Blessed be those who tend these mid-Winter flames, who keep the embers alight by their sheer warrior’s will, and who will forever honor the darker days of our Craft when the miracles of warmer days remain hidden beneath the snow. The Wolf-Moon cycle follows the Long Night’s Moon cycle, rising with a howl on January 16th (New Moon is 9:17pm EST), swelling to fullness just before Imbolc on 1/31 at 8:27am EST, and darkening to sliver-thin on Valentine’s Day. Under the Wolf Moon, the Fire-Keeper archetype is dominant, and the wise feminine in us all continues to walk forward in conscious grace, leading with an ever-faithful heart and harboring an ever-lit inner altar that burns for some holy and ephemeral dream, as yet unseen and unnamed.
These days are still Crone days. We begin the Hag-to-Maiden transition on Imbolc, Brighid’s Day (February 1st) when the early “in the belly” stirrings of creative inclination, waking inspiration, and sacred work shifts are felt and made known to us. Imbolc means “in the belly,” occurring before the Quickening Moon cycle when the generative energy writhes and wriggles like a she-snake coiling around our backbones. The “quickening” in pregnancy is when the mother first feels the baby move in the womb; this metaphor has merit for our sacred work, whatever it might be, despite the necessary resistance we must have to traditional definitions of the “Mother” archetype.
The Mother is the Creatrix, the magick-maker. The Maiden is embodied sensuality, feeling her way around her world, licking tree bark and smearing mud on the places that are cracked and bleeding from a long and over-dry Winter. The Crone is intuitive foresight, dark feminine wisdom, and divination. We are the Hag-Priestess during these longest nights, and the Crone-to-Maiden transition is a subtle, psychic shift away from the in-the-blood craving for ceremonial solitude and warm, candlelit sanctity and toward a lust for connection and generative doing. The Crone builds a nest for spirit while the Maiden builds a nest for soul, that soon-to-be-born next chapter in our lives when we get what’s coming to us, when the primordial, fertile black that is now unformed and nameless begins to take shape.
An Imbolc Ritual: Part 1
Under the new Wolf Moon on January 16th, consider this: What subtle messages have you received from nature or in dreams under the Long Night’s Moon? Make note of the too-bizarre coincidences, the animal totems, the spot-on wisdom spoken from friends, the mundane musings of a lover that seemed to speak straight to a heartache you thought long-healed, the epiphanies had during those unexpected moments of candlelit reflection, or the meaning behind a priceless gift given at just the right time. Take an inventory of these cosmic winks straight from the Mystery to you, and see if you can find the patterns. Are there any dominant trends you can ascertain in these Crone signals? Look for the underlying emotion behind each sign, perhaps, or an apparent season. Look for the magick, and give it a name. Let it be just one word, and don’t overthink it. You might look at your inventory and ask yourself this: If these things were contained in a single short story with a one-word title, what would that title be? Write that word on a single piece of paper and keep it on your altar until the full moon, perhaps lighting a candle each night in reverence or to show you are keeping the fire burning for that one thing. This symbolic action may seem small, but it’s a way of telling the universe “message received. You are heard.”
An Imbolc Ritual: Part 2
Beneath the full moon, cast a circle if that is in your practice. Have with you the paper where you wrote your one word, a burning bowl, and some mugwort and cedar. Raise energy in whatever way seems right to you. You might chant “I am seen, I am heard, I have spoken” or “Yes, thank you, more please.” Set an intention to be gifted with greater clarity on what those symbols and signs mean for you right now, under the full Wolf Moon, and, when ready, burn the paper along with the manifestation herbs. Watch the flames and divine in the smoke. Be the pyromancer-prophetess. What do you see? More importantly, what do you feel as you watch the smoke thicken, curl, and waft away? Let the fire burn out and sit within your circle for as long as you have. Listen to the subtle voices that whisper, the quiet memories that bubble to the surface, and the ancient hymns that haunt. Open the circle, but keep the burning bowl as it is, placing it on your altar or leaving there if it will remain untouched.
An Imbolc Ritual: Part 3
On Brighid’s Day, at some point between sunset on January 31st and sunset on February 1st, you become the fire-keeper, mothering your Hag-to-Maiden transformation. This part of the ritual is adaptable to how creative you’re feeling. Brighid is the Celtic Pagan Goddess of the hearth and the forge. She is a fire-keeper and a muse. Ask yourself what you will be nesting now until the Vernal Equinox (March 20th). You do not need to be overly specific. Just a simple sentence or less will do. Remember that when we distill our desires too quickly we limit the universe’s ability to support us. When we decide with finality that this is exactly how it must be, we lose all that might have been. This is why the Law of Attraction fluff does not generally work. Better to be simple and general but be sure than to be laser-focused with intention but wavering. Ask yourself this: If these next 6 weeks were a chapter in the epic novel of your life, what would the title be? Go from there. Write this on a piece of paper.
Now, Priestess, you must build a bridal bed for Brighid. I usually make my own dolls out of wool. Traditionally, they are made of grain or corn husks. Feel free to use a doll you already own, providing you are not attached to it. Nest your bride into a basket, box, or other container. Tuck in her in, and place the paper with your next-chapter desires underneath her. Sprinkle the ashes from Part 2 atop her body as if you were blessing her, and if you are able, leave Brighid by the hearth until the Vernal Equinox. If you do not have a hearth, you can also have her under your bed or close to where you sleep. On the Spring Equinox, you will release her, as she gives birth to your next chapter, by placing her out in nature somewhere and burying the paper (you can keep the basket/bedding).
The key to Imbolc ritual is to call in what is for you without knowing exactly what it is, as yet. We are howling an invocation before it has been written. We are reading snippets of a tale without rushing to link the scenes together linearly. We are the fire-keepers, tending with great care to a more brightly burning life while it remains only a single, quiet flame surrounded by kindling and poised for a sizzling and wildly epic ignition.
All blessings be.