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.


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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Lá Fhéile Bríde is upon us and I have been busily cleaning as best as I can, trying to make my home welcoming to Brighid.  I recently accomplished one of my biggest cleaning goals  – moving my altar back into the so-called “Art Room.”  I’ve said this before, but I preferred when it was in there rather than my bedroom.  I feel I have more privacy before bed, which is when I prefer to do my devotionals.  I can calmly go about my spiritual business without worrying that my husband, who rises for work earlier than I and needs to be in bed sooner, is getting impatient or that my candle light is keeping him up.  My altar feels more at home where I do a lot of sewing, where I start seeds, and where herbs grow.  Besides, it’s previous location – a corner in the master bedroom – is the perfect spot for a nursery!  More on that another day.

For now, enjoy the images of my main altar, my bookshelf and Ancestral altar, and my little indoor Nature Spirit altar.


My main altar.  You can see my representation of the tree, a cauldron with a candle in it for the fire, and a glass bowl for the well.  I have various representations of my patrons on my altar, as well as other significant items like an offering bowl and my oak wand.  Above is a representation of the sun and a little plaque of Manannán mac Lir.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.
My bookshelf full of texts, divination tools, oils and other concoctions, and my ancestral altar – both on the top shelf and the wall with the photos.  Below the photos on the wall is a stand for things I use during ritual but I don’t want on my altar – matches, bowls with offerings to give, etc.  Below that are some of my drums.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.
Since most of my work with the Nature Spirits involves the plants I have indoors or actually going outside, I only have a small altar for them indoors.  It’s mostly comprised of found objects (stones, bones, butterfly wings), representations of nature that I’ve acquired, or things significant to my spirit guide.  Some of my Druidic charms hang from the pegs.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

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Cros Bríde of lavender and needled felted sheep on my seasonal altar.  Photo and pieces by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

I was feeling very inspired today, both by a project I had been meaning to try and discussion of Brighid crosses on a FB group for local Pagans.

A needle felted sheep.  Photo and piece by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

When I started to brainstorm how to decorate my seasonal altar, a needle felted sheep immediately came to mind.  Felting has become a little hobby of mine.  I don’t do it as often as I sew or crochet/knit, but I do enjoy playing with my wool roving.  I love how very free-form the art can be.  This seemed like a fun project to take on.  I don’t think it’s too bad for my first.  It fits well on an Imbolc altar because of Brighid’s association with sheep and household crafts.

Lavender Brighid Cross.  Piece and photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

I’ve been thinking about what to use for Brighid crosses this year.  In Muin Mound, we always used wheat.  Well, I don’t know any wheat farmers.  I’ve thought about gathering old grass from the hedge, but then I recalled the lavender I have.  Having been dried, it was too brittle to use without a good soak in warm water for 20-30 minutes.  Then it was very pliable and made my work station smell divine!  It felt meditative to make it.  My skill at making the crosses isn’t as good as others, but this is the best one I’ve made yet!  I’m still not 100% sure what to do with the Druid Study Group.  Soaking dried grasses or herbs seems a very messy process in a place we don’t own.  Pipe cleaners were suggested, but now I’m leaning towards raffia as it’s more natural.  We shall see!

May the inspiration of Brighid herself flow into you as you prepare for her feast day!

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It’s late morning.  After doing my best to offer hospitality to our guest, I’m finally sitting down for some warm cereal and tea.  Ahhh…  me time!  The tea is made with roughly chopped fresh ginger, local honey, and half a lemon – its juice and rind.  Trying to keep my body healthy and ward off illness, of course.  As I sip the tea and slurp the cereal, I’m reminded of Brighid’s warmth and healing waters.

Although it’s only January, we’ve been experiencing a bit of a heat wave.  The snow we were so delightedly hoarding since the Winter Solstice is all but gone.  On and off again rain quickens the process.  It almost feels like spring, and with Imbolc being the traditional beginning of spring, I find myself seeking signs.

Of course, we will be getting more snow this week (supposedly).  It’s a good thing, and I want more snow.  Our ecosystem needs it, our farmers need it, and Upstate NY generally has snow right up until mid march.  Recent years, the patterns has changed a bit…  Which is worrisome.

It seems a lot of us are waiting for Imbolc.  Those who don’t observe the Celtic high days, or the modern NeoPagan calendar, still seem to be thirsting for spring and it’s many festivals.  People want a rebirth within and without.  I’ve noticed a lot of friends who write are suddenly lamenting the difficulties of being a published author.  They’re turning within to mull it over and seek an answer.  Pregnant friends in the end stages of their third trimester struggle with pain, the medical status quo, and anticipation.  People have started the process of cleaning their homes, myself included.  Fellow gardeners are excitedly perusing the seed catalogs arriving in the mail, day dreaming of sprouting seeds and new, verdant life all around!

This past week, I’ve watched with a mostly passive interest as the NeoPagan community grappled with its identity online.  Oh yes, dear readers – the great Pagan/Polytheistic debate of 2013.  Even I’m going to mention it in a blog post.  I had been writing a longer response with all of my thoughts, many of which are mixed, and then I trashed it.  Self-identity is important.  Group identity is important.  Labels and names have power – they really do.  Everyone has a right to express themselves, to feel they belong to something bigger, and to nitpick linguistics and semantics.  Yet in the end, I’m not sure another blog post on the pile would do any good.  As for myself: I’m a proud polytheist who worships her Gods, walks the Druidic path, and yet finds a home within the NeoPagan community.  Maybe that will change one day, but for now, I am who I am.  You are who you are.  Let’s be friends.

My mind is filled with more personal concerns  – my growing baby, keeping my home clean, whether or not the North Country Druidic Study Group’s application for protogrove status will be approved, exercising, eating right, keeping up with my own spiritual practices.  Think of me what you will!

So I sit here drinking my healing tea and praying that Brighid will bless each of us with the healing we need and that spring will bring new, positive things to us all.  Until then, we must prepare and wait.


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