In the hearth

Imbolc approaches; with just under two weeks to go, it’s time to send out several email notices, drop the check off for space rental, ensure that everything needed to hold the rite is in hand, and perhaps print out some signs to (hopefully) improve turn-out — better advertising and all that.

But the underlying question of “Why Imbolc? Why Brighid?” remains.

There have been a few approaches to the eight-spoked Neopagan ritual year in ADF. One is to find rites from varied hearth cultures to fill out all eight spokes. Another is to find enough nearby holidays in your own preferred hearth culture to fill it out. A third is to adapt a culture to the rite as understood by modern Neopagans.

Let’s start with the third, adapting the culture to the modern-day rite. A good example of this would be a recent Beltane at Sassafras Grove, ADF, where Aphrodite was invoked as the Deity of the Occasion, within a rite framed in the Hellenic hearth culture. In many ways, this is the most approachable route for the modern Neopagan, seeing as how the modern Beltane is more about fertility than purification between two fires. It has the simultaneous benefit and difficulty of focusing very closely on the Deities of the Occasion and their lore, as opposed to seasonal or general culture lore.

The second route, finding nearby holidays, is more easily done in some hearth cultures than others. An example, using the Germanic Hearth cultures: Winter Finding or the Charming of the Plow for Imbolc, Ostara on the vernal equinox, Walpurgisnacht at Beltane, Midsummer on the summer solstice, Freyfaxi on Lughnassadh, Gleichennacht or perhaps Winternights on the autumnal equinox, either Winternights or a festival for the Einjenhar on Samhain, and Yule on the winter solstice. The advantage is being able to stick with a single hearth culture all the time. The disadvantage is some holidays are being shoehorned in rather strongly, and have variable levels of information, let alone attestation and simultaneity in the Lore. I’d expect it would be easier for those record-keeping Romans, Hellenes, or Vedics…but it might be harder.

The first route I mentioned is the one I’ve historically chosen for public rites, in the most common pattern of Germanic solar holidays and Celtic cross-quarters. I’d recently been questioning that — Hemlock Vales’ official hearth culture is declared Norse, Pan Indo-European…but I am on schedule to hold a rite honoring Brighid. Why not just go all Norse ASAP, or starting being very experimental?

The answer is that the Protogrove isn’t just for me. This had been Imbolc in my mind for months now, and while I’m certain I could seek out and update all references, that doesn’t change expectations. As things turn out, I have at least one very Brighid-interested person who can make it to this High Day, and another who contacted me through the website and is interested in the Celts in general. It’s not just what I want to do at any moment — it’s what people expect and want, too. Even though none of the Celtic hearth cultures drew me in personally, I have led very successful rites in those hearth cultures.

Of course, this does mean I want it to be the best Imbolc ever.

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One thought on “In the hearth

  1. I went through the same basic thing, and came to the same conclusions. And I think that they’re good conclusions. Good luck with it. I love our Imbolc celebration, and I’m looking forward to our rite this weekend.

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