Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Brighid Imbolc

Technically, this the first day of Spring. Here in the northern hemisphere, you begin to smell the change in the air ~ balmy, fragrant, warm (despite the possiblility of late-March, early-April blizzards). Because I've just come in from taping up my car again, I don't have much inspiration left. So, I'm pasting in an article I wrote last millenium for an e-zine that's sadly out of cyber-print. I leave you with . . .

Imbolc = Wool

I meet with some fine ladies this time of year to celebrate Imbolc. We do wonderful corn husk dollies. If last year’s doll is still around, that doll gets burned, since the energy of the new doll needs to take its place to carry your spirit through the year. We enact sacred arcane rituals: the casting of the sacred space, the igniting of the sacred incense to please the gods, the flame put to the sacred candle and hearth, the popping of the sacred mead cork and the consuming of sacred awesome food. When Circle is opened but unbroken, the ladies go home sated and blessed with beings that can live in a special corner or on the altar – beings we have created of ourselves for ourselves.

With Dolly safely perched on my altar, I can turn my thoughts to other seductive sexy things. My hands pine for the touch of it. My fingers itch with a desire that surpasses that of lovers in a field of poppies. My feet twitch and twitter ready to dance to the rhythm that only a woman of my kind can know. Epileptic seizure? Overdose of Ecstasy? Au contraire, my fine not-so-fuzzy friends. Mine is a lunacy that can only be understood by a fellow spinner. (No, not the stationary bike “spinner” at steamy chlorine-scented health clubs.) It is wool. Wool! Sheep wool, alpaca wool, llama wool, bunny wool, camel wool, silk worm wool, hell, even Great Pyranees wool just waiting to be spun. But it’s Imbolc. Let’s stick with sheep.

At this time of year, during these frigid winter blasts, ewes begin to lamb. I had been to a shepherd’s open house one year. (For the record, shepherds have houses. Sometimes they are open to the public. Living in the fields proved futile and uncomfortable.) A group of lunatic fringe spinners organized this trip chomping at the bit to get some Cotswold for spinning. The woman hosting the open house was up to her elbow in sheep dip. (Also for the record, shepherds don’t stand on ceremony. Overalls and Wellies are as dressed up as they get for entertaining open houses regardless of gender.) She graciously showed us around the farm. We met her blue ribbon-winning Costwolds and her favorite black ram, Rambo (don’t ask). This was all done on a blustery day. I’m not talking “Winnie-the-Pooh” blustery either, I mean “lose the first three layers of skin to frostbite” blustery. The other crazy spinners and I trudged from outbuilding to outbuilding waiting for the gold, the Cotswold. Blue Ribbon quality, if possible, depending on the ability to out run, out climb and beat down others before they got their grubby spindle-itchy hands on it.

Despite the anticipation of getting to the prize, on our tour we were blessed with the sight of one ewe birthing her third lamb. Lambing is a busy time for shepherds. It is my understanding that they are vigilant night and day, making sure that ewes lamb safely and that the lambs are healthy. Ewes are often moved to a safer outbuilding with heat lamps. It was in this one outbuilding that we saw the ewe bring yet another lamb into the world. The crazy spinners and I watched the lamb lurch forward and teeter on wobbly legs. There! He was standing and in good form, with the hopes of becoming a blue-ribbon fleece producer like his daddy, Rambo. We began to salivate (this shepherd also happens to sell lamb meat, but that’s not what we were getting all hot and bothered about). One tiny, jittery voice in the crowd timidly asked if we could please go to her wool store room. By her leave, we hurried to the next outbuilding . . .

Ah! The shepherd’s wool store room! It was all there; blue-ribbon, first year, fine quality second year, still fine quality third and fourth year Cotswold wool. Ranging in delicious tawny caramel white to deep chocolate to jet black crimped and crinkled fiber begging to be stroked and, most of all, twisted. Now, you can’t just enter a room full of wool, diving ungracefully for the first bag of blue-ribbon fiber you can get your hands on. There are rules. First, you must sample the coffee and Freihoffer donuts kindly set out on the side table. You must let the shepherd explain what quality wool is what and where it is located and what the prices are. At this point, you should make careful note of where the wool you want is and focus on it. When the shepherd holds the gun above her head and fires you dash and dive before the other fanatic spinners get to it. If you’ve been fast enough, cunning and brutal enough, you will emerge the victor and pay a walloping amount of cash in return. But you got the good looking wool. Your time is now planned for the next two months waiting for the snow to melt and the green shoots to poke up through the fecund soil.

So, this is what Imbolc means to me. How about you? I’ll bet the thought of twisting a few fibers is just making you hot.

1 comment:

Ruth said...

This Saturday, a small group of men and women will be making dollies using paper twist. Not quite the same thing as we used to do, but it's going to become a coven tradition (and my beloved HP is in transit).

I will never do this without thinking of you . . . and that first time when the snows fell, and fell, and fell, and fell.

Now I have to plan on baking something sinful.