The Crone, the hearth, and Imbolc
Still deep in crone season, we are approaching the winter in-between days.
On our current calendar, Feb. 2 celebrated as Groundhog Day, Candlemas (in the Catholic church), St. Brigids day in Ireland and Imbolc, a celebration that has been traced back to Neolithic days to lands we now call Ireland and Scotland. These holy days, like no other, pull me to my Scottish and Irish ancestors. I always feel them, they are always with me, and something about these magic days in the winter always sends me back even deeper with them. It brings my mind to the landscape that I have never visited in this body, it brings my heart to the Gaelic language that until three generations back, was still spoken by those who I come from.
My Wood family line is from Highland Scotland. I know the exact area where my great great grandparents and their people lived for generations. We are descendants of the Picts.
The name Scotland comes from Scotia. Without going into the complicated history and etymology of Scotland and her people, I want to share something I read in The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. It States Scotia is latin for Dark Aphrodite. From Scatha the death goddess, dark earth mother, the timeless shapeshifter, triple goddess, earth embodiment of the crone. Caledonia is what Scotland was referred to by the Romans The people of the Cailleaech. We are the people of the crone.
In Scotland and Ireland, Imbolc are the days of the Cailleach; The weather witch/crone shapeshifter goddess. She is the winter energy of Brigid; the other side of life, the death brings life, brings spring, brings birth. Birth of the baby ewes, the milk that flows from mother to baby that sustains the people.
She was also originally the snake leaving her cave, foretelling how long the winter would last depending on the shadow. She is the energy of shifting seasons, she is the cold, liminal dead air of winter, and the birth of the spring all at the same time.
This energy is also deeply embedded with the energy of the hearth, the energy that simultaneously is life and death.
The word focus is latin for fire/hearth.
The first hearth altar made was in a cave, then, eventually in a sacred temple (always round in the Roman tradition) where the fire was continuously tended to by the priestesses.
There is a long, tragic history with the crone and the hearth that I learned from the wise Wolf Storl in his book The Untold History of Healing. (i highly recommend this book to anyone who is of Northern European decent!)
The home hearth use to be (i know for some of us it still is) the center of our living quarters. It was the central point of heat, where we cooked and where communication with spirits and ancestors took place. It was a healing place. In many locations that hearth was a wall of the home, large enough for a adult body to lie down in. The warm coals were used as a type of healing home sauna. Children would be bundled and placed into the hearth when they were sick. THIS WAS A HEALING MODALITY.
Over time, the wise woman, the crone, became vilified. The witch became the enemy and the church began to control the size of hearths and fireplaces to dissuade the healing of the hearth. We can see the remains of this with the well known folk tales of the witches who place children in the oven to eat them!
Something that was not taken away by anti witch propaganda was SOUP!
The ultimate magic potion; water meets plants, bones, mushrooms all together to nourish the body and soul. Soup is my ultimate comfort food.
Over the years I have enjoyed making a special soup honoring my Scottish ancestors for Imbolc. Years ago, a family friend who is from Scotland was visiting and it happened to be on Imbolc. I served her some of my soup, and she confirmed it to taste like an authentic Scottish soup! My heart sang with that validation.
I will be sharing my Imbolc soup recipe and more about working with Winter Crones in my upcoming winter newsletter I will send out Feb 1st.
First Image Painting
The Visit to the Witch by Edward Frederick Bewtnall
The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets
by Barbara G. Walker
The Untold History of Healing