Venus in Libra

Venus is in Libra from August 29-September 23. We are more inclined to employ charm rather than aggressive behavior in order to get what we want during this cycle. Although Venus in Libra virtually lives for relationships, there is an air of cool detachment to this energy. We are very obliging with others–quite willing to negotiate and compromise. We can be especially idealistic about love. We prefer things be done the “right” way, and are turned off by aggressive or uncouth behavior. The shadow side of this position is dependency, inconsistency, and superficiality. In an attempt to avoid unpleasant situations, we could easily gloss over deeper issues at play in our relationships. It’s probably best to avoid the trap of acquiescing to our partners but privately resenting the fact or thinking ourselves martyrs for doing so! This is also a time when we are more artistically inclined. We tend to seek balance in our personal environment.

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Abundant Harvest

If you’re a vegetable gardener, by now you’ve been harvesting all kinds of good, fresh food from your garden, but the season isn’t over yet! The early harvesters are winding down, but those plants that take longer to mature are now starting to produce. Some still have plenty of time to grow and still need plenty of care, such as tomatoes, squash, potatoes, and carrots. 
Place a geode at each corner of your garden to encourage fertility and abundance. Add several drops of black pepper oil to moon water in a squirt bottle, and spray around the border of your garden or around the sides of planters. ( T o make moon water, place a glass bowl or bottle of spring water outside under a full moon overnight.) If you have a large garden, you can add actual finely ground black pepper to a hose feeder and spray this around the border instead. The black pepper is for protection and will also help keep some pests away from your veggies.
Color of the day:  Black
Incense of the day:  Ivy
Posted in Daily Spell

Full Moon in Aquarius

280px-Penumbral_lunar_eclipse_Feb_9_2009_NavneethCFree your mind, and the rest will follow! A revolutionizing Aquarius full moon on August 18, 2016, stirs up our righteous urge for freedom and social change.

As the only Aquarius full moon of 2016 brightens up the skies, these high-minded moonbeams help us dream outside of the box. Wish upon a double rainbow: This full moon is also a penumbral or “almost” eclipse, which has the near potency of a change-making, full lunar eclipse.

Aquarius is the sign of collaborative groups, teams, and humanitarian efforts. It’s all about the love of our brothers and sisters, and the creative impulse to fight for what we believe in. The Water Bearer can get nervous under the heat of too much passion, emotion, and one-on-one connection. This is friendly, convivial energy at its best — platonic, playful, and decidedly NOT romantic. But who cares? Aquarius is irresistibly fun, likable, and adorably goofy — making this liberating lunation a good time to be shared by all.

With Aquarian energy in the cosmic mix, this star map helps us visualize our ideal futures and then connect to the right people who can help us bring the big picture to life. When in doubt, take the unconventional route! Aquarius is the sign that governs teamwork and technology. There will be group victories to celebrate this week — or a deep desire to find our soul tribes. Turn on the searchlight: Those kindred spirits could be revealed within the next two weeks!

Feel like making the world a better place? (Hands raised.) Power-to-the-people Aquarius energy guides us toward humanitarian missions. Whether your big-hearted endeavors involve global activism or a little community cleanup, there is strength in numbers, too. No good deed is too small … but why not go a little bigger, inviting your social network to get in on these kind acts?

You say you want a revolution? Make some wishes or intentions (see our guide to new/full moon rituals here) and get the movement under way. Meantime, here are seven star-powered tips to liberate yourself at the Aquarius full moon:

1. Get weird.

So you secretly believe that aliens inhabit the earth and live among us (come to think of it, that strange neighbor of yours does fit the profile …). You put hot sauce on your dessert. You don’t believe in monogamy but you’re certain unicorns exist. Whatever. The Aquarius full moon urges you to stop hiding the parts of yourself that might be quirky, eccentric, or just not in perfect harmony with the people around you. Because Aquarian energy is all about “live and let live,” this full moon is great for authentic sharing — without forcing your ideas on anyone else.

2. Take two steps forward, one step back.

Uber-rational Aquarius is a master of emotional objectivity. Where do you have your teeth and claws sunk in so deeply that you can’t see the forest for the trees? The Aquarius full moon is a great day to practice the Buddhist principle of non-attachment. Yes, you may WANT something with every fiber of your being. But do you also understand that if it doesn’t happen, you’ll still be OK? If you think you can’t survive without a person, an outcome, or whatever you’re hooked into, this lunar light helps you release that fear. Let go, and the Aquarius full moon will bring a better long-term resolution to your issues.

3. Envision a utopian world.

Got a radical idea? Aquarius is the sign of the future and even rules sci-fi. It’s the forward-focused mad scientist who envisions a quirky, idealized world — or perhaps one populated by aliens, cyborgs, and a code of radical individualism. Author Ayn Rand was an Aquarius, and her philosophy of objectivism — controversial as it is — champions reason, fighting for liberation, and minimal government meddling (no sloppy sentiment in there). Of course, that can edge into scary Tea Party territory, but that’s why most philosophies are more interesting on paper than in practice.

While your beliefs may not be quite so stark and stripped of emotion, consider what the perfect world would be like if you could create it. What does it look like — and how can you bring a healthy drop of that to your daily life? Maybe it’s to the tune of Burning Man, where every day is a costume party and people share their talents, goods, and services without exchanging money. You might want to read up on some New Age and shamanic ideas (like the “Hopi Prophecies”) or even deepen your knowledge of astrology — all Aquarian themes.

Browse for books or sites about reforming society — notions like a “gift economy” (check out Lewis Hyde’s The Gift) or author/blogger Seth Godin’s Linchpin: Are You Indispensible? which takes a stand for art over cold industrialism. Or, head to the otherworldly zone that Aquarius loves and read theories on aliens (no judgment here under this broad-minded moon!), like Bringers of the Dawn: Teachings from the Pleiadians. All you need is a curious, open mind.

4. Carry your own Olympic torch.

Aquarius is the zodiac’s team player, encouraging you to show pride for a group you belong to — and haven’t the games in Rio shown us just that? Whether the activity you’re involved in is sporty or stationary, wave the symbolic flag and wear the uniform. But don’t sit in the stands, spectator-style. The gold medal goes to those who move their bodies! Aquarius is all about kinetic energy, and this full moon is the perfect time to commit to a sports league, train for a 5K with a team, or attend a group fitness class. The next two weeks are an especially rich time for jumping in with both sneakered feet. Summon your social network! Getting your friends into the fitness groove with you will keep you motivated.

5. Host a workshop.

Idealistic, intellectual Aquarius revels in the realm of cutting-edge ideas. The Aquarius full moon creates the perfect space for a workshop or salon. Gather your brain trust for a topic-centered discussion, potluck-style if you can, since group-centric Aquarius parties are even better when everyone contributes. You might even play a film like No Impact Man or watch a TED talk to spark the conversation. Who knows? With the Aquarius full moon ruling the skies, the night could end with a plan for the New World Order.

6. Geek out.

Aquarius rules technology, so circle this full moon for spreading a message through social media and digital platforms. Ready for a job upgrade? The Aquarius full moon prompts you to up your technical know-how. Check out courses from or General Assembly, where you can get both virtual and in-person instruction. This full moon is a great time to launch an online marketing, crowdfunding, or social networking campaigning, too. Ready, set, go viral!

7. Take a breath of fresh air.

As any yogi will attest, there’s nothing more centering than a deep inhalation of oxygen. Aquarius is an air sign, so breathe deep! Many of us won’t take a sip of water that isn’t filtered, so how about giving our air the same attention at the Aquarius full moon? Plug in the air purifier, deionizer, or dehumidifier. Try an essential oil mister for a fragrant and soothing blast. Just go easy on the patchouli — a fan favorite of this bohemian Aquarius full moon, but a strong whiff for the average sensory citizen. Grapefruit, lemon, tangerine, and other citrus oils are uplifting and energizing. Perfect for the Aquarius “mad scientist” moments that could keep you up working on your master plan till the wee hours of the morn’. Check out Bach flower essence blends, like the ones from Seed to Blossom and the flower/gemstone blends from Hawaiian company Shanti Kai — two of our personal faves.

—- The Astro Twins

Posted in Astrological Highlight

Mercury in Virgo: Details, Decisions and Deal Making

Mercury has moved into Virgo, where he’ll spend the next 2 + months.

This is an unusually long stay in Virgo by Mercury, who can cover a whole sign in just over two weeks. Part of the reason for this is his upcoming retrograde, from August 29 – September 21. I talk in more detail about all the Mercury retrogrades of 2016 in this post.

It’l also give each of us plenty of time to review, reorganise and improve the Virgo areas of our lives. Not sure? You need this report – or check the cheat sheet guide below.

Mercury in Virgo (July 30 – October 7, 2016) brings out the best of Mercury’s eagle-eyed talents. This combination is about attention to detail, high level analytical and strategic thinking, as well as managing the many logistics of daily life.

While in Virgo, Mercury will make three aspects to note:
–       Mercury square Saturn: August 6 – 7, 9 Virgo/Sagittarius
–       Mercury opposite Neptune: August 7 – 8, 11° Virgo/Pisces
–       Mercury trine Pluto: August 10 – 11, 15° Capricorn/Virgo AND September 21 – 23 14 Capricorn/Virgo

Mercury will also conjunct Jupiter in Virgo (August 21) and the North Node in Virgo (August 8). Those aspects are described in detail in this post, on August’s top 5 aspects.

Mercury square Saturn is all about standards. In this past post on Mercury/Saturn aspects, I praise standards and talk about how valuable it is to have ways to measure the correctness of things. While it may be tedious to attend to specifics, that may be exactly the way forward under an aspect like this one. Rather than negotiate, it may pay to deliver as discussed, or to even point out where there may be room to improve. When Mercury in Virgo’s love of details combines with Saturn in Sagittarius’ commitment to the big picture, plans that actually create something solid can be discussed, improved and finalised.

Mercury opposite Neptune can be problematic because Neptune creates an unclear, foggy vibe that tends to block facts. Details may get lost or your message may drift off into the ethers rather than arrive as intended. On the other hand, Mercury aspecting Neptune is great for creative and spiritual pursuits, as well as getting in touch with your intuition. Take time to notice your energetic or felt response to events, rather than obsessing about efficiency regarding your work and other goals.

Mercury trine Pluto arouses a detailed, intense, and probing energy that will help you dig for hidden details. You might hit upon a core truth or idea. True motivations may be revealed, and it’s definitely a window of time in which speaking from the heart will be important, especially in your most intimate partnerships.

Mercury in Virgo and You

Based on your sign, or better yet, your rising sign (if you know it) here are the topics Mercury in Virgo will trigger for you:

  • Aries – health, wellness and work routines, daily duties
  • Taurus – love, romance, happiness, children, joy
  • Gemini – home, family relationships, living arrangements, info about the past/family history
  • Cancer – self expression, communication, writing, teaching + all kinds of social media
  • Leo – money, especially cash flow and income
  • Virgo – personality, appearance, attitudes, thoughts, habits and behaviours, personal projects
  • Libra – rest, retreat, downtime, working in private, reflection
  • Scorpio -social connections, friendships, luck, support, benefactors, networks
  • Sagittarius – career, professional plans, goals and projects, public roles and reputation, success
  • Capricorn – travel, adventure, discovery, knowledge, wisdom, faith, meaning, purpose
  • Aquarius – finances, especially investments, debt, taxes couple or family finances, retirement planning
  • Pisces – relationships including romantic connections and business partnerships, other people in general

What’s your Virgo house? Are you ready to get organised in that area of life?

Kelly’s Astrology

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Venus in Virgo


Venus is about love and relationships, while Virgo deals with life’s more practical matters. Superifically, this can be interpreted, then, as a period in which passion may give way to the mundane affairs of daily life. However, Virgo’s traditionally chaste image is not nearly so virginal as one might expect. It is, after all, an earth sign that appreciates the healthy functions of the human body, including sexuality.

A more balanced view is that Venus in Virgo is a time when pleasure is derived by understanding the fine details of life, be they related to love or work. An appreciation for refinement in the arts, food, nature and people is more likely during this period. This can help further the development of skills and techniques in all areas of creative expression.

In personal relationships Venus in Virgo can correspond with excess criticism. The idea is to take the sharpened perceptions of the moment and apply with a constructive, rather than destructive, attitude. In this way so-called “faults” are not reasons to tear down a person, but to clarify the issues that need attention and adjustment. This positive approach can make this a time in which relationships grow through greater awareness of what makes them tick and, thus, help to iron out the kinks. Passion flows more freely when obstacles are removed. Work makes way for love.

—- from

Posted in Astrological Highlight

Mars in Sagittarius

Mars is in Sagittarius from August 2-September 27. With a Sagittarius Mars, our actions are motivated by our ideals. We are bothered by routine, quickly becoming restless if we feel confined. We have a love of adventure, and of conquest–this is the position of wanderlust. We start projects or challenges with gusto, although we may tend to abandon them rather quickly. This may be because we set our sights too high!

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Hear from Me this Secret ~ An Imbolc Meditation


shutterstock_67386007Listen to my words.  

Come to me, come to me, through woods and streams and city streets.  Come from dark places and bright, full of body-wisdom and head-knowing and heart-opening.  Hear my voice in birdsong and car horn and swift breeze.  See me as black fertile soil and dry sandy hillside and grey concrete.  I am in all of those, and my changes are words in the language I use to speak to you.  

At this time of year, my Beloved is just beginning, as you are beginning.  He is the new shoots of green pushing up through rain-dark earth.  He seeks growth, as you do.  

Do you wish to find Him, to love Him and grow with Him?  

Do you want me to tell you Your true meaning, Your destiny?  Then hear from my lips this secret:  your destiny is not the place you end up.  It is every step you take.  It is who you are, not where you go.  shutterstock_134571920

Listen to my words:  There are many ways to get discouraged.  Sometimes the steps of your path will feel like endless trudging that gets you nowhere.  You may feel that you are so busy helping others on their path that you have lost your own.  

Here is another part of the secret:  wherever you walk, large steps or small, I am with you.  

And another:  when you help others, in love, you need not step off your path to do it.  

Remember, your foot makes the path.  A path that is worn down is only where many others have already walked.   The courage that burns in your heart when you are willing to go where is needed and do what is required is the same flame that burns in the heart of God.  

Do you wish to find God, to love Him and grow with Him?  

Then breathe.   shutterstock_42901648Let the breath you take in feed the flame that is the Soul Fire of God within You.  His bravery is your bravery.  His direction is your direction.  Feel His strength fill you.  Breathe it in, listen it in, take it in, in every way you can.  Fill yourself with His presence.  

And when you are ready, open your eyes… go to the Mirror.  Go, and see God in yourself.   You have found Him.

All images courtesy of

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The Hidden Imbolc

Of the four Irish quarter-days (Samain*, Imbolc, Beltene, Lugnasad), Imbolc superficially seems like a fairly straight-forward festival. It is considered, even in modern Ireland, to be the beginning of Spring, and it is a festival that is particularly associated with the goddess Bríg or Brigid, who is considered to be fundamentally the same as the Christian St. Brigid of Kildare, who was feted on the same day (February 1). Various signs of the beginning of Spring, therefore, have been attached to the festival, and some of the folk customs that have survived into modern Ireland in connection with the saint have been adopted, adapted, and re-paganized by modern Pagans across a variety of traditions who celebrate the festival. There is still some debate within academic Celtic Studies on whether the characteristics of the festival have their origins in Christian notions of the saint, in certain practices associated with the adjacent Christian festival of Candlemas (in honor of the purification of the Virgin Mary and the presentation of Jesus in the Temple), or whether these customs do reflect genuine survivals and continuations from pre-Christian Pagan religions in Ireland. While it does seem likely that Celtic cultures outside of Ireland had some sort of festival on or around this date, what their character may have been is probably beyond recovery, and has made little impact in the surviving records. Some stone circles in the southwestern part of Ireland, dating to the Bronze Age, mark only the sunrise on the quarter-days of Samain and Imbolc, suggesting that this dark quarter of the year was of particular significance, for example; but the situation is far less certain in other locations. Thus, to talk about Imbolc and its customs as in any sense “Celtic” (understood to mean something that includes several different Celtic cultures) is a bit of an exaggeration, unless one counts all of the ways in which Brigid’s Christian cultus spread to Scotland, Wales, and elsewhere. But that is a side issue for the moment…

A further debate remains to be had, not only amongst the (often monotheistic, or at least monistic-inclined) scholarly community but also amongst various groups within modern Paganism, in terms of Brigidine theology. There are various figures who are called Bríg, Brigid, or Bríd in both the ecclesiastical literature of Ireland and Scotland, as well as in the so-called “secular” tales of gods and heroes (“so-called” because both literatures were produced by the same group of authors for the majority of history, often with these disparate materials existing side-by-side in manuscript miscellanies). Are all of these various Bríg/i/d figures the same, or different? Is the Brigantia of Northern Britain the same as the Brigid of Ireland? Much depends on one’s theological standpoint–a limited monism would suggest that they are all one, while a less limited monism might suggest that they all derive from the same figure ultimately, but are distinguishable in latter ages; but, a hard polytheist viewpoint would suggest that, at very least, Brigantia and Brigid are different. Looking at the actual sources involved, however, can shed some further light on this. The ways in which Brigid is characterized as poetess, smith, and healer in modern Paganism certainly has roots in Irish sources–specifically, Sanas Cormaic (“Cormac’s Glossary”)–and it is also there that Brigid is said to be the daughter of The Dagda. However, in that case, Brigid is not a singular figure: in fact, it is three sisters who are The Dagda’s daughters, and each of them has a specific proficiency. The liturgical formulation of calling upon Brigid as poetess, smith, and healer, then, presupposes a singular being, when it would in fact be more appropriate, based on the original sources involved, to refer to her as “the Brigid who is smith, the Brigid who is poetess, and the Brigid who is healer,” which would then allow those who think of the Brigids as three beings to interpret it in that fashion, and those who think of a singular Brigid to do so equally well, even within the same ritual. Precise use of language in ritual speech and theology is something that is always useful, especially when more attention to doing so can include this sort of theological diversity!

But, the significance of the holiday also seems to have several possible lines of inquiry, which have not been explored very heavily in modern Paganism before. Many holy days have a significance that varies for different people in a given society–the way that a householder would celebrate a festival might be different than the way that a warrior might, for example. And, the warrior-specific significance of the holy-day of Imbolc has emerged in recent scholarship. The usual folk etymologies given for Imbolc attempt to make it a seasonal or agricultural festival; the variation on the name, Oímelc, said to mean “ewe’s milk,” is actually not linguistically viable, nor is i mbolg(“in the belly”), nor imb-fholc (“washing oneself”), though the latter does have some applicability to the occasion. One recently proposed etymology is to take it as it stands, and interpret it as imb olc, “butter of wolves.” While this might conjure images of a Red Riding Hood-like grandmother with a wolf’s head in the shape of a dark bottle of maple syrup–”Mrs. Butterwolf makes the best warriors because she takes her own sweet time!”–a closer examination of the material relating to Brigid demonstrates that this simplest and most linguistically viable option may have a very good viability in context.

The surviving hagiographies of St. Brigid include a huge number of miracles associated with food generally, but milk, butter, and other dairy products seem to get a particular emphasis at various points. She was said to have been baptized in milk, for example (at which mainstream Christian theology would balk, incidentally!), which suggests that milk was considered a spiritual cleansing product in Irish culture, which is borne out by examination of other narratives where milk is used in a similar fashion. Butter, and its obvious derivation from milk, was an extremely important food for the Irish, and was surrounded with many supernatural associations; it was used as a medium for certain spells, and as a general emollient and anointing agent, since oils of other types were not usually available. Butter was valuable, and could be preserved for much longer periods than milk, particularly if buried in a bog; and in fact, good stores of butter would have been essential in order to survive the winter in Ireland. Butter’s importance, and its connection to Brigid, therefore, are easy to establish. But, there are also a great many canid (meaning both canine and lupine) connections with Brigid–for example, one possible form of Brigid, Bríg Ambue (“Bríg of the Cowless/Outlaw Warrior”), is the only female listed in a group of people responsible for the innovation and patronage of particular types of dogs. Dogs and wolves are nearly interchangeable in Irish, with many of the terms used possibly meaning either one– can mean either “dog” or “wolf,” and cú allaid can mean “wild dog” or “wolf,” as just a couple amongst many possible examples. Furthermore, there are names for the season around Imbolc in both Irish and Scottish sources that indicate that the period was a “wolf-month,” e.g. Scots Gaelic Faoilleach, which is matched by names found elsewhere in the calendrical traditions of Europe.

According to some sources, the warriors of the fíanna (roving, usually youthful, quasi-outlaw warrior-bands closely identified with dogs and wolves), and their close relations the díberga (“marauders”), were active during the summer and were settled during the winter; but, some other narratives suggest that the time of Samain to Imbolc was one particularly associated with warfare. The great medieval Irish heroic epic, Táin Bó Cúailnge, focuses upon a cattle-raid that becomes an inter-provincial war, and the raid starts just before Samain and lasts until after Imbolc. During this campaign, in which Queen Medb of Connacht’s army besieges Ulster, the young hero Cú Chulainn–whose very name connects him to hounds or wolves–single-handedly defends the province of Ulster from the invading army, and his single-combats last from Samain to Imbolc. Thus, his final fateful battle against his foster-brother Fer Diad likely had its culmination on or around Imbolc. In other sources, Cú Chulainn seems to be particularly linked with this quarter-day, in the same way that his divine father Lug was connected to the quarter-day at the opposite end of the year, Lugnasad–and that particular period of the year, in Irish as well as in other European cultures, was the “dog-days.” So the winter in late January/early February seems to be the “wolf-month,” just as the days of late July and early August are the “dog-days.”

But, what is the direct connection between butter, wolves, and Imbolc? The status of the fían-warrior or the díberg in Ireland was a temporary one; it was a state tied to one’s age-grade and property- and legal-status, and it was something that many people would eventually leave, or may unexpectedly enter if they fell on hard times. In some of her hagiographies, St. Brigid cleanses the díberga of their “diabolical signs,” which seem to have been worn on their heads, and it marked them as people with oaths to kill and do harm, thus removal of these signs changed their status and relieved their obligations. The medieval Christian church in Ireland considered both the fíanna and díberga to be inherently evil and Pagan (in every sense!) classes of society, which they ruthlessly tried to stamp out. This entire warrior class seemed to carry on some of the traditions of pre-Christian Pagan Irish religion longer than any other class in Irish society, and they were not fully suppressed until about the fourteenth century CE, when a number of conquering Norman English settlers began taking up their ways and their hairstyles, and they were formally outlawed, where up until then they still had limited rights under the native system of Irish law. Perhaps, in these accounts of St. Brigid, she was simply playing a role that she always had in the pre-Christian Pagan religion, and was cleansing the warriors returning from theirdíberg or fían status. If the cleansing was not done with milk, perhaps it was done with butter, or an anointing with butter in blessing happened afterwards. Thus, “butter of wolves”!

The youthful wolf- or dog-identified warband existed throughout Europe, and in Rome, the twins Romulus and Remus who founded Rome certainly existed as hunter/warriors before they went on to found the city. On the annual festival of Lupercalia, held on February 15, the Romans had a ritual in which a group of youthful priests helped to perform a sacrifice of a goat and a dog, then spread the blood of these on their foreheads. Another priest then dipped some wool in milk, and cleaned the blood from their foreheads, whereupon they laughed. The Romans did not understand what the significance of these rituals was in late antiquity, but the traditions were held to have come from Arcadia, a place in Greece that was considered to be quite archaic, and which was associated heavily with werewolves, which are often simply another form of the youthful wolf/dog-identified warband. What may be going on in the Lupercalia ritual is that the “diabolical signs” (blood on one’s forehead) was being removed–and even though it was not being removed with butter, the fact that milk was used in this manner suggests that Lupercalia may have a great deal of suggestive power in terms of how St. Brigid (and her pre-Christian goddess predecessor or her human representatives) performed their ritual; and likewise, the Irish evidence may shed a great deal of light on the significance, origin, and meaning of the Roman ritual.

In Rome, the sacrifice and rituals of the limited Luperci priesthood took place somewhat privately, whereas the rest of the festival was public, and involved the Luperci running a race around the old boundaries of the city, flogging passers-by on the hands, who thought being so flogged was auspicious and promoted fertility (particularly for women). The fierceness of the warriors, when re-integrated into society, could be turned into the flowering and fertility of wider society by its active protection. Likewise, the exterior and householder, agriculture-based celebrations of Imbolc may have appealed to the majority of society, while the individual warrior re-integrations took place on a more limited and private scale. The two activities work in concert with one another, and the warrior institution ultimately supports settled life, while likewise the settled people support the warriors.

An interesting further comparandum, though one that cannot be explained by direct contact nor common cultural descent in the manner that Lupercalia and Imbolc share, is found in the Shinto festival of Setsubun, which takes place around the beginning of February each year. Setsubun means “season division,” and it is celebrated in a particular fashion with a practice called Mamemaki, “soybean-throwing.” Shinto priests shoot misfortune-dispelling arrows in the auspicious direction of the particular year, and then roasted soybeans are thrown in various directions for purification and blessings. In some celebrations of the festival, people dressed as oni (often translated “demons”) attack from the inauspicious direction of the year, and are pelted with the roasted soybeans! So, the significance is similar, only the primary medium of purification is not milk or butter, but instead soy! For vegans, the Shinto alternative is certainly a viable one!

But, apart from the specific cultural and seasonal celebrations involved in Imbolc (and Lupercalia), perhaps a wider significance can be taken for this festival, which is desperately needed in today’s society. Currently, the U.S. is engaged in wars on two fronts (even though Iraq is “officially” no longer a war), and soldiers of all religions are trained in the U.S. and sent off to do their duties in these various places without always being given clear ethical standards or rules of engagement, nor are they given sufficient transitional rituals to facilitate their re-integration into society after returning from combat. The rules of the battlefront are not the same as the rules of settled society. Without such recognitions of changes in status, both going and coming, the likelihood of PTSD, general levels of stress and strain on non-military relationships and situations, and a variety of other things are not only likely, they’re nearly unavoidable. The number of suicides in the U.S. Armed Forces last year is slightly larger than the total number of U.S. servicemember casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan for the year. While some may think this is an indication of the unfitness of service of the people involved, I think a great deal could be gained by people in every religion honoring their warrior-classes more, giving them the proper spiritual support, and allowing them to contextualize their experiences in a spiritual manner through these rites of transition, which might in fact do a great deal in preventing PTSD, suicide, and other forms of distress and trauma experienced by servicemembers. One does not have to necessarily “believe” in the gods and spirits involved in order to get a psychological benefit from a good ritual of transition. Just as aspects of Imbolc that suggest particular warrior significance are hidden, so too is the plight of many of our currently serving warriors, as well as the returning and returned wounded warriors and veterans who live among us.

By all means, thus, make the Brigid’s crosses and the corn dollies on Imbolc, and welcome in the coming Spring with great joy; but do not forget that the Brigid who is the smith, the Brigid who is the healer, and the Brigid who is the poetess each serve the warriors as well, by making weapons and equipment, by tending to their wounds of every sort while in battle and when returning, and by recounting their deeds and their stories as they happen and afterwards. And, there is also a Brigid, Bríg Ambue, who is the patroness of the “Cowless Warriors,” the equivalent of which in our own society are the often young and disenfranchised men and women who make up the majority of the enlisted servicemembers in the U.S. Armed Forces. She will always be their guide and their supporter, and the one who joyfully receives them back when they return, tending to their visible wounds and cleansing their invisible scars. We should never forget them, nor should we neglect Her in our observances.

*: Note that I prefer to use the Old Irish spelling of this festival, as well as most of the other Irish terms employed in this article.

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