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Happy Imbolc 2024


Explore the Gaelic festival with a focus on hearth, home, the customs and history, and the anticipation of spring. Uncover the mysteries of Brighid, the goddess at the heart of Imbolc's celebration.


Delve into the origins of Valentine's Day, woven with threads of love and folklore. The blog guides you through diverse facets of pagan and witchcraft culture, from urban paganism to the melting pot of Slavic magic, and the spellbinding history of cheese.


With no retrogrades until April, try a specially curated tarot card spread that helps you take advantage of the promise of positivity. On the positivity front, the Witches & Pagans Festival promises ancient rituals that meet modern concerns in conversations about spirituality and world peace.


Witness the spiritual awakening of the younger generation, exploring witchcraft, psychic powers, and the supernatural drama "Domino Day." Discover the resurgence of brujería and folk magic among Latinos.


Immerse yourself in new books about the trials of witchy women—both historical and modern and catch the video premiere of "The Witch of Wapping." Lighten the mood by pairing your favorite tarot cards with horror movies.



Imbolc



Imbolc 2024 (Ireland): On February 1, Imbolc celebrates the arrival of spring with an unparalleled feast. The Imbolc festival is also the day on which the pagan deity Brigid is venerated, as per tradition. Want to know the significance of Imbolc in Ireland? This is because, on this day, pagan individuals fortify their bond with the natural world and offer prayers for fruitful soil that yields an abundance of crops throughout the year. One of the most delightful aspects of this event is that, regardless of one’s skepticism regarding the historical context, one is unable to resist the incredible celebration that ensues.



A beeswax candle [S. Barker]


Keeping time by the Wheel’s turning, I am nearly halfway between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox – still immersed more in darkness than in light, traveling along the inward spiral. This tranquil in-between time has been restful, and in a season often fraught with old hauntings and stress, I found comfort in introspection and my soothing self-imposed isolation.


I sometimes amuse myself by thinking about how lovely it would be to spend these fading dark days dressed in long gowns and sturdy boots, wandering the grounds and misty lakeshore of my foreboding country mansion, shrouded in mist and mystery. Or goodness, appearing like a ghost in a large window, holding a candle and framed by heavy velvet curtains, frightening curious passersby.



New beginnings and the approach of spring feature in Imbolc, a traditional Gaelic festival.

Marking the halfway point between the winter solstice and spring equinox, the annual celebration falls on Feb. 1. Here's a look at Imbolc and how communities in Michigan and around the world celebrate this festival.


Image by Gwyn


Brighid’s celebration of Imbolc is the time I look toward renewal. Years ago, I began my witchcraft journey as a devotee of Brighid. She is the first goddess I interacted with twenty-three years ago during a meditation.


I had no particular agenda that day or intention of connecting with a deity but Brighid had other ideas. Daughter of the Dagda, she is the ancient Celtic goddess of Spring, fire, healing, poetry, fertility, protection, animals, hearth, and the forge.



As a Celtic Witch, and a Druid in training, The Goddess Brigid has always meant a great deal to me.


Imbolc was the first ever Sabbat I celebrated with other people – many, many, moons ago now… in a cold forest in Kent with snow still on the ground, we sat in Circle and made wishes for the coming year. It was a beautiful ceremony and I will never forget it.


To this day, The Goddess Brigid holds a special place in my heart, though I do confess the popularized image of Her in white flowy dresses and windswept loose locks has never been an image I identify with.


Something Wiccan This Way Comes


FYI: One of the major events in my novel, Something Wiccan This Way Comes occurs on Imbolc with premonitions during the Sabbat celebration.


You can read a sample from either the preceding link or by downloading the sample ebook from Amazon.








Miscellaneous



I wrote half of last month’s column in an airport, trying to get to my grandmother before it was too late. Neither of us made it; she was gone before I even boarded. When I was done ugly crying – on the phone to my cousin as he broke the news, then again in front of the alarmed workers of the airport Costa – I wanted to metaphorically tear up everything I’d written and start on this instead, even if I didn’t have a clear idea of what this was yet, beyond something about rosemary’s tie to memory and a roast lamb no one would ever make for me again.


HOW A PAGAN FESTIVAL LAY THE GROUNDWORK FOR ONE OF THE WORLD'S MOST COMMERCIAL HOLIDAYS.


Long before Valentine's Day became a symbol of romantic love, there was the Roman festival of Lupercalia. This pagan celebration, observed from February 13 to 15, involved the sacrifice of a goat and a dog, followed by a ritual in which young men, clad in the sacrificed animals' hides, struck young women in a bid to ensure their fertility.



Recently there have been a couple of notable cases of people who, after making a name for themselves as witches or other Pagan-adjacent people, suddenly reverted to Christianity. New Age teacher Doreen Virtue was probably the most prominent to do so, in 2017. More recently, tattoo artist Kat Von D shared a video of her baptism and talked about returning to Christianity. There have been other, lesser known people who have done the same thing.


Tarot



This month begins an auspicious period known as ‘all planets direct’ in astrology. From January 27, 2024, until April 1, 2024, no retrograde planets will be active in the sky. This means no more technology mishaps, communication breakdowns, and unnecessary drama (for the most part). With all the cosmic bodies moving together in forward motion—it’s your chance to make something magical happen without the planets conspiring to thwart you. Curious about what the stars are saying you should focus on? Grab your favorite tarot deck, we’ve got a three-card tarot spread that will open your third eye!



Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons Images


Tarot cards—is there anything else in the world that’s quite so bewitching? Last year, I did a companion article to this one (linked below!) that matched tarot cards with horror books, so I figure I’d start out the year right and return to my beloved Rider Waite deck. Only this time, let’s head to the cinema and find our inspiration.


So for your divination pleasure, here are five tarot cards and the horror films you should match with them



If you are a tarot or numerology enthusiast, you may have already looked into the numerological value and meaning of 2024. If you are interested, at the beginning of each year you can find out what your personal tarot card for the new year is and what the tarot card for the year itself is. These are fun exercises you can do to learn more about what to expect from the upcoming year.


Paganism



Paganism is a little known religion and possibly one of the most misunderstood. The term conjures images of witches, creepy pentacle symbols and spells cast under the moonlight.


An Erdington nail technician however reveals the truth is far from the Hollywood stereotype. Anthony Lloyd, 27, was born into a Pagan family and practices as a Wiccan, a more organised religious group stemming from Paganism.


Coming from a legally recognised religion in the UK, Anthony enjoys a life dedicated to nature and otherworldly spirits. He is however tired of people shouting 'devil worship!' every time he talks about his alternative beliefs.



(image by Stage Dive Photography)


World peace will be top of the agenda when thousands of witches and druids from across the country gather for an annual festival in May.

The Festival of Witches & Pagans, which takes place in the Midlands twice a year, returns on May 11 and 12 with a full programme of events aimed at experienced witches and pagans as well as people who want to learn more about their way of life.


This year's May festival will include a range of workshops and events and each day will feature a main ritual - one for world peace and the other for Mother Earth to save and protect the Earth.



Pagans have lived in cities, and loved living in cities, since the very start. Although ancient pagan temples and shrines existed in rural or sometimes even wild areas, ancient pagans didn’t automatically run out to the countryside to worship. On the contrary, they built great temples in their cities – think of the Parthenon. This is true for the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. It’s true for the Celts and the Norse. The great temples of the Mayans and Aztecs were built in their cities. Pagan life was urban life.


But contemporary paganism (neopaganism) often seems committed to pastoralism. Pastoralism is a specific and highly modern view of nature. It’s a highly idealized, and highly distorted, view of nature. Pastoralism depicts nature as beautiful wilderness, untouched by human hands or plows. It contrasts nature with cities. Cities are depicted as anti-natural or evil. Thus modern pagans should try to escape from their cities to practice or to perform their rituals. Or at least try to find some green space in their cities. The Goddess and the God don’t live in cities – they live out in the forest or the fields.


Patricia Robin Woodruff [Courtesy]


For more than ten years, Patricia Robin Woodruff has been diving deep into Slavic lore. She began her magical journey pursuing and completing initiation as a Priestess with Stone Circle Wicca, an open-minded path of Wicca that encouraged her to begin researching her heritage and personal history as a basis for her magical practice. As the eldest daughter of an eldest daughter from the Carpathian mountains, surrounding the countries of Romania, Poland, Hungary, Ukraine, Slovakia, Czechia, and Serbia, she started her research into that vast pool of knowledge and practices.




Bulgarians participate in a performance of an ancient Surva ritual in the village of Donna Sekirna, Bulgaria, south of the capital Sofia, late Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024. The authentic pagan festival, called Surva, is held every year on the 13th and 14th of January in the western part of Bulgaria to mark the New Year. Surva is performed by costumed men, some in sheepskin or other colorful garments, bells, and masks, who walk around and dance to scare away the evil spirits in the hopes of providing a good harvest, health, fertility, and happiness.


Image: Vince Graham


Holyrood’s time for reflection will be taken over by Pagans this week for the first time in the Scottish Parliament’s 25 year history.


Reverend Linda Haggerstone, who describes herself as “Christo-Pagan” will offer an “insight into what Paganism is, along with a message of peace” when she addresses MSPs tomorrow.


It is a significant moment in the religion’s history, Matt Cormack, the Acting Presiding Officer at the Scottish Pagan Federation tells The Herald.


By the power of star and stone, by the power of the land within and without, by all that is fair and free, I welcome you today to this Time for Reflection."


Ending with a druid prayer, Rev Haggerstone said: "Grant, O divine spirit, thy protection. And in protection, strength. And in strength, understanding. And in understanding, knowledge.

"And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice. And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it. And in the love of it, the love of all existences. And in the love of all existences, the love of divine spirit and all goodness.


"Deep within the still centre of my being, may I find peace. Silently, within the quiet of the grove, may I share peace. Gently, within the greater circles of humankind, may I radiate peace."


Witchcraft



Witchcraft was something of an occupational hazard for women in early modern England. Much of their work was in healthcare, food preparation, and dairy production, all of which left them open to charges of magical interference when death, disease, or natural spoilage caused the people they were working for to suffer or lose money.

In the case of Joan Peterson, money was very much at the heart of her story and subsequent trial at the Old Bailey, at which she was found guilty of witchcraft and sentenced to death in 1652.

It’s a dark and disturbing tale, and the visual artist and multi-instrumentalist Simon Jones explains that the main challenge in attempting to write a song and film a short video about it was to try and capture the sense of chaos, confusion, hysteria, and fear at the heart of it.



It’s not entirely clear why cheese is seen to have magical properties. It might be to do with the fact it’s made from milk, a powerful substance in itself, with the ability to give life and strength to the young. It might also be because the process by which cheese is made is a little bit magical.

A WHILE AGO, a tweet (on the site currently known as 'X') by a user who posted images from a quaint book of spells went viral. Among the spells was one that claimed: “You may fascinate a woman by giving her a piece of cheese.” This, and the other magical advice, came from Kathryn Paulsen’s 1971 book, The Complete Book of Magic and Witchcraft. And while proffering a lump of cheddar may seem like an unusual way of attracting a possible mate, Paulsen’s book draws on a long history of magic. It’s a history that has quite a lot of cheese in it.



Photo Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios. Photo: Biodiversity Heritage Library


Ancient brujería — or Latin American and Caribbean witchcraft — has seen a resurgence in recent years as some U.S. Latinos reclaim the once-taboo traditions to connect with their roots, exercise self-care and build community.


The big picture: The resurgence comes as younger generations of Latinos increasingly embrace other parts of their heritage, speaking Spanish, using accent marks, or, in some cases, praying to folk saints.



In a world constantly evolving, young adults are turning to ancient wisdom to navigate modern challenges. The latest trend? Witchcraft, tarot, and psychic readings – with women leading the charge.


In an unprecedented shift, the younger generation, particularly those around 25 years old, are increasingly drawn to the mystical realms of witchcraft and psychic arts. Karinna Psychic, according to her experience with clients in her physical store in Houston, Humble and Katy, Texas, reveals a fascinating trend: women are twice as likely as men to participate in these practices, marking the beginning of a new era of spiritual exploration.


Book & Movie Reviews



Image: BBC/Dancing Ledge/Todd Antony)

NOTE: You can't access the trailer from the article, but you can watch it from this link on YouTube.


A young witch with extraordinary powers, Domino is desperately seeking a community who can help her understand who she is, but she doesn’t need to look far, as a coven of witches is already tracking her every move.


The BBC have today released the electrifying first trailer and striking new images for the upcoming modern-day witchcraft drama Domino Day, created and written by the BAFTA-nominated Lauren Sequeira and developed and produced by Fremantle’s Dancing Ledge Productions (The Responder, The Salisbury Poisonings), for BBC Three and BBC iPlayer.



Across seven centuries, women have been accused of witchcraft—but what that means often differs wildly, revealing the anxieties of each particular society.


Marion Gibson, a professor of Renaissance and magical literature at the University of Exeter, has now written eight books on the subject of witches, including “Witchcraft Myths in American Culture” and “Witchcraft: The Basics.” Her eighth book, “Witchcraft: A History in Thirteen Trials” (Scribner), traverses seven centuries and several continents . . . The experiences of the accused women (and a few accused men) are foregrounded, through novelistic descriptions of their lives before and after their persecution.



In 1584, the would-be know-all, university dropout and so-called authority on the subject of early modern witchcraft, Reginald Scot published his now famous book The Discoverie of Witchcraft. . .


Scot’s book, while extensively presenting its detailed arguments and reasons against the belief in witchcraft in the early modern period, nevertheless became a resource that included many examples and recipes used by witches, cunning folk and the superstitious populace. In that, it rapidly became a sourcebook and grimoire in its own right, providing useful instructions and information regardless of the overarching stance that its thesis takes on the efficacy of such acts.


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