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Archive for the ‘Imbolc’ Category

I do consider Samhain to be the beginning of my spiritual year, but I also cannot deny the status quo in regards to modern society.  Generations have looked to the point between December and January as the threshold to a new year and the continual existence of all. I can’t deny the power associated with such a movement, even if I don’t always observe it with much excitement.  Last year I spent it quietly with my husband.  We relaxed.  This year, I’ll likely spend it helping my sister move and then celebrating with some of my tribe.

Another thing I want to do is clean my home as best as I can.  Many people believe that what you do at the end of the old year will follow you into the new year, and that we should strive to surround ourselves with the qualities we want to fill our lives with.  I want my apartment to be cleaner and I want to take more time making it thus.  I spent some time today cleaning and organizing the kitchen.  There is still work to be done but it’s slowly getting better and more user-friendly.

I also find myself looking forward to the green half of the year.  With the Winter Solstice pretty much over (I plan to take my decorations down on the 6th.  There’s an old Irish belief that it’s unlucky to do so before or after.), I find myself excited for Beltaine.  I feel a bit bad about that since I don’t feel as giddy over the next high day, Imbolc, which is sacred to my blessed Lady Brighid, but to me that’s more of a quiet holiday for counting one’s blessings.  The Spring Equinox has never been that festive to me either.  Beltaine, though, is another story completely.  The ground will finally be completely or in the process of thawing.  The leaves will be blossoming and the robins will assuredly be back by then.  It is when my grove erects a May Pole and we dance about it to provoke the Earth Mother into fecundity.  It is a flirtatious and celebratory time!  I find myself excitedly looking through seed catalogs and humming Jonathan Coulton’s “First of May”…

This time of year is also when I find myself a new calendar.  This year I am going to use  The Artisans Guild of Ár nDraíocht Féin 2011 Calendar.  It supports the guild I belong to and features the work of several amazing Pagan artists – including a couple of my dolls!

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My husband and I went to Muin Mound last night to celebrate Imbolc with the grove. The ritual was held outside in negative three degrees weather! Now I feel like a hardcore Pagan! Last year we did a lot of rituals inside because of the snow/cold and then a surplus of water and mosquitos in the nemeton. A lot of people were feeling disconnected so we vowed to go outside for ritual more. Thank the Gods it wasn’t windy. My poor toes, even in my new cozy boots, were so red by the time we got inside. The ritual was definitely faster than usual, but it was somehow powerful and meaningful at the same time. Huddling close to the fire, I felt a more intense gratefulness for Brighid and her fire. I also felt the blessing of community, which was interesting because the omens reflected this.

Before and after the rite, actually, I felt better bonded with my grovies. We made Brighid crosses and chatted before the ritual. I’ll have to take and post photos later. (My husband made a triforce from the Legend of Zelda Games out of wheat.) After the ritual was the potluck and more socializing. Phoenix showed me her new art studio and we talked for some time about arts and crafts. Skip and I talked about training programs. He’s happy that I’m becoming more active on the forums and chats. He also showed me a photo of he and the other previous Arch Druids naked (backside only) and covered in body paint. LOL! Jen, Candy, Skip, and I talked excitedly about Wellspring this year. Jen seems quite excited that we’ll be there and in the Muin Mound camp this year. I am stoked.

Community is important to me. That’s part of why ADF speaks to me so. It’s about family and coming together to learn and worship. Muin Mound is starting to feel like a spiritual family to me. They are so welcoming and inclusive of both myself and my husband. Such reassurance couldn’t have come at a better time now that MVPN has gone through such a change.

Today the snow falls thick and fast. Another winter day in the North Country. I am grateful to my own resourcefulness and Brighid’s protection for the shelter and warmth I have. I pray that my husband makes it home from work safe. I think our grocery shopping and laundry chores will have to be put on hold today,,,

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Full Moon

Heehee. I’m amused by the number of people who have told me about the bright full moon tonight. I’m worried people think I don’t read the news or look out my window! That said, I had been thinking the full moon would be on the night of Jan 30th, not the eve of the date. In other words, perhaps my calendar is more Celtic than I gave it credit for. 😉 When I started to read about how bright the full moon would be on the 29th I became very perplexed indeed about the seeming discrepancy in calendars…

Anyway, it’s a big shiny full moon and I have felt… relaxed, I guess. I still took care of some creative pursuits, but it was more or less a day of rest. We can think of the moon as at its climax. Tomorrow it will begin to wane until the dark moon – a time of shrinking, lessening, resting, healing, and, ultimately, renewal.

My greatest spiritual/creative accomplishment today was making a Brighid’s cross (with my husband’s help). I don’t have any green rushes around. It was quite a bitter day up here in the North Country after all. There is a small creek near us at the edge of a forest. Separating the tame from the wild is a wall of (currently brown and dead) tall grasses. When I returned from work this afternoon, I harvested several and soon realized that they were too fragile to bend in their moribund state. My husband helped me steam the centers. It worked like a charm! The plants were probably not the best for this sort of project, but this is the first time I’ve made one and, I must say, I’m very proud. I’m going to leave it in the window tonight to soak up the moonbeams. Then it will make its home over my door as a protective charm.

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A Traditional Imbolc

 

Skip sent this wonderful video to Muin Mound members. It shows a traditional Imbolc celebration held every year in Donegal. Listen to the bilingualism! I love seeing how the whole community gathers to honor Brighid – saint or Goddess.
http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=9007101&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

Cros Bhríde from Paula Geraghty on Vimeo.

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I’m not finished with it yet, but here is a photo of the Brighid cross project I’m working on.

The pattern on the brown/gold fabric may not be the best for the project but I’m determined to see it through and perhaps add some embroider to embellish it. I usually don’t do things like this – appliqué and quilt techniques are new for me.

And here’s a photo of my Brigihd altar so far. This isn’t anything Imbolc specific – I’ve been adding to it since moving here. It’s situated over my stove for obvious reasons. I do my flame keeping here.

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Prepping for Imbolc

Imbolc is on its way and I need to get ready! When I first came to Paganism five or six years ago, I was involved in Wicca and Imbolc wasn’t very special to me. I remember knowing that it had something to do with a Goddess named “Bride” or “Brighid” (one of those strange Celtic Gods!) but I hadn’t formed any relationship with her, much less read about her outside a Wicca 101 book. It wasn’t until I started to study Druidism and Irish lore that Brighid made herself known to me. She is my patron Goddess, protector of my home, muse, and source of warmth. Now Imbolc, her holy day, is very important to me.

I’m currently working on an offering for her. It’s an attempt at quilting and/or appliqué – I’m not quite sure which yet. I will post a photo when I’m done.

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Imbolc

Imbolc is a celebration of the Celtic Goddess Brighid.  For this reason, the holiday was always a strange one for me before coming to Druidry.  When I first started out on the path of Paganism, I considered myself Wiccan and tried my best to form relationships with Greek and Egyptian deities.  I was reluctant to delve into Celtic mythology because of the strange names.  (What an ignorant and lazy youth I was!)  As a result, the Wiccan adoption of Imbolc was foreign for me.  I knew little of Brighid and it felt wrong to celebrate a Celtic holiday while applying it to different cultures, different religions, and different Gods all together.  Imbolc wouldn’t make sense to me until I grew up a little and finally heard the call of the Irish Gods – in particular Brighid.

Now Imbolc is a holiday I look forward to.  It is my lady’s special day; a day when I can dote upon her and thank her for all that she does for me through a large ritual.

Brighid is interesting in that she is both a Goddess and a Saint.  Celtic Christians adopted her as a saintly figure, thus preserving many of her traditions.  Being a Pagan, I am most interested in her as a Goddess but I appreciate the glimpses of ancient lore provided to us through the writings of Christian monks.  She shows up in every Celtic nation, albeit with a different but similar name (Freeman 47).  To the Irish, she is a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann.  She is the daughter of the Dagda (47), wife of Bres, and mother of Ruadan (Cath Maie Tuired). She is “a goddess of healing, midwifery, blacksmithing, poetry and fire” (Myers 46).  There are also references to her acting as a Goddess of “dying, weaving, and brewing,” and to her protection over farm animals (Freeman 47).  Considering these, I think of her as a patroness of art and creativity.

Her festival, which falls on February 1st (Freeman 46), celebrates the first lactation of sheep as they give birth to lambs (46).  Thus Imbolc is a time of renewal and birth.  In addition to the milk, Brighid’s association with fire probably played a vital role in her rituals.  Flame keepers in Kildare guarded and tended to a sacred flame in her honor.  Supposedly, this particular cult was for women only (Freeman 49).  The tradition, after having been stopped by the Church for years, was rekindled and there are numerous flame keeping circles today (50).  Many flame keepers, such as myself, pay special attention to their patroness on Imbolc.

There are numerous traditions surrounding Imbolc, many having to do with fertility and healing.  Some people made brìdeag (little Bride) dolls in honor of her.  There was a whole ceremony associated with it, as the doll was brought into the house, welcomed, and placed in a special bed (Freeman 55-56).  It was also believed that the Goddess herself travelled through the land on her holiday.  It was believed that she blessed her people and the farm animals. Some would put out a rag, believing that she would touch and fill it with healing powers.  The next morning, it was believed to have been transformed into the brat Bríde (Brighid’s mantle).  It was thought that the mantle would aid in labor of both humans and animals (Freeman 63).   People also crafted Brigit’s crosses out of rushes and hung them in their homes for protection (64). In addition to these traditions, the more practical ritual of churning butter was said to have taken place on Imbolc thus linking Brighid, again, to dairy animals (63).  Many people still follow these traditions today.

Imbolc is a special holiday to me now that I’ve started to form a close bond with Brighid and my Celtic ancestors.  I hope to one day practice some of the old traditions in my own house with my own family.  In such an industrialized society where farm animals are too often treated like machines rather than sentient beings, I feel that, even if someone doesn’t feel a connection to Brighid, they can still take the day to remember where their dairy products come from.  When I was a young Wiccan, I seemed to have missed this crucial point.  If I have children, I would like to set aside Imbolc as a time to honor Brighid and her beloved livestock.  I can see us making dolls, mantles, or crosses, and perhaps making butter, eating cheese, and meditating on rebirth and where our food comes from.  As usual, the holidays should remind us of our ties with the land because, unfortunately, we often forget.

 

How I Celebrated in 2008

On February 3rd, 2008, I lead an Imbolc ritual for the Mohawk Valley Pagan Network.  I was really nervous about leading, especially as the majority of the Pagan alliance is Wiccan.  Most have not had any prior experience with ADF liturgy.  In the end, only six other people came.  I was kind of relieved to lead in front of a smaller group of people.  As they chatted, I set up.  The ritual was held in a member’s house in Utica, NY, but was open to anyone who happened to search for us.

Since it was an Imbolc ritual, the deity of honor was Brighid.  I brought a doll that I had made to represent Brighid.  She stands on my altar as a statue.  Also on the altar was a representation of the Bile, a large cauldron with some water, a candle, a small cauldron to collect matches, a pitcher of oil, and a pitcher of water.  I placed a special bowl in the south for the outsiders.

The ritual itself went smoothly!  I’d been going over it all day and meditating so that I would calm down.  The process was worth it.  I was amazed at how poised I was in front of everyone.  I felt like a real priestess – like a real Druid.  I credit the smoothness, in part, to the pre-ritual briefing I did.  I sat everyone down and explained the purpose of the ritual.  I went through the format and handed out some parts.  We sang through the chants as well.  I explained that offerings would be made at a specific time and that I would invite everyone to come forward with a gift for Brighid.  I ended the briefing by asking if anyone had questions.

Everyone was enthusiastic about participating.  My boyfriend, who is usually quite happy just to stand and listen, made offerings to the Nature Spirits.  It meant a lot to me.  When we got to the section for offerings to be made, I was pleasantly surprised at how many people had brought gifts!  One woman read a poem about a fairy.  Another gave a word of love.  A third gave milk and coins.  I gave a doll I had made for Brighid.

There was one small mistake in the ritual, but no one seemed to realize it.  I had meant to do the Two Powers meditation before calling the Kindreds, but I got a bit absent-minded and had to do it after to avoid ruining the flow of the ritual.  I don’t think it mattered that much, in retrospect.  The Kindreds were honored, after all.   I also omitted drawing an omen.  In the ritual briefing, I explained the tradition, but also confessed that I don’t feel proficient enough with any divination tools to perform this part of the ritual.  I decided that if the house erupted in flames, it would be obvious that the Kindreds were upset with something!  I would, however, like to practice with a divination method so that I can incorporate it into future rituals.

After the ritual, we gathered in the dining room to share food and chat-chat.  Everyone was pleased with the rite.  This was a huge relief to me.  There was a sense that I had crossed an important threshold in the Pagan community – I had led a public, albeit small, ritual.  I’m sure it will be the first of many.

 

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