The meandering thoughts of a modern-day hearth witch.

Thursday, 4 February 2010


It has been a funny old week. Change is afoot in my department at school, with new appointments being made and colleagues moving on. Unsettling as this may be, I have found myself taking a strange kind of reassurance from it; ironically it has reminded me that one thing we can be sure of is change itself.

At exactly this time last year, I took a giant leap towards changing my own life.  It was at the beginning of February that I applied for and was given my current job. Having begun planting and putting down the roots of my teacher training during the previous autumn, it was with the first signs of spring that I began to see the results and the pathway I was about to take began unravelling before me.

It comes as little surprise to me now that this time of year often brings new growth and development. As the seasons change, the light increases and the earth warms, we find ourselves waking up and taking our first steps towards the year’s goals.

It is this awakening that I celebrate at Imbolc – the midpoint between winter and spring. ‘Imbolc’ originates from the Celtic ‘Oimelc’ (‘ewe’s milk’); the festival which falls on February 1st or 2nd is so named because the life-giving flow of milk heralds the return of spring. This sabbat is in honour of Brigid, goddess of the hearth and bringer of fire to warm the frozen earth. 

Having no open fire in my cottage, this year I saw fit to create a symbolic hearth to which I could invite Brigid. This was a simple ritual, using materials I could gather from around the home and hedgerow.

Firstly, I chose the point in my home which I feel is its centre. The living area downstairs is actually the lowest point in the cottage and feels closest to the earth; this is where we naturally gravitate towards for comfort and relaxation.

I then filled the space with white candles, to represent the coming light. On a small table in the space, I placed a red pillar candle, which would represent the flames of fire and surrounded it with stones gathered over the years, to represent the hearth.

Now, I rarely cast a formal circle but as this was the first time I had called upon Brigid and the first time I had used this particular space for magick, I thought it would be appropriate. Previously I had used the wind vane in the farmyard to check my directions, however we have since discovered it is out of sync so my partner insists on checking North on his iPhone compass. Granted, this is not the most traditional method but it definitely comes under the heading of ‘practical magick’.

In spite of this preparation, however, my first attempt to cast a circle in a long while was not without its hiccups.  I really hope I’m not alone in being over the age of eight and still having to think hard about which is East and which is West. Not the best trait in a witch.  Having apologised to the elemental guardians and rearranged my incense and my water goblet, we could finally begin.

The ritual was a simple one; I asked Brigid to bless our home and hearth with her warmth and light and thanked her for the return of Spring. I then cast a small spell for a positive attitude and the creation of happy memories as the year unfolds. Finally, we gathered around our ‘hearth’ and ate a traditional Imbolc feast of roast lamb.

Later in the evening, long after it had gone dark, we used our hearth flame to light the candle of our lantern, which we took for a walk down to the nearby river. Placing an incense stick in the earth on the riverbank and with our lantern aglow, we had the four elements surrounding us once more. As cold as the night was, there was a warmth in that moment: one beautiful memory already created.

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