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