About Erin nighean Brìghde

Directress of the Nigheanan Brìghde Celtic Polytheist Order of Brighidine Flametenders, manager of The Directory of Brighidine Flametending Orders, Advisory Council member with Clann Bhride, and explorer of Contemplative Brighidine Mysticism.

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

 

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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!

Imbolc Advent 2017: Fourth Sunday

advent-fourth-day

Welcome to the Fourth Sunday of Imbolc Advent.  We resume our forest walk together now to the final shrine on the path to the Well, the shrine of Brighid the Smith.

Brighid the Smith , the third of the triad of sister goddesses glossed by Cormac in 10th century Ireland, along with Brighid the Poet and Brighid the Healer, is honored today variably as the fire of the transforming forge, the smith who fashions and creates, She who shapes our souls, and the Starsmith of the Heavens.  The Irish film about Brighid which I shared in the first week’s addendum post talked about Brighid the Smith as a kenning for the creative Earth, which forges and shapes all life. She was also discussed as a bringer of civilization by way of one of Her first forge creations– the cauldron.  Forged from metals mined from deep within the land, they are transformed by fire into a vessel which itself affects transformation, that of raw food to cooked, fresh herbs into healing brews.  In this way, there is a mirroring of the patterns of creation and transformation, from the original cauldron of the Earth which transforms the seed into plants for consumption, to the forge’s fire which transforms raw ore into the cauldron, to the cauldron itself which then transforms the harvested grains and vegetables into nourishment.

cauldron-on-hearth

The transforming fire of the forge itself mirrors the transforming fire of the Cosmos in the form of stars, many of which go through cycles of formation, growth, and explosion, thus creating fresh gas clouds from which new stars are formed.  The Cosmic forge has its twin in the Earthly forge of its fiery core.  The forge of the smith mirrors both Cosmic and Earthly forges, all three being forces of Creation.  It is this great power which Brighid the Smith puts us in touch with.  As Life is forged and created anew within the cauldron of the land, we are all brought close to this energy, which can move and manifest through each of us as well.  As we dance with this great power, we may then channel its creativity in unique ways which can bring nourishment to all Life, as does Brighid Herself.

brighid-smith

(Art by Joanna Powell Colbert)

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.”

Slowly, and with full presence, read aloud this prayer-poem:

Forging Finer Metal
Barbara Ardinger

Bright Blessed Lady,  source of the craftsman’s fire–
shoot your holy flame into my hands
into my heart
into my eyes and ears.
Bless me with your light.
I want to work in your forge,
I want to dance and sing for you,
and so I pray to you.
I want to forge finer metal to shine like you.
I want to bear my opening heart into a world that must be healed,
a word whose light, like yours, has been put out.
I want to find the flames of your wisdom
in myself.
Bright Blessed Lady, assign me to work in your forge
so that every bit of gold and good in me
rises up
to the magic.
Make me taller. stronger, keener,
make me a finer metal
so that I can defend you from those who would put out your light
again.

This week, I’d like to invite you to engage the rising creative energies of the awakening land by getting out onto it yourself, and letting it move you through building earth mandalas on the land.  These may be simple offerings:

earth-mandala-brigids-cross

or more involved, which might even include your advent candles:

earth-mandala-brigids-cross-in-circle

The challenge will of course be to use what your seasonal and regional landscape provides you with, and listen for their whispers to inspire you to shape them into an offering of sacred art.

For those unable to get out or create such art in their landscapes, climates, or weather, you are invited to print out and color this Celtic mandala featuring Brighid’s solar cross and Her Fire of Creativity:
https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/15/0e/7c/150e7c09ba989a28133210ce78c10eec.jpg

mandala-brigids-cross-coloring

This contemplative playlist on youtube called “When Spring returns,” featuring music of the harp, can accompany your sacred creative work:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_21MhFIP9k

As you listen and create, contemplate what sacred creations you might offer to nourish Life throughout the coming year…

How does the power of creativity manifest in me?
How are our souls close to the power and point of universal creativity?
What is Brighid inspiring me to create at this time?
How does the power of creativity nourish the world?
How does what I am inspired to create nourish Life?

As we edge closer to Brighid’s return to the land, we come closer to Her vast creative power, ever-present in the Cosmos, and awakening again in the Earth and our souls.

brigid-cauldron-flame-us-wu77090a4-a

End your rite of creativity with a final ring of the bell, and this prayer:
“Holy Brighid, walk with us and light our way.”

In a few days, I will share a contemplative Imbolc ceremony for welcoming Brighid back to the land, and inviting Her into your hearth and heart.

Sources:

Prayer-poem, Forging Finer Metal from Goddess Ink’s anthology, Brigit: Sun of Womanhood

Brigid statue from Goddessgift.net, will be available for purchase early February (and I want one!):
https://www.goddessgift.net/page48.html

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Imbolc Advent 2017: Third Sunday

advent-3-candles

Welcome to the third Sunday of our Imbolc Advent.

We walk together now through this sacred forest to the third shrine to Brighid, to Brighid the Foster-Mother.  Please have your candles and milk offering ready to hand.

The lore of Brighid the Foster-Mother comes from Scottish Gaelic tradition in which a tale is told about St. Brighid being the daughter of an innkeeper in Bethlehem who ends up assisting in the birth of the Christ child.  The concept of fosterage is rooted in the Gaelic tradition in which children were sent to live with relatives and other clan members for a number of years, to hep foster strong clan bonds.  The relationship between the foster-parent and foster-child was considered to be close and affectionate, often superseding that of the natural parent and child.  In Peter Vallance’s article, The Irish Celtic Magical Tradition, The Festival of Imbolc, he writes, “Fosterage was a common affair amongst the ancient Celts and carried on for some considerable time amongst the Highlanders and Islanders of West Scotland. The bond between foster-parent and foster-child was regarded as being stronger and more important than the bond between natural parent and natural child. One Highland proverb says, “Fuil gu fichead, comhdhaltas gu ceud.”, blood to the twentieth, fostership to the hundredth. Other names given to Brighid are Muime Chrisda, foster-mother of Christ; Bana-ghistidh Mhic De, god-mother of the son of God. Christ is referred to as Dalta-Bride, foster-son of Brighid; Daltan Bride, little fosterling of Brighid, a name which is still used as a term of endearment in some Gaelic speaking parts of Scotland.”  Also, in a medieval Irish poem to Brighid, Brigit Búadach, She is referred to in one line as, Mumme Goídel, rendered in modern Irish as Muime na nGael, or, the Foster-Mother of the Gael.  In this sense, She is honored as Foster-Mother of the Gaelic peoples, which we might also extend today to the Gaelic diaspora.

In a more primal, animistic sense, we might understand Brighid, a goddess of Fire Mysteries, as the Original Fire, Sun.  As Sun, Brighid is not our terrestrial mother as we might consider Earth, the Land to be, but is the great force which nourishes and perpetuates all life on earth, while symbolically serving as the Great Mother of that force which animates, enlightens, and illuminates our souls.  Hers is the Great Torch which lights our spiritual journey as we walk our various spirit paths, and pours wisdom, insight, and intuition into us.  She looks after us, or fosters us, body and soul, as Mother of All Life, an agent of growth both physical and spiritual.  She might also be envisioned as the Great Fire within the body of the earth, enlivening all earthly beings.  In the healing tradition of Reiki, meaning in Japanese, universal life force energy, this force can be understood and engaged with as the nurturing Light of Brighid from a great star as the heart of the universe itself which fills us and leads us to Satori, or Enlightenment.  Through this lens, we can pray to Her and meditate with Her daily as a spiritual practice of illumination, understanding how we too, like Her, can be agents of nourishing and supporting All Life.

brighid_sharon_mcleod

(Image: Brigid, by Sharon McLeod)

Seat yourself comfortably now, and light your first, second, and third 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.”

Recite this prayer written to Brighid the Foster-Mother, from the Sassafras Grove of the ADF:

Foster Mother Invocation to Brighid: Sassafras Traditional

Siul Linn, a Bhríd (“Shool Leen, a Vreezh,” Walk with us, Brighid)

Hail Brighid, Foster Mother of us all

Teacher, Guide and Nurturer

Whose love and training aid us on our path

Your teaching turns our ignorance into wisdom

Your guidance turns our helplessness into strength

Your nurturing turns our weakness into a zest for life

Radiant Goddess, receive us into your nurturing arms that we might strengthen and grow

Fairest of Guides, take our hand that we might learn your ways of wisdom and power

Brighid, Foster Mother of us all, Siul Linn, a Bhríd.

(Diana Paar et al.)

Listen to this lovely chant by Katy Taylor, Mother, from her album, Welcome Brigid:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FptLM6oplro&index=9&list=PLIwz2nwqvzsDyVmgb765OotMEypFvzIWS

katysong2

As the tune resonates about you, contemplate these questions:

How does Brighid light my way and guide my spiritual growth?

What spiritual paths does Brighid illuminate for me to follow?

How may I nourish all Life as Brighid the Sun of Life does?

As you finish your meditation, either allow your candles to burn themselves out, or extinguish them.  As you put out the flames, or walk away as they burn down, take them into your heart and bring them with you throughout your day, and recall them each morning as you rise, asking Brighid to guide you this week in nourishing All Life, feeding your spirit, and growing in wholeness and divinity.

End the rite with a final ring of the bell, and this prayer:
“Holy Brighid, walk with us and light our way.”

Sources:

The Irish Celtic Magical Tradition, The Festival of Imbolc: http://www.aislingmagazine.com/aislingmagazine/articles/TAM26/CelticRoots.html

Brigit Búadach: http://www.imbas.org/articles/brighid.html

Foster Mother Invocation to Brighid: Sassafras Traditional: https://sassafrasgrove.org/2016/01/29/brighid-along-2016-day-two-foster-mother/

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Imbolc Advent 2017: Second Sunday

advent-second-candle

Welcome to our Second Sunday Imbolc Advent.

Have on hand your advent candles, a means to light them, and your milk offering.

This Sunday, we walk quietly together down the pine-fragrant forest path to the next shrine, to honor Brighid the Healer.

Let us contemplate the meaning of healing as we walk.

We often think of healing as curing physical ailments, and to be sure, this is an important aspect of healing so we maintain our ability to fully engage with the world.  Sometimes we think of healing as resolving a dis-ease of body or mind, physically or psychologically, and event which takes place in a given moment in time, indicating the body or mind is once again ‘at ease.’  Certainly, we function best when our dis-eases are fully resolved.  Other times we think of healing as out of reach, if we are suffering from a chronic physical or mental condition which cannot be cured or resolved at one moment in time.  And sometimes that cure or resolution is a long way out from where we are, and a hard road to walk until it is achieved.  When we do reach these goals, we celebrate.

In the spiritual sense, healing is an action and state which is ongoing, as a cure for the dis-ease of disconnected, unconscious being and living.  Spiritually, we enact and engage in healing when we connect with the cosmic energies of Land and Sky so that they flow through our being, become aware of and begin to cultivate virtues of the heart in our lives, and choose our actions carefully and thoughtfully in order to bring blessings to all Life.  We also experience healing as an integration of whole-ing, when the physical, mental-emotional and spiritual aspects of ourselves reconnect with both Cosmic Land and Sky, as well as each other.  One way we can foster this integrative, whole-ing healing is through Sacred Song and Chant, which invites the body to both actively create and receive resonance, the mind to focus on the numinous beyond itself, the heart to open, and the spirit to center in Presence and drink deeply.  Sacred song and chant provide a kind of subtle energy food for our whole beings which supports ongoing holistic health both spiritually and physically.  Like a tuning fork, the sounds moving through our beings realign us with cosmic forces, and reintegrate our fractured selves to promote vitality throughout us.

Episcopal priest and author Cynthia Bourgeault recounts a tale of monks in a French monastery in her book, The Wisdom Way of Knowing, who were once told to suspend their regular practice of daily Gregorian chant in order that they might have time for more productive pursuits.  Shortly after, one by one, they fell sick with an ongoing, mysterious illness the resident physician could not understand.  Finally a visiting physician learned of their suspension of chanting as the biggest recent change to their routines, and directed the abbot to reinstate it immediately.  As soon as he did, the monks began to recover and heal.  The resonance of sacred sound moving through us as we sing or chant with presence and centeredness fosters integration within us, and cultivates physical as well as spiritual health and well-being, just as does nourishing food, clean water, and fresh air.  Ms. Bourgeault tells us, “What meditation accomplishes in silence, chanting accomplishes in sound: it wakes up the emotional center and sets it vibrating to the frequency of love and adoration while feeding the body with that mysterious higher “being food” of divine life.”  Divine in this case refers to that which encourages us to serve Life rather than our personal egos, that which calls to and fosters our greater selves in connection with all beings.

Seat yourself comfortably now, and light your first and second 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.”

Our walk to the shrine of Brighid the Healer will take us to Brighid’s healing well in Cill Dara, Éire, or Kildare, Ireland, seat of Her Perpetual Flame.  Here is a video of a quiet walk around the grounds there, leading to the Round Well.  Along the way, part-way into it, you will see a straight path of several upright stones in grass leading to this well.  It is traditional to stop and pray at each of these, as in a sacred pilgrimage, on the way to the well.  The film-maker doesn’t pause at them, but does walk slowly.  At each one, you are invited to recite a line from this adapted traditional prayer from Iona, to settle yourself in peace.  Settling into, and abiding in peace also cultivates the holistic healing of integration and whole-ing, by bringing the scattered energies of our selves back to centered Presence.  Recite these five lines at each of the five stones as you see them, or pause the video at each for a longer moment:

Deep peace of the running wave be with us;
Deep peace of the flowing air be with us;
Deep peace of the quiet earth be with us;
Deep peace of the warm sun be with us;
Deep peace of Brighid the Healer be with us.

Upon arrival at the Round Well, as the camera peers down inside it, observe how the Well is the meeting place in this plane of the nourishing underworld and the vitalizing heavens as water rises up, and sunlight shines down.  Similarly, within us, in the framework of the Irish inner Cauldrons, the Cauldron of Vocation in our rib-cage/heart center is the meeting place of the rising bodily/earthly energy of the Cauldron of Warming in our pelvic center, and the shining down of the spiritual/stellar energy of the Cauldron of Knowledge in our cranial center. When cosmically connected and integrated, the soul knows its true vocation is to serve Life, to bring healing everywhere.  Envision taking a cool drink from this well at this moment of the video, and feel it refreshing and integrating your whole being.

Click on this link to take the Well-walk:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4lV7Yr_-NY&feature=youtu.be

brigids-round-well-kildare

Now centered in peaceful Presence, let us share sacred song.  This song, Lady of the Flowing Waters, sings of the goddess of all life, reminding us of both Brighid’s presence in the healing well, and Her return as the growing and strengthening sun to the land at Imbolc to re-vitalize all beings.  Here are the lyrics:

Lady of the shining star
Lady of the moon light
Lady of the dew wet dawn
Lady of the twilight

[Chorus:] The goddess is in everything
In every form of nature
The goddess is in everything
In every form of beauty

Lady of the flowing waters
Lady of the mountain
Lady of the flowering meadows
Lady of the forest

[Chorus:] The goddess is in everything
In every form of nature
The goddess is in everything
In every form of beauty

Follow this link to the song, and focus on the feeling of your voice resonating through your whole being, bringing you integration, wholeness, healing.  Listen and sing as many times as you feel called to:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bmf7uIor_MQ

When you finish, abide quietly awhile in the resonance your voice produced, to allow your whole being to luxuriate in, and fully absorb its energy.  Contemplate these questions:

What is true healing?

What does my soul need at this time to bring it to wholeness?

What does the world need at this time to bring it to wholeness?

How does Brighid inspire me to work towards wholeness both within myself and in the world?

How is the power of wholeness healing?

As you finish your meditation, either allow your candles to burn themselves out, or extinguish them.  As you put out the flames, or walk away as they burn down, take them into your heart and bring them with you throughout your day, and recall them each morning as you rise, asking Brighid to guide you this week in seeking, practicing, and fostering integrating/whole-ing/healing in your everyday life, and through your own process of spiritually healing, serving all Life.

End the rite with a final ring of the bell, and this prayer:
“Holy Brighid, walk with us and light our way.”

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First Sunday Addendum

sun-folksun-folkart

I just watched this morning a fascinating video from Ireland detailing how the Irish conceive of and engage with Brighid as a neolithic mother goddess having adapted to the triple invasions of the patriarchal Celtic tribes, the monolithic Catholic church, and the colonization of the imperial English.  I am especially struck by the deep streak of animism evident here, as I conceive of and engage with Her in this manner myself.

I wanted to include this as an addendum to the First Sunday when we’re honoring Brighid the Poet to include the perspective of this program on this aspect of Hers.  Here, poetry is said to be a gift from the Sun, the earliest manifestation of Brighid.  In the beginning, they say, was the Word, a divine spark of inspiration.  Poetry was the manner in which the indigenous laws of the Irish were rendered, and Brighid is known in this regard as both poet and lawmaker.

In this, I see laws inspired by the great life-supporting power of Sun, and made to ensure the people remain in harmony, or right relationship, with all Life, in order to support Life and its life-supporting systems as does Sun.  During this week of Brighid the Poet, we might then contemplate what ‘cosmic laws’ we might consider keeping and supporting in order to ensure Life is honored, protected, and supported.

Irish philosopher John Moriarty wrote in prose heavily flavored by poetry, and remarked himself on the nature of nations and laws and harmony with all beings and ability to support life.  One of my favorite quotes is his:
“To Plato I say:
An Énflaith not a Republic, a thing too unetymologically and exclusively human to bring out the best in us. It doesn’t suit us. Worse, it doesn’t suit the Earth. And that, in the end, must mean Hell-Upon-Earth.”

The Énflaith in English is called ‘the Bird-Reign,’ and refers to an Irish mythic king who was known as the most just king in Ireland.  Moriarty postulates that his justice derives from his ecumenical right relationship with all beings from having been magically turned into a bird for a time, and that this relationship is what is needed in order for our laws and nations to truly be just.  True justice honors and supports all life, and lives in harmonious relationship with all beings.

This program suggests too that Celtic Brighid expresses this same sentiment, noting how the Celtic tribes worked Her into their mythic families by marrying Her to the Fomorrian prince Bres.  Later, their son was killed in a battle between their people, and Her caoin (English, ‘keen’), or cry at his death, was the first cry heard in Ireland.  Brighid as Leinster’s sovereignty goddess cared for the tribespeople so long as the chieftain, whom She ritually married, ruled justly.  Unjust rulers caused Her to revoke Her blessings of fertility, peace, and prosperity, however. To be unjust is to stand outside the cosmic order of harmonious right relationship, and cause upset to the balance which harmony and justice foster.  The seasons of the Sun also teach us balanced living, celebrated in Celtic holidays like Imbolc.  Brighid the Lawmaker reminds us that justice is a poetic virtue to be upheld in all our interactions.  Reflect this week on how you can bring the light of justice more fully into your life and the world.

Enjoy the program!