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Take a moment for yourself this Imbolc, Mama. Imbolc is a cross-quarter festival, marking the midpoint between the Solstice and the Equinox.  It’s a threshold time.  A time between time.  And in this way Imbolc can remind us...
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Imbolc is a cross-quarter festival, marking the midpoint between the Solstice and the Equinox.  It’s a threshold time.  A time between time.  Where we feel the Earth stirring, the pull of Spring but we are still in the hands of Winter for a while longer.

In this way Imbolc can remind us of other times in our life when we are no longer fully in one place but not quite in the next.  Still wintering but gathering for the emergence to come.  Feeling done with the current season of your life and awaiting the birth of the next.

It can be a good time to explore our relationship with those liminal in-between times.  To what extent can we let ourselves be in the metaphorical Winter? Gathering what there is to gather here, in preparation for the Spring that will come in time, if only we can hold on and trust. 

Imbolc seems to bring with it hope.  With it’s snowdrops and shoots, it’s growing light and birdsong.  It can feel like we’re waking up from a good sleep.  Something for sure to be celebrated.

Some sources have the name Imbolc derived from ‘ewe’s milk’.  Acknowledging this turning point for our ancestors when flocks would began to lamb and milk became available to sustain through this hungry gap.  An exhale in those times perhaps.

Other sources suggest it’s named for the Old Irish ‘i mbolc’ meaning ‘in the belly’ referring to this pregnant time of the year.  We might say we're in the belly of the year waiting for rebirth in the spring.

Imbolc is a fire festival, celebrated with the lighting of flames and watched over by the flame-haired Goddess Brigid.  A busy deity who is said to be Goddess of Spring, of Fire (both the hearth fire and creative fire), of Fertility and Midwifery and therefore Mothers, of Poets and Inspiration, of Healing, of sacred waterways and wells, of Blacksmiths and the Forge.

A folktale sees the Goddess Brigid take on each of these roles, believing she has more to give and doing a wonderful job of honouring them all>. But then she speaks with a wise bear who finds her looking exhausted whilst still looking for more places she can give of herself.  Wise Bear reminds her that whilst she is Goddess of fire and burns brightly her fire will burn out if she doesn’t feed and stoke her own fire.  He asks her to find what sustains her and that’s when she turns to creativity which helps her to continue burning.

What a metaphor for us as Mothers!

We explored these themes in my Imbolc workshop – part journaling workshop, part mama-circle – last weekend and it felt so nourishing to ground our very human experience in this very relevant time.

My next workshop has just quietly opened for booking if you want to join me for some Ostara magic – you can grab your place here before I start telling everyone about it

How I celebrate

I’ll be heading off for an early walk with two friends this morning for Imbolc.  It’s a lovely to time to think about what else we need in the way of wintry rest and replenishment while turning our thoughts to the seeds we want to plant for the year ahead – both metaphorical and actual seeds.  No doubt we’ll cover all of that as we walk.

3 invitations

If you’ve followed these posts for a while you’ll know I love to use these festivals as a way to take a moment for ourselves.  To connect in with where we are, how we’re feeling and what we need.

With that in mind I have my usual three invitations for you.  See what speaks to you and mould them into something nourishing and supportive for you…

1. Fireside-dreaming

Goddess of fire, Brigid, is associated with Imbolc and fire is used at this time both to honour her & celebrate the returning light.

Try this:

Imbolc is great time for dreaming into the year from your cosy hibernation cave. Indulge in some fireside dreaming - what will you invite in as the Earth stirs?

2. Stirring the seeds

Nature begins to waken. Deep within the Earth seeds put out first shoots, just as we begin to look ahead to what we’ll bring forth this year.

Try this:

Literally or metaphorically, what do you want to sow? You could sow some 'seeds' today. On slips of paper write your intentions, roll them into ‘seeds’ which you can plant in the soil too.

3. Let go the old

Traditionally, Imbolc is a time for visiting the water to clear away the old and make way for what’s new to sprout & grow.

Try this:

Take yourself on a walk to a nearby river, stream, holy well or the sea. Consider offering to the water anything you want to be free of in the year ahead.

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Allow whatever you do with these invitations to feel easeful. Kids and life don’t pay any attention to these festivals and you might not read this until days after the event.  These invitations are still available to you. No urgency or expiry dates.

Imbolc blessings, dear one x

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If you’re in a threshold time and have been considering working with a coach to support you to move through, you might like to know I've opened up 2 more coaches places this month.

I work with women who want to bring their hopes and dreams for themselves to life, whilst navigating inevitable trip hazards like self-doubt, confusion, mum guilt and feeling lost. Take a look at my coaching packages here and if this support might be just what you need, I’d love you to book in for a (free) chat here.

These long nights and short days are not for everyone.  I used to find the lack of daylight almost suffocating.  But over the past handful of years I’ve found a deep love for the darkest days of the year.

I wonder now how I got there.  An appreciation for cycles and the somewhat revelatory realisation that we’re always in motion has been part of it.  And layered on top, an understanding that the darkness encourages us to travel into our inner world to tend to what’s waiting for us.

If this is what the darkness helps us to do I can get behind it, but I used to be a bit scared of the dark truth be told.  Then a few years back a friend organised a gathering on the Solstice and it changed something. 

A group of wonderful women I knew and loved gathered together in her home in the darkness.  She lived in the countryside with no street lamps for miles so it really was dark.  Her home was lit by a few candles only.  We had a solstice-y women’s circle, exploring our feelings about the darkness and this time of year.  So many of us felt discomfort in the darkness and the solidarity of the moment prompted us to blow the candles out and sit in the pitch dark together for a while. 

It was profound.  Sitting in safety and warmth in the darkness a deep peace settled in me, the kind I hadn’t really felt before. The darkness felt nourishing.  Like I needed it.  And my relationship with the dark shifted.

Since then it’s not about getting through what I used to see as the dark, depressing shortest day.  It feels more like an invitation to be still and listen to what treasures lie within the darkness.

No surprise then that this is one of my favourite Celtic festivals to celebrate by taking a moment for myself.

There are three invitations below of ways we can do this.

Join me in taking a moment for yourself this Winter Solstice?

Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice – the shortest day – falls on 21st or 22nd December each year.  In 2023 it lands on Wednesday 21st December and some celebrate it as the festival Yule.

We know this day has been significant to humans for millennia.  Placement of stones to line up with the Winter Solstice sunrise at sacred sites around the UK and Ireland (and around the world) tell us this and it’s clear to see why.  Imagine when the only light was sunlight, how these shorter and shorter days must’ve felt.  The turning point of the Solstice and the return of the sun was a time to rejoice, even though there is much of Winter left to endure.

Old traditions speak of the sun dying at this time of year and of being reborn by the Goddess at the Solstice.  The Goddess of the Solstice is the Dark Mother (also known as Mother Night or Mother Winter) and she is the giver of gifts and the teacher of lessons.

And so the Solstice brings with it themes of going within, honouring our lessons and our gifts, finding the light in the darkness, rest, renewal and rebirth.

It’s a beautiful time to be still in the quiet of the dark night, listening and tending to what’s here for us right now.  To rest in this pause.  To gather.  To wonder about the ways we’d love to be reborn with the increasing light.

May the longest night and the shortest day,

Bring rest to your mind and your soul, I pray.

May you find guidance and may you find peace,

As the cycle of light will slowly increase.

Embrace the magic that the darkness bears,

Breath deep in the chill and shift in the air.

May you always be blessed with the light from within,

And may wellbeing be yours as the new cycle begins.

*

a Winter Solstice Blessing by Stephanie Laird
How we celebrate

These few days before Christmas can be so full, but since our kids were small we've tried to carve out time on the Solstice to pause together. It's a lovely antidote to the bustle. When they were small and woke at ungodly hours we'd keep the house dark and make it exciting to watch out the window waiting for the sun to rise on the shortest day. As they grew and mercifully slept in I'd take that peaceful hour to myself.

For the past few years, as a family we've enjoyed lighting a small fire in our firepit in the low light of the afternoon and reading Solstice stories around it, usually with obligatory marshmallow toasting or chestnut roasting. My youngest's favourite is the Solstice Badger and there are some lovely stories in Circle Round by Starhawk.

3 invitations

If the wheel of the year festivals fascinate you as they do me, they can be a lovely reminder to pause and take a moment for yourself.

I’ve made some of the ways I love to connect with the Winter Solstice into three simple invitations for you.  See if there’s one that speaks to you…

1. Winter wander

Wrap up warm and take yourself on a grounding Winter walk in nature.  With no agenda other than to feel the earth beneath your feet and the natural world sinking into it’s winter slumber.

Notice what you see, hear, smell and feel. Then enjoy the ritual of cosying up when you get home and allowing your own winter pause

2. Nourishing dark

Light a candle in the darkness and watch the flame as you sink into a place of rest. If it feels ok, blow it out and allow the darkness to hold you awhile.

Try to let your thoughts and feelings be what they are without judging. Take some long, slow belly breaths as you sit in the stillness, elongating the out breath. Sit for as long as feels good then light the candle again when you’re ready and notice what it brings.

3. Return of the light

It’s a beautiful time to watch the sunrise and the dreamy winter skies that go with it. If you naturally wake (or are woken by small people) while it's still dark it can be lovely to open the curtains and keep the lights off in your home while you wait for the sun. As the sun rises and the light filters in, take a moment in that gentle wintry half-light to ponder:

What is bringing you light in your life right now? And where would you love to be inviting more light into your days? What would bring you lightness right now? Your journal might come in handy.

*

Allow whatever you do with these invitations to feel easeful. Kids and life don’t pay any attention to these festivals and you might not read this until days after the event.  These invitations are still available to you. No urgency or expiry dates.

I love to hear what you do with these invitations.  Feel free to let me know over on Insta how they panned out for you.

Winter Solstice blessings, dear one x

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Before you go, two offerings:

If, like me, you love using the festivals to take a moment for yourself, you might like to know about my (virtual) Imbolc Workshop in January - part mother's circle, part journaling session, steeped in the energy of this beautiful festival and season. There are 3 price points to maximise accessibility and the group size will be limited so reserve your place now.

If Winter has you feeling reflective just now, you might like to download my Self Care Journal for Mums. Subscribers to my free email community can download this for free. You're so welcome to sign up here if you'd like to and you'll get instant access.

A year ago I began writing a series of insta posts around the Celtic Festivals. In recent years I've loved learning about the eight festivals that form the wheel of the year and had on occasion joined gatherings and workshops associated with each of them. But I was curious with these posts how they could become a way of connecting with myself.

So I began to look at: what are the themes of each of the festivals, what are the traditions... and how could I make the connection between celebrating this moment in the year while doing something supportive or nourishing for myself.

I wasn't sure if I'd have enough ideas for a year of festivals or whether they would all lend themselves to a relationship with self care, but I've found that I easily did and they definitely do. Embodying and celebrating the seasons as they do, there's so much within them that reminds us to slow down, re-establish our contact with the ground, reflect and give thanks, metaphorically plant seeds and harvest. And coming around every 6 weeks or so there's a beautiful rhythm available in these regular pauses.

Samhain is the Celtic festival that falls on the 31st October each year and traditionally this was seen as the beginning of a new turn of the wheel, a new cycle. I wasn't sure whether a year of these posts was enough and it was complete. An insta poll told me otherwise!

It seems lots of you love the regular invitation to connect with yourself and the season through these festival-centered posts and I love making them for you, so here we are beginning again.

Join me in taking a moment for yourself this Samhain?

Samhain

Samhain (pronounced 'sow-een') is the Celtic Festival in which modern day Halloween has its roots, though our ancestors celebrations were very different. While in the UK Halloween is all ghouls, witches and scary stuff, Samhain was traditionally represented by the Crone goddess - symbolising deep feminine power and wisdom - and was celebrated when the veil between ours and the spirit world was said to be thin. A time for remembering who and what has passed, connecting with the mystery and magic felt all around at this special time of year and tuning in to the grounded wisdom within us. 

In the Celtic wheel of the year, Samhain is the new year when the wheel begins a new turn. The Crone reminds us that just as we let the old year die so a new one may be born, we too sometimes need to let go in order to make space for what’s to come. 

How we celebrate

As a family, we're rather partial to bringing Autumn inside so there are always mini pumpkins and gourds scattered around. My children cottoned on to the upsides of Halloween traditions a while ago and as the only children in this corner of our sleepy village our neighbours love filling their halloween buckets with treats, so I have to admit this is the main kind of celebrating that goes on in our house on 31st October.

Samhain then has become something I get to have for myself. I mark quietly in that hour after they're in bed and at this liminal time it feels like a really special thing to do for myself. Some ways I connect with Samhain are below:

3 invitations

If the cycle of these festivals call to you, it can be a lovely thing to use them as regular reminders to pause and do something lovely with or for yourself.

I’ve drawn on the themes of Samhain to make three simple invitations for you.  See if there’s one that speaks to you…

1. Begin again

Samhain brings in delicious new year energy as the wheel begins a new turn. A perfect time then for fresh starts and new intentions. For remembering that it's always ok to begin again.

Try this:

~ Turn to a fresh page in your journal and fill it with imaginings of what 'beginning again' would mean to you just now.

~ You might want to choose a new goal or intention to begin working on, or bring to life one you've been carrying but not acting on.

~ You could make a new daily promise to yourself - 'I will do this thing for myself each day' - and begin keeping it from today.

2. Honour what's been

For our Celtic ancestors, Samhain was a time to remember, honour and celebrate beloved souls who had passed. We might use it for our own reflections.

Try this:

Take a moment to sit with your heart, honouring who or what you need to. Acknowledge what has passed for you this year. Notice what you're grateful for - the gifts and all you have learnt.

3. Sit with a flame

Samhain is one of the Celtic fire festivals, often celebrated with the lighting of fire or flame. Inviting the light to travel with us as we head into the darker months

Try this:

With a fire or candle, find solitude in the darkness of the evening to sit with yourself. In the quiet, can you drop into you? I wonder what you need to hear today and can you tell it to yourself?

*

Whenever I share these posts I always say – please allow whatever you do with these invitations to feel easeful.

Kids and life don’t pay any attention to these festivals and you might not read this until days after the event.  These invitations still available to you.

There are no expiry dates with this stuff.  No ticking clock or urgency.  The perfect time to take a moment for yourself and do something that feels nourishing is the very next window you can find, regardless of the date.

Go gently, make it easeful and bring all the self compassion.

I love to hear what you do with these invitations.  Feel free to let me know over on Insta how they panned out for you.

Blessed Samhain, dear one x

*

If you're feeling called to self-inquiry and reflection right now, you might like to download my Self Care Journal for Mums. Subscribers to my free email community can download this for free. You're so welcome to sign up here if you'd like to.

I remember in my school days absolutely loving this time of year. Perhaps because it's just been my birthday and it feels firmly like my month. I feel at home here in September and wish it could last a bit longer.

It was, I'm pretty sure, also something to do with Harvest Festival. I bloody loved it. From the last-minute rifling through cupboards for a contribution to take in, the big bountiful display in the school hall, the harvesty songs we sang and the knowledge that all this stuff was going to people who needed it. To be shared out.

I had no idea of course that all of this had it's roots in Mabon, but if I had I'd have been a big fan.

Mabon and the Autumn Equinox fall at a time when perhaps we still have one foot in the Summer that has been whilst noticing daily the shifts in temperature, changes in the trees and hedgerows and the mounting urge to get re-acquainted with all our knitwear. As I embrace this seasonal shift, I'm looking forward to carving out a moment to myself this Mabon.

Join me?

Mabon

Mabon is the Celtic festival of the Autumn Equinox, when day and night are once again briefly in balance before we head into the darker part of the year.  Traditionally, a time when the changing season was honoured and the harvest celebrated.

Mabon altars would be adorned with produce from the harvest and, as with many of the Celtic festivals, a feast prepared.

How we celebrate

When my children were younger our nature table would have been filling up by the day, creating a natural (messy!) altar which sang out Mabon. These days I tend to find acorns in pockets or rattling around the washing machine more than anywhere else, but I still love to gather some late flowers and signs of Autumn for our mantle.

At school (a Steiner school) my boys are used to celebrating Michaelmas which usually falls a few days after the equinox with a similar theme to Mabon but with the exciting added element of slaying dragons. There's also usually some bulb-planting.

So our celebration is a mish-mash of all of these elements and comes down to how we're feeling at the time. This year we have a huge haul of damsons gifted by a neighbour so I forsee jam-making as our marking of the harvest. Crumble too, no doubt, as part of a Mabon meal over the weekend. And definitely bulb-planting because i'm gradually expanding the daffodil population of our garden each year.

As you'll know if you've read these posts or my insta ones before, I love making the Celtic festivals a reminder to take some time out for me. They hold such wonderful themes to draw upon for self reflection and nature connection. Ingredients that make taking a moment for myself feel really nourishing.

Take a look…

3 invitations

If the cycle of these festivals call to you, it can be a lovely thing to use them as regular reminders to pause and do something lovely with or for yourself.

I’ve drawn on the themes of Mabon to make three simple invitations for you.  See if there’s one that speaks to you…

Rest

A favourite seasonal book - Circle Round by Starhawk - reads:

“At Mabon, the Mother of the Harvest becomes the Old One, the wise grandmother who teaches us to rest after our labours”. 

I adore this.  What if we tapped into our own inner wise grandmother and listened to what she had to tell us about rest? I wonder what she'd share.

Try this:

Tune into your inner wise grandmother and celebrate Mabon with a pause to rest.  Decide what restful thing you could do this weekend or in the next few days and honour it.  Even if that means something else doesn’t get done, you need to say no to something or somebody or you need to call in support.

Making a commitment to rest and keeping a promise to ourselves is a way we can give thanks to this awesome body that houses us and for all that we are in the world.

Re-balance

At this time of balance between day and night, light and dark, it can be a good time to reflect upon your own sense of balance.  Nobody is in balance all of the time, it would be impossible to achieve. But sometimes we can become so used to being out of balance that we almost stop seeking it. So this time of the equinox can be helpful reminder to check in with yourself.

I'm offering some reflection questions here which you could either just ponder on or journal on...

Reflection / Journal prompts:

~ How am I feeling in myself just now?

~ Where am I needing to bring myself back into balance?

~ What would do that for me?

~ What would really nourish me?

Self-kindness

After Mabon, as we move into the darker months, many of us find we naturally go within ourselves, experiencing a time of more introspection.  Just like we might cosy up our home ready for the colder season, I love the idea of softening to ourselves around this time. So that when we go within we take with us our most gentle words.

I wonder if this year you’d benefit from taking more self-kindness in with you as you go?

Try this:

Experiment with self-kindness by spending a whole day talking to yourself with the level of kindness you reserve for a beloved person or pet.  Whenever you notice any judgy or critical thoughts or less-than-gentle inner self-talk, all you need to do is acknowledge it and guide yourself back to ‘what would the kindest part of my offer to myself here?’.

It may be harder than it sounds but don't be discouraged. You're experimenting and nothing has gone wrong. Just keep noticing and re-phrasing your internal messages so they're kind and compassionate. It's such a great practice to play with and I wonder how it makes you feel after a day of self-kindness? Could you maybe try it again the next day?

*

Whenever I share these posts I always say – allow whatever you do with these invitations to feel easeful.

Kids and life don’t pay any attention to these festivals and you might not read this until days after the event.  They’re still available to you.

There are no expiry dates with this stuff.  No ticking clock or urgency.  The perfect time to take a moment for yourself and do something that feels nourishing is the very next window you can find, regardless of the date.

Go gently, make it easeful and bring all the self compassion.

I love to hear what you do with these invitations.  Feel free to let me know over on Insta how they panned out for you.

Mabon blessings, dear one x

*

If rest, re-balancing and self-kindness are resonating with you right now, you might like to download my Self Care Journal for Mums. Subscribers to my free email community can download this for free. You're so welcome to sign up here if you'd like to.

I reeaaally love the shift that arrives with Lammas (pronounced LAH-mus). There’s a mellowing that hints of September (my birth month) in the distance but still plenty of Summer days to be had. Calmer than earlier Summer and more grounded. 

So with this mellow and more settled energy abounding, I’m looking forward to carving out a moment for myself this Lammas.

Join me?

How we celebrate

When my children were littler we might have gone with tradition (see below) and baked a Lammas loaf or some other kind of baked goods. Old me had more appetite for organised activities and I guess I was working on establishing things like cooking and baking together as a norm when they were younger. Current me finds the kids are happier to bake spontaneously as the mood takes them and I'm happy to go with that. So our family Lammas will be more of a going with the flow low key celebration.

When we discovered one of our favourite woods-to-fields walks featured a beautiful golden wheat field yesterday and I pointed out it's Lammas today the kids asked if we can go back with a Lammas picnic. To be honest, any excuse for a picnic!

And as you'll know if you've read these posts or my insta ones before, I love making the Celtic festivals a reminder to take some time out for me. They hold such wonderful themes to draw upon for self reflection and nature connection. Ingredients that make taking a moment for myself feel properly nourishing.

Take a look…

Lammas

Lammas (also know as Lughnasadh), on 1st August, is the Celtic festival of the first harvest. Historically it would have been a time of celebration for the early harvested goodness and of hope for waves of greater abundance to come. 

Celebrated traditionally with the baking of symbolic loaves as offerings to the Gods & Goddesses who might bless them with even more abundant later harvests in return. With gathering in, sharing and feasting. It would have been a time of hard work alongside huge gratitude for the bounty this work yielded. 

3 invitations

If the cycle of these festivals call to you, it can be a lovely thing to use them as regular reminders to pause and do something lovely with or for yourself.

I’ve drawn on the themes of Lammas to make three simple invitations for you.  See if there’s one that speaks to you…

Lammas journaling

This is a lovely time to draw upon the themes and energy of the early harvest to inspire your journaling.  Gratitude, abundance, nourishment, hope and celebration make for lovely focal points to explore.

I wonder which of these themes speaks to you. 

Journal prompts, if you need some:

~  What do you need to gather in or harvest?

~  What are all the things you feel grateful for?

~  How are you nourishing yourself?

~  How could you celebrate all that you are? 

Abundance tea

The early harvest abundance was often celebrated with baking and producing feasts, but in all honesty that sounds a bit too close to a normal day for us Mamas! I like the idea of celebrating the abundant and verdant time of Lammas more simply with a cup of garden tea and a quiet sit once the kids are in bed. 

Try this

Brew up a cup of foraged tea and take a quiet moment for yourself. If you grow culinary herbs like mint, sage or rosemary or have some in the fridge, they will work. Or maybe you have things like lemon balm, fennel or chamomile growing near you. There are lots of flowers that can be steeped as a tea - rose petals, calendula (marigold), borage, lavender to name a few. If all else fails, you can always find some nourishing nettle tips somewhere around - just remember to wear some gardening gloves to protect against stings. Plus, always make sure you know exactly what you're picking and that it's safe.

Golden time

Lammas is a time of golden fields and golden light. A beautiful time to soak up what you love about late Summer whilst carving out a window of time for yourself, if you can swing it.

Try this:

Make a date with yourself (or perhaps with a friend if you'd relish the company) for a Lammas walk. Find a lush and beautiful place. Watch the sun dance, rise or set. Or take some golden time out for whatever you want to do.

*

Whenever I share these posts I always say – allow whatever you do with these invitations to feel easeful.

Kids and life don’t pay any attention to these festivals and you might not read this until days after the event.  They’re still available to you.

There’s no expiry dates with this stuff.  No ticking clock or urgency.  The perfect time to take a moment for yourself and do something that feels nourishing is the very next window you can find, regardless of the date.

Go gently, make it easeful and bring all the self compassion.

I love to hear what you do with these invitations.  Feel free to let me know over on Insta how they panned out for you.

Lammas / Lughnasadh blessings, dear one x

© 2022 Lisa Mabberley
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