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The Meaning of Brigid for Dark Times

Our Sabbats provide a framework of meditation and insight that can deepen and transform our lives if we pay them any serious mind.  Wiccan Sabbats have three dimensions, one links us to the universal cycles of the sun, another to our being people of the earth, and both take us to the experience of our own lives. Yule, Ostara, Midsummer (or Litha), and Mabon are our solar Sabbats. Brigid or Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh, and Samhain are our Sabbats rooted in the earth. They reflect the agricultural cycles of Celtic lands and so immerse us in the experience and blessings of living in this world.

As light and darkness and the changing of the seasons form parts of an eternal cycle within which life takes place, so life itself repeats this cycle with birth followed by childhood, the vigor of adulthood, the slow decline of old age, and finally death, to be repeated again.  In the process beauty, love, and delight are brought into being and repeat themselves in endless variety. 

 I have always been most partial to the earthly Sabbats, rooted as they are in how we humans live in this earth I love.  As Yule ended the time of death honored by Samhain, soonfollowed by the end of the calendar year, now the first of our earthly Sabbats, Brigid, recognizes and honors the stirrings and possibilities of life inherent in the new year.

With Brigid (for personal reasons that will become clear I normally use this term over Imbolc) we honor the stirrings of new life, the gradual awareness of new possibilities that have a potential to be realized. As with life itself, there are no guarantees, but these are the possibilities that with wisdom, heart, patience, and perhaps some good fortune we can bring into existence. 

But what if there is no good fortune? What if it appears that bad fortune dominates?  For we are in dark times and while every generation has probably believed itself to be in dark times, the threats we see around us are not only personal and national.   All nations come and go and are of no great intrinsic value. But today we face planetary threats as serious as those that threatened nuclear war, if far slower in manifesting the harm they can do.   And this planet is the only one we have and of enormous intrinsic value. 

It is easy to feel overwhelmed.

And that is where the Sabbats can help us.

It was on a Brigid long ago that the Goddess Herself taught me something I did not welcome at the time, but which I think is appropriate to share now.

Many years ago I attended a Brigid ritual here in Sonoma County. It was a public event put on by Reclaiming Witches.  As it progressed there was a point where we all entered into a walking meditation within a large darkened room.  It was then that I saw Her, for the first and so far only time.   My experience was brief, only a little longer than a strobe light flash, if it was longer at all.  In my mind’s eye I saw with incredible clarity a pale skinned red haired woman surrounded by flames. 

She spoke five words to me: "You are in my forge."  (Brigid is a Goddess of smith craft among other things.)  My life was tough at the time, though nothing like what it would become a few years later, and Her message was comforting only in the sense that I thought “Well, at least SOMEBODY notices.”

Being the object of a divine metal smith means you will be pounded unmercifully and at high heat, ultimately for your own good.  In the years to come I often wondered whether She was pounding too hard.  But to keep with this image, Brigid is the most skilled of smiths, the one most able to take Her object right up to the point of shattering, the better to bring out potentials otherwise unrealizable. No matter how much this object of Her attention complained or unaware he was of Her final vision, She continued Her work. And even increased the pounding and heat.

Many years later, I look back on that time of heat and pounding as a blessing, one I hated receiving but am grateful for now.  There might be still more pounding to come and if it does I do not look forward to it, but I am way ahead of where I would have been in the qualities I most value had I not been subjected to Her attention.  The heat of fevers can be a necessary part of healing and Brigid is a healer as well as a smith. 

The threads of our lives help weave many tapestries. We play many roles, some quite personal, and some within larger contexts, the largest of which are probably far beyond our comprehension.  We confront many challenges in our lives, some very personal, some encompassing others and perhaps some that engage the world as a whole. 

Among religions our Pagan story is one of seeking balance and not of sacrificing everything for One Great Thing.  And so we honor as sacred love and friendship, beauty and delight.  These qualities play essential parts in larger and larger contexts, extending from the most personal to the most universal. Our image of the Wheel of the year captures this insight, its symbolism extending from the most personal to the earthly to the cosmic. 

As we deal with the dark times around us, trying our best to bring out the hidden potentials they carry for good, it is wise to remember that what appears on the surface is not always an accurate image of what is really happening. We might all be playing a role within Brigid’s forge, heated and pounded and shaped to become more than we ever could by gentler means. When we succeed we are appropriately delighted and grateful for the experience.  And when we fail we should remember that forge. 

So long as we stay in touch with our hearts, we increase the likelihood of coming through those times in far better shape than when we entered them.

May the blessings of this time encompass us all. And I am linking to some wonderful Brigid songs by  Celia, one of my favorite Pagan singers.

 

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Gus diZerega is a Third Degree Elder in Gardnerian Wicca. He studied closely with Timothy White who later founded Shaman’s Drum magazine, and also studied Brazilian Umbanda  for six years under Antonio Costa e Silva.

Dr. diZerega has published widely on the social sciences in the academic press as well as on spirituality.  His second book Pagans and Christians: The Personal Spiritual Experience won the Best Nonfiction of 2001 award from  The Coalition of Visionary Resources.  His third, coauthored with Philip Johnson, is Beyond the Burning Times: A Pagan and a Christian in Dialogue. His art frequently appeared in Shaman’s Drum, and the ecological journals Wild Earth, and The Trumpeter.

DiZerega combines a formal academic training in Political Science with decades of work in Wicca and shamanic healing.

His next book, Faultlines: The Culture War and the Return of the Divine Feminine, will appear in 2013. 

Comments

  • Rose
    Rose Saturday, 01 February 2014

    Gus: I think yon may enjoy Glenys' work. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mRiI2Nz2go a Pagaian ritual from Down Under.

  • Gus diZerega
    Gus diZerega Saturday, 01 February 2014

    Thank you Rose. I liked it. It somehow reminded me of an adaptation of my favorite scene from Disney's second Fantasia. I do not know who did the artwork, but at heart they were one with us. The piece is in many ways a rendition of the entire wheel, but it seems right today. (Just put up with the ad....) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEAAaboz9J8

  • Rose
    Rose Saturday, 01 February 2014

    Very nice! I shared your response with Glenys. I think she'll like it.

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