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Posts Tagged ‘Brighid’

I’ve written before about how I often give Brighid an offering of tea at some point during the day.  This has become especially common for me to do when engaging in an artistic pursuit.  Lately, I’ve been offering spicy herbs infused in fresh brewed hot water.  As I drop the herbs in her teacup, I say the following prayer I wrote:

Lady Brighid,
Goddess of the sacred fire, well, and oak,
I give this offering to you in thanks for your many blessings.
In the name of the sacred fire, I thank you for your inspiration.
In the name of the sacred well, I thank you for your healing.
In the name of the sacred oak, I thank you for your protection.
Lady Brighid, may you know my love, my gratitude, and my reverence.
May I bring honor to you in all I say and do.
Lady Brighid, I thank you!

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Brighid crosses and mini mantles made by Northern Rivers Protogrove at our recent Imbolc ritual. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

As a pre-ritual workshop this Imbolc, Northern Rivers Protogrove made Brighid crosses and, also, mini Brighid mantles.  In Ireland, it’s traditional to put out a bit of cloth (the brat or Brighid’s mantle), on Imbolc eve for it is believed that Brighid is visiting.  She imbues her blessings upon the cloth and thus it becomes a healing tool.  I thought it would be fun to make some “mini mantles” as a pre-ritual craft along with the crosses.  Furthermore, although we didn’t have any children besides Bee at this celebration, I came up with the activity specifically with kids in mind.

Materials:

fabric (we used a poly-cotton blend because that’s what I had, but pure cotton or linen would work well too)
fabric markers (preferably of a non-toxic nature for the kiddos involved)*
scissors or a rotary cutter
an iron
cutting board (optional)
a square ruler (optional)

I decided that white fabric would be best since people would be drawing on them with a variety of colors.  Ahead of time, I ironed the fabric so that it would be flat and ready for cutting.  Then I dug out my handy quilting tools.  I used a 1×5″ omnigrid ruler to make perfect little squares, but you needn’t be a perfectionist or create such small pieces.  I thought the size would be nice for little hands, but the completely adult group was just as happy with them!

Everyone shared fabric markers and drew whatever they felt was appropriate for Brighid, Imbolc, their spiritual path, and healing in general.  There were many flames and representations of water.  Several people tried their hand at triquetras too. The workshop went well and everyone seemed to enjoy it.  Best of all, it’s an activity young and old can engage in with minimal mess!

Holda working on her mini mantle. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

* Prior to putting outside, treat the fabric according to the directions of your fabric markers. Most suggest ironing and washing to set. When I put my mantles out, I tie them to tough plants who give me permission, or under a rock.

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20140128-182650.jpgI’m busy, busy, busy with all sorts of arts and crafts!  Imbolc is definitely in the air.  So many fiber crafts – including spinning!  I’ve been enjoying theBritish show “Tudor Monastery Farm” and it put the spinning bug back in my head!  It’s a wonderful way to engage with Brighid, my female ancestors, and the wooly nature spirits so symbolic of this time of year.  Also in progress: a crocheted hat for hubby, an attempt to embroider a Brighid cros (sans a hoop… I didn’t have one small enough…), and an altar cloth.  There’s little else to do in this chilly, snowy weather!

What are you crafting?

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My time is limited and, as a result, I haven’t felt pulled to make the very detailed, large dolls I made prior to pregnancy.  Those will come again, but I’ve recently found myself returning to my roots and making dolls with very simple shapes.  Some may view that as backwards, but something Phillip Carr-Gomm said in the latest Druidcast really spoke to me.  He compared the movement of people back to religions inspired by very ancient myths to salmon returning to their spawning ground and taking part in a cycle rebirth.  Not only did it make sense to me in regards to Druidism’s place in the modern world, but it dawned on me that I was experiencing the same thing in my art.  Motherhood has transformed my life in ways that I’m only just beginning to understand.  It is impacting my art.  Everything has to be reborn in this new phase of my life.

You may have seen the Waldorf-inspired gnomes I’ve been making for my daughter.  They are akin to my early exploration of doll making.  Limbs are very complicated and so I’m not bothering with them so much right now.  Recently I’ve been wanting to spend less time on constructing the form and more on adding soul.  I decided to make a new Brighid doll for my altar.  I’ve said this many times, but I’m a proponent of using your talents to make your own ritual tools.  For me, the desire to create representations of deities for my altars is what brought me to doll making in the first place.  I retired my original Brighid doll.  She was very top-heavy and required a metal and wooden stand.  With baby just months away from walking, it seemed like a safety hazard.  Brighid has a new home upon my altar and in a form that matches my evolving understanding of her.  She is more voluptuous, draped in a tartan cloak “pined” with a Celtic knot button to represent her smithcraft and art in general.  Although I did not make limbs in the usual sense, her hand peeks out from her cloak to magically hold her sacred flame, something I needle felted using dyed sheep wool (also very appropriate for this Goddess).

A Brighid doll made and photographed by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

A Brighid doll made and photographed by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

I’m rather happy with how she turned out.  As I worked on this Brighid doll, the Goddess sent her inspiration to me and I’ve already started to dream up another doll to represent another Goddess I’ve been working with.  In the meantime, I’m planning to ritually consecrate this doll in Brighid’s name to create a “home away from home” for her, thus facilitating communication.

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I learned about Waldorf education when I was in college and studying teaching methods and history.  It fascinated me immediately and, for a brief moment in time, I toyed with the idea of becoming a certified Waldorf teacher.  That didn’t work out for a variety of reasons, and in retrospect I’m happy for that.  Although my experience with Waldorf education remains limited, I found that I didn’t fully agree with some of what I read or saw.  Be that as it may, I find integrating creativity and whimsy into educating children a valuable pursuit, challenging as it can be at times.  I also agree with the emphasis placed on nature – something that comes out in nature tables or play altars.  They are excellent ways for children to engage in the changing seasons and their budding spirituality while also having fun on their terms.

I am working on ways to integrate this into raising Bee in a Druidic home.  One thing many nature tables have in common is the inclusion of gnomes.  What are these little creatures and why are they part of Waldorf culture?  (You can read about that here and here.) Some critics worry as Waldorf educators apparently blame the gnomes for problems which could potentially derail a child’s ability to take responsibility for him or herself.  Others feel that they introduces too much pseudoscience – something that, to me, is not bothersome at all since I have been able to believe in Nature Spirits while also understanding, respecting, and learning “hard science.”  Taking responsibility is also emphasized in Druidism through our Nine Virtues.  Integrity is part of one’s honor after all!  If nobody knows why something happened, though, I often say things have been “fairied away.”  There’s a time and a place for that…  In my opinion, it’s completely possible to balance each perspective.  I can see the gnomes as a way to introduce Bee to the unseen aspects of Nature Awareness – that ineffable feeling you get when you are being watched in the woods, for example, could be explained on the forest spirit which, to a child, may be conceived of as a fairy or gnome.  As a child grows, these can be fleshed out into a more “mature” understanding of animism – even if the child decides he or she does not embrace that worldview*.

Handmade gnomes. A red nisser for Winter Solstice, and a white gnome holding a green candle for Imbolc. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

I started to make some gnomes for my little one and she already enjoys them immensely!  The first was a little red gnome to commemorate the Winter Solstice.  I refer to it as a nisser to give respect to my husband’s Norwegian heritage.  I put the nisser in Bee’s Winter Solstice treasure basket and she repeatedly wanted him more than anything else.  This gave me the idea to make more which, like many Waldorf gnomes, correspond to the seasons and various High Days.  So our second gnome was born for Imbolc!  She is holding a green candle to celebrate Brighid’s light and warmth.

Rest assured, I will share future gnomes as they appear in my home!

* Remember, I am writing about raising my own child and not others. Even though I am a spiritual, Earth-centered person, I understand the concerns of the critics who have enrolled their children in Waldrof schools thinking they are very secular only to realize that they do teach spiritual concepts (which may vary depending on the individual schools).  Also, I hesitated to say I have a more “mature” understanding of animism.  I don’t mean to say that there is a right and wrong way to believe, but I know for a fact that I wasn’t able to think about animism abstractly or philosophically like I am as an adult.  I am in no way trying to say that certain cultures have a less mature animism than modern Druidism, for example.

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I’ve decided to try and reinvigorate my spiritual practice by joining the Three Cranes Grove and their “Yule Along”.  They came up with a Norse-inspired schedule but have invited others to experiment with their own hearth cultures.  So as I prepare for my normal Winter Solstice celebration, I’m also preparing for several days worth of spiritual work.  It will likely consist of a lot of offerings and prayers.  If possible, I will meditate.  My plan is to work with my husband to set aside some time each night for quiet contemplation and togetherness.  No tv, no video games, no movies, no social networking.  Thankfully, this falls during my holiday vacation so I will have more free time throughout the day!

As I gear up, I am going to make sure I have enough offerings.  I’m also going to add some seasonal decor to my altar in the form of evergreen boughs.  Finally, I am planning my family Solstice meal.  This year, I’m preparing to make a quiche.  Weretoad has expressed an interest in making pecan pie – one of my favorites!  I also want to start some new Solstice traditions that Bee can enjoy for years to come – family games, story telling, and maybe some singing.

Here is the rough draft of my schedule:

12/19 Greeting the winter wanderer – I am going to make offerings to Manannán mac Lir as the gatekeeper, tidy up the home, and mentally prepare myself

12/20 Mother’s night/Solstice vigil (which I can totally do because it happens on a WEEKEND!) – Call my mother, make offerings to my ancestors, especially my ancestral mothers, take a relaxing shower (since I’m a mother), and get ready for vigil

12/21 Solstice Day – family gathering with feasting and honoring Angus

12/22 Nature Spirits – take a walk outside and give offerings

12/23 Feast of Fools – not sure what to do here yet…  Thoughts from fellow ADFers who have done the Yule Along before?

12/24 House spirits – offerings and tidying up

12/25 Spirit of hospitality and gifting – offerings to An Dagda and time with family

12/26 Celebrations of winter/snow – another walk outside and offerings made to An Cailleach

12/27 Celebration of the evergreen – special offerings to the evergreen trees

12/28 God/desses of the household (Brighid) – offerings made at her shrine in my kitchen, meditation if possible

12/29 Shining ones – offerings at the main altar

12/30 Bringing in the boar (Lugh – deities/spirits concerning oaths) – offerings made

12/31 Twelfth Night — Resolutions, divination, remembrances, gratitudes – a celebration with friends

1/1 New Year’s Day — Returning the home to regular time, putting evergreens back outside, cleaning the home, and thanking the gatekeeper

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Now that Baby Bee is here, I’m struggling to maintain my previous Druidic practices.  The various study programs I’ve been working on in ADF?  If I was slow before, I’m going to be at a snail’s pace now!  My nightly devotionals have ceased for the time being due to exhaustion.  I’m on the baby’s schedule right now and not my own.  It’s difficult to attempt trance or long meditation since she could need feeding, changing, or comforting.  And this blog entry has been a draft for days.

I don’t feel any guilt about it.  Do I miss my usual workings?  Of course, but The Kindreds get it.  Brighid is very concerned with mothers and children so I feel nothing but support from her.  My ancestors include mothers who understand.  Rearing children is natural, so the Nature Spirits don’t object to my decreased visits.

But I try my best and do what I can, when I can.  Just as I haven’t cut ties with my family and friends to care for the baby, the Kindreds are deserving of love and gratitude – even if it’s in smaller, less-frequent doses.

The easiest thing for me to do has been pray.  I always make a point to give prayers of gratitude before meals, for example.  Now I’ve noticed myself getting back into making offerings here and there.  A cup of spicy tea for Brighid here, a beautiful and fresh strawberry for the Nature Spirits there.

These are small gestures but it’s important to me that I express my gratitude to the Kindreds in some way.

In the meantime, I’m planning a little ritual to  introduce Baby Bee to the Kindreds within my hearth and home.  I’m also discussing a more formal saining ceremony with Rev. Skip Ellison of Muin Mound Grove.

These little things are important.  They are my stepping stones back to regular Druidic practice.

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Concept Art

Brainstorming a new Brighid doll for my altar.

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What is a crane bag?

The answer: not hard.

The lovely Aoife was turned into a crane and lived about the seas of Manannan Mac Lir for many hard years.  When she died, the great Sea Lord took her skin and made a magical bag that could hold his most beloved treasures.  It’s said to be bottomless.

Many Druids and Celtic Reconstructionists, especially those who are called by Manannan and the symbolism of the crane, make crane bags to wear on their person.  An individual may place his or her most sacred charms and amulets inside; objects of personal power and significance.

Although my Druidic studies have slowed lately, I’ve noted a growing connection to Manannan.  The more I work with trance and magic, the more I study, he seems to nod approvingly at me.  And of course, Brighid remains an incredibly significant part of my life.  For the last few months, I’ve felt compelled by my relationships with these deities to create a devotional object to have at my labor.  Had I the ability to attempt a home birth, rest assured I would have created an altar to motherhood, my labor, Brighid, the baby, and our spirit guides.  (For some lovely examples, look here and here!)  Although some people have made some beautiful travel-friendly birth altars, making a crane bag – something relevant to my path and my Gods that I could create with a favorite hobby – seemed like the right thing for me to do.  Everything will be secure inside the bag.  I can take one item out to hold, rub, and focus on, or I can hold the entire bag.  It’s made of very soft pink velvet and feels very comforting.  Much of my reading has suggested that women hoping for a natural birth should have some sort of focal point to assist in managing pain.  A crane bag holding many special objects to focus on is just my style!  Not only that –  it’s very discreet.

My finished motherhood crane bag. I reused fabric from an old, velvet blazer and some swirling pink for the lining (not photographed).  The pink is supposed to represent my uterus.  The drawstring method seemed best since the uterus can stretch and contract. On the front, I attached three antique buttons I purchased years ago. I knew I was saving them for something special! They fit the bag perfectly. Not only do they work with the color scheme, but symbolically an open flower is supposed to magically encourage the cervix to open.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

Detail of the button I used as the clasp when the bag is tightened. A Celtic knot seemed most appropriate as it connects me to my hearth culture and gives me strength.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

Although my crane bag is not bottomless, I’ve been able to fit quite a bit in there! I included the Goddess stone from my friend RavynStar, a yonic dandelion charm (the yoni is demurely facing away from the camera), the mother blessing beads from everyone at my baby shower, a sterling silver ring (now broken but still precious to me) that belonged to my mother when she was younger, a tooth from a doe, a bracelet from my late aunt, an collage of Brighid made by a fellow ADF Druid artisan, and my baby’s first photo! Everything is very significant to me symbolically. They are to remind me of the strong women in my life, my Goddess, the Earth Mother, the creative powers within me, my own strength, my spirit guide, and the ultimate goal – a healthy, happy baby. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

I also included these lovely talismans made by fellow flame keeper and Druid, Grey Wren. She completely surprised me with these beauties! The bloodstone with coral is to give me strength during and after labor. The rose quartz is to help with bonding, peace, and love. A friend taught her to associate it with motherhood. The white chalcedony with the pearl is supposed to help with lactation and sleep.  It will also be very appropriate for baby since she is supposed to be born in the sign of Cancer – a water sign! I am thinking about attaching the last to the baby’s mobile since sleep and nutrition are going to be hugely important to her, and we’ll need all the help we can get!  It could also go with some water symbolism. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

 

A birth and motherhood crane bag is very easy to make.  All you need are some special objects that bring you comfort and courage, and a bag to put them in!  As always, I encourage you to make your own bag as you’ll put your own energy into it.  Red or pink are particularly appropriate symbolically, but choose what fits your own needs.

Have you made a birth altar or crane bag?  I would love to see it!

For More Information on crane bags:

Make Your Own Crane Bag and Discover the Purpose of the Incarnation You are Currently Living” by Elen Sentier.  A good introduction.

The Crane Bag” by Dr. John Gilbert – How one Druidic tradition utilizes this tool.

The Crane Bag” – a poem about its lore and origins from Tairis Tales.  Definitely read this for an understanding of its significance within Celtic lore.

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I finally finished the mobile I was working on for our baby!  I decided to go with a woodland theme because I definitely want to instill a love of nature in my daughter. I included some subtle Pagan hints, mostly because they are protective.  I used a combination of natural, found materials, felt, cotton thread and twine, and brightly dyed wool.  I’m very pleased with how it turned out!  I hope our Little Bee likes it!

Included are leaves, a bumble bee, a rowan charm, a white doe, an amanita formosa, an apple blossom, and a red trillium.  Everything was selected for the symbolism and the fact that they are from her surroundings.  The rowan charm is for protection and has a connection to Brighid.  The white doe is a subtle nod to Celtic mythology, as such creatures are often considered to be fairy women in disguise. The deer is my spirit guide, so there’s a protective element to it too*.

 

*The doe looks a little like a llama…  I had a difficult time making the legs slender enough…  But a friend sent her a plush, white llama so either way the little one should be happy!

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