Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Líithi Lushede Coven's Public Imbolg Ritual 2015

On Sunday, February 1st, Líithi Lushede Coven held their public Imbolg ritual at Aquarius in downtown Kansas City, MO.  KC has had an incredibly mild winter with temperatures reaching up into the 70s.  However, the night before and the day of the ritual, the Northland received around 2-3" of a snow-ice mix.  Despite that, attendance was high as usual!  It is Líithi Lushede's strong presence, high turnout and beautiful rituals that keep the Kansas City pagan community coming back for more!

While Samhain marked a year since I first started attending Líithi Lushede public rituals, this Imbolg marked a full year of photographing their rituals.  How exciting!

Imbolg is a sabbat of cleansing and dedication.  Often associated with Brigid, this holiday embraces the life under the icy ground slowly stirring from its slumber.  Líithi Lushede's altar reflects those ideas through a black candle (the dark) decorated with crystals, faux snow and pinecones, and a white candle (the light) decorated with greenery and flowers.

And, of course, who could forget the coven's beautiful floral ice candle holders from last year?  They were simply stunning again for 2015!

The ritual began with High Priestess Gwenhwyfar Wyrrd opening the circle by tracing it with a seasonally-decorated staff while we as a large group chanted, "This is a time that is not a time, on a day that is not a day, in a place that is not a place."  She returned to the altar to bless the purified water and incense that then cleansed everyone standing around the edges of the circle and created a purified boundary.

The quarters were then called individually beginning with East in a clockwise, or deosil, motion.

The High Priestess then returned to the main altar and lit the black candle.  She discussed the duality of Brigid, sometimes seen in paintings as half beautiful maiden, half jaded old crone.  Part of this is because the Celts do not divide the year into four seasons but simply two - the light and the dark part of the year.  She also discussed how that jaded crone could also be embodied in the Cailleach, a divine hag and weather deity of Gaelic culture.

She then told the story of Angus, the son of the Cailleach, who had visions of Brigid.  Knowing that they would fall in love upon meeting, the Cailleach did everything she could to keep them apart.  Eventually, Angus borrowed three days from the summer months to search for her.  The day he found her singing in the woods, he immediately fell in love as predicted, and they ran off to be married.  In anger, the Cailleach borrowed three days from winter and unleashed icy storms with reckless abandon.  However, Angus and Brigid's love was simply too strong and the Cailleach was weakening.  The Cailleach, knowing this, withdrew and turned herself into a large gray stone to wait for the dark part of the year to return.

The day that Angus found Brigid is considered to be the day of Imbolg.

Using a small candle, she then lit a small candle from the black candle and used that flame to light the white one, signifying the transition from the dark part of the year to the light.

A young maiden was then called over to represent Brigid.  Seven candles were lit atop her head, each one representing something different to the lighter part of the year, to Brigid.

Once fully lit she slowly walked about the circle passing out individual Imbolg candles much like the ones that adorned her head.

Behind her walked the four quarters, slowly lighting each candle.  We were instructed to start chanting as soon as our candle was lit.  The more candles lit, the louder the chant would become!  And just what were we chanting?

Once all candles were lit and the chanting was so loud it was deafening, the High Priestess motioned for us to all blow out our candles at once.  Should we ever feel like winter is dragging on too long or that the weather is pulling us down, we were instructed to light the candle again for a few short moments to remind ourselves of the spark of life.

The maiden Brigid was afterwards released of her duties by having her headdress of candles snuffed.

Because Imbolg is the perfect time for dedication, two women were dedicated to Wicca during ritual!  Hoping to become members of Líithi Lushede, they chanted an oath to the path of Wicca, were anointed with oil and given a cord.  Congratulations!

Cakes, in the form of white chocolate pretzels, and ail, in the form of almond milk, were then blessed and passed about the circle.

Throughout the ritual, and particularly during this session, we were serenaded by the bard John Mitchell, and his guitar.  He writes some of the most wonderful songs and certainly sets the tone for Líithi Lushede events!

The High Priestess then snuffed the black candle on the altar, officially representing the transition into the lighter part of the year, and we closed the quarters and the circle!

As all Líithi Lushede events, the festivities did not end here!  Once the circle was closed, the room was cleared and opened up for a pot luck feast!  Attendants brought everything from breads to soups to potato salad and more!

The sweets table was loaded with wonderful homemade cookies and cakes!  What a feast!

Líithi Lushede also accepts donations to help fuel a raffle that funds these events.  Raffle items included earrings, candles, a wood-burned plaque by Urban Crone, and more!  And, as always, a mystery box was in the mix.  If you win the mystery box, you must open it on site because no one knows what it contains.  This sabbat's box was filled with beautiful glass candle holders of all shapes and sizes.  Perfect for Imbolg!

Líithi Lushede Coven's rituals are always such a treat!  If you live or find yourself in the Kansas City area, I encourage you to come to one.  They're a wonderful learning experience filled with amazing people.  If you aren't near Kansas City, I encourage you to seek out a local public ritual near you.  Not sure where to start?  Try Meetup.com or Facebook for local pagan events near you!

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