May the wind inspire you,
earth protect you;
water heal you,
and fire always warm the heart
I read this verse or spell in a book about Imbolc. They advice you to say this, when you clean your house, declutter everything what is not needed, to make space for new things and new chapters in your life, or at least for this year. In this time of the year, everything starts to get awake more. Seasonal Affection disorder is slowly ending, as more solar energy gets in our system.
The days between Midwinter and Spring Clean
I was joking to a friend that it’s ‘Brigid’s fault that I am nudged into a Marie Kondo phase. Last week I got some interesting news. In December I might have told my landlord that I like to move out in end of February, but I never signed a contract, so I assumed it was not concrete. I should stop assuming things, particularly when I am in another culture. Last week I checked with the landlord to tell that I like to move out in end of March, and they were surprised. They told me they already found someone for early March. As I planned a trip to the mountains in two last weeks of February, it seems I have to do a big spring clean and move out stuff before Valentine. So I have been going through my stuff and getting literally rid of things I do not need to own or have anymore.
It is not the first time that in this period ‘new chapters’ start. To give the most profound example, 14 years ago, my grandfather, who was the man in my life until then and who taught me a lot, died in a forestry accident in this same period. Late January- early February, the two weeks after my birthday, feel always a bit uneasy in our family. This weekend also the ‘viking hut’ in the forest behind my father’s street got burned down, where I ended a forest therapy walk last October about which I blogged in Fear and Floating in a Flemish Forest. My mother and father noticed the fire and woke up the young guy who made that, but it was too late. When my father sent a picture of the viking hut in full flames, I had to think about what I read about Imbolc, Brigid, and the element of fire. Perhaps it was meant that the young man, who is apparently busy with another renovation project, had to move on.
Brigid is an old goddess who is associated with the spring season, fertility, healing, poetry and smithcraft. She is an advocate of women’s education and protector during pregnancy and childbirth. She is symbol of the spark needed for new things, and in Ireland they burned fires, made crosses and other symbols in honor of her.
1 February: Imbolc
Imbolc 🕯🐑🌲. The middle between midwinter and spring equinox. In this time, when our pre-industrial ancestors had no convenience stores, the first milk would be available after a long winter, because the first lambs would be born🐑. Things in nature are starting to get awake. The candlelight 🕯 symbolizes the bit of solar energy we feel is returning gradually in our life. No wonder that in some regions of Europe they used to celebrate Candlemas in the same time. The first milk was a sign that the harsh winter was almost over. People have been inside and cluttered a lot of things, so it is now time to declutter your space and celebrate you survived winter. This forest bath 🌳 was shared with two guests from Bhutan 🇧🇹 and from Philippines 🇵🇭. First time I had only male guests (which was done on purpose to also get this experience as recommended by some friends) – and I did not feel uncomfortable, although one person was new to me. Today I learned so much of their stories about Bhutan’s unclimbed mountains and the Philippines’ tamarind trees . What I like about these “international” sharing circles I am organising in Japan, is listening to the “woodwide” experiences of the participants. Since @egea_europe (since 2008!) I am a big promotor of intercultural exchange, and organising forest bathing for other foreigners in Japan seem to continue that mission. 🍃 I have been already 6-7 times in that forest and there is always something new (something old, something borrowed and something green ;)) In the end I gave the 3 men the choice to have kumazasa tea or hot almond milk. 🌳🍃🌲🐿🕯.
2 February: Candlemass
On Sunday I organised also a forest therapy in theme of candles and spring clean. This time, and this was not on purpose, I was guiding only ladies. 8 ladies from Japan, Turkey, Mexico, Finland and Samoa. We looked for treasures and first signs that spring is coming back. We shared some candle light with a tree. Candles are representing the start of spring; more solar (and creative ?) energy is coming and making nature awake). However, we are at the beginning. Many things, we noticed, are still sleeping or very quiet. I love to notice to see the differences and changes compared with the walks back early December and early January. Afterwards my friend Mary gave a yoga session, where we were surrounded by candlelight, and taught us to make a roze & pomegranate sugar scrub. Last night I slept like a rose.
3 February: Setsubun
Last year, I wrote a blog called ‘Holly devil, it’s spring again’ where I already wrote a bit about this Japanese event. Setsubun is the last day before the following season, but in modern times it has come to refer more specifically to the day before the beginning of spring on the old calendar, currently observed on 3 February. The point between seasons is traditionally considered in Japan as a time when people can be afflicted by ‘evil’, manifesting as ill fortune or ill health . The ritual of mamemaki (throwing beans) is performed to ward off or exorcise evil accumulated over the past year; represented by ‘no’ (ogres). The days before you can find red demon masks in convenience stores, together with beans and the ‘ehomaki’.
What is mamemaki? After offering roasted soy beans to the household shinto alter, a window is opened and the beans are thrown time toward the outside while you tell the demons to go out. Immediately afterwards, the window is shit while you say ‘fortune in’. Beans are thrown inside the room to drive away the last misfortune. So it is also some sort of spring clean. I did not do that, but I am still cleaning up other memories I do not need anymore. And burning some candles of course and inviting Brigid in to accompany me on the last track of my PhD.
Brigid and Boundaries
Last weeks were also good time to reflect on old patterns that come back. In my case, I feel I am making the same ‘mistake’ with lovers in past 5-10 years ; I attract them, but never can keep them as a lover, but only as a friend. Love is something you cannot take. It is only something you can give. I have never had a long relationship, but many romances end up in friendships where I am the ‘female friend’ with who they can have deep talks. Something I hear from the lovers in the past five years is: ‘I do not see it work, but I like to be friends, because I like the deep talks we have.’ So I have male friends with who I talk about deeper topics and some fun topics too, but I am not having a lot of fun, especially the fun that let me forget my anxieties and worries and let me in the presence ,), and do not feel a real partnership with them. They are there, but not when I really need a partner, as most of them found a serious girlfriend (always some months after me, as if I was a between-phase to prepare them), so I feel I cannot intrude there by asking for emotional help. Only the last one feels different, but that is partly because we became friends long time ago. I thought I broke a pattern to go for someone I know for long time instead of ‘someone new’, but then he also said the words: ‘I do not see it work, but I want to stay friends as we were before, because I love talking and hearing from you.’
I start talking about this, because I have been reflecting this morning about my forest therapy walks and the group dynamics. After I had told one of my best friends some weeks ago I felt some boundary issues when I guided a mixed forest bath last November, he adviced me to guide only men, only women and a mix, and then compare. And I followed his advice. This morning I found a text from him: ‘So what’s the difference in group dynamic at all male, all female and mix?’
And I reflected upon it, and I realised it is more a matter if there are persons in the group who do not have much other spaces to open up emotionally. Men do often have not this space, so they find these occasions in places with a lot of feminine energy, like sharing circles. And when I thought more about it, it reminded me to a conversation with a female friend one or two years ago about being a healer and that it draws certain kind of men, men who are in need for someone to open up emotionally, and often cannot find that in male company, or even with many women too in this fast-paced society. And that she and I have to learn to make boundaries, to not attract men that sees us more as a healer , but also men who can be a long term lover, to be open for someone who is worthy to be our partner and share good and bad times. So I realised the deeper root of the unease I felt when men open up emotionally in front of me. I have to dig that up, Brigid told me.