Article #3 Imbolc Ceremony
This Imbolc started off with a delightful and tasty start. Apples were the theme of night. The ceremony was in celebration of our Goddess of Imbolc, Idunna the ever-young maiden Goddess of youth and rejuvenation. She carries with her a basket of magical golden apples, fruits that even the Gods cannot be without, for they contain the very essence of their existence.
The ceremony began with a short reading called “The abduction of Idunna”, whose origins come from the Poetic Edda, a book of Norse mythology. The story bares similarity to that of the ancient Greek legend the ‘Abduction of Persephone’ myth, in which the land withers and wilts in the maiden Goddesses absence. In the Idunna story it is not just the land that is wilting and withering, it is the Gods themselves who begin to wither, weaken and grow old. Here is Her story.
The Kidnapping of Idun
Three of the Aesir Gods, Odin, Loki, and Hoenir were on a journey that took them through desolate mountains far from Asgard. Food was scarce in this uninviting region, so when they came upon a herd of oxen, they slaughtered one for their dinner.
When they put the meat over their fire, however, it didn’t cook, no matter how long they left it there.
Perplexed by this, they heard a voice addressing them from above. Looking up, they saw a very large eagle perched on a nearby branch. “It is I,” he said, “who, by my magic, prevent your catch from cooking.
But if you will give me my fill of the meat, then I shall release the remainder from my spell.” The Gods, though irritated, agreed, and the eagle flew down and took for himself the biggest and most choicest portions of the ox.
Loki thought this to be beyond the terms of their bargain and, in anger took up a sturdy branch and lunged at the eagle.
The eagle snatched the branch in his talons and with a bewildered Loki still clinging to the other end, flew up high
into the sky.
The terrified God begged the eagle to release him but the eagle – who was none other
than a giant in disguise – refused to do so until Loki swore an oath to bring him Idunna
and her fruits of rejuvenation.
When the trio made it back to Asgard at the conclusion of their travels, Loki went to
Idunna and told her that he had found fruits even more marvellous than her own
growing in a forest beyond the walls of Asgard, and that she should follow him there
and bring her own apples for comparison.
Idunna followed the trickster, and when she reached the wood she was snatched up by
the giant in his eagle form, and taken away to the giant’s abode which was situated in
the highest mountain peaks, whose icy towers growled down at the fertile fields below.
In Idunna’s absence, the gods and goddesses felt old age creeping up on them.Their skin
became wrinkled, their hair greyed, and their vigour waned.
When they assembled together and asked one another about the circumstances under which Idunna was last seen, it was reported that the last sighting of her had been with
Loki as the two left Asgard together.
Then they seized Loki and threatened him will all manner of pains if he didn’t tell them what had happened to the fair Goddess. Loki spilled his story, and the Gods informed him that if he couldn’t rescue Idunna from giant he would be put to death.
The cunning Goddess Freya wisely lent Loki her hawk feather cloak, a magic one with which one can shift his or her shape into that of a hawk. Loki hastily put on the cloak and he flew off with great speed to homeland of the giants.
When he came to the giant’s mountainous abode, he found, to his great delight,
that he had gone out to sea to fish, leaving the Goddess Idunna home alone.
Without losing a minute, Loki turned the Goddess into a nut and sped away with
her in his talons. When the giant returned and found his prize missing, in a fit of
rage, he assumed his eagle form and filled the air with the thunderous beats of
his wings and made flight toward Asgard in pursuit of Loki. By the time loki was
in sight of his home, the giant was close behind him and furiously closing the gap.
When the Gods caught sight of the chase, they built a pile of kindling around their
fortress. Loki, still clutching Idunna, made it across the barrier. And then the Gods
lit the fire and it exploded so rapidly that the giant eagle didn’t have time to turn
around before entering the flames. And that was the end of his flight.
Upon Idunna’s return the Gods praised Her and feasted on her golden apples,
immediately regaining their strength, vigour and youthfulness.
After the reading, the group created apple candles in honour of Idunna. The apple candles were inspired by, and looked rather like the Christingle orange candles traditionally made at Christmas by Christians.
First the group removed the cork from their apples and placed a birthday candle in the cork hole. They where then asked to think about what they wanted to manifest in the coming year and write down their wishes, prayer and dreams on pieces of paper. These were then placed under the apple candle and then the group all lit their candles together while repeating the chant:
“Oh, Idunna, the ever young, Goddess of the golden light and the sun.
Imbue this offering with your love and power,
so that my wishes and dreams may come into flower.”
“Oh, Idunna, Goddess of rejuvenation,
may this fruit be gifted to the Gods, a form of loving libation.
When the chant was finished the group sat and meditated on the candlelight for a few minutes. The candle light symbolising the power and light of Idunna and the maiden aspect of the Goddess. After the ceremony the apples were to be placed on our home altars as an offering to the Gods and Goddesses.
To finish the ceremony the group communally ate another apple that they had set aside for eating. As they ate their apples together a poem was read called ‘For Idunna’ by Hilary Ayers. As they listened to the poem the group was encouraged to relish the sweet and juicy uplifting taste of their apples, imaging with every bite the rejuvenating, refreshing qualities of Idunna's magic filling their very being, bringing them nourishment and invigoration just as if these apples where indeed the golden apples of Idunna.
‘For Idunna’ by Hilary Ayers
The grove is dappled.
The shifting shadows
Of green, of greener than green, of tones of greened grey
How they move and swim against the bright sweetness
The primed and opened colours of her fruit.
The soft cream of her flowers, and underfoot
Rising, smelling, apple-sweetness, apple-tart,
The strength of the apple bough, and the
Pleasurable roughness of the bark, all measure
Their weight and substance in her grove.
The very wind is fragrant. It moves her flowers,
It moves her, flowering, towards us. The hand
Trembles, reaching for her. Then holds back,
Not to profane that white flowering, that pristine
Newness of being. She reaches that hand, with hers,
With her hand, with that same white perfection.
Her hand passes yours, straight to the heart.
Within the apple are chambers, something like the heart.
They are seeded. They are seeded with growth, with the
Bead-smoothed brown coloured growing of new apples.
The taste is in your mouth, and the smell
Ravishes your senses, takes you past all thought,
All critique, all ability to temporize or refuse.
Within the hearth, growth.
Within the mind, delight. A purity of delight.
Worship. And acceptance. And the knowledge
That the gods endure this, century on century,
To remain gods, to remain as living gods.
In the realm of the gods, fruit and flowers
Bloom constantly. And they bloom within the heart.
And the seeding growth can pain you. And
Yet be sought for. Idunna, wife to poetry—
She knows the heart's workings.
How we love her.
Copyright © James Scott Allen 2023