IMBOLC – Brighid’s Blessing

by Angeliska on February 1, 2018

Every year on Imbolc, I honor the sacred wheel’s turning by doing some ritual spring cleaning: I like to clear out my tarot trailer, tidy my house, wipe down my hearth and altars with sweet oils. I sweep the cobwebs from the nooks and crannies, dust the bottles of herbs, resins and powders, and process the accrued bits of magical flotsam and jetsam that always seem to pile up on every surface. I make a bonfire for Brigid, and let many things go into it: old wishes, dead spells, and bits of witchery that have served their purpose, and are ready to become ash and air. Imbolc marks the quickening, the first hints of turning from the old season into the new – the very moment when the first hints of spring seem finally possible. Imbolc means “in the belly”, something quietly growing, maybe not quite showing, but every day building strength, getting ready to emerge in the physical world. This is the time of new lambs, of new life, reclaiming eros energy from the dead world, the frozen barrenness of deathly winter. The buds have not yet appeared on the bare branches, and the world has not yet turned florid with bright blossoms, and yet, here and there, if you look closely, you might detect the first signs that the maiden is returning from the underworld. Tiny succulents are peeping out from the soil in their planter on my porch, and yesterday, a little wood violet bloomed, the sole flower in my garden, for now. In the velvety soft gray mornings, I wake to the excited gossiping of the songbirds, who have been returning to the leafless sycamores in my backyard. I hear them talking amongst themselves about the return of springtime, about warmer days, and balmy evenings, about the eventual re-emergence of the fireflies, and caterpillars, about the tender buds and berries, the fresh new shoots, bright green tendrils emerging, sweet sap rising. The hag of winter’s face is slowly turning, back behind her tattered veil, her white shawl of snow, to reveal the strong young face of the maiden, of Brighid. The Cailleach returns to her home under the hills, and is reborn anew, as a bright and warm goddess, Breo-saighit, fiery elf arrow, a sacred well, a red fox, a meadow of snow-drops. The wind is in the trees, and spring comes!

Brigid's Cross Imbolc
Light all your candles, tend your hearth-fires. Leave pieces of cloth outside for Brigid to bless as she passes by, and these will protect your throat from unwellness.

My mother named me for Brighid, consecrated me to her before I was born. I have always been her daughter. My name was meant to be Bridget Angela, but at the last minute, after I had emerged and my birth certificate was being made, my mother frantically yelled out from her weak and wounded post-natal swoon that it needed to be switched, that my name was Angela Bridget. Her vehemence got the nurse’s attention, and here I am – though I’ve never really gone by Angela, and I never liked the name Bridget for years either. I thought it was too cutesy, bringing up images of a red-haired girl with a bob and curls, a freckled button nose, and a cheerful attitude. I had none of those things. Bridget the midget, Gidget who fidgets. I wasn’t into it. I didn’t yet know who the real Bridget was, or that I belonged to her. As a young girl, I wanted to be Brigitte instead, also not yet knowing about Maman Brigitte, Baron Samedi’s wife, the loa of the cemeteries. I grew up in graveyards, always around so much death – and I found comfort in the company of the dead. There is so much that I didn’t understand as a child, with no one I felt I could talk to about these things. Young witches can be formidable, livewires of power they don’t know how to wield. I was changing the weather, bringing the thunderstorms at will – and was both terrified and elated at what I was capable of. When I realized last year that Oya, orisha of hurricanes, storms and sacred change was syncretized with Maman Brigitte in Vodou, and St. Bridget, it hit me with the force of massive typhoon that my relationship with this power, with this goddess, began long before I was born. It wasn’t something that I discovered. It just always was – waiting for me, somewhat patiently, until I remembered. When I see the synchronicities lining up, it shows me that I’m on the right path – and they have been there for me all along, those shining breadcrumbs, beckoning me to follow, to keep walking forward, deeper into her mysteries.

Brigid Imbolc Shrine
Bright Imbolc altar. Come in, Brighid! Come in, spring! Come in, light! Be welcome, fierce maiden! Welcome Brighid, keeper of the fire, forge, hearth and heart.

Goddesses are real. Not just in history books, or as ancient myths, or archetypes, beautiful images, sculptures carved in stone and worshipped long ago, but as real as you and I, and in fact, within us all. It seems so obvious to say it, but part of me didn’t really truly understand that until fairly recently. I appreciated the idea of the Goddess as an abstract, as an idea or a concept, rather than as a concrete reality, a truth I know and feel in my bones every day. They are with us, guiding our movements, our lives. This knowledge has inspired me to dedicate my life to serving the goddess, to honoring her, in her various forms – not as a given, or in theory, but in practice, as a devoted disciple, as priestess, as daughter. When the Goddess calls to you, you must heed her. I realize now that I belong to certain goddess-forms, and always have. The Goddess Brighid is one of them – healer woman, fire spirit, who guides the hands of the poets, the blacksmith and silversmiths, shepherdess, rainbow mantled, dew-laden, fairy woman. She has many names, and many faces:

“Brighid-Muirghin-no-tuinne, Brighid-Conception-of-the-Waves; 
Brighid-Sluagh (or Sloigh), Brighid of the Immortal Host; 
Brighid-nan-Sitheachseang, Bridget of the Slim Fairy Folk; 
Brighid-Binne-Bheul-thuchdnan-trusganan-naine,
Song-sweet (lit. melodious mouth’d)
Brighid of the Tribe of the Green Mantles.
She is also called Brighid of the Harp,
Brighid of the Sorrowful,
Brighid of Prophecy,
Brighid of Pure Love,
St. Bríde of the Isles,
Bríde of Joy,
and other names.”

– from Fiona MacLeod (aka. William Sharp) in his book “Winged Destiny” 

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Brighid of the Mantle, encompass us,
Lady of the Lambs, protect us,
Keeper of the Hearth, kindle us.
Beneath your mantle, gather us,
And restore us to memory.

Mother of our mothers,
Foremothers strong,
Guide our hands in yours,
Remind us how
To kindle the hearth,
To keep it bright,
To preserve the flame.
Your hands upon ours,
Our hands within yours,
To kindle the light,
Both day and night.

The Mantle of Brighid about us,
The Memory of Brighid within us,
The Protection of Brighid keeping us
From harm, from ignorance,

from heartlessness,
This day and night,
From dawn till dark,
From dark till dawn.

– Blessing for Hearth-Keepers
by Caitlin Matthews

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Brighid of the mantles,
Brighid of the peats,
Brighid of the braided hair,
Brighid of the augury.

Brighid of the shining feet,
Brighid of the quietness,
Brighid of the shining palms,
Brighid of the cattle.

Brighid friend of women,
Brighid of the peats,
Brighid women’s midwife,
Brighid, woman of grace.

– an excerpt from Brighid of the Mantles,
Sloinntea rachd Na Brighid, translated by Caitlin Matthews,
transcribed by Brenda Francis

Brigid Imbolc Altar
Mar a chaireadh Muire,
Caim Bhride’s Mhuire,
Car an tula’s car an lair,
‘S car an ardraich uile.

As Mary would build it.
The encompassment of Bride and of Mary,
Guarding the hearth, guarding the floor,
Guarding the household all.

Cleaning for Imbolc
Out with the old, in with the new! Even withered blooms still have their corpsey beauty. Soon to be ashes of roses in Imbolc bonfires.

I wrote this last year, as I was walking through a deep dark time of loss and hurt, that transformed me utterly. Now that I’m on the other side of it, I can see undeniably how necessary those changes were, and how much stronger and more whole I am today, after it all.

I lit a bonfire for Imbolc.
I made my invocations to Brighid,
made offerings to her of aged honey mead.
I burnt my finger on a hot coal,
the sizzle of singed flesh and bubbling copal.
I cut my other finger to the quick
on a jagged piece of cavern stalagmite,
the hidden crystals inside glittering, painted red.
Blood offerings, life-force, soul-water.
I sacrificed two sacred paper deer to the flames,
one a leaping doe shadow puppet Pandora made,
that danced on a bedsheet screen in my backyard.
The other, a handmade papier mache doe piñata
made for me by Francesca and Annie
to celebrate my thirtieth birthday.
They stuffed the deer with frankincense and myrrh,
golden holy virgin medals, fine chocolates,
flowers of Jericho, little girl barrettes,
and other treasures I can no longer remember.
They wanted me to burn it that night, but it was
so beautiful, with a plaintive expression painted in tempera,
that I had to let it live for eight more years, a hollow effigy,
crumpled in the corner of the defunct shower, waiting.
Ghosts of sisters’ love, memories, circles broken and unbroken.

I am burning holy mite-eaten macaw feathers and prayers
for my loved ones, for all of the people who come to me
for tarot reading and healing, for myself, that I may continue to.
I am burning several smudges of cedar and sage and so many memories.
I am burning clumps of old wax and a huge bundle of lavender.
I am burning pieces of wood from the building of my house
cut and stacked and left behind by my last, past love.
I am burning three plum colored candles
for the fates in a deer antler candelabra.

It is winter now, but this is the day I mark to
trust that spring is coming, that the sap will rise.
It is cold and grey, and the sunlight is a pallid gold,
uncertain and watery, but the fire warms me.
I feel fierce and determined and deep down sad.
I feel like a warrior woman exhausted after battle
sitting on a bloody treestump to unhook her armor.
I feel a fire burning at my core,
a root fire that tells me I will survive,
and that my deep down anger will eventually
give way to passion.
I feel certain that
if anyone walked through my gate right now,
I would fuck them to death.
So my gate is locked with iron.
Iron nails crossed.
Bright blood berries,
the cedar waxwings get drunk on them
when they ferment in the spring.
I make my solitary prayers
and ask for her help in this,
that I may come through wiser,
so that I may better serve her.
I am bold, and I am braver.
My bones are tired,
but I’ll get stronger.
It is Imbolc,
and I am burning.

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This was my first fire of the New Year, for a full moon ritual with four solid corners holding it down and raising it up. This was so necessary for me – to be in nature, with the elements called in, gazing into the embers, drawing down the moon with strong witches. To honor the holy days. “The original meaning of the word holy is “set apart”. In holy day time/space, we surrender our engagement with the outer world, go to be restored and renewed. In all cultures, to enter the tenemos (enclosed sacred space) is to be released from chronological time, to enter the timeless realm of the sacred. In ritual and ceremony, we and the world are healed and strengthened.” – Sherri Rose-Walker

I have been feeling like a big mammajamma bear that just wants to go hide in her dream lodge cave and sleep until springtime. I keep reminding myself that it will be spring here soon enough, and feeling so grateful that I live in a climate where our current version of winter is considered somewhat extreme. For a winterborn being, I get worse and worse at enduring the winter season and better and better at enjoying the summertime every year. Perhaps I’ll like it better when I can invest in proper heating for my home. Dinky inefficient space heaters are the pits! Still, I’m grateful to have them, too – and don’t have to chop my wood or huddle around a cookfire.

This video made my heart feel hopeful and reminds me of what is real and true: God/dess is nature. Lifeforce energy and deathforce energy are a constant circle – a loop of becoming and unbecoming. We are all interconnected. Don’t forget your own divinity and place in all of this: you are every bit as sacred as the crane swooping over the water, as the droplet of water sliding off their wing, as the mite tickling their underfeathers, as the wee beetle sliding off the leaf. You are the seed slipping from the pinecone, you are the ripening berry, you are the rotting log, you are the moss and the fungus – and you are GLORIOUS! Life is a precious gift, and so is death. What a thing it is to be incarnate! I used to not think so. I am glad I remembered. 


Spring in the Belly of Winter – IMBOLC: A CROSS-QUARTER STATION OF THE SUN

from Blue Moon Astrology – I love this post from Elaine Kalantarian about Imbolc, Brighid and the astrology and history of this holiday. Very informative, if you’d like to know more!

Brighid’s Blessings upon your hearth and heart,
and a merry Imbolc to you all!

3 comments

Beautifully written. Thank you.

by Suzanne Higley on February 2, 2018 at 2:25 pm. #

Your poem is delicious.

by Kristen on February 3, 2018 at 7:27 am. #

Yes!!!

by Kyla on February 11, 2018 at 8:34 pm. #

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