Thoughts from the Editor….

As you may (or may not) have noticed, Witchy Wanderings disappeared on a bit of a hiatus. I had hand surgery in both November and December, while trying to still work full time and go to school (all online classes) full time. Priorities had to be adjusted, much to my displeasure.

However, we are back! Soon, there will hopefully be a new look and format for the newsletter. I’m looking into a possible .pdf that will be emailed and can be downloaded, making it easier for people to receive it and read it; I’ve had several people tell me there have been problems getting the images and such. The new format will be user friendly and will be different pages rather than the one run-on page of an email body.

Also different in this issue are a few of my banners. I bought myself a new mini-laptop for Christmas, but it was a cheapie that came with an old version of Windows. Websites that work fantastically on my home laptop do not work as well on this one…can’t play youtube videos, can’t make banners at bannerfans.com – though word on the street is bannerfans has been down for the count for a couple weeks. So, I had to use another banner maker that shoves their little ad at the top. Please ignore it, and the next issue will be finalized on my big laptop so I can use my saved banners.

If you’re interested in submitting your spells, fiction, or nonfiction to the newsletter, please let me know at witchywanderings@gmail.com!

It is cold, cold, cold outside! The country has been hit hard with winter weather. It was certainly the coldest December in my area that I can remember. The land still seems to be in winter hibernation, but we know since the Solstice, our sun is returning little by little. The harshest nights of cold are behind us and we look forward to the light as it begins to bring warmth to the Northern hemisphere.

I hope everyone’s holiday season was full of love, family, and giving. May the new year bring everybody everything they could need, and maybe a little of what they wish. Happy 2011!

IMBOLC

Whether you call it Imbolc, Candlemas, Brigit’s Eve, or Oimelc, the celebration of February 1 or 2 has special meaning to all. It is a celebration of the light’s slow return, remembering the promise of warmth and spring as the wheel continues to turn before us. Many, many years ago our ancestors faced the harshest time of year in February, as food stores depleted and they were forced to ration what they could to survive until spring. In this way, we are honoring their memory by making this a time of cleansing and purification.

One supposed origin of the word “imbolc” comes from the Celts, who celebrated this time of year as the breeding season of their sheep. According to Amber K in Candlemas, the flocks of the Celtic people were imperative to their livelihood, as the source of their food and clothing.

The day has become sacred to Brigid, triple goddess of poetry, inspiration, smithcraft, and healing. She is also goddess of holy wells and springs, as seen in the abundance of wells decorated to her in Ireland, and goddess of the crossroads and midwifery. In her aspect of smithcraft, the fires of a forge represent her as a goddess of fire, and therefore symbolic of the return of light. Imbolc is a time to shed the past, cleanse your self in the light of the present, and move on.

Correspondences:
*Stones: quartz crystals, opal, moonstone, aventurine
*Herbs: Angelica, basil, bay leaves, myrrh, dried sunflower petals, heather, violets, rosehips, sage
*Colors: red and white
Just a short list of ways to celebrate Imbolc:
*Cleanse and re-consecrate your tools.
*Re-dedicate yourself to the path of witchcraft
*Light candles in every room to welcome the coming spring
*Make homemade candles and bless them for future magickal work
*Throw 3 items of the earth (flowers, leaves, twigs, etc) into a body of water with a wish for the coming year in the name of Brigid (this in her aspect of goddess of well waters)
*Make a Brigit Cross of raffia or wheat and use it in cleansing and blessing your home.
*Serve hot milk with chocolate and honey and little round cakes

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An Easy Brigid Grain Dolly

Some instructions out there for making a Brigid grain dolly are a little too intense for me. I don’t have easy access to wheat, and I’m not a huge fan of the way the dollies made by wrapping wheat around little balls look.

Raffia, however, is easily found. Any craft store like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby carries packaged raffia in a variety of colors. Take some home and soak in warm, salted water for an hour. Pat dry on towels. Braid two separate sections – one thinner, one thicker. Leave a “broom” of raffia un-braided at each of the four ends, tying off with some pretty gold or red ribbon. Fold the larger of the two braids in half as the torso and head. Thread the smaller braid through the folded braid to make arms, anchoring with more ribbon.

You can put together a wreath of silk flowers for her head, and sew her a pretty green cape, fastening it with a jewel. Tie her hands together to hold flowers or something representing the goddess.

Use your grain dolly in ritual every Sabbat – a pregnant belly and long white hair at Samhain, a pregnant belly at Mabon…and at Beltane, place her in bed with a single sheaf of tied raffia (representing the god).

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An Imbolc Finger Labyrinth

For the Summer Solstice last year, I ventured to a nearby Presbyterian church seminary, where is maintained an intricate medieval labyrinth, cut into the grass of a sun drenched field. In silence, three friends and I walked the labyrinth together in meditation.

It is an introspective journey, the act of circling inward, one foot in front of the other as the grass tickles the soles of your feet. When you reach the center, it is a moment of completion and peace, contemplation and understanding. Then, you stand up, brush your hands off, and begin the journey outward.

A beautiful example of life, death, and rebirth is the movement of a labyrinth. It is connected to the journey of Persephone, who must spend the cold of the year in the underworld with Hades, only returning in the Spring to her mother, Demeter.

As Imbolc is a time of Brigid, the triple goddess, and of cleansing, purification, and looking forward into the light (and the springtime of Persephone), a great way to celebrate in a solitary way is to walk a labyrinth. In cold weather, of course, actually going outside (if there’s even a labyrinth nearby) does not sound appealing.

Instead, commit the image to piece of paper, making the “walkways” large enough for the tip of your finger. Light a candle and some incense, sit before the labyrinth by the flame of your candle, and trace it with the tip of your power hand’s first finger. You can chant, hum, or just sit in silence while you work, or put on some mood music (particularly Celtic instrumental!) Think of the year you’ve just left behind and the coming months; think of what you want and what you had. Let the journey take you.

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Interesting Dates of February

On top of the well known fact February is Black History Month, it is also American Heart Month and Creative Romance Month. Honor a notable African American, eat Cheerios for your heart, and write that Romance novel!

Feb 1 – National Freedom Day
Celebrating something we should never take for granted – Freedom in America. Established in 1948, this holiday commemorates the end of slavery and beginning of freedom for all.

Feb 4 – Thank a Mailman day
They come out in rain or shine, freezing February and boiling August, to deliver your mail. When they come today, open your door, give them a smile, and say “thank you.”
This day is also Wear Red for Heart Disease day. Check it out at http://www.goredforwomen.org/ and bring out that little red dress!

Feb 7 – National Fettucini Alfredo Day
I know what I’m having for dinner!

Feb 11 – Make a Friend Day
As adults, we forget that easy going camaraderie of being a child. Several years back when my sisters were young, I remember watching them meet other kids at the pool and immediately become best friends for the hour they were together. In honor of today, go out and strike up a conversation with someone. The person at the table next to you at Starbucks or a work colleague you’ve always liked but never really gotten to know – go on, give it a try! You can never have too many friends.

Feb 14 – National Organ Donor Day
Of course, this is Valentine’s Day, too. But, even more important that spending time with your honey is signing up to donate your organs. Nobody wants to imagine they’re going to die young, but if it were to happen, wouldn’t you want to save the lives of others? In Kentucky, where I live, it’s as simple as signing the back of our driver’s license. I’ve been an organ donor since I first got my license; are you?

Feb 17 – Random Acts of Kindness Day
Just what it says – do good today. Open doors and smile for others. Walk an elderly woman across the street. In warmer climates, mow your neighbor’s yard. Make cookies for your mother-in-law. Make somebody’s day!

Feb 20 – Love Your Pet Day
Of course we love our pets, but take some extra time today to cherish them. An extra long walk, a warm massage bath, and special treats.

Feb 23 – National Banana Bread Day
Best bread ever.

Feb 24 – National Tortilla Chip Day
Go out and eat some chips and queso at your favorite Mexican place!

Feb 26 – Tell a Fairy Tale day
In honor of Brigid, read one of her many tales to your children today.

Feb 27 – Polar Bear Day
Visit your local zoo to see the polar bears, and blog about the melting arctic poles. If global warming isn’t taken under control, we could be looking at a future without these four legged friends.

Sources:
http://www.holidayinsights.com/moreholidays/february.htm
http://homeschooling.about.com/cs/unitssubjhol/a/fundaysfeb.htm

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February’s Moons
New Moon Feb 2nd 09:31
1st Qtr Feb 11th 02:18
Full Moon Feb 18th 03:36
Last Qtr Feb 24th 18:26
All times in EST

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Ice Moon of February
aka Storm Moon, Hunger Moon, Wild Moon, Cleansing Moon, Quickening Moon
February is a dormant time, when the earth’s activity and life teems just below the surface. It is a good time to dedicate yourself to your deities and cleanse and bless your home and property. Use the moon cycle of this month to prepare yourself, mind, body, environment, and spirit, for new experiences.
Correspondences:
*Herbs: hyssop, myrrh, sage
*Colors: light blue, violet
*Stones: amethyst, jasper
*Animals: otter, unicorn
*Deities: Brigid, Juno, Kuan Yin, Demeter and Persephone
Workings during this month should be for purification, growth, healing, and loving thyself. It is also a prime time for accepting responsibility for your past errors, forgiving yourself, and making future plans. Divination is also very powerful at this time of year.

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Spell of the Month
A Brigid Well Spell
A wonderful way to celebrate the Full Moon of February, would be to ask for Brigid’s blessings by tossing flower petals to her in a homemade well.
If you’re lucky enough to have an honest-to-goodness well on your property, and the ability to use it, fantastic! But, most of us city witches are stuck making do with what we have.
Gather a medium size bowl of stones, whether gravel from the driveway or river rocks from the creek. Heck, you could even use a small bag of fish tank gravel (preferably not the fluorescent pink kind!) from your local pet store. Find a small glass bowl or dish to sit down inside the gravel to hold the water.
Decorate the well for Brigid in the manner of the Irish – with flowers and ribbons and pennies, anything you like. Light a few white candles (you an even float a small tealight on the water) and sit before it. You can chant to Brigid, or say a simple incantation to begin. Then, using the petals of a flower, toss them one by one on the water, stating out loud what it is you wish for from the goddess.
As always, give the water and petals back to the earth when done.

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Brigit Tarot
From Candlemas by Amber and Azrael Arynn K – I highly recommend this book!

Think carefully on your question. It should not be a “yes/no” situation, but instead something on which you wish for guidance.
Keep your question foremost in your mind as you thoroughly shuffle the deck. When you feel ready, turn the deck face up and shuffle through. Find the Eight of Pentacles (representing Brigid in her aspect as smith) – remove the card directly under this card and set it aside.
Find the Star card (Brigid as poet) and remove the card directly under it. Set it aside with the first.
Now, locate Temperance (Brigid as healer) and remove the card underneath it.
You now have three cards. Study the cards and make your own observations of their meanings in reference to your question. Write down everything that comes to you for later, in case you need to come back. Sometimes the answer is clearer in retrospect.

~~~~~~~~~~ )O( ~~~~~~~~~~

Quote of the Month:

The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size.
– Gertrude S. Wister

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Did you know?

For the most part, Imbolc is celebrated by Wiccans on the evening of February the 1st every year, for purposes of continuity. However, the actual cross quarter day falls at a different time. According to archaeoastronomy.com, “Equinoxes, Solstices and Cross Quarters are moments shared planet-wide, defined by the earth’s tilt and the sun’s position on The Ecliptic along 45° arcs.”
Between 2000 and 2009, the actual Cross Quarter day of Imbolc fell either on Feb. 3 or 4 in the Eastern time zone. For the equinoxes, solstices, and cross quarters of 2011, check out http://www.archaeoastronomy.com/2011.html
This year, Imbolc falls at 23:20 Eastern time on Feb. 3rd.

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Irish Stew

I tasted this delicious dish for the very first time high in the mountains of County Wicklow, Ireland in a cozy little roadside restaurant. Great for cold evenings and followed by a mug of good ole Irish Coffee!

Fry 1 lb round steak (fat removed, and cubed) in 2tbsp of oil in a large stew pot. Remove when brown, place in covered dish.

Add to oil in pot:
3 medium onions, sliced
4 carrots, peeled (or not, depending on preference) and sliced
4 stalks celery, sliced
6 potatoes, cubed
Fry onions until limp, but not brown. Put meat back in pot. Add 2 tbsp on flour, sprinkling and stirring. Cook one minute. Gradually add 1 pint Guinness Stout. Bring to a boil, add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and place in oven for 2 hours at 400 degrees. Serve with bread. Really good served over a heaping scoop of mashed potatoes!

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The Imbolc Altar
A quick view of items you can put on your Imbolc altar.

*White and red altar cloth
*Lots of candles (go crazy, but please, please always take precautions with fire!)
*Crocus flowers (first flower of spring)
*A wheel of greenery (use a Christmas garland) decorated with red and white ribbon and adorned with fake tealight candles (the electric kind, safer than real.)
*Brigid’s Bed and grain dolly
*Statue of a lamb
*Use Valentine’s day symbols!
*Statue of a bear, goddess as She-Bear with fierce devotion to her young.
*Something Chinese in honor of Chinese New Year
*Brigit cross
*Celtic designs
*Small anvil or hammer in honor of Brigid as smith

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Irish Potato Bread
Unknown source

Preheat 450 degrees.

1 cup mashed potatoes, mix in 1 tsp salt, 2 tbsp melted butter, and then add ½ cup flour. Roll out a half inch thick circle, transfer to baking sheet, and cut into 6-8 wedges, but don’t separate. Bake until golden brown. Serve with butter, honey, or jams.

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Stone of the Month
Moonstone

This stone is a feldspar stone, and can be milky white in color with a blue or yellow tint, or sometimes translucent with a variety of pale colors. I have found myself completely out of balance, in all aspects of my life, and this stone can help to bring that balance back in. It soothes emotions, helping you to take back control of them. It is deeply connected to the mother goddess, making it a stone of intuition and dreams.
Eastern cultures believe this stone brings love. This stone is also associated with gardening, in it’s aspect of nurturing; bury one in your garden to help it grow. It is a good stone to carry when traveling over water, and can help people studying divination by heightening intuitive powers.
Physically, this stone helps heal reproductive systems and other feminine problems, and regenerates tissues. It is a good stone to be carried by those who work in fields forcing them to see the harder side of life on a daily basis – nurses, doctors, law enforcement, etc – because it balances your emotions.
Sources:
http://www.sobrietystones.com/resources/GemBook/Stones/meanings_gemstones_moonstone.htm

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Herb of the Month
Bay

Bay leaves come from the Bay tree, native to Asia, and were famed in Greek and Rome where it was known as Laurel, often worn in crowns on the heads of deities and prominent society members. This herb corresponds to the Sun, masculine energies, and the element of fire.
Legend has it the Oracle at Delphi chewed Bay leaves to enhance her visionary trances. Bay leaves can be utilized in many methods of cooking, including soups, sauces, and seasonings for all meats.
Magically, bay has a variety of uses. Use it to enhance wisdom, clairvoyance, intuition, and along those same lines to promote psychic dreams. They are useful in protection spells, and for healing or purification. One website says to use in consecration of musical instruments, or to give strength to athletes. Due to the size and shape, you can also write wishes on bay leaves and burn them.
Sources:
http://www.earthwitchery.com/herbsa-g.html
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/378935/magical_properties_of_herbs_spices.html

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God of the Month
Hephaestus (Greek)

The god of fire and metal-working and patron of craftsmen of all trades, Hephaestus is also associated with volcanoes. Interestingly, this god was born weak and crippled, rather than being the ‘ultimate perfection’ so often associated with deities. He is known as the son of Zeus and Hera, though he was created without male fertilization – Hera created him in revenge of Zeus’ affair with Metis (an affair that produced Athena). Some stories say Hephaestus was married to Athena, while others say it was Aphrodite, who was caught by Hephaestus in an adulterous affair with Ares.
This smith god created Zeus’ thunderbolts, and the weapons and armor used by other deities. He forged Eros’ arrows, Helios’ golden chariot, and Achilles’ invincible armor.
Most stories describe Hephaestus as being ugly and walking with the aid of a stick. He is also said to be creative and cunning, but he can also be extremely vindictive.
The Roman equivalent is Vulcan.
Sources: http://www.pantheon.org/articles/h/hephaestus.html
http://englishihonorsmythology.wikispaces.com/Hephaestus (pic)

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Goddess of the Month
Vesta/Hestia

This self-chosen virgin goddess presided over the hearth and home, particularly in the bread making and meal preparation. As goddess of the sacrificial flame, she was honored along with every sacrifice made to the gods. The Greeks tended a “living flame” in her honor, never allowed to go out – today, we find the same concept in the Olympic torch and the eternal flame of John F. Kennedy. Even on a local scale, as in my hometown, we hold an eternal flame for fallen officers in a downtown park.
Her name means “the essence,” though today she is almost virtually unknown, as opposed to her heyday when she was one of the most important goddesses in Greek mythology. She is associated with hospitality, the symbols of flame and a circle, yet very few stories remain about her. She is known as mild, forgiving, peaceful, and welcoming. She is said to be the origin of the concept of “sanctuary” – a fact that could be well used in protection magic.
Check out this great page on bringing Hestia into your life: http://www.orderwhitemoon.org/goddess/Hestia.html

Sources: http://www.theoi.com/Ouranios/Hestia.html
http://www.goddessgift.com/goddess-myths/greek_goddess_Hestia.htm

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