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,
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:
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!