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,
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.