach is where we get this tradition.
This Imbolc, I plan to prepare my land for sowing my personal seeds for the year through performing a land blessing and healing. It is easy to forget that our home and land needs to be energetically clear and well for the seeds of our personal intentions to have a nurturing and healthy place to grow and thrive. Our home and land are sacred spaces where we think, laugh, rest, play and dream our lives into existence! It is much harder to grow our intentions into strong vibrant realities if our home or land is heavy with unsupportive energy, conflict, or unhealthy dynamics that do not feed and support us. While we cannot control everything and everyone – we can take time to clear our land of any energetic gunk so that the ground is fertile for new growth.
Imbolc is a perfect time to do this – before we get too far into our year!
But how do we energetically prepare and bless our land so that it germinates our energetic seeds of harmony, good health, a happy home, and personal fulfillment? Well, like so many things in the intuitive and energetic world – it is best to do as you feel called. But that being said, before deciding what you are called to do – ask your land and home what it wants and needs to be a high vibrational and harmonious place for all who reside there – human, plant, animal and spirit – to thrive. Then do what your home or land asks – as well as what your intuition calls you to do
In all shamanic cultures there is a belief in “sacred reciprocity.” To the Andean shamans it is “ayni” and in the Northern European Shamanic tradition it is a “gift for a gift.” Our land and home gives to us daily, as does Mother Earth, and asking what it needs (and then doing what is asked) is a way to show gratitude, love and respect for your home, land and Gaia. It is just good manners! If we support and tend to our land and home – it will support and tend to us. Our best energetic home protectors (along with our ancestors), are our land and home spirits! If we feed them – they will protect our homes from unsavory energies and spirits.
My land was very specific as to what it wanted this year. My land spirits asked that I boil bundles of fresh rosemary in water and pour it on my land in different locations. This is to clear and heal the land, and to bless the land and spirits on it for the year ahead. I also plan to do a “spring cleaning” with strong intentions for clearing out old stagnant energies that have accumulated over the cold winter months; and to re-assert my commitment to remembering my land spirits through leaving offerings throughout the year. Life gets busy but I really have no excuse not to leave out a bit of bread, a small bowl of milk or mead, or a cut up apple with honey. It is not grandiose acts that are required – only small, sincere offerings of love and gratitude!
So, Happy Imbolc to all! And if called, please leave a comment on how you blessed and honored your land and home this Imbolc.
Copyright 2021 Vanessa Hanks, All Rights Reserved.
This is my second post on the upcoming Lammas holiday. My first post was on creating Purposeful Poppets for a New Moon Lammas (or nearly new moon!). Doing a craft for Lammas is a great way of honoring Lugh, the Craftsman God of the Celts, and Gaia who has been creating her harvest for us. As I contemplated the spiritual aspects of entered the grain harvest, an idea emerged to do a “Separating the Wheat from the Chaff Ritual.” I am always up for an opportunity to reflect on what is serving me in my life – and what is not. What am I giving my energy to that is not allowing my fullest harvest to come into fruition?
Separating the wheat from the chaff is the process of removing the husk, called the “chaff,” from around the wheat seed. When a person says they are “separating the wheat from the chaff” it means that they are keeping only what is of value.
On this Lammas, try “separating the wheat from the chaff” in your internal spaces (mind and emotions) and in your life. What are you giving value to that really needs to be released? We are all far too busy to give our limited energy to things that do not support us, or worse, detract from our joy and peace.
For me, this summer has been all about becoming clearer on what is truly on my path and what is not. And what am I feeding in my life with my thoughts, feelings, time and actions that is not feeding me.
I am a strong believer in the shamanic concept of sacred reciprocity. If I give, then I should receive; and if I receive, then I should also give. As Odin wisely stated, “a gift for a gift.” If you give your time and emotions to an endeavor, but it leaves you empty or feeling badly – that is not a gift for a gift. If you are always the one to reach out to a friend, but they do not reach out to you – that is not a gift for a gift. You can begin to see why sacred reciprocity is such an important concept to our holistic wellbeing.
Take a little time this Lammas and think about what you value in your life and what truly represents who you are. Think about what is “not you,” or is not feeding you, that needs to be released. Try the simple ritual below for setting your intentions that what is truly you and on your path grows, and what no longer serves you is released to the Universe. Feel lighter and empowered by your choice to be in sacred reciprocity with your own beautiful soul who is always giving but not always being heard or honored. This ritual can help you gain clarity as to what truly represents “you” so that you can step closer to living in alignment with your sacred soul.
Separating the Wheat from the Chaff Ritual
You will need:
· Paper & pen
· Grain seeds – It does not need to be wheat seeds if they are hard to come by. I plan to use oats as they are readily in my house. Dried corn kernels would work as well.
· A candle
· Two containers – such as two small mason jars.
· Herbs of abundance like cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger
· Fire or access to an outdoor space
Step 1: Create sacred space in your chosen way. I do it through visualization, intention setting and sacred smoke. You can use any method that resonates with you such as casting a circle with salt or other technique.
Step 2: Light the candle and call in the Divine, Gods and Goddesses you work with or you are seeking to assist you in this ritual (Lugh for instance – after all, this is his holiday) and your ally spirits – including your own soul!
Step 3: Set intentions that the true callings of your heart, and what is truly representative of you in your life, be revealed, as well as what is no longer serving you and is taking energy from you. Ask the spirits you called in for guidance and clarity on this topic.
Step 4: Take pen and paper and create two lists – one with aspects of your life that are on your path and are “you,” and one that lists things taking your energy and not serving you. You can simply label the lists: “You” and “Not You.”
Step 5: Take a grain seed (or a small handful of seeds) and hold it in your hands. Close your eyes or focus on the candle and with seed in hand, think about the first item on your list that is “You.” Mentally, and with love, honor that aspect of your life. Thank it and ask that it continues to grow. If it is a person, thank their spirit and ask that the relationship grow in healthy and abundant ways.
Step 6: Designate one of the two jars for the things that are “You” and the other jar for what needs to be released at this time (i.e., Not You). After holding the seed (or small handful of seeds) for each aspect of your life you wish to honor and grow, place that seed in “You” jar.
Step 7: After you finish with the “You” list, work on the “Not you” list. Follow the same process, but this time; intend that the aspects of your life that are “Not You” be released with love. Thank what is “Not You” for helping you to become clearer as to what is you and for its lessons. Place the seed (or small handful of seeds) for each item on the “Not You” list into the “Not You” jar.
Step 8: Take the “You” jar and add your abundance herbs to it. Set intentions that the wonderful things you have put into the jar grow in your life. Set the jar aside in your home for all long as you feel called to. When ready to release the “You” jar seeds, take them outside and throw them into the air with intentions of gratitude and a continued presence in your life – if that is what you seek.
Step 9: Take the “Not You” jar and throw the contents into a fire to burn and be released from your life. If you do not have access to fire, then go outside and throw the contents into the air with strong focused intentions that these aspects of your life be released. You can imagine the seeds burning and turning to ash which the winds will carry away from you.
Let me know how the ritual works for you and whether you experience shifts from doing it. And remember to have some fun this Lammas! This is the start of the harvest season, a time of merriment and enjoying the fruits if your labor!
Happy Lammas! Blessed Be!
Copyright 2021 Vanessa Hanks, All Rights Reserved.
I have been all about moons and poppets this summer! I decided to combine my two summer interests into the Lammas holiday – the first of three pagan harvest holidays. Lammas celebrates Gaia’s harvest of grain. Since this year’s Lammas (often celebrated on August 1st) is close to the new moon on July 31st, I have made a Purposeful Poppet to manifest my intentions over the time period from the Lammas new moon through the winter months.
The idea just popped into my head in early July. And I am a firm believer that for magic and manifesting to be effective, our techniques must be inspired and inspire us! Then our passion fuels the strong and focused intentions we set.
So here is my poppet! Isn’t she pretty.
I chose a simple goddess pattern. I was able to cut fabric, hand sow, add beads, and stuff my poppet in about two hours. So this was not a daunting project. I plan to add more to her before Lammas, including braided wheat to connect her hands.
On the Lammas new moon, I will activate her with my intentions and “feed” my dolly up until the August 15th full moon. Feeding will include holding my goddess poppet and continuing to send my intentions into her, as well as other typical spirit feeding practices such as lighting a candle for her and offering sacred smoke.
On the full moon, I will then add an extra punch of power to manifest my poppet’s purpose by not only drawing down the moon into me, but into my dolly. My intentions for my poppet are abundance to reflect the harvest season. I will seek to manifest an abundance of love, harmony, joy, inspiration and strong healthy bonds to follow my family into the dark half of the year. That the harvest of the sun continues to shine on us as the sun’s strength wanes and we enter the dark night of the soul.
If you do not have time to make the type of poppet above, making a simple corn husk or grain dolly is very traditional. You can find corn husks at most supermarkets and wheat stalks at some local farms and farm stands. When all else fails, you can buy a corn or grain dolly online.
If you chose to sow a poppet, it does not need to be elaborate. You do not need to add a lot of outward decorations but instead can stuff the poppet over the waxing moon with various items to “feed” it – and therefore your intentions. One day add some cotton, another day an herb, the next a small crystal, so forth. Keep your poppet for all long as you feel called and trust that it is alive with your intentions. When you feel your poppet has accomplished it’s purpose or it is simply time to part ways, always burn the poppet to set free the energy and spirit of the doll as the Japanese do. Thank your poppet for its assistance in manifesting positive energy into your life.