If Candlemas Day be Fair and Bright,
Winter will have another fight,
If on Candlemas Day be shower and rain,
Winter is gone and will not come again.
Another Candlemas rhyme goes:
If the sun shines bright on Candlemas Day,
The half of the winter’s not yet away.
Imbolc, one of the Cross Quarter Days or Greater Sabbats, marks the midpoint of the dark half of the year and the beginning of the Sword Season for the Order of Paladins. In ancient times the season that followed Imbolc was a time of mobilization, which is why we in Paladins call it the Sword Season. It was the time of year when warriors were called to service from their winter quarters. This is when knights commence work on the resolutions and plans made in the seasons of earth. This is the time of year when we actually begin to convert the plans that we’ve have made in the Shield Season into action.
Imbolc is a time of beginnings and consecration, a date by which modern knights put plans and resolutions into effect. It is a time of commitment. It is a time for doing magick for success. The time for making resolutions is over: It is time to get to work, for resolutions are meaningless unless they result in action. As Imbolc is the time when the first signs of the returning spring begin to appear, it is the time when your projects should start to take shape. Imbolc is when we are very busy setting up the trays of seedlings in the greenhouse that will be going into the ground at Beltaine: This is when we are starting marigolds, petunias, and snapdragons for the Motherhouse garden as well as lettuce, tomato and beans.
The novices are now being introduced to Magickal Weapons that I told you about earlier, which is an appropriate thing for the opening of the Sword Season. They begin learning how to use Magickal Weapons to direct their magickal energy. They start learning advanced warding and shielding techniques, since they’ve now been introduced to that Magickal Weapon. They are learning how to slip through wards.
Mythology is full of blacksmith Gods, including Wayland (Old English) or Völundr (Old Norse), Goibhniu and Credne (Celtic), Hephaestus (Greek), Vulcan (Roman), and Oggun (Yoruban). Blacksmiths were considered by many cultures to be magicians, practicing a form of alchemy, taking raw materials from the chthonic world and transforming them into useful and decorative things. As Imbolc was celebrated by the Celts as being sacred to Brigid, a Goddess whose threefold aspect rules smith craft, poetry, inspiration, and healing, one of the other names for this day is “Feile Bhride”, meaning “Brigid’s Feast.” We honor Brigid at Imbolc, for she is the Goddess of the forge at which the Warrior’s weapons are made. Thus it is appropriate that Imbolc should mark the beginning of the Sword Season. At Imbolc the fires of the smithy are blessed by a woman acting on Brigid’s behalf.
As Imbolc is a celebration dedicated to Brigid, the patroness of creativity and imagination, this is an appropriate time for the novices to be taught ways to use their imaginative skills to visualize their magickal projects and objectives. As Brigid is the patroness of the forge, and as this is the beginning of the Sword Season, it is appropriate that we should engage in anvil magick at this time. The Order’s Imbolc Sabbat ritual in part involves an anvil and a hammer. Each participant comes forward and strikes the anvil while focusing on projects and dreams that they want to make manifest. Like the blacksmith, they are forging their dreams into reality. This fits right into the aforementioned theme of mobilization, since this is when the blacksmith would be busy making and repairing arms needed in the season ahead. Also, the Shield season that precedes this one is related to the element of earth from which the metal is smelted to make these weapons. As Imbolc marks the transition between the season of earth and this season of air, it is appropriate to do such magick at this time. If you don’t possess an anvil, a variation that we’ve successfully used is to give each participant a pair of boxing gloves and make the anvil a punching bag or even another member with a focus pad or gloves for the person to strike.
The beginning of the Sword Season is when the novices are being introduced to the concept of the Witch’s Pyramid and Magickal Artillery that I discussed in detail in my books Full Contact Magick and Magickal Self Defense. Magickal Artillery is a concept that I devised: It’s another way of looking at working magick. Magickal Artillery involves five concepts, each of them related to one of the five elements (which are also parts of the Witch’s Pyramid):
• Spirit: “To Know”. This is the flow state, the heightened awareness that I spoke about earlier. Pure awareness.
• Earth: “To Keep Silent”. This is the meditative process that gives us awareness of the energy flowing about us.
• Water: “To Dare”. This is the emotional process that gives us the confidence to succeed. I discuss this concept fully under the discussion of precepts elsewhere in this book.
• Fire: “To Imagine”. This is the creative energy that allows us to visualize what we want to achieve.
• Air: “To Will”. This is the intention that sends the magick on to where it is directed.
To use this Magickal Artillery model to work magick, you can think of it like this:
• Center/Spirit/”To Know”: This is the “fire base” that you operate off of, the axis mundi. This is where you take your stand and enter the state of no mind to establish an awareness of your environment.
• North/Earth/”To Keep Silent”: This is the meditative process that identifies the energy flows around you, selects the ones you want to connect with, brings that magickal energy in and “loads” you up. This is “target acquisition”.
• West/Water/”To Dare”: This is the process that builds up the emotional pressure to send the magickal energy on its way.
• South/Fire/”To Imagine”: This is the meditative process that allows you to “aim” the magickal energy by visualizing the objective. This is your “gun sight”.
• East/Air/”To Will”: This is the “trigger” that sends the energy out and directs it on to its objective like a guided missile.
By this time in the training cycle the novices are starting to explore Caer Paladin, the group astral temple of the Order of Paladins, and seek out things that the masters of the Order have left there for them to find. They start to learn how to meet and connect with each other on the astral plane. In the process they begin to discover aspects of deity, ancestors, totem animals and all manner of interesting things connected to their knighthood.
The dark and dreary Shield Season that preceded the Sword Season was more suited to sedentary pursuits indoors. Now is the time to get down to the gym or the pool and take care of the weight you put on in that previous season. Paladins has an ongoing fitness challenge in which members commit to fitness goals or weight loss in the coming year. Such goals are in keeping with one of our Precepts: Your body is your temple. Care for it. Since Imbolc is a time of beginnings, it is appropriate that we should be reminded at this time of our precept about caring for these bodies. It is a time to remind ourselves of the self discipline that typifies the successful knight. The Sword is a Magickal Weapon of Air, related to the will. This is when you plant the magickal seed that will grow into the object of your desires and your will.
“Februum,” from which we derive the word for February, is a Latin word meaning “purification” and “atonement”, thus this month is considered a month of cleansing. It is an Imbolc tradition to put out and relight household fires. Imbolc marks the first ploughing and first planting of the year in many rural societies.
One of the reasons that the Church calls this day Candlemas is because it is associated with the blessing of candles for the coming year. Our coven often makes or purchases candles for the coming year at Imbolc, in honor of Brigid. We also make images of Brigit such as a corn dolly, Brigit’s cross (also known as the Celtic cross – a symbol of Brigid) or even a white triple wick candle. This new doll is placed in a “bed” near the hearth or door to be left overnight. A white wand of birch or willow, a symbol of fertility, is left in the bed beside it. An anvil or piece of iron is struck three times to invoke Brigit as patroness of the forge. After skrying and sharing milk and bread, last year’s Bride’s dolls and ribbons are burnt.
The Druids have often used Imbolc as a time for an Eisteddfod dedicated to poetry and song praising the Goddess in her many forms, especially Brigid, since she is a Goddess of inspiration. This is something that we do in the Order of Paladins as well.