Dísablót | Imbolc | The Charming of the Plow

You know, it really bums me out when I have to go a whole month without a high holiday. January…April…July…November…ugh. I just like celebrating! So I’m very happy that we’ve finally arrived here, February 1st: Dísablót. Some of you know this holiday better as Imbolc, however, since you’re here with me, I’d like to invite you into my longhouse to teach you about the Norse Imbolc celebration.

“Dísablót” by August Malmström (late 19th century)

In Northwest Indiana where I currently reside, we just got hit with about 10″ of snow. Looking out the window, it’s hard to think that spring is coming, but it really is. This is the time of the year where energies beneath the soil begin to stir. Things are turning over. The seeds underneath the snow and dirt feel the return of the light and warmth. The main theme of Imbolc as a general pagan holiday is the return of the sunlight and its longer duration. In the far north, the winters are dark. The sun only shone for a few precious hours before disappearing again, blanketing the land in bitter cold. So when the sun began to stick around longer, it was certainly a reason to celebrate!

Dísablót celebrates the return of the sun as well, but the main focus is on something different – the dísir. Dísir is the general term applied to the female spirits of Norse mythology who are not Valkyries. It is nearly impossible to cleanly separate the two into different categories, but there are noted differences between them in the collected writings and inherited lore. While the Valkyries seem to have a clear set of responsibilities and roles, it appears that the dísir work as guardian spirits for individuals, groups, or locations, which makes them entirely comparable and perhaps indistinguishable from the fylgjur, hamingjur, and other spirits of the land.

We make time to honor the female spirits of the land at this time because it is through and into them that we plant our seeds for our harvests over the coming year. We want to honor and respect these powerful spirits because without their aid, it is not likely for the crops to do well. I of course speak of actual plants, if you’re a gardener, but I also speak of those intentional, energetic seeds that we plant at the beginning of the year. What intentions did you set at the new year? We’ve been planning and plotting right up until this point. Now is the time to do the planting. Just as gardeners start their seedlings indoors, we too can plant the seeds of intention that we have been considering into our lives.

In the time of the ancients, they would actually be preparing their fields now by identifying where they would be planting and begin to dig the first furrows. This is where the charming of the plough comes in. Saying prayers and blessing and holding ritual with the plough along with the dísir was a very powerful way to head into the farming season on a positive note.

In my personal practice, I have always worked with candle magic and offerings to the dísir to mark this turn of the wheel. As I have stated before, I do not strictly follow either the Ásatrú or Heathenry traditions because I prefer the freedom of being able to discover my own way of practicing and keeping relationships with the gods based simply on my strong ties to Norway and Sweden through ancestry. The entire reason I state this again is because I want to make clear my separation from these paths, and not in a negative light whatsoever. Everyone is free to practice as they will, without judgment. I just do not want to be regarded as a practitioner or expert on these paths, mainly due to the historical fact that the ancients’ (my ancestors’) offerings to the spirits were often sacrifices of animal life. I will not do this. Animals cannot freely consent to ‘volunteer’ as offerings, and therefore I feel the act is committed in bad blood. I have spoken to the gods about the way I feel about it. Not once have any of my alternate offerings been rejected, nor have I ever felt ‘out of favor’ with my family (the gods). So it is.

Putting all that behind us, here is what I generally tend to offer to the spirits of the land, the dísir, and my female ancestors:

  • Homemade bread, baked with rosemary for protection. I will go out and dig into my garden or raised boxes (after getting through the layer of snow of course) and call upon them, asking that they accept this energetic food as an offering from my family and I for a bountiful harvest season.
  • Beer, mead, or tea with honey, poured atop the bread.
  • I will also write down my intentions, my energetic seeds that I intend to grow into my life this year and place it into the soil along with the offering of bread.
  • I mentioned candle magic in the beginning of this post. If I’m not too cold outside yet, I will stick a white candle in the snow atop my now buried offerings, light it, and say another small prayer and blessing (usually to Baldur and Sol) for the return of the light and warmth to the world. If I’m too chilled by this time, I will do this practice indoors by placing a white candle in a bowl of salt and bay leaves.

To craft your own practice to celebrate the coming of spring, the return of the light, and the stirring of the Earth, here’s a graphic of some correspondences to get you started:

I will be writing a master post on candle magic shortly, as I believe it is one of the easiest and simplest ways to raise energy for intentions while using just three tools: a small candle, a lighter, and your concentration. Stay tuned! And a powerful Dísablót to you!

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