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Imbolc Blessings

In the Celtic calendar, the first of the four fire festivals of the year is Imbolc. It is celebrated on the second day of February.

The divinity acknowledged in these early Spring rites is the goddess Brigid, the queen of heaven. She is a primary member of the Celtic divinities and is closely associated with the land. She is the protector of the wells and springs. She is the guardian of nature, and therefore agriculture. She is specifically associated with livestock.  Brigid is also the patron of the poets, artists, and others who create.

The symbolism of wells and springs reflects the connection to the waters of life that emerge from unseen sources. In psychological terms, this could signify the wisdom of the unconscious that flows from mysterious origins. The key is developing a practice of receptivity. For example, contemplating our dreams can open us to an awareness greater than our conscious knowing.

Brigid’s protection of agriculture and poetry underscores the need to tend our inner fertility. Tending our forms of creativity is crucial to a fulfilling life.  Her association with fire also pertains to the creative life. Finding passion in our work is of great importance.

The plume of fire radiating from her head connects her to the life of the mind. Learning can be a form of service to the divinities. She is also the protector of travelers. This applies to both those who explore new terrains and those seekers who are on inner journeys.

One traditional practice on her day was to put baked goods out on the doorstep. They were called cakes for the queen of heaven. These offerings were often eaten by hungry travelers in her name. We might honor this custom by giving money to the homeless for something to eat on Imbolc. The idea is to find a way to share the boon. Those who have been blessed in life are called upon to develop some practice of service to others.

Photo by Ashley Batz on Unsplash

Sacred stories continue to touch our souls. We become aware of a dimension of significance in the turning of the seasons that is nothing short of radiant.

So, let us honor the Great Mother, the Queen of Heaven. May we be open to her many gifts of inspiration in this season of renewal.

Blessings of the New Year

Looking back on the past year, Sacred Well has enjoyed much success in its mission of bringing us together as a community in so many ways.

We started at Imbolc, or attempted to do so but the Forces of Nature had other plans. The Imbolc retreat is our time to plan for the coming year, celebrate the Sabbat, and enjoy the fellowship of our extended family. A freak snowstorm dumped nearly 3 feet of snow on our retreat site, and the park rangers did not have the equipment or the personnel to clear the roads for us. It was just as well, as we didn’t want our people to be out in those dangerous driving conditions. We will keep our fingers crossed for this year!

Beltane was a wonderful gathering at the MoonStone Circle Covenstead, where we celebrated with a Maypole, a merry bonfire, and a seasonal feast. Of course with plenty of small ones in attendance there were lots of high spirits and Maypole mayhem, as is befitting the season.

As the Wheel turned to Midsummer, the Covenstead had an impressive pile of brush from the property maintenance which provided more than adequate fuel for a very impressive Summer Solstice bonfire. With the help of all in attendance we were able to make our way through it with not much left over. Pagans are a fire-loving bunch of humans!

While all of this was going on, our Ritual Drama retreat staff was busy behind the scenes, working away on The Mysteries of Orpheus. The magic was strong, and everyone gave of themselves to this project without reservations. The presentation of this immersive ritual drama at the end of September was without a doubt one of the most powerful experiences many of the community have experienced. Our eternal gratitude goes out to everyone who gave so much of themselves to make this happen.

Samhain preparations came close on the heels of the Ritual Drama. We were able to host two celebrations this year, one playful Full Moon for the wee ones, and then on November 2nd we had a Rite of Release for our beloved Dead.

The Covenstead hosted a Winter Solstice gathering which was quite well attended. It included a guided meditation in the classroom downstairs, followed by a wonderful feast. We saw many new faces and were excited to welcome them into our community. We hope that you can join us too!

Stay tuned for our upcoming events in 2020, and thank you for subscribing to The Voice of the Well.

Rev. Kathi Bonnabel

Mysteries of Orpheus Retreat FAQ

Do you have questions about the Mysteries of Orpheus retreat?  Here is what people are asking:

Are electrical outlets available for my CPAP? – Yes, there is at least one outlet in every cabin.  We recommend bringing an extension cord with you, and maybe a splitter in case there are multiple CPAP users in the cabin.

I have food allergies/sensitivities/dietary restrictions.  How will I know what I can eat? – The menu for the weekend and the ingredient list will be posted on the Sacred Well Ministries website page titled “The Mysteries of Orpheus:  Love, Death, Gods, and Mortals”  They will also be listed in your program, and posted in the dining hall.  There is a place on the registration questionnaire to note your issues, which will be passed onto the kitchen team.

I have restricted mobility and will need lower bunk/ADA accessibility. Is that possible? – Yes, the site has more than adequate lower bunk spaces for the modest size of our group.  We don’t assign beds to each person but have not had problems finding sleeping arrangement that fit everyone’s needs.  The two larger cabins have restroom facilities in the cabin itself.  The smaller cabins have two steps up to the door, and restrooms/showers are separate buildings nearby.  Just let a staff member know if you need help with anything.

Is there some privacy in the restroom/shower facilities? – Yes, there are doors on the restroom stalls, and curtains on all the shower stalls.

What about the cabins? – The cabins have bunkbeds, and if additional privacy is desired bring extra sheets or fabric to make a curtain or room divider.

I am LGBTQ/nonbinary/genderfluid.  Is this a safe space for me? – Absolutely.  Many of our community members are also.  We are committed to respect for all expressions of gender and orientation, as well as body autonomy, personal boundaries and consent culture.  People may ask for your pronouns.  Don’t hesitate to let people know what yours are if they don’t.

I would rather bring a tent instead of bunking in the cabins.  Is that allowed? – Yes, there are multiple tent sites around the retreat center.  The event is in late September so be aware of weather conditions.

I want to get a registration for a friend.  Why does the ticketing site only allow me to sign up for one registration?  –  You can register as many people as you would like, but each needs to be a separate transaction.  The Brown Paper Tickets platform generates and attendee list for us, and we need the information on the questionnaire for each person.

What kind of connectivity is available at the retreat center? – Not much.  Most cell phones don’t get very much reception, if any.  The recreation hall has WiFi available, though it is a bit unpredictable.

I have heard about a certain shrine at this event.  What is it? – There is one cabin near the recreation hall dedicated to Pan and Aex.  As the Charge of the Goddess says. “All Acts of Love and Pleasure are my rituals”.  And as stated before, consent culture is the standard here.

This is my first time coming to this event.  Is there anything I should do to prepare for it? –  Yes, check out the sacredwellministries.org website.  There is a page with information about the mythology of the Orphic Mysteries which introduces you to the mythos and philosophy of the Orphics.  There is also a page with practical info such as packing list suggestions, menus, event schedules, and other useful tips.

Will there be vendors at this event? – Yes!  For the first time this year we will have a vendor of magical goods at Orpheus.  Several of our musicians will also have CDs for sale. 

Should I bring a drum or other musical instrument? – Yes, we encourage folks to make music! Keep in mind that quiet time starts at 10 PM, and there are houses nearby.  The sound carries quite well across the bay, as we have discovered.

I can only come for part of the retreat.  Is that allowed? – It isn’t going to give you the optimal experience, but if you can attend Saturday you will get most of the ritual event.  Be sure to arrive early (by 9 AM at the latest) for orientation and purification to enter sacred space.  We cannot offer a price reduction on registration for partial attendance.