Join the Circle

Category: Witchcraft

Imbolc traditions and why you should celebrate

Imbolc is celebrated as marking the beginning of spring; the flowers have started to bloom, there is growth in the earth, everything is becoming that bit greener and moving away from winter. There is still a chance of frost- you’ll get that through until around Beltane, but you can start to grow seedlings and plants indoors or in other heated areas like greenhouses, ready to be moved out when the weather is warmer.

It is also a good time to look at your own life and see what areas you can improve upon in the coming year. Many people may like to do a divinatory exercise at this time of year to make sure they are on the right track. Some people like to carry out divination before an event, others may like to look at things from an afterwards perspective.

If winter can be seen as the time when everything is underground, ready to be awakened, Imbolc is that awakening- the energy of expectancy is all around- for the summer to come, to be out of the darker, winter times, for the onset of spring and the return of flowers and life.
Many people choose this period to clear out the old and bring in the new- a spring clean if you will. It’s a good time to set plans in motion, to start giving an idea or venture form, rather than just keeping them as ideas. Spring cleaning can also occur within as well as around the home and garden. Long, dark nights of winter can leave people feeling a little bit down, so it’s a great time to start cleaning out all of those feelings, throw open the windows to allow in the warmer spring air and make yourself and your family feel better.

Many traditions have a life force and a life-giver. Many will look to a more serpentine deity or being as holding power within. If you look around in the world, the main source of health and wellbeing is seen through healthcare and medicine. The symbol within healthcare that looks like a snake, or more specifically a serpent, is called The Rod of Asclepius. Asclepius is from ancient Greek beliefs and is the god of medicine and healing. He is usually symbolised by the staff with a serpent coiled around it. This is seen as the most universal symbol of medicine and healthcare the world over.

It is said that this serpentine life force reawakens from slumber in the springtime, as the snake has been sleeping through the winter. It is a time of rest for all things, and it is only once the serpent reawakens that the witch can begin to draw energy and work more with the land than when the world was slumbering. It is a tradition in some branches of witchcraft (not Wicca) to awaken the red serpent from its slumber and bring life back into the world.

Around this time of year, it was traditional to give offerings to the holy wells and springs around the countryside. There are many wells and springs around even today, however, they are not venerated nearly as much as they once were. They would be decorated for Candlemass. It is also said that witches of old (again, not Wiccans, that is a much newer religion that what we are talking of here) would lead in a silent procession in the dead of night to a local well or spring. There would be one person leading with a candle, and the witches would set gentle fires and warm the serpent back up out of its slumber. This ritual would usually be followed by dancing and music, and may, therefore, move to a more apt spot in the countryside. More traditions relating to the time of Candlemass can be found in a great book by Gemma Gary called Traditional Witchcraft – A Cornish Book of Ways.

If you feel more renewed and healthy once spring starts blooming, this is likely why.

A lot of the symbols found in nature can be attributed to the Goddess Brigid (who became a saint when Christianity took over) such as:

The snowdrop- such a delicate flower, yet it can break through the hard soil in order to bloom. The snowdrop is a certain sign that spring is coming along.
The flame is a representation too, as Imbolc is seen as one of the fire festivals. It can also represent creativity and the flame in the hearth fire.

The Brigid’s cross is a representation of the fire wheel for Brigid. This symbol was found at the hearths of homes throughout Ireland and beyond to symbolise Imbolc and Brigid.
Colours which can be associated with Imbolc are silver and white for purity and green for the very first burst of life in an otherwise barren landscape.

Sea Magic

When visiting a place by the sea, it is hard not to feel enchanted by its natural magic.

Image of a choppy sea with an orange sunseat in the background
The ocean can be a very unforgiving place

The tides, the wind, the feel of the sand on your feet and just the smell of the ocean is enchanting in itself. Many people simply honour the sea for what it is usually seen as- a turbulent yet beautiful vista which slowly but surely erodes all it touches. Many other people who feel a pull to the ocean may choose to live near to it and practice sea magick or sea witchcraft, depending on the term they wish to use. The practice is nice and natural, as the sea provides almost all of the tools required for practise- shells for altar decoration and offering bowls, various shells, rocks and driftwood which can be used as talismans or amulets, smaller objects can be used as decoration for any main items you use- for example a small stone found in the sea can be used to adorn an athame or ritual bowl.

The main element which is honoured is, of course, water. Tied into that is also the adoration of the moon, as she governs the sea through high and low tides and also the ferocity of the flow and waves. Leading on from this is the addition of spells related to emotions, as water is said to govern them. This also leads onto spells and magic which harnesses and create creativity as water is also seen as the creative spirit, protection because of the use of shells and other covers which creatures use to protect themselves in the sea, love- relating to the study and incorporation of Aphrodite who is seen as goddess of the sea in the Greek tradition, and prosperity and trade too because of the transportation of goods over the sea many years ago. Individual shells are also said to have their own meaning within their folklore, but that’s something which is an article within itself!

Many witches and spiritual people who work with the energy of the sea and tides who do not live near to the sea can also use the magic of the rivers and streams local to them when they are not at the sea. Some people also gather things they feel they may need whilst they are visiting the oceans to use in future for their magic workings. Sea witches are said to call upon the force of the tides and winds to control and hone the power of the sea; to tap into the ebb and flow of the tides and the energies therein. It is said that the path of the Sea Witch can be perceived as somewhat darker than those of other paths- this is related to the ruthless nature of the sea herself, sometimes calm, sometimes enveloping and destroying parts of, or all of a town, cliff or other structure nearby.

Going back to the older times of sea voyages and trade routes with risk from heavy seas and high storms, the sailors would call upon the uses of a sea witch to ensure the sea crossing was successful. These sailors also did business with the witches- they would buy handkerchiefs or cloth from the witches to use in times when winds were needed- these were tied with three knots in the blowing wind by the witches. It is said that the first knot undone would cause a soft and gentle south-eastern wind, the second knot would give a very strong north-bound wind and the last and third knot was only unravelled in emergency situations, as it was said to invoke very heavy winds and also storms.

Shells from the beach are great for spellwork

Although the sea witch is not necessarily needed nowadays due to the use of engines and other protections from the elements by sailors, it is still a path which is trodden by those who feel a deep connection to the ocean. It is also only advised for those who can handle the ebbs and flows and also storms of mother nature.

Sea magic is an umbrella term mostly for many different kinds of magic. These include the magic of water itself, of the weather, moon magic and also mirror magic, as this is usually used in conjunction with the moon, and water is the greatest of natural mirrors if clear enough!

Although water is the main element of sea magic, all of the elements are present in sea magic. Water relates to the ocean, earth relating to the sand, air relating to the sea wind and fire relating to the sun or stars, depending on the time of day you’re working with the magic. The main, very important point when working with any kind of magic to do with the ocean or any body of water is to take care. Know your water. Know the tides, know the river levels, know the strength of the flow, and especially when working with the sea- know the moon phase. You’ll find lots more magically-charged goods just before, during and just after a full or new moon- but the tides are likely to be treacherous especially during the full moon. If your intuition says leave; leave. Even if you’ve travelled a lot of miles to get to the location and your intuition says to leave, always listen to it. Watch the sea, watch to ensure the tide is low and all should be fantastic.

As with all magic or craft, sea magic when respected is beautiful, powerful and fantastic. If warning signs are ignored, it can be chaotic and downright dangerous. It is challenging but very worth it if that is what draws you in. All of the tools you could need are there: shells to hold water as the chalice, driftwood wands as athames, sand for earth, sea wind for, well, wind, and the fire can be represented by the sun, stars or a small beach fire (make sure it’s legal to set one of these in your area first!). All of these items can also be returned to the sea afterwards to properly ‘set’ the magic in place.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén