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Faeries, Elves, and Other Kin

Imbolc and Honoring the Fae

We of the pagan persuasion will be celebrating the sabbat of Imbolc (“in the belly) on 2 February here in the Northern hemisphere.  This sabbat is also known as Oimelc (“milk of ewes”), Candlemas, St. Brigid’s Day (or Brigit, Brighid, Bride, or Brìd), Là Fhèill Brìghde (Scotland), Lá Fhéile Bríde (Ireland), G?yl Fair (Wales), Brigantia, and Lupercalia, and may be spelled Imbollgc.

For those who were unable or preferred not to perform the Twelfth Night ritual of removing their Yuletide foliage from the home to release any fae or nature spirits residing therein, as one of the four fire festivals Imbolc is an excellent time to do so.  Burning your spent evergreens in the Imbolc bonfire will release and honor the fae while simultaneously celebrating the growth of the newly reborn Sun.

Here are some ways I honor and work with the fae on Imbolc:

Plantable Paper:

Our fae friends, as the guardians of nature, will appreciate any effort you make on their behalf to keep the earth green. Paper you can plant is a project you can do that involves both recycling and growing life-sustaining greenery.

Making paper from trash is really quite easy.  You can use newspaper, junk mail, discarded printer paper, gift-wrap, etc., to create paper pulp.  Just be sure to remove any pieces of plastic (such as windows on envelopes) and staples as they are not good for the environment or your blender.

Once you have gathered the materials you will be recycling, you need to create a deckle.  The deckle is simply a frame with a screen that lets water drain away leaving the paper pulp behind.  If you don’t have two old frames sitting around gathering dust that you can use, two unadorned inexpensive wooden frames about 8”X11” are readily available at craft and home stores.  You will need two pieces of screen about an inch bigger than your frame all the way round and of the type used on windows.  You will most like find this type of screen at a home or building supply store if there are no old screen doors or windows around from which you can “harvest.”  Using small nails or a staple gun, affix one screen to the flattest side of one of your frames.  When you are ready to use the deckle, place the second frame, flattest side down, against the screened side of the first frame, trapping the screen between the frames.

You are now ready to create your pulp.  Pour a blender filled with water into a tub (such as an old kitty litter tray or a roasting pan) that is at least 4” bigger on all sides than your deckle.  Then fill your blender to the halfway point with water and hand shred the equivalent of about three sheets of paper into 1” to 2” pieces and place them in the blender.  Begin at the lowest speed and work your way up to the highest speed until all of the junk paper thoroughly disintegrates.  Do this until all your scraps are blended, but do not overfill the tub; leave at least 2” to 3” unfilled.

Hold your deckle firmly on the longer sides and slip it into the tub of pulp at a downward angle until it is fully immersed.  Swish the deckle from side to side and back and forth, agitating and evenly dispersing the pulp in the water.  Holding the deckle level with the floor, raise it out of the pulp and let the water drain.  The pulp fibers that remain in the deckle are about to become your first sheet of paper!  Practice will make the amount of pulp in the deckle more (thicker paper) or less (thinner paper).

Set the deckle on a baking sheet with sides and gently lift off the top frame.  Sprinkle the wet pulp with seeds you have selected and that will grow in your area.  Sprinkle (or place) them in the correct density for the type of seed chosen.  Now place the second screen over the pulp and seeds.  Using a sponge, gently press straight down to remove water from the paper pulp.  Wring out your sponge often.  When the second screen is sticking nicely to the pulp, turn the deckle over and sponge again, this time upon the screen attached to the deckle, until you cannot remove any more water.  Try lifting the bottom of the deckle to see if your sheet of paper sticks to the deckle.  You want it to transfer to the second screen.  If it does not, flip again and sponge some more.

Once the sheet of paper is off the deckle, you can remove even more water from it by placing it between two absorbent sheets of paper called couching sheets.  If you do not have couching sheets, children’s white/light colored construction paper works okay.  Place the couching sheet atop the handmade paper still on the second screen and, using a pressing bar (anything flat, like a piece of 2X4) firmly press and smooth the sheet.  The handmade paper should lift off the screen and onto the couching sheet.  Place a second couching sheet on top of the handmade paper, sandwiching it between the couching sheets, and use the pressing bar again.  Remove the couching sheets.  Your paper is now ready to be dried.  If you want your sheets to dry flat, you can layer them between sheets of waxed paper and place them under old books or stacks of telephone directories; otherwise, lay them on a tablecloth and let them dry naturally.  (Note:  When disposing of your leftover paper pulp and water, do not pour it down the drain or toilet.  Strain the pulp out of the water and dispose of it in the trash, and use the water to water your outdoor plants, or your plantable paper if you plant it immediately.)

On Imbolc, during your celebration and ceremony, dedicate the sheets to the fae by asking for their blessing while passing the handmade papers through flame (bonfire or candle) and smoke (incense).  Here is an example of a blessing you may use, although it is always best to write your own or speak from the heart:

Imbolc Faerie Blessing
by Kat Cranston

Come hither now, Good Folk,

Nature’s first children, faeries free.

Guardians of all growing things,

Hear what I would ask of thee:

Elves of the Earth,

See that the soil is ready for birth.

Sylphs of the Air,

See that the winds blow gentle and fair.

Dragons of the Fire,

See that the days grow warm and drier.

Naiads of the Water,

See that the rains do softly nurture.

Go hither now, Good Folk,

Nature’s first children, faeries free.

Guardians of all growing things,

Do what I have asked of thee.

Then, as soon as the ground thaws or when it is time to plant the seeds you selected, place the dedicated paper at the correct depth into Mother Earth (which includes potting soil in containers, so it’s possible to do this on Imbolc!) and wait for the miracle of life to begin once again.  Know the fae will watch over the seedlings and that you have made a healthy contribution to the turning of the Wheel.

Paper Whites:

I don’t know about you, but when I lived in New England, by this time of year I was desperate to see signs of life.  I satisfied this need by “forcing” paper white bulbs.  Not only do they smell wonderful, but also their beautiful flowers are white, one of the colors of Imbolc.  In addition, my house faeries adore them.

On Imbolc, during your celebration and ceremony, dedicate your paper white bulbs to the fae by asking for their blessing while carefully passing the bulbs through flame (bonfire or candle) and smoke (incense).  Here is an example you may use, although it is best to speak from the heart or write your own blessing:

Paper White Blessing

By Kat Cranston

Little paper white

With your face so bright

Shinning like a light

After the long dark night

Little paper white

At your scent and sight

Passion will ignite

In every faerie knight

Little paper white

The faeries nearly fight

To cling to you so tight

In rapturous delight

Little paper white

The heart of every sprite

It is my wish to invite

To join with yours tonight

You will need a container that does not have any drainage holes and that is about 3” to 4” deep.  Shallow casseroles work well, as do ceramic dog dishes.  Fill the container with about 1” to 1 ½” of small stones or marbles; do not use anything else, like earth or sand.

Place as many bulbs as you can squeeze in (the more the merrier) with their tips pointing up (their bottoms will look like the bottom of an onion) on top of the stones.  Add another ½” to 1” of small stones or marbles on top of the bulbs to help keep them in place.  Don’t cover the tips; only cover about 2/3rds of each bulb.

Add enough water to cover the root area of the bulbs.  More than that and your bulbs will rot; less and the roots won’t begin to grow.  Maintain the water level (don’t do as I have done and forget to check their water!).

The bulbs don’t need any sun at this point, but when there is 1” to 2” of growth, try this trick to keep your paper whites from getting leggy and falling over.  If you don’t want to try this trick, tie a soft ribbon or yarn around the mass of stems when they start to fall over and insert a small stick to give them some support.  Pour off the water and feed your paper whites a mixture of water and hard liquor (i.e., vodka, not beer or wine).  It will reduce their height, but won’t reduce their bloom size.

To figure out the correct ratio, use the following table compiled from About.com, which shows alcohol proof converted into alcohol percentage and how much water to use with that strength of alcohol:

Proof Equivalent Water Alcohol
20 10% Use 1 Part Use 1 Part
30 15% Use 2 Parts Use 1 Part
40 20% Use 3 Parts Use 1 Part
50 25% Use 4 Parts Use 1 Part
60 30% Use 5 Parts Use 1 Part
70 35% Use 6 Parts Use 1 Part
80 40% Use 7 Parts Use 1 Part

You can now move your paper whites into a sunny location, but don’t let them get hot.  When the blooms appear, move them back into a cooler, shadier part of the house to help them last longer.

If you don’t have fae living with you now, this may be just the thing to attract them!  However, be prepared for small, bright and shiny items to go temporarily missing and to find oddments you’ve never seen before hiding amongst the dust bunnies (who may suddenly become very militant!).  Living with the fae is simultaneously meddlesome, loving, annoying, instructional, vexing and entertaining—and worth every minute!

    Bibliography and Works Cited/Recommended Reading:

“Paperwhites – Using Alcohol to Keep Paperwhites from Falling Over,” http://gardening.about.com/od/forcingandprechilling/qt/PaperWhites_Alc.htm