PaganSquare is a community blog space where Pagans can discuss topics relevant to the life and spiritual practice of all Pagans.
Imbolc approaches on silent, padded footsteps. A time of quiet rejoicing, where here in the UK the festival and time signifies the start of Spring. Though for many in North America, the equinox is when the celebrations for Spring begin, here in the warmer climes of these isles hugged by the gulf stream we already begin to see the changing of the seasons reflected in the green and growing things, as well as the birthing of new lambs. Just today, as I went outside to meditate, the songs of the birds had changed, and the robin and blackbird were singing their first songs of courtship, even as the blue tits chirped their appreciation of the sunlight. The slender green shoots of crocuses are beginning to appear, alongside a wash of green from the grape hyacinth shoots. Living so close to the sea, our south-facing garden is always ahead of the season it seems, and at this time of year, it's most welcome.
It's been a difficult winter for many, and the signs for the future can seem bleak. But as followers of an earth-based tradition, we know that we can look to nature for guidance, for inspiration, for sanctuary and for blessing. Our relationship with the land, sea and sky helps us through the darkest of times, with the gods and ancestors breathing their ancient breath into our bodies, inspiring us to carry on, to create change, to go with the flow. Nothing is permanent.
The longest night is upon us. For three short days, we have watched the watery sun rise and set in the same place on the horizon, barely skimming the treetops at its highest point, filmed over by hazy clouds. This morning, it was impossible to tell just when the sun had risen, and indeed even though it has been up for half an hour, it's just as dark as before, with heavy overcast skies letting in only a small amount of light. I lit a candle in my lantern dedicated to Brighid just as the sun rose somewhere behind the clouds, and in Her name I lit my solstice flame. The candle's flame burns very low, just barely alight as it struggles amidst a pool of wax and an insufficient wick. There is the tiniest amount of light at the tip, with a small blue aura beneath. I look at it even as I type these words, and its struggle portends much to come.
It has been a difficult year for many. Across the Western world, we have been rocked by unprecedented political change. There is not much hope for the future. Political leaders do not have the common good in mind, and greed runs riot. Things have not changed for the better. Across the globe, war, strife and unrest rage, with millions of innocent beings suffering. And there is still more darkness to come.
The 2nd of February is of course, the Celtic festival of Imbolc, which means 'in the belly' referring to the pregnant ewes giving birth at this time. One of its other names, Oimelc meaning 'ewes milk', also referring to the birth of the lambs, and the return of milk to the household. Sacred to the goddess Brighid, who became St Brigit with the coming of Christianity this time is known as Gŵyl Fair y Canhwyllau in Wales, and more generally the Christian festival of Candlemass.
Brighid may well have given her name to Britannia the sovereign goddess of Britain, but she is best known as a goddess of the hearth and home, as well as milking, midwifery, healing, smithcraft and poetry. Brighid is a fiery goddess, connected to the rising Kundalini in the earth at this time, bringing the spring. She is said in Scottish folklore to have to defeat the Cailleach or goddess of winter each year to bring life back to the land....
Here's a post on my relationship with Brighid and my work as a Flamekeeper, which was founded by Canadian Mael Brigide many years ago. I thought you all might enjoy it:
B is for Brighid: Goddess, Saint and Lwa
It's the first week of May, which -- along with Beltaine -- means it's finals time. Now that I'm a professor I'm on the "grading" rather than the "taking" side of the exams, but I'm not entirely sure that makes things less stressful! In the midst of all the finals time tasks -- grading papers, answering panicked emails, crafting review sheets and exams, and generally wrapping up my classes -- I've been surfing a wave of inspiration for new ideas for my Etsy shop, my Tarot blog, more metaphysical classes I want to offer, and various writing projects I want to undertake. It is quite like me to get very inspired when I have a pile of rather mundane tasks to square away.
When Brigit came up as the Goddess for this week, it was a bit like meeting an old friend. Brigit (or Brighid) has been one Goddess I've worked with consistently in my practice. I like her triune nature, as patroness of poetry, smithcraft, and midwifery. I appreciate that she is the one who brings imbas, the fire in the head that is inspiration. The first circle I ever practiced with was dedicated to Her, and our major Sabbat celebration was Imbolc/Brighid. It will be nice to spend the next week with her, as I navigate the waters of both inspiration and obligation....