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Posts Tagged ‘Imbolc’

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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Goldenrod by the Hedge – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

The warm temperatures linger and school isn’t in session yet, but I feel autumn in the air.  The farmers’ markets are teeming with bounty. During our walks, Weretoad and I have spied some changing leaves!  The hedges have also shifted in color.  The warm green is starting to give way to the tans of dried grasses, the deep maroon of curly dock, and the crisp yellows of marigold.

While baby was napping, I left her with my husband and took a short walk along the hedge.  It felt nice to go out on my own, even for a little bit.  I miss my forays into the forest, but that will come again.  It was nice to visit the hedge and see the changes.  The aforementioned marigold was alive with bees and wasps gorging on nectar*.  Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any blackberries on the bushes this year.  I’m not sure why.  The precious year’s harvest was low because of the extreme heat and lack of rain.  Many of the berries dried up before I got to them.  This year – nothing!  I wonder if it was the wet start to summer?

And speaking of reflecting on previous seasons, last Imbolc I was sad not to have any reeds to weave into Brighid crosses.  I used locally grown dry lavender I happened to have, and Northern Rivers ended up using pipe cleaners to keep things easy.  I decided that I would gather the drying grasses come Lughnasadh for future crosses.  Although I’m a few weeks late, the grass is still dry and ready for picking!  I gathered a small bouquet and headed home as the deer flies had taken notice of me**.  I will be gathering more for my protogrove to use for the wheel is turning and, before we know it, the hedges will be covered with An Cailleach’s frosted cloak and Imbolc will have come.

* I’ve been reading about goldenrod online and I discovered it has some interesting lore and herbal uses!  This is a neat read, as is this.

** Thank goodness for the Outsiders of the Nature kin – they keep us humble!

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A photo of our Imbolc altar by Weretoad, 2013.

Northern Rivers Protogrove, ADF | Bringing the Ár nDraíocht Féin tradition to Northern NY.

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My Imbolc altar this year.  Included are the felted sheep I made, the pouch I keep my brat in, that motherhood statue from my mum, my drop spindle, the lavender Brighid cross, a collage ATC featuring Brighid from a fellow ADF artisan, and two new beeswax candles and candlesticks from my mum.  And of course, the new table cloth I finished the other day!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

I want to wish each of my readers a very wonderful Imbolc.  It’s certainly a special day for me this year.  I work with Brighid regularly, and she is an important part of my life.  What’s more, given her association with motherhood and midwifery, I am feeling particularly sensitive to her energy and invitation to look for new growth.  Not only is the sun increasing in strength each day; not only are some of the trees forming buds; not only are bulbs showing up in the gardening section of stores – my belly grows round with life!  Further more, not only is my family feeling some of Brighid’s magic, but The North Country Druidic Study Group has also been blessed – only we’re no longer going by that name!  As of today, we’re officially a protogrove in ADF!  We are now Northern Rivers Protogrove!  Everyone involved is so excited!  And what spectacular timing!  As long as the lake effect snow that threatens doesn’t force us to change our plans, we’ll be gathering to honor and celebrate Brighid’s feast.  You can bet it’s going to be quite a feast with the news!

Our traditional Imbolc meal.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

At home tonight, hubby and I celebrated with a hearty dinner – my traditional Imbolc meal of colcannon, peas, and veggie crepes!  This, combined with a full week of work, seemed to knock Weretoad right out.  He’s been napping ever since!  I’ve spent my evening quietly admiring Brighid’s candle, preparing offerings for the ritual tomorrow, and excitedly updating the Northern Rivers website to reflect our new name and status.

However you celebrate, I hope Brighid’s feast day is a blessed one for you!  May you find warmth, inspiration, creativity, and healing.

Brighid’s flame.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

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