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Posts Tagged ‘Brigid’

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Locally found or made magical objects. Photo by M. A. Phillips, 2020

Valentine’s Day brings a focus on relationships. Though I don’t observe the holiday with my husband (my daughter is obsessed with it), I’ve spent the week thinking about my connection to the land. Perhaps it’s the lingering winter and my desire to garden and forage again, or maybe it comes from my discipline kicking in when I don’t want to trudge through frigid snow with offerings.

My spirituality is very much concerned with the earth, and so it makes sense that most of what I work with is locally grown and made. Whenever I go through bouts of “distance” with my path, I always restore it in the garden or forest.

When I took the recent Imbolc course on Irish Pagan School, author and teacher Lora O’Brien discussed her issue with pipe cleaner Brigid crosses. My grove has done them in the past – mostly because they’re easier for the little kids – yet I’ve always preferred using actual wheat or local grasses. O’brien really hit the nail on the head for me when she described the plants, traditionally reeds, as a way to connect with the symbolism of the goddess and holiday. She was really critical of adults (without any mobility issues) taking a shortcut that is normally so rooted in nature’s seasonal changes, yet she tempered this with compassion. We are all learning. To paraphrase, she challenged those without access to reeds or something similar to begin planning for next year to secure a local source. (Provided you have permission, it’s a sustainable source, etc)

In Northern NY, where the windchill was -20 last night, now is a perfect time to contemplate the warmer half of the year. What do we need to do to deepen our relationship with nature? What are your long term magical goals, and what allies do you need to cultivate? What tools or offerings do you wish to procure for the upcoming holidays? When will the plants be ready to harvest? What do the spirits you wish to work with desire in return?

When I look back at some of what I’ve gathered, it fills me with warmth. Rowan branches collected on a nearby island following a storm. Stones from rivers and lakes right here as opposed to a distant pit and mined by child laborers. Beeswax candles from local keepers. Mugwort wands from my own garden. I’m excited to strengthen my bonds with the spirits of this place, but it must be done thoughtfully.

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Once more, in an effort to update my blog more regularly, here’s another installment of Three Things Thursday! Three mini posts nestled together in one for your viewing pleasure!

1) Hagstone Publishing recently released a little interview with me. In it, I share one of the most significant, spiritual moments of my life. It actually inspired part of my recent short story, “Through the Brambles,” which you can find in issue 2 of “Stone, Root, and Bone” magazine. It’s part of their “Meet the Authors” series. I’m thrilled to be included, and it’s been fun reading about my fellow creative polytheists. I know it’s not the greatest photo, but it’s the first I shared with Hagstone when I participated in the Plant Spirit Challenge last summer. I really need to hire one of my photographer friends to get some decent shots.


2) I spend an inordinate amount of time inside slouched over a keyboard as I write, revise, and edit. For my own sanity and health, I need to get outside. Many of my characters are polytheists, so it’s important to me that I stay connected with my spirituality and remain authentically tied to my stories. My short walks are meditative affirmations on what I do and why. They provide me an opportunity to breathe in fresh air and make offerings to the land. The last time I made my circuit, I caught myself admiring the brown and gray remnants of our pollinator garden. Many people seem to cut their gardens back. The dead, dry ends of spent flowers offend them, I suppose. Perhaps they clashed with their Christmas decor. I’ve learned to leave them. The seeds provide food for wildlife, and they may propagate and fill the garden out more in the spring! The stems and leaves also provide nesting materials for hibernating insects and then birds when it’s time to lay eggs. I love my gardens in all seasons!

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3)Pagan Parenting with Waffles! Due to illness, transportation issues, and other conflicts, my grove canceled our public celebration. Though I was sad to miss my grovemates, and uncomfortable due to a health concern, I soldiered through and made the most of the special day! We kept our tradition of weaving Brigid crosses (Cros Bríde) and adding on to our Brigid cloaks (brat bhríde). We did those activities on Brigid’s eve. On February first, I gave my daughter the choice of pancakes or waffles for breakfast. As you can tell from the photo, she chose the later. She was enthusiastic about helping. The night before, we talked about three as a magical number, so we stirred three times for each of the Kindred and prayed for their blessings. We then discussed the importance of discipline with magic, and I did the old “visualize the apple” lesson. Big ritual with other druids is wonderful, but my path is also about those small, quiet moments with family – with my daughter. Teaching her about folk magic and carrying on our ancestral traditions is so beautiful. It warmed my heart.

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If you haven’t finished season one of “The Mandalorian” on Disney+, fair warning: there will be some slight spoilers below.

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If you’ve been watching the show, you’ve seen the amazing armorer who dwells in the enclave amidst maze-like sewers. We don’t know much about her, but the main protagonist of the show clearly respects her as a leader of sorts. Ever since she wielded her tools in episode one, the unidentified armorer hammered her way into my heart.

When fellow polytheists and Druids refer to Brigid, we most often think of her healing and bardic talents. We often link her to the fire of our hearth and ritual center. Yet in our modern world it’s easy to overlook her association with blacksmiths.

Intellectually, I’ve been aware of this side of her for years, but I’ve always struggled to connect with it, in part because I rarely see female blacksmiths. When I first sat down with my family to enjoy “The Mandalorian,” I was treated to the sight of a woman using her power and talent to create functional art to defend one of her warriors. My heart skipped a beat.

That’s Brigid, I thought. Not literally, of course, but she manifested in that form for me and, no doubt, other Pagans watching.

Fast forward to episode number eight and, my gods, what a masterpiece of a character! Like the goddess Brigid, the armorer is an artisan and keeper of traditions. She remains in the sewers collecting the armor of her fallen kin to preserve their ways. As Brigid would, she works to protect her clansman and the child he has taken in. Their creed demands the protection of children, and she gives the protagonist parting gifts to accomplish his duty as a guardian. Finally, even as she knows Storm Troopers will come after them, she remains at her forge as if meditating before an altar. When the Imperial soldiers arrive, she takes them down… with her tools!

I was floored and moved. This was a side of Brigid I had always sensed but never really saw outside of Ashley Bryner’s art. I’ve read bits about Brigid as a warrior, and I found that spirit in the armorer of “The Mandalorian.”

I now have a new cosplay goal.

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Turning on the Heat

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The inside of one of our baseboard heaters. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2019

Last weekend, my husband and I performed an annual ritual: cleaning the heaters and turning on the heat. We were extra thorough this year. He dismantled and even removed them from the wall to perform additional maintenance. I cleaned the inside, wiping the metallic vertebrae that distributes heat.

I used this time to reflect on how we warm our home in the colder months. For better or worse, the house we bought uses electric heat. As I understand it, we’re lucky to be on municipal power. The warmth doesn’t come from a central flame, but it is heat all the same – and that, in my spirituality, is Brigid’s power.

Perhaps, in the future, I will mentally prepare myself for this yearly rite. Maybe I’ll write a formal prayer with rhyme and meter to recite as I perform my chore. Perhaps I’ll do it some cold winter day as I reflect on how blessed I am to live in a cozy home. This year,  I didn’t make the connection that this could be a sacred act until I was in the middle of it.

As I turned the dial on each unit, I quietly prayed to Brigid – a simple declaration of gratitude for her warmth and safety. Though I lamented my lack of foresight, I walked away feeling satisfied – and warm.

 

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