Lesson from Ngetal/Reed, and The Practice

As I engaged with Mystery this past week through my daily Ogham Practice, the day of Ngetal, Reed, came up.  While communing with Brìde in meditation on this day, on this féd, She gave me a meditation to sustain me.

ngetal

It came to me in this round of vigils in which She also pointed me, in another divination, to Serenity through Simplicity, to immense Energy and Vitality effortlessly flowing through me, and Abundant Joy being evident in each area of my life.

Life has been stressful, and serenity and vitality and joy feel about the farthest things from me.  It is easy for me to drown in anxiety, and frankly, I have been, dealing with seemingly every hard thing all at once.

This gifted meditation indeed did bring me all these things, and does, in each moment I engage with it.

I was given the image of reeds growing along a riverbank, fresh and green.  Also apt, given the time of Imbolc, when reeds are traditionally used to weave Brigit’s Crosses in Ireland.

Brigid cross reeds

I was guided to envision myself a fresh, green, hollow reed.  Into my hollowness, I called on Brìde’s Light.  It flowed into my body, like healing Reiki energy, like warm liquid fire, as I inhaled deeply.  As I exhaled, the energy moved down and out of my body, through my feet, or the base of my body, taking with it any stuck or negative energy inside me.  It flowed out into the reed bed, and the negative energy, like a dark puddle, was washed away with the river’s current.  It was as if the Sun shone into me, brightening every internal nook and cranny, while the land held me and the river washed me.  I did indeed feel, through this simple breathing and visualizing exercise, deep serenity, the easy flow of vital and healing energy, and a resulting peaceful joy!

Additionally this week, I read further into a book recently purchased called, The Practice: Simple Tools for Managing Stress, Finding Inner Peace, and Uncovering Happiness, by Barb Schmidt. This is my lead into my Happiness Practice.  The author outlines a daily, structured practice essentially mirroring contemplative, monastic practices, such as morning meditation, a sacred mantra, attentive focus, inspired reading, and evening reflection.  Being drawn to these kinds of practices, I am excited to delve into this work and see how I can bring these into my daily round of living, as a contemplative in the world.

Today I found my Sacred Mantra, meant to be a word or phrase from a spiritual tradition to be recited when negativity creeps in to the mind, to realign it with the Infinite, the Cosmos, Cosmic Truth, which I also think of as the Otherworld, that bright place from which all earthly life and form flow. It is a sacred chant from the Céile Dé tradition of Scotland, and ancient Gaelic monastic tradition still practiced today.  The chant is recorded on one of their cds, which I enjoy listening to and chanting with.  This chant is, Serim Soillse (“SHER-eem SOIL-shuh”), meaning, ‘Come, Light.’  I love singing it, and now I also have the imagery of the gifted meditation to accompany it!  In the past I had also envisioned myself like a megalithic mound, aligned to receive the light of a special sunrise, brightening and filling myself as it rose from the land, like Newgrange and the mound at Tara in Ireland.  Having this sacred mantra with me is like having a close friend to hand at all times, in the words, tune, images, and Brìde Herself alike.  I will be seeing how often I feel called (or remember!) to turn to it in times of stress over the next week, and see how it helps me cope in those moments when anxiety threatens to engulf me.

My prayers to Brìde and daily Ogham Practice constitute my daily meditation, so I have two pieces of The Practice in place so far.  I look forward to reading about more of its elements, and seeing how I feel called to put them into action in my daily life.

Until next week, slàinte mhath! Be well!

Brighid by the water

 

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Imbolc Advent 2018 ~ Contemplating Wisdom, and Imbolc’s Conclusion

This year’s Imbolc Advent has been the most clarifying one for me yet, and is a practice I intend to continue in future years in this pattern, unless Brìde  inspires me with another idea!  Listening for guidance in specific areas connected with Her has helped me clarify what to pay attention to, and what I will then walk with throughout this year.  I give thanks to Brighid for this inspired practice and its gifts!

I spent this past week listening for Wisdom, and how I might walk with it this year.  I began to see a pattern being revealed to me through my recent life experiences and learning new information through a work training.

My whole life has been upended this past year; I am going from married to divorced, coupled to single parent, home owner to apartment renter, stay-at-home-homeschooling parent to working mother, domestic abuse victim to survivor, and, happily, non-degreed to Montessori-teacher-certified.  And all of it at once!  My system, already prone to anxiety, has been under extreme stress.  I am overwhelmed and exhausted and anxious every day.  Worrying is my hobby.  Worse, these are patterns long worn into the grooves of my brain from survival mode for so many years, while I had little understanding of what I was enduring. I barely know how to do anything else or operate any other way.  I sit with Brighid daily for moments of peace and inspiration, and to seek healing and guidance, and these She provides. My practice suffers when I am low on resources, though, which means what I receive is also diminished.  Everything just feels so hard.

During a training I am taking for work, I learned a bit about how the brain and body process and respond to stress.  I learned it actually rewires and shrinks our brains, and affects our brain cell count!  The exhaustion is real– there is actual depletion in brain space and capacity.  The adrenals in the body are shot like drained batteries from being on hyper-vigilant mode daily rather than in those brief moments when we are supposed to run away from predators, as our brains intended!  I am seeing that I cannot go on like this.  I am working on self-care, want to move into deep self-healing, but also need to find another pathway for my brain to move along other than anxiety and stress.  Brains need to learn new habits in order to ingrain them, and need regular practicing to learn them.  I will need to train my brain to do something else if I want to get off the worry/anxiety/stress treadmill.

So my way of walking with Wisdom this year is to find and engage in a Happiness Practice!  I have found a book called The Practice which I will explore and see what comes of it for me.  I am also receiving the message from Brìde that I need to take joy in all areas of my life.  So I will try an experiment– as part of my Happiness Practice, I will see what it might be like to engage with the various aspects of my life as if I were joyous about them– and see what happens.  Part of the practice includes recognizing and dismantling perfectionism, as I am prone to it and the self-judgement it leads to, so I want to frame this as an experiment, which leaves room for exploration and observation and adjustment, rather than as a commitment, which can easily be failed.  I will also keep my feelers out for anything else which might come my way to feed this Happiness Practice,and see if I can create some new pathways for my brain (and grow it some in the process!), and add some years to my life.

Wisdom to me speaks to Brìde as the Healer, showing us what we need in order to grow and move into wholeness.  Healing strikes me as just that– the process of retrieving lost parts of oneself, as in a shamanic healing– Healing as Whole-ing.  I seek Brìde the Healer at Her Healing Well, and imbibe the pure, hazel-fed waters there.  They put me back into alignment with the Cosmos, with Fírinne, Cosmic Truth, which brings me into Wholeness, into the Wholeness of the Cosmos, of which I am an intrinsic member.  This remembering re-members me, brings scattered aspects of my self back to my soul, brings cells back to my brain, brings my awareness back to the tapestry of Creation which holds and nourishes us all.

So I am ready to step into the Growing Year with Brìde’s Flame guiding me as I walk with my Writing practice of Creativity; my Ogham and Lunar practices of Mystery; and my Happiness practice of Wisdom.  I am eager to see what the year will bring and how these practices will unfold for me!  If you follow me here after the Imbolc season, I will share in my weekly blogs how I progress (or digress, as the case may be!).

Thank you so much, dear readers, for following along and witnessing my process this Imbolc advent!  I wish you all the blessings of the season, and may Brìde be with you, shining Her Light, guiding your way.  Imbolc blessings of Brìde to you all!

 

brigpicscanyellow

 

Imbolc 2018: Brìde Returns!

Brìde is returning!  Make ready to greet Her blessed presence, and impending blessings of light and life!

The traditional Gaelic date today to celebrate Imbolc begins on the eve, 31 January, as Celtic-time reckoning does, and continues through til sunset, 1 February.  I like to celebrate by mound-time, when the rising sun shines into the megalithic mounds at Tara and Loughcrew in Ireland, 4 February, and its eve, on the 3rd.  I will be participating on that eve in an online ceremony, and on the following evening, in a ceremony with my local Celtic women’s circle.  Additionally, I will mark the time in a few special ways myself.

On the eve, I will set out a bowl of water, to collect the sunlight of Imbolc’s rising sun, filling it with Brighid’s energy, to save and use through the year for blessing and healing.  I will leave out milk or butter, and a dram of Drambuie for Brighid Herself.  I shall also leave out some ribbons over a bush which I will save for healing, inspiration, prayer, and meditational aids through the year.  I will leave out too my Bríde’s cross to catch Her rays of return and blessing.

In the morning, I will greet the Sun with this traditional Gaelic Sun Prayer from the Carmina Gadelica:

“Hail to You, O Sun of the Seasons,
As you traverse the lofty skies.
Your way is strong on the wing of the heavens–
You are the glorious Mother of the Stars.
You have your lying down in the destroying ocean,
Without harming, without fear.
You rise on the serene sìdhe mound,
Like a queenly woman in bloom!”

And then I shall light Her Flame thus–

“Brìde, Excellent, Exalted One,
Bright, golden, quickening Flame:
Shine Your blessings on us from the Otherworld,
You–
Radiant Fire of the Sun!”   (reworking of an 11th c. prayer)

–and carry Her blessing-renewed cross  around my home, reciting a Saining Prayer to bring Her blessings of renewal into the whole of my living space:

“Brìde,  bless this house,
From site to stay,
From beam to wall,
From end to end,
From ridge to basement<
From balk to roof-tree,
From found to summit,
Found and summit.”   (modified from a traditional prayer from the Carmina Gadelica)

Then I shall rehang my cross over my door.

I will then sit this meditation She gave me a few years ago, as a spiritual renewal for the season, to carry Her within me, always.  If this inspires you, you are welcome to join me from wherever you are, whenever you celebrate.

Begin by making yourself comfortable in a sitting position, beside a candle and lighter or match.

I will recite this Centering Prayer:

“Here I stand, in the Center of the World–” (hands and arms together in front, low, neutral; breathing deep into self and space)

“With the Deep Sea and the Ancestors surrounding me,” (arms down at an angle with palms facing down)

“The Fertile Earth and the Land Goddess supporting me,” (arms out wide to sides, palms forward)

“The Wide Sky and the Shining Ones encompassing me,” (arms raised at an angle, palms up)

“As the Eternal Flame burns before me,” (arms out, hands reaching)

“And within me.” (hands over heart)

“May I be Blessed in All Things.” (arms and hands together, low in front, as in beginning of prayer)  (original by myself)

See now in your mind’s eye a great field before you of tall, browned grass extending far from you, with a cool, green wood just beyond. You wish to reach that wood, to follow its path to its central clearing, so need to make your way first through the grass field. Looking down you see in your hand a long knife or machete, and use it to begin cutting grass to make a trail to the wood. As you go, you collect the grass and bring it with you. As you go, consider all your present interior impediments which keep your inner soul from growing and being nourished. Name them as you go– your vanities, conceits, insecurities, and self-deceptions. Keep moving forward……reaping and pondering…..cutting and collecting…..clearing away what blocks your path…..clearing a way forward to the cool green wood….until finally, you reach it, at the end of the long, wide field you’ve finally crossed.

At the edge of the wood, before the trail, is an altar dedicated to Brìde, upon which burns a sacrificial fire. Approach this fire respectfully, and with gratitude and reverence, place your bundle of dried grass on the fire, sacrificing these unneeded parts of yourself to Brìde. As they burn, feel space open up within your heart center, your soul. Breathe into that space as you watch the grass burn away.

Turn now and walk onto the path leading into the woods, feeling lighter. Follow the trail through the green trees, breathing in the scent of the wood, feeling the soft earth beneath your feet, the gentle breeze on your skin, and seeing the dappled sky above you through the leaves. The trail leads you to a clearing in which there is a spring, ringed by nine hazel trees. Reverentially make a sunwise turn around the trees and spring, then approach the spring through the trees, and sit down before it, gazing into its waters, seeing them bubble up from the heart of the land.

A glimmer in the spring catches your eye in the water below. Reach your hand down and bring it up in a closed palm. Opening your hand, you see in it a heart-shaped, clear, quartz crystal, shining like starlight, and giving off gentle heat like a soft flame. Bring the crystal up to your chest, and feel its warmth there. As it warms your skin, it slowly dissolves into your heart center, your soul space. Feel it glowing and radiating there. This heat and light gives you a peaceful feeling.

As you feel this, you notice a bright light begin to move overhead between the trees. Follow it with your eyes and see that as it stops above, in the break between the trees before you, it emanates from a star-like heart, above which is the gently-smiling face of Brìde Herself. See and feel the quality of this Light, Her Eternal Flame, as it radiates wholeness. Open your deep soul now, in welcoming hospitality, to receive Her Eternal Flame like a beam of sunlight into the crystal heart resting in your soul center.

Sit in silence now, welcoming in Her Light. Should your attention wander, or should it be useful to maintain your focus, you may silently utter once or repeatedly the simple word, “welcome,” or “failte,” in Irish and Gaelic.

To be filled with Her Light is to be filled with Her, as She radiates out from your being, from your soul center to your furthest edge. The crystal heart with you is charged by this Light and filled with Her flame, shining in response to its celestial star cousin, as the crystals and gems do in the heart of the earth, as stars of the land. This Flame and Light will stay with you, stored in this crystal, maintained with your awareness, even after you leave this place, Her Sacred Spring. Sit in silence with Her now, in this hospitality of the heart, and take in the wholeness, soul-deep healing, , and unity Her Eternal Flame imparts…………………………………….

After a time, Her Light and face begin to fade and recede, passing along and away behind branches, til out of sight. You feel illuminated and blessed.

Slowly release the scene before you, and open your eyes.

Then I will anoint my heart center with the Brìde-blessed water with this prayer:

“Brìde,
Be You a Guiding Star above me,
A Flame of Truth within me, and
a Road of Power beneath me
With Your Mantle of Blessing about me,
Day and night,
Within Your Light.”   (modified from a traditional prayer from the Carmina Gadelica)

I will close this ceremony by offering up this traditional song, Gabhaim Molta Bríghde in thanks, knowing that as She returns from the Underworld and her winter’s rest, so too am I returning to living with renewed guidance and direction, ready to walk with Her through the year and receive the blessings it will bring.

Mar a bha, mar a tha, mar a bhitheas gu bràth.

May blessings of Brìde be upon you and within you!

 

brigid-imbolc

Imbolc Advent 2018, 3rd Sunday of 3: Contemplating Mystery, Inviting Wisdom

This Imbolc Advent season I have been inspired to contemplate and explore three elements in as many weeks– Creativity, Mystery, and Wisdom– to listen for how I will awaken to them this Imbolc, and walk with them throughout the year, as Brighid awakens and again walks the land which awakens with Her.

This past week I sat with, contemplated, and explored Mystery.  The week began mysteriously, as I was not compelled to attend to my advent ceremony as planned.  I had come down sick and had no energy to focus or listen or process what might be received.  I instead rested with netflix, tea, and elderberry tincture, and proceeded to do so through much of the week in the evenings when I returned from work, which I was not so sick I had to miss.  By the latter part of the week, the elderberry had worked its magic, and the illness and its fog began to lift, and I was restored to the ability to listen.  Because my listening felt impaired, and because it seemed fitting, being the week to contemplate and explore Mystery, I drew an ogham few for guidance.

It was Quert that came to me– Apple.  Now I sit writing and sipping sparkling apple cider, to collect what has come to me these past days, through the oracle, and the through the ceremony I finally sat, in my Saturday night candle-lit bath (a ceremony of its own!).

Quert, the apple, speaks to me of the legendary Apple Branch of Irish lore, magical passport to the Otherworld presenting as a silver branch of apple flowers, leaves, and fruit all at once (as the tree grew in the Otherworld), adorned with bells.  This feels fitting for me in relation to Mystery.  It also helps me see a progression from Creativity to Mystery by seeing Creativity as Creation, the Living World.  From our living world we encounter life in all its forms.  In magical thought, all of the living world springs from the Otherworld, as rivers well up from underground springs, flowing up from the mysterious Below.  In Irish lore, the Otherworld was entered from underground portals, such inside fairie hills, beneath lakes, at the bottom of wells, and under the sea.  Usually it was faerie folk themselves using those portals.  Hence, it was the Apple Branch given to mortals for safe passage which allowed some to travel there, and ensuring safe return, which mortals had no guarantees of otherwise.

 

branch

In the féda of the tree ogham, Quert sits itself in a liminal position, as the Celtic fire festivals themselves are, at the cusp of the third and fourth aicmes (not sure how to pluralize this term, which I think is Old Irish– the Gàidhlig I know wants me to say aicmechean, but I’m betting this isn’t grammatically sound, so I am going with the English style pluralization, which is equally incorrect, but will serve the needs of communicating clearly with an English-speaking audience.  My apologies to the sean-focaill!)  Author John Willmott writes about the four aicmes of the féda as being like the four seasons, moving into each other as in a seasonal journey.  I quite resonate with this idea, and it helps me more readily engage with the ogham.  Quert’s place then falls aptly at the end of the summer féda, ready to lead into the autumnal féda, as apple trees themselves do when in fruit, which is also a moving away from the growing world to the dying world, or from Thisworld to the Otherworld as Life retreats back into the Land, underground to its origin and resting place.  It points us to the restorative Otherworld to be healed and restored ourselves, and to put us back in touch with its powers of vitality, the vitality of the land we dream for in winter, which later brings the nourishing harvest at the time of, and including, the apple’s fruiting.  A restoration of vitality is coming, and bringing a nourishing harvest for me this year!

Following the living apple tree, one can peer deeply into its heart and see its otherwordly blueprint springing from the Otherworld.  One of the magical lands there is the Isle of Apples, home to Manannán mac Lir.  Through engaging with Creation, we can come to engage with Mystery, from Thisworld to the Otherworld.  As Life springs from the Otherworld, so does Fírinne, Cosmic Truth, straight out into Thisworld.  When we are intimately in touch with Thisworld, we can then align with Fírinne as it flows from the Otherword through all Creation.  So cultivating this intimacy is part of our job, our legacy even, as our ancestors did through ritual, ceremony, and practical living, all ways of living with the intent to align with Cosmos, and when so aligned, Fírinne flows as beauty and honey and milk and magic and rightness, through us and our lives, blessing us with peace and joy.  This year has rocked me, and these I crave above all right now.  I thank Brìde mightily for this guidance.

In fact, as I sat listening drowsily in my hot bath, She reminded me that She’d previously given me some practices for exactly this in the past years which I’d left off following while I’d been undergoing a dramatic transition in my life, and recovering from ongoing trauma.  Trauma also lessens my ability to focus on listening, other than receiving much-needed comfort, which was probably all I was going to hear through this winter anyway, as it was badly needed.  Some things are now beginning to fall into place and move again in their needed directions, so it does seem that this frightened and grieving part of me is ready to awaken with Brìde and the Land this coming Imbolc, and She is pointing me to left-off practices which can assist my awakening.  These do put me in touch with Creation, to keep me close to the flow of Life through their forms from the Otherworld, so it may nourish, inspire, and guide my awakening and walking through this year.  Just thinking about this gave me a rush of energy and a sense of connection, both of which I have been largely lacking all winter (though I have remained connected to Her, and to a couple Others who guide me).

One of the practices is a pair of new and full moon ceremonies She gave me several years ago, which include travels to the Otherworld, to either climb a faerie hill or enter into it, and engage with Her there.  The other is a daily ogham practice which follows the 20 vigils of the rounds of my flametending practice, a sacred journey through the féda of the tree ogham every 20 days (and through the five for-féda on the days of my monthly bleed).  As I also was just beginning a new round of flametending vigils, I drew from an oracle deck I have begin using with Her at these times, and She showed me that the lack of fulfillment I’d been feeling, through lack of connection, would be restored through simplicity, coming back to the practices she’d given me, and through them, I would be filled with energy and vitality, find profound serenity, and joy in all areas of my life.  I really appreciated how these various messages fitted well together, and this morning I resumed my daily ogham practice, and am looking to the skies to track the moon, to ready for myself for the coming ceremony of the full moon midweek.  In these ways, my attention will be regularly guided to the Otherworld, from whence energy, vitality, life, truth,  beauty, peace, and joy flow, that I may regularly be opened up to that flow, and feel them flow through me.  Its energy can feed and sustain and nourish and inspire me, and all I have to do is show up– with my regular practices.  In this way, it is much like Creativity– I must show up in order to invite and experience it.

So now I know I will walk through this year with my weekly writing practice, my daily ogham practice, and my roughly–twice-monthly lunar practice, and trust that where She guides me, I will follow and walk into blessings the Universe has in store for me.  In later posts this year, I will share my ogham and lunar practices, and what comes of listening in those ceremonies, as a part of engaging in my weekly writing practice.

Brìde also speaks to me of Smithcraft, considered in folklore a mystery, a magic, a form of transformation whose secrets were kept in exclusive societies and passed on from master to apprentice.  What was mined from deep underground was melted in the forge so it lost all shape, to be poured and hammered into new forms, purified by fire, and baptized by water.  I feel, at this time of great transition and transformation in my life, that both She has me in Her forge, melting my known life, repouring it and shaping it anew to be baptized into the growing year, and that I myself am Her apprentice, learning these Mysteries from Her guidance and by experiencing Her work on me.

This is the year I am learning the Mysteries of intentional transformation and rebirth, dying to one way of life to be born into another, one which I now have the power to fashion as I will, forming to my own inclinations, needs, and joys, which will truly serve me and my actualization going forward, to then step into my full power and claim my rightful Sovereignty.  This year I shall forge my crown and be the Queen of my realm!

Mar a bha, mar a tha, mar a bhitheas gu bràth.
(As it was, as it is, as it shall be forever.)

This evening, or tomorrow evening, I shall sit my Imbolc Advent ceremony once again and ask my final question:

In what ways am I awakening to Wisdom at this time?

 

apple tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imbolc Advent 2018 ~ 2nd Sunday of 3

bridgid-walks-the-land-wtermark-copy

How does my awakening to Creativity bring transformation to my soul and to my world?

 

I’ve spent the week sitting with this question, and listening for guidance.  What I am hearing and receiving is this:

Creativity is how we both move into understanding, and respond to it.  What created stories help us to know ourselves and our world?  We can look to stories of place, stories of family history, stories of ancestral lore, and the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.  Through these created stories we enter into a deeper knowing of ourselves and our world.  Through them, our understanding is enlarged and enriched.  We gain rich information and intimate knowledge.

How do we feel about what we learn through stories?  How do they resonate? How do they sit with us?  Are their story arcs in alignment with who we are and how we wish to live?  What meaning do they reveal or inspire or convey?

In listening deeply to the created stories, and listening for their resonance, we can listen even deeper– into the place where we can begin to hear the stories within us that are longing to be told.  Awakening to creativity means creating stories about myself I want to tell, which construct the way I want to live in the world, and the world I want to live in, stories with the power to create worlds as their telling unfolds from my fingers and lips, stories redolent with poetry, song, myth, symbol, metaphor, allegory– deep, resonant  meaning, which can bring me in harmony and alignment with the powers of the universe.

I am finding this out as I am suddenly in the place in my life of completely recreating the story arc of my life, which has undergone a drastic shift.  I am suddenly the only agent in my life, and I am awakening to the full power I now have to create the arc and meaning which most nourishes me, most resonates with me, with no one else to accommodate or make concessions for.  I can give myself over completely to this deep listening, deep guidance, and deep response.

What I hear when I listen deeply is Truth.

Fírinne, Irish for Truth, is the deep reality of the universe, the overarching story in which we are all embedded.  When we align our stories with the story of the universe, we walk in beauty and harmony.  I see Brighid’s Eternal Flame as a symbol of Fírinne, burning brightly, illuminating the Cosmos.  Brighid the Poet speaks to us in the language of the Numinous, the language of Fírinne.  Poetry can convey Truth in its essence, where prose simply falls short.

As the Universe speaks Truth to us in its language Poetry, we can respond with the language of Prayer, engaging in a truly sacred dialog, growing and transforming through its discourse of listening and responding.

When I listen deeply and respond accordingly, I live my Truth, my truest integrity resonant with the Truth the universe speaks to me, that Brighid whispers to me when I sit with her.  When I live my Truth as resonated to me by the universe, supported by the universe, I bring Truth wherever I go, being aligned with the universe.  Wherever I go resonating with and walking in Truth, Truth may then resonate with others listening deeply, to which they may then respond.

As the universe creates, I create.  As we create, we inspire one another, and we create some more.  We listen to and flow with the universe and its intrinsic power, which moves through us like a wind, a wave, a whisper, and we dance the steps as they are lead for us, walk the path that is shown/shone to us, and hear the harmony of Truth and alignment in each step.

My life becomes my Prayer– my living is my praying, praying without ceasing.

To this end, I want to dedicate weekly time this year to blogging, to engage with my creativity as a regular practice, as it helps me to listen, understand, integrate, and align, and this work may in turn inspire or strike meaning in others, and so this awakening to my creative power can thus transform myself and my world.  I want to share and explore this path of a Brighidine ban-draoi I am being guided into through my flametending and daily contemplative practice with Brighid.  I want to see where this will take me over this year, how my transformation will unfold as I give myself over to this place I find myself in, and its process.

Tomorrow, I shall enter into the second week of this Imbolc Advent with ceremony (see previous post for the ceremony if you would like to practice as well) as I hold this question,

How am I awakening to Mystery at this time?

Brighid the Smith speaks of Mystery, as metals from the depths of the earth are transformed in the fire of the forge.  What can we ourselves mine from these depths?  I think of the Sacred Well of Brighid as a symbol for Mystery, bringing up deep knowledge from the underworld, where the ancestors reside, where bones and ages are resting, resonating in the land, holding knowledge within stones, mountains, metals, gems, into which we might enter through the sídhe mounds, the palaces of the gods.

The sídhe mound called the Mound of Hostages, on the Hill of Tara in Ireland, has its opening aligned to the Imbolc sunrise around 4 February, Imbolc by stone-and-mound time.  I shall seat my consciousness here this week, listening intently for what Mystery has to impart to me, for how it might inspire, guide, sustain, and teach me in the coming year.

Mar a bha, mar a tha, mar a bhitheas gu bràth.

Gabhaim Molta Bríde!

mound of hostages

 

Imbolc Advent 2018

brigit-goddess-of-dawn

 

Brighid’s return is imminent once again!  Gabhaim Molta Brìde!  All Praises to Brighid!

I want to sink into the contemplation and mysticism of the season, feel it work on my soul, and guide my spirit.  I consider myself to be practicing a mystical path, meaning that I find my greatest sense of spiritual ecstasy through direct communion with the deity who guides me, who is Brighid.  It is understanding that spiritual guidance can be given through communion, insight, intuition, meditation, contemplation, signs, deep readings, poetry, song, music, chant, dance, nature, solitude, and silence.  It is a simple practice of showing up and being present, listening and watching, digesting and reflecting, committing and enacting, and yet is difficult to encapsulate, describe, or discuss.  In my contemplative mystical practice, I seek to go beyond the outward-directed worship of deity, and also beyond the passive reception of prayer petitions into the realm of active participation in the mysteries by reaching out soulfully to them, finding them within me, and listening for guidance in enacting them in the world with my body, mind, and spirit.  I am feeling called to participate in the mysteries of Imbolc and Brighid, and so follow the ancestral path of myth and folklore to take me to the Well of Memory, searching for Imbas, inspiration, in how to enact this participation.

The Scottish folktale recorded by Donald A. Mackenzie, The Coming of Angus and Brìde (pronounced in the Gaelic, “BREEDZH-uh”), is an iconic cultural tale relating the change of the Gaelic seasons from winter to spring, in which Brighid (Irish spelling, pronounced, BREEZH or BREED)/Brìde (Scottish Gaelic spelling) is intrinsically involved (I will use these spellings interchangeably to relate to the same deity).  The theme of the story is that the seasonal holiday of Imbolc is marked by Brìde’s emergence from the mountain in which she stayed through the winter, and her emergence returns life to the land.  This can also be seen in one of the symbols related with Brìde and Imbolc lore in Gaelic Scotland, that of the serpent, which can be read about here in this excerpt from The Carmina Gadelica.  The serpent is said to come from its mound on Brìde’s Day, and is alternately referred to as the daughter of Ivor, and the the noble queen.  The serpent too emerges from the land, heralding the return of life.  In Irish lore, Saint Brigid is said to walk the land on Imbolc Eve, riding in on her white horse, visiting those who light a candle in a window for her, and blessing ribbons and cloths left out to be used for healing.  In each instance, a blessed being emerges from the darkness, bringing light and life, and a time when the Gaels recognized a shift from the season of winter to that of spring, from the season of death, repose, and rest to the season of rebirth, renewal, and regeneration.  As the tides turn, the serpent emerges, sheds its skin of death, and Brighid returns, bringing light and life to the land and our souls, both of which have lived through the darkness, quiet, hibernation and dreaming of the long winter sleep.

The turning of tides, shedding of skin, and emerging from sleep all point to an overarching theme of Transformation.  Brighid is Herself a goddess of Fire, fire itself being a great transformer: the fire of the hearth transforms water and herbs into healing infusions; the fire of the forge transforms metal into weapons and tools; the fire of inspiration turns ideas into poetry.  Brighid’s light of guidance can also transform our souls, heal us into wholeness, and initiate us into wisdom.  As winter transforms into spring, as Brighid emerges from the underworld, we too are invited to walk with Transformation, as we emerge from winter’s underworld, and let its mystery work on our souls.

As a devotee of Brighid who practices flametending, I am coming to considering myself a bandraoi (pronounced, ban-DREE), as the speculated pre-Christian flametenders of Brighid at Kildare in Ireland were thought to be.  A Brighidine bandraoi, Irish for female druid, or worker of magic, or walker with mysteries, as the term has been variously attributed, would likely have worked with the three elements known to druidism in some way, those being the Bard, the Ovate, and the Druid.  In seeking their essence, I see them reflecting the elements of Creativity, Mystery, and Wisdom, which I equate with the three sisters of Brighid– the Poet, the Smith, and the Healer.

Tying together the themes of mysticism, the themes of the Imbolc season, and the themes of the bandraoi, I am inspired this year to walk a three-fold Imbolc Advent path towards Brighid’s return in which I will sit with Brighid on the three Sundays leading up to Imbolc and hold three questions within me in turn, and listen for inspiration and guidance.  As Advent means to prepare, I hold this space with these questions in order to prepare myself for Brighid’s Imbolc return, understanding it to also mystically be my soul’s own return as well, from the deep dreaming of winter to the renewing awakening of spring.

This first Sunday of my Imbolc Advent, 14 January, I will light a candle to Brighid with this flamelighting prayer:

Brighid, Excellent, Exalted One,
Bright, Golden, Quickening Flame–
Shine Your Blessings on us from the Otherworld,
You,
Radiant Fire of the Sun!

I will pour out offerings of milk to Her:

Bright Brighid, Foster-Mother of my soul,
as Your inspiration and guidance is nourishment to my spirit, 
so do I offer to You this milk of nourishment 
in thanks and welcome.  

I will sing this traditional praise song to Her, Gabhaim Molta Brighide, and offer the energy generated through this singing to the healing of myself, and to all beings who need healing.

Then I will center myself with three rounds of this breathing meditation:

Connecting with the land energies beneath me through the imagery of Brighid’s healing well, I will draw them up into myself with an in-breath, as water rises up into a healing spring, and let them wash over my heart with my exhale.  Connecting then with the energies of the heavens above me through the imagery of Brighid as Sun Goddess, I will draw them down into me with an in-breath, feeling the light of the Sun shining down into my heart, and radiating all about me on my out-breath.  

When centered and resting in Her presence, I will contemplate this question–

How does my awakening to Creativity bring transformation to my soul and to my world?

I will listen as inspired to in the moment by resting in silence, or using divination, or pondering on these themes as deeply as I can, or chanting something simple and resonant while holding this question close.  I will record what insights and messages I receive, digest and reflect upon them, close my advent ceremony with thanks, and share them with you all, dear readers, sometime soon after.

If this Imbolc Advent practice inspires you to participate this way in the transformation, emergence, and awakening of the Imbolc season, you are very welcome to join me, and do feel free to share in the comments your experience with this practice.

In the next weeks, I will share my contemplative questions for the remainder of this Imbolc Advent practice.

Mar a bha, mar a tha, mar a bhitheas gu bràth.
As it was, as it is, as evermore shall be.

 

celtic serpent

Green Ouroboros Celtic Snake elspeth mclean

 

 

A Contemplative Brighidine Meditation

During a morning meditation with Brighid, the notion came to me that I am a shining soul like a flame, with the soul’s edges being that furthest edge to where the light shines, and that my body resides in the center of that flame.

The flame then permeates all of my being, rather than residing in some small way inside some small corner of me.

As it permeates all of me, it fortifies me. It connects me with both the Great Fire Below, in the Land, and the Great Fire Above, in the Heavens. It shines within all three of my inner Cauldrons– it heats the hearth of my vitality in my Cauldron of Warning; it lights the flame of compassion within my Crystal Heart in my Cauldron of Vocation; and sets ablaze my inspiration and insight in my Cauldron of Knowledge.

When I open my eyes and breathe in, I can carry with me these expressions of this Great Flame burning within and shining from my Cauldrons, and with intention bring their blessings with me through my day.

With reverence and gratitude I thank Brighid for this insightful gift. Brighid Bless! 

Imbolc Morn: Brighid’s Return

brigid-imbolc

At last, after our spiritual journey through the advent, and our evening meditation and vigil at Her Sacred Well, we arise with Her Sun and know that She has returned, She is here, and we are blessed.

Welcome, Brigit,
Welcome over our threshold.
We welcome the wisdom and gifts that you bring for our use.

By offering blessing and grace to our daily lives,
help us manifest what our winter dreams have beckoned us to create.
Nourish the green shoots of our new lives.

by Jane Comerford,
from Seasoning the Soul, Images and reflections with a Celtic flavor to bless your year, collected and edited by Eileen Knoff, D.Min.

Gabhaim Molta Bríde!  All Praises to Brighid!

To mark Her return and presence, light now all four of your advent candles, and the central candle among them, Her candle, making manifest Her Light in your home.

advent-five-candles-bucket

With Her return and rebirth, we too are reborn to our True Selves, renewed in spirit, refreshed in our souls.  Today, at the moment of the return of Her Light, we will sit in Her Light and fill ourselves with Her illumination.

Seat yourself comfortably now, and light all four of your small candles.  Ring your bell and intone, “BREEEEEEE—-ZHUUUUUHHH.”

Speak aloud the opening attunment prayer:
“Holy goddess Brighid, Mother of all Life,  Kindle They Flame in our hearts.
Grant us, Thy children, Love and Joy, Wisdom and Peace.
We offer Thee our loving care for all Thy children, all our Kin.”

Pour out the milk offerings to Her:
“Holy Brighid, Mother of all Life, as You nourish our souls with your cosmic elixir, we pour out sweet milk to you in honor and gratitude and love.”

We will begin by reading a poem by mystic Fiona MacLeod:

Brigit Speaks

I am older than Brigit of the Mantle,
I put songs and music on the wind
Before ever the bells of the chapels
Were rung in the West
Or heard in the East.

I am Brighid-nam-Bratta:  (Breezh nahm BRAHT-uh)
Brigit of the Mantle,
I am also Brighid-Muirghin-na-tuinne:  (Breezh MUHR-in nah TUH-nuh)
Brigit, Conception of the Waves,
And Brighid-sluagh,  (Breezh SLOO-uh)
Brigit of the Faery Host,
Brighid-nan-sitheachseang,  (Breezh nahn SHEE-uk-shong)
Brigit of the Slim Faery Folk,
Brigid-Binne-Bheule-  (Breezh BINN-uh VAY-luh yookt nahn TROOS-guh-nahn WAIN-yuh)
Ihuchd-nan-trusganan-uaine,
Brigit the Melodious Mouthed
Of the Tribe of the Green Mantles.

And I am older than Aone (Friday)  (AIN-uh)
And as old as Luan (Monday)  (LOO-uhn)

And in Tir-na-h’oige my name is  (Cheer na HOIK-yuh)
Suibhal: Mountain Traveler,
And in Tir-fo-thuinn, Country of the Waves,  (Cheer foh hine)
It is Cu-gorm: Gray Hound,  (coo GOHR-uhm)
And in Tir-na-h’oise,  (Cheer nah HOY-shuh)
Country of Ancient Years,
It is Sireadh-thall: Seek Beyond.  (SHEER-ee all)

And I have been a breath in your heart,
And the day has its feet to it
That will see me coming
Into the hearts of men and women
Like a flame upon dry grass,
Like a flame of wind in a great wood.

bundey-holy-fire

(Art: Holy Fire by Jennifer Bundey)

Prayer
(pause for a deep breath in and out between stanzas):
Brìde, I honor You.
I offer up to You my whole self, both outer and inner-
My outer shell of a self, with its self-deceptions, vanities, conceits, and insecurities, like so much dried grass upon Your sacrificial fire,
So to clear the way to my inner self, my soul, and ready it to receive
Your Light, like a Flame of Wind in a great wood.

I thank You for Your Light in the world, that,
For Your devotees, is the Imbas, the Way, the Anam Chara, and the Illumination.
Your Way leads to the Source, to Your Sacred Spring of
Life and Renewal, of Wisdom and Healing.

As the Earthen Temple of the Sun welcomes the Returning Light, so
The Crystal Heart of my earthen body welcomes Your Eternal Flame.

Sit in Her Light:

Sit in silence, with eyes closed, for at least 20 minutes, welcoming the Light of Brìde into your heart center, where resides the crystal heart and it’s Living Flame you received in the preliminary meditation.  When the mind wanders away from experiencing and basking in this welcoming and receiving, bring it back to focus by mentally saying inwardly, Welcome, or Fáilte.  This can also be repeated with the breath as a mantra to maintain focus and awareness.

When the allotted time, or more if desired, has passed, open eyes gently, and take a deep breath in and out to bring focus back to the physical world.

Affirmation Prayer:
(recite silently or aloud, first part on an in-breath, second part on an out-breath, three times)
The Fire is in the Temple; the Light shines forth.

Healing Prayer for Others:
Brìde, may Your Mantle of Healing be upon….  (fill in with names and whatever details you like)

Closing Prayer: 
(anoint yourself as indicated with your Brighid-blessed water)

Wherever I go-
May I Be with All in the Light of Brìde, (anoint navel)
May I speak with All through the Heart of Brìde, (anoint heart center)
May I see and understand all with the Wisdom of Brìde. (anoint third eye)
Mar a bha, mar a tha, mar a bhitheas gu brath.  (mahr a vah, mahr a ha, mahr a VEE-uhs guh brah)
(As it was, as it is, as it evermore shall be.)

holy-water-font

End your meditation with this traditional Irish song to Brighid, Gabhaim Molta Bríde.  This is the most beautiful version I have ever heard, by the magical Claire Roche.  Irish lyrics and English translation are on the page.

I have used this poem and meditation as a daily spiritual practice, to renew myself daily in Brighid’s healing, whole-ing Light.  Feel free to use and adapt for your daily practice.

Imbolc Blessings! Brighid Bless!

Imbolc Eve: Awaiting Brighid’s Return

bridgid-walks-the-land-wtermark-copy

(Art: Brighid Walks the Land, by Helena Nelson Reed)

On the eve of Imbolc, Brighid is said to walk the land, bringing blessings to all homes and hearths She visits.  Pagans will say She has emerged from the Otherworld beneath the land, or from inside a faery hill, while Christians will tell of the Saint coming down from Heaven on her white horse.  On this night, we are present as our goddess returns to us, as the earth turns beneath us.

Households welcoming Her return might leave out for her a dish of food and a glass of milk, and a bowl of oats for her horse beside a lit lantern.  To gather Her blessings for the coming year, one might also leave out a bowl of water to be blessed by the rays of her rising sun, to be saved for healing throughout the year.  Similarly, it is traditional to leave out a cloth of any fabric or size, called in Irish the brat Bríde, to also be saved for healing, placed on the body of one ailing or hurt.  Sometimes a ribbon was placed out instead, and especially used to heal headaches by tying around the head.  The cloth is a sympathetic representation of St. Brighid’s cloak, said to have healing properties, also called her mantle.  In the Primal Celtic worldview, the mantle might be said to be the green cloak of life spread over the land, nourishing all beings.

For this contemplative Imbolc eve observance, I’d like to share a very special meditation inspired by a personal vision with Brighid.

Find a special place, either on a porch, beside a window indoors, or perhaps on or near your home’s hearth  (fireplace or stove, as you have) to set out a plate of food, a dish of milk, and a bowl of water to be blessed.  Look around also for a cloth to leave there, which might be a handkerchief, a blanket, a washcloth, or even part of an old shirt; many objects were traditionally used as they were available.  Light a candle or lantern beside them, calling on Brighid:

Holy goddess Brighid, Mother of all Life, Kindle Thy Flame in our hearts.
Grant us, Thy children, Love and Joy, Wisdom and Peace.
We offer Thee our loving care for all Thy children, all our Kin.

Call Brighid to you with this Song to Brighid by Lisa Thiel (lyrics are on the page):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXcON5cL9vw

brighid-statue-jessica-galbraith

(Statue by Jessica Galbraith)

In this space, or in another where you can meditate, make yourself comfortable now.

Center yourself with three deep breaths.  Draw into yourself with the first breath the supporting power of the Land beneath you; the encompassing power of the Sea surrounding you; and the illuminating power of the Sky above you.  Read slowly to yourself the following words, or record them earlier to listen to now:

See now in your mind’s eye a great field before you of tall, browned grass extending far from you, with a cool, green wood just beyond. You wish to reach that wood, to follow its path to its central clearing, so need to make your way first through the grass field. Looking down you see in your hand a long knife or machete, and use it to begin cutting grass to make a trail to the wood. As you go, you collect the grass and bring it with you. As you go, consider all your present interior impediments which keep your inner soul from growing and being nourished. Name them as you go– your vanities, conceits, insecurities, and self-deceptions. Keep moving forward……reaping and pondering…..cutting and collecting…..clearing away what blocks your path…..clearing a way forward to the cool green wood….until finally, you reach it, at the end of the long, wide field you’ve finally crossed.

At the edge of the wood, before the trail, is an altar dedicated to Brìde, upon which burns a sacrificial fire. Approach this fire respectfully, and with gratitude and reverence, place your bundle of dried grass on the fire, sacrificing these unneeded parts of yourself to Brìde. As they burn, feel space open up within your heart center, your soul. Breathe into that space as you watch the grass burn away.

Turn now and walk onto the path leading into the woods, feeling lighter. Follow the trail through the green trees, breathing in the scent of the wood, feeling the soft earth beneath your feet, the gentle breeze on your skin, and seeing the dappled sky above you through the leaves. The trail leads you to a clearing in which there is a spring, ringed by nine hazel trees. Reverentially make a sunwise turn around the trees and spring, then approach the spring through the trees, and sit down before it, gazing into its waters, seeing them bubble up from the heart of the land.

A glimmer in the spring catches your eye in the water below. Reach your hand down and bring it up in a closed palm. Opening your hand, you see in it a heart-shaped, clear, quartz crystal, shining like starlight, and giving off gentle heat like a soft flame. Bring the crystal up to your chest, and feel its warmth there. As it warms your skin, it slowly dissolves into your heart center, your soul space. Feel it glowing and radiating there. This heat and light gives you a peaceful feeling.

As you feel this, you notice a bright light begin to move overhead between the trees. Follow it with your eyes and see that as it stops above, in the break between the trees before you, it emanates from a star-like heart, above which is the gently-smiling face of Brìde Herself. See and feel the quality of this Light, Her Eternal Flame, as it radiates wholeness. Open your deep soul now, in welcoming hospitality, to receive Her Eternal Flame like a beam of sunlight into the crystal heart resting in your soul center.

Sit in silence now, welcoming in Her Light. Should your attention wander, or should it be useful to maintain your focus, you may silently utter once or repeatedly the simple word, “welcome,” or “fáilte,” in Irish and Gaelic.

To be filled with Her Light is to be filled with Her, as She radiates out from your being, from your soul center to your furthest edge. The crystal heart with you is charged by this Light and filled with Her flame, shining in response to its celestial star cousin, as the crystals and gems do in the heart of the earth, as stars of the land. This Flame and Light will stay with you, stored in this crystal, maintained with your awareness, even after you leave this place, Her Sacred Spring. Sit in silence with Her now, in this hospitality of the heart, and take in the wholeness, soul-deep healing, and unity Her Eternal Flame imparts…………………………………….

After a time, Her Light and face begin to fade and recede, passing along and away behind branches, til out of sight. You feel illuminated and blessed.

Allow this feeling of tranquility and blessing to resonate through your whole being, and when you feel ready, slowly open your eyes.

There is a saying in Ireland that we are all under the cloak of Brighid, all under the aegis of Her protection and blessing.  We will close our meditation this evening with a poem from Sara Jane Kingston as we together hold vigil for Brighid’s return.  If this card is hard to read here, you may follow this link to read online, and print and display on your Brighid shrine:
http://www.brigidscloak.com/images/brigidcard_lg.jpg

brigidcard_lg

Faoi Brat Bhríde Sinn!
We are all under the Cloak of Brighid!

Imbolc: When to Celebrate?

imbolc-ellen-duggan

(Art: Imbolc, Mary Dugan)

Now we’ve made our way through our forest walk, and honored Brighid at Her several shrines, the time is coming nigh to arrive at Her Sacred Well to welcome Her return to the Land.  We know this cosmic event and celebration as Imbolc.

So, when is the right time to celebrate?

There are several ways to respond to this question and approach determining which timing is best for each, where we each may be.

As Brighid hails from the Gaelic lands of Ireland and Scotland, one might align one’s celebration with the traditional Gaelic observance of Brighid’s Day which begins on the day’s eve, 31 January, and continues through the following day, 1 February.  Beginning celebrations on the eve prior to the day hearkens back to Celtic time-reckoning, in which days begin at sunset and are followed through to the next sunset.

As can be observed by viewing the art imagery above, Imbolc for the Gaelic people traditionally marks the slowly growing power of the sun and first lengthening of the days after solstice, hence the return of the first green growth seen on the land, which was able to support the over-wintered ewes. They were bred the year before so they’d be ready to birth at this time.  The fresh green growth allowed them to receive the nourishment they needed to produce milk for their babies, and so the Gaelic peoples were also able to enjoy fresh milk again.  The first snowdrops growing and blooming announced the season on the land as ewes began to give birth.

Later, the Catholic Church designated its feast of Candlemas near this time, on 2 February.  This was said to be the time when candles were not burned so prolifically as they had been since autumn fell, as the days were growing noticeably longer now.  Churches also dipped and consecrated their annual supply of candles at this time for the coming year.

The 20th-century Wiccan sacred calendar adopted the Gaelic feast of Imbolc, yet scheduled it using the timing of the Catholic Candlemas, even conflating the Christian name with the polytheistic holiday.  In the US, Groundhog Day became a popular observance for prognosticating the timing of the arrival of spring, further entrenching the timing of 2 February, on which it is observed.

Some prefer to wait for visible signs of green growth on the land itself, so they may ritualistically greet Brighid’s return when it is apparent.  Others claim the solar strength is universal and not dependent upon regional terrestrial manifestations, so is a better marker for the day.

And of course, many Brighid devotees and members of pagan religions honoring the Neopagan Wheel of the Year reside in the southern hemisphere, where late January and early February are not evidencing new growth at all, or seeing Brighid’s return to the land, but are instead seeing the fullness of the Harvest season at Lughnasadh, being on their own solar journey through their seasons.

Because this is a regionally-derived celebration, it speaks specifically to the terrestrial life visible there at this time, determined by its latitudinal position on the earth and hence the seasonality it experiences from that positionality.  Naturally, very different locales with very different orientations to the sun and its light will have their own annual, regional observances to align with, which may or may not mesh well with what derives from a very particular place.  Some in such places might welcome Brighid back to the land when the phenomenon is witnessed where they are, whenever during the year that happens, while others may wish to keep to the religious observance of the Wheel of the Year dates wherever they dwell.

Lastly, some pagans and polytheists choose to align their observance of this so-called Cross-Quarter Day by celestial reckoning on that day on which falls exactly between solstice and equinox, usually around 3 or 4 February.  This timing also aligns with one of my personal favorite modes of holiday reckoning, by Stone Time: when the beams of the rising or setting sun illuminate the inner chambers of stone chambered cairns dotted around the Irish and Scottish landscapes.  Though they dated to the megalithic period, far earlier than when the Celts arrived with their cultural lifestyle and agrarian calendar, the Celtic Fire Festivals are all marked by one or more of these stone chambers, showing that recognition of these annual moments, and their importance to the peoples of those lands, predates the Celts and is part of a very deep ancestral tradition.  I resonate especially with the imagery of the sun illuminating these chambers as a Brighidine devotee because it symbolizes to me the Light of Brighid shining into my soul, illuminating the chamber of my heart center, and so filling me with illumination.

The ultimate answer is, which religion or tradition one follows, or which personal inclination speaks best to one, determines when it is best for one to celebrate, as all the above scenarios have differing reasons for so doing.  And of course, some groups choose to observe on a weekend closest to the holiday itself for the simple convenience of celebrants and attendees.  I will share my Imbolc observance posts here to be ready for those celebrating as early as 31 January, and of course they may be used at whatever ritual timing is deemed most suitable for the reader.

Brighid Bless!