The 2nd February is the festival of Imbolc (and also my sons Birthday 🙂 Traditionally this is celebrated in differing names across many cultures as the birth of Spring. As with many of the old festivals, the natural world shows us why these dates became special. From Imbolc, the days are becoming longer, the sun becoming stronger and the first signs of Spring are breaking through the frosty winter earth. Just this weekend I found these beautiful Snow Drops in the park, the first ones of the year, and a perfect flower for Imbolc, pure, bright and full of hope and new beginnings.
One of the decks I use is the Wild Wood Tarot,I love the way it uses the pagan ‘wheel of the year’ and the journey through the Wild Wood (which would have covered the vast majority of Europe) to set up the meeting places for the Archetypes that we meet there. As a pagan, this imagery already speaks to me and adds an interesting layer to readings.
In the Wild Wood Tarot Imbolc sees the woods move from the ‘time of earth’ to ‘the time of arrows’, thinking back to traditional Tarot this would be the move from Pentacles to Swords (earth to air) however when I am using the Wild Wood Tarot I try to approach it on its own and not get tangled with the traditional tarot meanings, although they are very complementary as you will see. In relation to nature this captures the transition perfectly, the earth has been dormant, it has rested, it has conserved energy and then from Imbolc onwards it moves towards a time of action, a time of reawakening and a time of literal growth, symbolised here through the earth and through the arrows. We evolved alongside these natural cycles, and I believe we all feel the renewed hope and joy that Spring brings with it in our very bones.
The two cards that are identified with Imbolc are;
The Ancestor, Number 5 (Hierophant), guardian, guide and the primal voice of the woods. My intuitive reading of this card is one of wisdom, protection and guidance. A new crescent moon hangs in the early dawn sky symbolising new beginnings. The Ancestor tells us to listen to our inner voice, and trust in wisdom. She is represented by the Reindeer, who once would have roamed abundant through the wild woods. They provided the ancient trackways that our Ancestors would have used to hunt, trade and travel. As the dawn rolls up the night sky, let your inner voice of wisdom guide you, and follow the guidance of those who have gone before.
For me this card differs from The Hierophant, as it feels more intuitive, The Hierophant (to me) feels like rules, The Ancestor feels like wisdom.
The Pole Star, Number 17 (The Star), holding your true purpose. The Pole Star hangs steady in the sky whilst the world shifts around it. Intuitively I read this card as guidance, trust in our inner compass and a reminder to look up/above any current issues for guidance. Whereas in a traditional deck The Star can indicate a moment of calm after chaos, for me The Pole Star is the last bit of the journey through the dark woods. Hold true to your purpose and let your true heart be your guide (sorry, I know that sounds really Disney).
The Star and The Pole Star always make me think of the little known Greek Titan Goddess Asteria. She was the Goddess of ‘Falling stars, and night-time divination’ (how lovely is that) and the Mother of Hecate, Goddess of Witches. Hecate accompanied Demeter (Goddess of Earth) into the Underworld to try to rescue Persephone from Hades, who had imprisoned her. Asteria had one sister, Leto and she was the Mother of Artemis – Goddess of the Moon and the Hunt. Asteria is closely associated with early Astrology and divining by Stars. She is ancient, universal, inspirational and open to prophecy.
The Pole Star itself must have seemed like a gift from the Gods, providing a constant navigational aid. It would have enabled long distance travel and trade in ways we can only imagine. So, this Imbolc, accept the invitation and look beyond.
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