by Irene Glasse
The very first pre-Christian Deity I served was Brigid, an Irish goddess. As a young musician with a military background, she was easy for me to relate to. “A musician AND a blacksmith? Sign me up! I want to make music and hit things too!” I still consider my time in service to her to be incredibly valuable – it laid strong foundations for my spirituality.
One of Brigid’s holy days is Imbolc, February 1st – 2nd, and in my own devotional practices for her, I found the time between Yule and Imbolc to be very potent. I wore my hair long at the time and would style it in braids every day, an outward sign of an inward focus. My practice was centered around deepening and clearing, creating space for the light to come.
Although the center of my own beliefs has shifted to the Heathen gods of old Norway, I still consider this time of year to be perfect for getting my spiritual “head” straightened out. There’s a simplicity to these cold days, to a natural world streamlined to reveal its core shapes and colors: brown branches, gray stone, faded grasses, white snow. As the world reveals the structures that support the growing season, we can follow the pattern by looking more closely at our inner structures.
I like to start with purification. If it’s been a while since your last smoke-bath, break out some purifying herbs and resins and waft that sacred smoke around your body. It can help to have a partner to assist here. If you’re working alone, consider carefully placing a smoldering cauldron on the floor and allowing the smoke to drift upward to cover you. If using smoke isn’t an option where you live, take a salt bath/use a salt scrub in the shower and remember to completely rinse the saltwater off your body when you’re finished.
Then, sit down with a journal or your preferred note-taking medium. This reflection is based on underlying structures, so the questions I use for my own purposes are simple.
1) What’s working right now? What practices or patterns help you stay centered? What are you already doing that feeds your sense of spiritual connection? When are the moments when you feel calm, and what’s happening during them to cause that experience?
2) What’s getting in the way? What patterns, behaviors, and obligations are distracting you, or keeping you from spending time and energy where you’d like to? What practices or patterns got jostled by the rush of activities around the winter holidays?
The movement of energy at this time of year is downward and inward flowing. The culture of the United States tends to encourage wild expenditures of energy under the guise of “New Year’s Resolutions,” but to do so is to fight the stronger, older pattern of the natural world. If we shift to purifying, streamlining, releasing, and going deeper, we work with the prevailing flow of energy rather than against it.
Bearing that in mind, look at your reflections. The practices that are already working can be ones to take deeper whether that’s daily devotionals, meditation and journeywork, walks in the woods, or yoga. How can your existing practice(s) become even more centered, even more stable, even more rooted?
Look at your reflection on what’s getting in the way. Are there obligations or patterns that you can let go of? Are there any “shoulds” you can release? Many areas of life where we experience stress, tension, and frustration are unavoidable, but there are also some funny little places where we tend to make things harder for ourselves.
We often think of purification as a practice for our bodies, or spaces. We’re familiar with spring and fall cleaning, with smoke and water purification, with fasting and vigils, etc. But purification is a practice for our lives and patterns as well. In my own experience, the small daily patterns we engage in often arise due to necessity or by accident and then perpetuate themselves simply because most people follow patterns once they’re set. Looking more closely at those repeated behaviors and making a few adjustments can help us get recentered.
My last step is a simple three-card divination. I hold my Tarot deck and think about what the natural world around me is doing. I visualize the land around my home, the clean lines of the winter trees. I think about the way they’re focusing on their roots, on the energy pooling deep in the earth. Then, I draw cards:
First card: What can I do more of to go deeper?
Second card: What can I let go of to create space?
Third card: What message do I need to hear this winter?
This method would work for any sortilege-based divination system: Tarot, oracle cards, runes, kahina stones, etc.
Balancing the results of the reading with my own reflections, I then choose a few small shifts to make. For my own part, I’m letting go of pushing so hard. I have self-imposed creative “deadlines” that aren’t serving me and ultimately create more stress. One thing that’s working well for me right now is a 20-minute yoga practice at the end of my workday. It got jostled by my schedule and then by a case of covid, so I’m prioritizing that return to the mat. I’m fortunate enough to live in a part of the world that experiences a mild winter while still seeing a true seasonal shift, so I plan to support both of these adjustments by continuing to spend time outdoors. For me, it really helps.
So, what do you want to streamline and recenter right now? What’s working for you? And what do you want to let go of? Hit me up in the comments. You never know when your own ideas are exactly what another person needs to read.