Living the Wheel: Seasonal Musings of the Pagan Year
Thoughts and musings of the wheel of the Pagan Year.
Celebrating Light, Celebrating Life, and all things Inspiring
I dream the Goddess a little girl
Happy in yellow daffodil
Black-Eyed Susan flower print
Sprouting leaves because She can
Dogwood blossom cherry stains
Falling snow of petals bright
She showers Her
Imbolc. What exactly is the focus of this holy day? The return of light? We celebrated that at Yule. Is it a celebration of light, as days are noticeably longer? (My seasonal affective disorder begs to differ on that point.) Let's call it a celebration of life, then. Named for the ewe's milk that heralds lambing in the early spring, Imbolc, or Oimlec, is meant to be taken as the dawn of spring. Lambs are born. Fields are turned over. Not here in New England, perhaps, or in many parts of the US, but we must remember that many of our holy days come from countries where the climate is much kinder than ours. Traditionally, a measure of ewe's milk is mixed with the earth in farmers' fields, nourishing the land to ensure a rich harvest.
Every year I observe Imbolc with planting of my own. It may still be frozen outside my windows, but inside green leaflets will soon begin to sprout on the windowsills, basil, thyme, mint. Living in an apartment with no yard (though glorious south-facing back steps) container gardening is the way for me. Last year I had a lovely harvest of peppers, tomatoes, herbs and strawberries. This year I'm going to add some zucchini, salad greens and possibly eggplant to our back-step garden. My little one is going to plant peas and beans with his strawberries.
What seeds will you sow this Imbolc? Perhaps the seeds of understanding, that you can forgive your neighbors their flaws and acknowledge your own. Or the seeds of hope, to be able to believe that this world can become a better place, if only people are willing to work together. The seeds of charity, to give and be able to receive graciously, and to facilitate change as it is needed. Whatever your plans for growth are this season, nurture them, and encourage growth in others. In the return of the Goddess we see the return of ourselves, our best intentions, our hopes and dreams.
Goddess of fire, protect those who fight.
Goddess of medicine, sustain the healers.
Goddess of agriculture, feed all who toil.
Goddess of mothers, comfort those who lost children.
Goddess of the hearth, heal the burns.
Goddess of domestic arts, protect our home.
Goddess of renewal, manifest unity and purpose.
Goddess of magic, transform our pain.
Goddess of healing, make us whole.
Goddess of invocation, hear our prayer.
So mote it be.
‘An Invocation to Brigid’
Imbolc is the festival of Brighid. She is the goddess of wisdom and poetry, magic, smith craft and the forge, healing, dyeing, weaving, brewing, and the hearth; She is the guardian of farm animals. She is the welcome voice of winter’s end, heard in birdsong and ewe’s calling their lambs. She is the oimlec, the ewe’s milk, which nurtures the fields so we may plant at Ostara’s turning. Light a candle today, ask for Brighid’s blessings on your home and hearth. Do not be afraid to ask her for strength, or knowledge, or a song.
In The Celtic Spirit, Caitlín Matthews shares a beautiful blessing, one that can be used as in invocation to welcome the Goddess to your own hearth:
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,
Guide our hands in yours,
Remind us how to kindle the hearth.
Matthews tells us to create our own hearth-shrine and make it the
kindling point of our spiritual practice every day. Don't have a hearth? I'm sure you have access to a stove, even if it's only a dorm-sized two-burner thing that barely manages to heat water for tea. Place a candle on the stovetop, or a shelf, or wherever you can take a few moments to focus your energy and attention on lighting this candle. As you light your hearth-fire, recite Matthews' blessing above, or, as she advises, make your own invocation to Brighid, asking for health and protection for your household, and all those you hold dear. If you live in a house with a shared kitchen and people who think you're weird for talking to the candle you've placed on the stove-top, try to find a secure place in your room where you can light your hearth-candle and spend some few minutes alone with it (never leaving it alone, please). My sixteen year old son has a large jar-style candle on his bureau top that he circled with river rocks from his collection. The effect is very reminiscent of a rock-lined fire pit, and draws the eye as soon as you enter his room.
Brighid is also a goddess of creative inspiration. Think for a moment about what inspires you. Your family? A piece of music? The way sunlight moves across the wall of your room, or the opening lines of your favorite book? Think about the way things move you, how they make you feel happiness or pain. Turn that feeling inward; let it touch your mind. Don’t try to understand it. In looking for understanding we create. Allow yourself to feel. In feeling, create.
Celebrate Imbolc with your creativity. Uncap your favorite pen, turn to a shining white page in any spiral-bound notebook, and begin. Write about how you feel, how you wish you felt, what sound light makes as it pours in through gauze-curtained windows to pool on silent floors. Write a poem to Brighid, a song about fire; write a plain old journal entry. Do you sew? Try a new pattern, visit your favorite crafts store and treat yourself to two yards of the fabric that your sister thinks is hideous but you are certain will look fabulous as a tablecloth. My sister-in-law crochets crazy-adorable children's hats; I don't have the patience to learn, but I enjoy the fruits of her labor every time my fourteen year old pops her sock monkey hat on as she walks out the door. Paint a still-life, stalk cardinals with your camera, try a new recipe or experiment with an old favorite. Allow Brighid to light your days with inspiration.
In lieu of a ritual, why not continue the ages old tradition of storytelling? What could be more fun than shutting off the lights, lighting some candles, popping some popcorn, and gathering the family together for story time? Recite an old favorite, a tale of glee and joy, or a gruesome thriller, like my personal favorite, the Grimm Brothers’ ‘Juniper Tree’. Or make a new favorite. With a few simple twists, an ancient tale becomes new, a tale to be told by the fire as winter knocks on the windows and beats at the door. As we wait for spring’s kiss, we’ll keep safe by the hearth, telling stories of glory and light until the world’s turning brings gentle winds back to us. Whether inspired by Brighid, Saga, Athena or Xochiquetzal, our stories and poems, sagas and songs bring us closer to our histories, pave the roads to our futures, and enable us to encompass all that is powerful within ourselves.
Brigid, red-gold woman,
Brigid, flame and honeycomb,
Brigid, sun of womanhood
Brigid, lead me home
You are a branch in blossom.
You are a sheltering dome.
You are my bright precious freedom.
Brigid, lead me home.
~Irish prayer to the Goddess
The Celtic Spirit: Daily Meditations for the Turning Year, by Caitlín Matthews. HarperSanFrancisco, New York, NY. 1999.
'An Invocation to Brigid' (September 11, 2001), Arnold, Barbara. The Pagan’s Muse, ed. Raeburn, Jane. Citadel Press, New York, NY. 2003.
Excellent sources for container gardening are:
Rose Marie Nichols McGee and Maggie Stuckey’s The Bountiful Container, $16.95, from Workman Publishing.
Alys Fowler’s Garden Anywhere, $24.95, from Chronicle Books
Art credit: The illustrious, unmatched Josephine Wall
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