Imbolc Oopsies

Even though one of the worst social fails of my life happened on Imbolc, it is still one of my favorite Neo-Pagan holidays. Let’s all curl up in the candlelight as I weave my silly tale of social woe.

When I was a baby Wiccan, I found a local coven, (don’t ask me how), and decided perhaps I should celebrate the holiday with them, if they would have me. I called them up. We met in a public place. They dug me. I dug them. They asked me to come to their Imbolc celebration.

A few days later I was speeding down an icy road in the backwoods of Nashville, TN, going off to some mysterious farmhouse with two perfect strangers who could have axe-murdered me and offered me up to Ba’al at any time. Ah, youth! Ah personal fable! Sometimes I wish I could be that un-cautious again.

We arrived at the farmhouse. Warm light poured out into the icy night. The place was all abuzz with people and death metal. The three of us slip-slided up the icy walk to the house and went inside. There were the rest of the coven, (three other women), their husbands, some older kids, and some friends of the older kids. It was going to be a grand hoo-ha! We got into the wine and I stood there all awkward listening to everyone talk. I’m normally excellent in small groups or one on one with people I don’t know. Larger groups, especially those into which I truly want to be accepted, are tough.

Thankfully, not too long after I arrived, the high priestess wanted to begin the ritual. The whole crew tromped out into a vast cow pasture crunchy with snow. The light of the full moon guided us. We were asked not to speak during the procession and that was all well and good by me because my focus was totally devoted to not falling into the mud and ice and making an ass of myself.

After some time, we arrived at a huge bonfire set in the middle of the pasture. We circled around and the ritual began. Therein the social failing began.

I stood next to the high priestess. I noticed the sacred bottle of gewurztraminer was situated precariously on the ground, about to fall over. I grabbed it and set it on one of the cinder blocks circling the fire. At the time, the high priestess was inside the ring of cinder blocks reciting a part of the ritual. When she was done, she stepped out of the ring backwards and right into the bottle of wine. She gave me a witch’s death look that could have turned a thousand toads. I picked up the sacred bottle, out of which thankfully very little had spilled, gave her a sheepish look, and stepped back into my place. I knew I had instantly destroyed any rapport between she and I.

When the ritual was over, we all tromped back to the farmhouse for the feast. Wine incident aside, I was excited about the ritual and wanted to discuss it with everyone. One of the coveners sat down next to me. I began breathlessly sharing my thoughts with her. She listened for about a minute then said, “I’m going to go over there now and talk to some friends.”

Wah, wah, wah.

To this day, that still gets me. Either she was viciously rude, or, completely unbeknownst to me, I was THAT annoying. It’s probably the latter and/or she might have been trying to observe the “to be silent” rule I wrote about a couple of days ago. Either way, that moment was the second biggest social fail of my life—and I’m pushing 40 so that’s a lot of life.

It’s funny now. “Um… I’m going to go over there now.” But at the time my poor little puppy Pagan feelings were terribly bruised.

About a week after the ritual, one of the coveners called and said they would like to have me in their coven. I never called her back. I was still reeling from embarrassment.

And that, ladies and germs, was the biggest social fail of all. After everything, they still wanted to welcome me and yet I turned them away. I preferred to stay out in the cold, rather than gather in around the warmth being offered.

The Imbolc moral?

It’s cold out there. Offer warmth to those around you and accept the warmth they offer you. We’re all human. We all have oopsies. It doesn’t mean we can’t be gracious in giving and receiving. It doesn’t mean we don’t deserve a place around this day’s sacred fires and a sip of the sacred gewurztraminer.

Happy Imbolc everybody!


About M. Ashley

Essayist and poet, my work has been rejected by some of the finest journals in America. Fortunately, it also gets accepted from time to time and has appeared in equally fine journals such as Word Riot, Inlandia, Brew City Magazine, and SageWoman among others.. In 2002, I was awarded the Academy of American Poets Prize for Vanderbilt University. For no good reason, I possess an unnecessarily dark humor which is why being third generation California Inland Empirian delights me so. My gods are weird. I once received $350 for writing a smartassed essay on “why the wise use of water is important in my daily life”. I am undoubtedly the Greek god Hermes’ special snowflake. I’m pretty sure I got into college via a series of fortuitous clerical errors. When I had to grow up and get a real job, I decided against it and stayed a writer. I have worked many odd—and I mean odd—jobs to support my habit: Commercial writer for country music hopefuls, resume massager, WalMart fitting room attendant and switchboard operator, telephone psychic.
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