On the Calendar
While the night of the year draws to a close, February can sometimes bring the most severe weather of the season. However, the promise of spring becomes palatable when receding snow begins to reveal greening grass. Seeds that have been resting in Gaia’s womb slowly make their way to the surface to sprout in the sunlight. This month was named after the ancient Roman ritual of purification, februum, which was held mid month.13
On the Calendar
February 2: Imbolc/Midwinter
At Imbolc we are halfway between winter solstice and spring equinox. It is a time when the days become noticeably longer. This sabbat is a celebration of the reawakening of the earth. It is also a time of purification and clearing out unneeded things from our lives. As the world is beginning to awaken from winter’s slumber, it is time to shed the past and move forward with hope and growth.
If you planted an amaryllis bulb on New Year’s Day, place it on your Imbolc altar to symbolically stir the energy of life. Later in the month when the amaryllis has bloomed, place it on your altar again to use in love spells or sex magic. A red amaryllis is especially effective for this purpose.
Brigid’s cross is a fundamental symbol of this sabbat. It is an ancient type of design called a whirl, which symbolically stimulates the energy of life to begin a new cycle. Straw that is set aside from autumn mulching works well to make the cross. Most of the straw that we get at garden centers comes from cereal grains such as barley and wheat, which are grains associated with Demeter. The use of straw at Imbolc is a symbol of hope and promise for the future as it foreshadows the story of Demeter and Persephone at Ostara.
Figure 4. Bend pieces of straw in half and loop them together to create Brigid’s cross.
Soak the straw in water overnight so it will be pliable and can be bent without breaking. To make a Brigid’s cross, bend two pieces of straw in half, loop them together, and then position them at a ninety-degree angle to each other. Take another piece of straw and bend it in half around the vertical piece so the three pieces form a slightly off-centered letter “T.” Do the same with a fourth piece, bending it in half around the third piece at a ninety-degree angle. These pieces form the center of the cross. Continue adding one or two pieces of straw to each side of the cross.
To finish, set the cross down on a flat surface and place something heavy enough to hold the center in place. Trim the end of each arm to the same length, and then tie a piece of yarn or string around the ends to hold each arm together. After the straw dries, add a longer piece of yarn to hang the cross, or simply place it on your altar.
February 14: Valentine’s Day
This is a day for expressing love as well as for love spells and charms. The Victorians turned the language of flowers into a fine art, and nothing says love like the rose. Although the Victorians are regarded today as prudish, the rose was a popular buttonhole flower that sent a signal about male sexual prowess. In ancient times, this flower was considered the perfection of nature in symmetry and harmony. It was a symbol of Aphrodite, Venus, Isis, Ishtar, and Astarte. According to Greek legend, a drop of Aphrodite’s blood gave the rose its red color. In addition, roses were said to have been a component in Cleopatra’s arsenal of seduction.
For centuries, drying and preserving roses was done to perfume the home in winter. At this time of year, most of us will have to turn to florist shops for fresh roses. Instead of putting them all in a vase, take a few flowers apart and sprinkle the petals on the dinner table and/or on your bed to celebrate Valentine’s Day. When searching for that special someone, turn around in a circle as you sprinkle rose petals and say:
Rose petal, rose petal, fragrance so sweet; with your power my love I will meet.
Rose essential oil can also be used in place of dried or fresh flowers. Use roses in any form to attract love, heighten desire and passion, and to increase fertility and fidelity. For more about roses, refer to the entry in “July.”
February 18: The Celtic Month of Ash Begins
In Norse mythology, the World Tree Yggdrasil was an ash that connected heaven and earth. Ash is associated with the Celtic god Manannan, and according to myth, this tree came from his undersea realm. Along with oak and hawthorn, ash was considered part of the triad of powerful fairy trees. In addition, it was reputedly the favored broom handle wood for witches’ besoms.