A few years back, when one of the Wheel of the Year holidays was fast approaching (probably Samhain), I had the unmistakable zing from an ancestor to celebrate it. I refused as that was not my lane, not the right direction, and wasn’t even the right freeway. Nope. No, I think not. And as a consequence, or result whichever, I threw myself harder into ancient Egyptian holidays.
And that went about as well as one could expect because, for those just tuning in, almost every day is a holiday of some sort. This is mostly because modern Kemetics are integrating numerous calendars from various time periods and areas into a single functional calendar. Obviously, you’d want to celebrate only the ones that pertain to you and your relationship with your gods, but uh, even that is still asking a lot.
One thing I’ve found in these celebrations is that I dislike the ritualistic structure of much of what I had come up with. After last years 365ritual nonsense, I realized that I wanted spontaneity versus carefully planned celebrations. It’s possible to do this with our holidays; I just haven’t figured that part out yet and No One is pushing me to do so at the moment. And frankly, with the way my life has been since last October, my ability to can regarding my Kemetic calendar has drastically reduced.
So entered the reminder about how, once upon a time, an unknown-to-me ancestor had said, The Wheel of the Year would be a cool thing to celebrate right?
I know nothing about these holidays, so I pulled out my old copies of the Sabbat books by Llewellyn. Yes, yes, I know how shitty they are. The purpose here wasn’t to use what they talked about or cringe at some of the bullshit within some books, but to at least get a baseline and go from there. I’m less interested in the general pagan ideals of the holiday and more interested in a celebration of life and nature kind of way.
While I tried to start all this off with Yule, I didn’t actually get to celebrate much because of our surprise!bathroom renovation. So I tossed myself into Imbolc. I dithered a lot because most of what I found had a heavy push towards Brighid, who is not part of my pantheon. I also found a lot of very appropriating things that made me uncomfortable (as I figured I would considering the book I used).
But, you know, I figured that I could pull out the Brighid stuff I was finding and maybe make it into something else. Maybe look at it less from the usual point of view one sees across various social media and turn it into something else.
Imbolc Without the Appropriation or Gods That Don’t Work for Me
The historical precedent for the holiday is basically a midway point for winter. As my research indicated, this was kind of a positive and happy time because it meant that winter was almost over. And for people who once paid far more attention to the weather and how it impacted their lives, it was a time of celebration because, again, winter was almost over.
The holiday tended to be associated with lambs. The first ewes from mid-fall would be born around this time. This is also when the first spring sowing would begin (as long as there wasn’t snow on the ground) and typically, people who garden will spend the holiday planning out their future garden or at least start their gardens.
Candles and bonfires were a big part of the celebration, too, because it symbolized the lengthening of the upcoming days. Spring cleaning was also important since, after spending quite a few months stuck inside because of the cold and snow, things would be a stagnant energetically. In line with this, purification was a big thing for this holiday too.
There were a lot of things that I could do without following down a road that I found uncomfortable. I decided that I would try the following at least and see how it works out:
- Create an Imbolc altar
- Clean the house
- Light some candles
- Try and make soda bread
- Eat cheese and drink milk
I made a little list of various suggestions and decided to at least go forward with the items listed above. There were other items that I included in that list that didn’t feel right or that I didn’t think made sense to me.
I chose not to look at garden planning because I frankly have no clue how to plan a garden. I know that I want to plant the mint I got for Christmas in a container all its own and that I want to replant the paper whites I planted for the Osiris Mysteries (note to self, maybe finish those entries finally) somewhere in my yard. But other than the knowledge that I need some lilacs everywhere, I have no clue what else needs to be done. So, I figured I could table that until I have a serious chat with my mother-in-law about where things should go in the yard.
Another large push for this holiday is about planning ahead, about looking to the new projects that one may want to undertake in the next year or so and blessing them to fruition. The Llewellyn book had a cringy little spell or ritual you could do to bless the projects you had planned, and I considered turning it around into something that would work with what I knew (specifically looking at taking out the gross parts and including Wepwawet since this stuff seems like his bread and butter). However, I decided that I wasn’t quite ready for that.
While perusing the Brighid-centric stuff, I mused on how easy it would be to put any gods, really, into these holidays. As long as you get the general feel of them, you can find Greek or Roman gods, Slavic or ancient Egyptian gods in the feel of the holiday. And while I was distinctly uncomfortable with the idea of syncretizing a Wheel of the Year holiday with these types of holidays, I couldn’t help but find two of my gods staring at me as if waiting for me to make the connection.
Ancient Egyptian Gods to Associate with Imbolc
Let’s preface this with a few statements. I am not going into this with the need or desire to syncretize my Kemetic practice with the Wheel of the Year celebrations. In fact, as stated above, I am actually very uncomfortable with the idea of it. I am not Wiccan and I am not heading into a Kemetic Wicca world (I’ve researched it and I can safely say it’s not for me). I’m just trying to figure out what might work for me in future to help me feel like I’m not floundering anymore.
So, while I haven’t written the entry about it, Osiris has been around heavily for a few months. He started showing up more and more the closer fall came to winter. And while I will eventually get that entry out (one day – no actually I’m waiting on something else before I get around to writing it) suffice to say that he has been around and while he is not loud or in my face, he is an Ongoing Presence.
I wasn’t surprised to see him in the idea of Imbolc, not really. The holiday is about growth on the by and large; growth of the self, growth of one’s garden, growth of one’s life, etc. And Osiris is a god of growth, greenery, and fertility. We have all mentioned our shared personal gnosis where he likes to fuck around with our insides, forcing us to grow in ways we didn’t want or didn’t believe we were capable of.
He stood mummiform in my mind, surrounded by bay leaves and snowdrops and crocus and daffodils. There were birds chirping and his face was green. He held his distinctive scepter and I couldn’t pull him away from Imbolc even if I had wanted to. There he was.
As I pulled away from the idea that Osiris could easily be melded into this, I found someone else. I was startled by Heru-Wer standing there, but it took me all of 5 seconds to come to the realization that my surprise was silly.
We don’t typically see Heru-Wer in a fertile/growth paradigm. We see other gods in this place, but Horus the Elder has these associations just as much as all the rest. He is a god of growth and fertility, of greenery and the land around us. He doesn’t push us or mess around with our insides like Osiris does, but he has a subtle way about him that can push you in the same way as Osiris.
He stood falcon-headed in my mind, surrounded by pussy willows, feather reed grass, red-twig dogwood, moor grass, staghorn sumac, pink muhlygrass, and cattail fluff. These were all of the mid-winter images I’m used to seeing day-in and day-out. I’ll get into this more, but I was comfortable with the vision of him there not only because I have felt him everywhere lately but because he seemed to be in the here and now. It seemed right.
I wasn’t expecting to see either god in this place, in this time, but there they were. I don’t doubt that I could easily find more if I looked harder. But because these are my gods, the gods I have devoted myself to in some form or another, it was easier to see them there.
Changes for Next Year
While I was looking for ways to make me feel more connected to the point behind the holiday, I found it difficult to find artificial flowers that really made me feel like they worked for Imbolc. I found a number of artificial plants that reminded me of crocus, which I bought up in spades and used to coordinate my altar room and my altars with the purpose behind the holiday. But when I decided to make a general Imbolc altar, I found it hard to find plants that I wanted to include.
I’m not a large daffodil fan (they’re okay) and while I bought myself a small pot of them, it was mostly because they looked like they were crowded together and needed to breathe. And I couldn’t find anything that looked like snowdrops whatsoever. I was vaguely disgruntled. I ended up choosing a set of wheat-looking things that I absolutely hate because they have little stabby things at the ends that annoy me (because I keep stabbing myself accidentally).
It was after thinking about Heru-Wer and seeing him surrounded by the native winterized flora that it occurred to me that was what I probably should have done. I had found a couple of things at various crafts stores that would have worked well for the image I had in my head: an image of what I see everyday in winter.
While yes, it can get cold and there is sometimes snow on the ground (not as much as when I was a kid anyway), our winters are far more colorful than many people seem to realize.
Driving anywhere, there are red branches intertwined with gold (different types of dogwood); winter hay growing twice as tall as a human being; and staghorn sumac strategically placed along the side of the road. When the weak light of the sun filters down in the early morning, it’s breath-taking. (One day, I won’t be on my way to work and I’ll try to take pictures.)
There are also ornamental grasses all over the place here. I live in a very boggy area and that’s part of it. But a lot of locals like the look of feathery bushes, filled with golden or reddish native ornamental grasses. When the sun peaks over the mountains and shines down on them, they’re flooded with sparkles of color after a hard frost that can astonish the eye. (And again, one day, I won’t be in a rush to get somewhere and I’ll take pictures.)
This… this is what the middle of winter looks like to me. It’s not just piles of snow high above one’s head or the brown/yellow slush of melting snow. It is local flora dazzling with their brilliant color schemes and breath-taking themes.
So next year, I think, I will put away the stabby-wheat looking things (actually, I think I’m going to throw them away because I frankly don’t believe I can store them properly) and focus more on what I see in the world around me.
And who can really end an entry like this without altar porn?