I’m going to do a very short series of posts on the recent Imbolc holiday and my observances, such as they were. But since I ended up roping my OBOD self-initiation ritual into my larger Imbolc ritual, that seems like the thing to tackle first.
It felt only natural to do the initiation before the larger Imbolc rite. Both parts of my observance were done indoors, and though I did this in a bright part of the house in early morning with lots of nice sunlight, we live on a road that’s very noisy and busy around 8:30, so it was not the most magical time or setting, but that’s when I had time and space to myself to do it. While our back yard is decently private, one of the neighbors was around with her dog, so I wouldn’t have gone unobserved out there, walking in circles and lighting candles while chanting.
Which brings up a couple of items I have puzzled over during the handful of rituals I’ve done so far. Regarding awen chanting, there are no directions given in the gwersi that I’ve found (so I shouldn’t be giving away any secret wisdom), so I’ve been making it up as I go. Which may be the idea anyway.
For this bit, I’ve worked out a method of improvising a tune based on one that I know and have well in my ear. I listen to a lot of Celtic folk singing and instrumentals, and those kinds of tunes are always in my ear, ready to hand when I need something to hum or make up words to while in the shower. Still, it surprised me how easy it was to produce a spontaneous chant-like melody based on that music. I’ve found I can even throw in ornamentations, in a very untutored sean-nós style, going off what I’ve listened to of Irish singers (the group ANÚNA is a particular favorite). It may not be strictly true to any of the singing styles from Ireland (or anywhere), and who knows if it’s what’s intended by the ritual script, but it feels intuitive and powerful in its own way.
Circle casting is still a work in progress. As I don’t come from another tradition that teaches circle casting, and as there are only some very open-ended directions in the gwersi, this is also something I’ve just sort of jumped into in the moment with only a little pre-planning. At the solstice, I just walked the circle, which felt rather blah. This time I added arm movement, and walked the circle with my arms stretched in front of me, raising them as I went. Since my indoor space was small and one circle went pretty quickly, I walked the circle three times doing the arm-raising. And this makeshift action (inspired, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit, by Morgane parting the mists in the TNT-movie version of The Mists of Avalon) seemed to actually amplify the energy of my space. Uncasting it was just the reverse, walking the circle the other way round while lowering my arms, but that also had a profound feeling of lowering the energy.
Thanks in part to sundry religious “field trips” over the years, I’ve come to prefer ritual actions that are intuitive and organic over prescribed movements, which too often feel stiff and insincere. If I feel as though I’m acting out somebody else’s idea of meaningful ritual movement, then I fixate on that awkwardness instead of tuning into the experience, or the numinous, or whatever’s there.
Managing to carry off a couple of spontaneous and wholly intuitive actions that truly deepened the ritual experience for me felt like a nice little win.