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The Creation of New Folk Traditions



I've written before about the old stone springhouse in one of our local parks--the one we dedicated to Brigid at an Imbolc celebration a decade ago.  I made the first and third part of my dedication there and visit it a few times a year to check its status and tie some clouties.

This Imbolc I determined to do a personal three-day festival and it began at sundown on the 31st with the setting of the bhrat and leaving out a drink for Brigid and some oats for her cow. On Saturday, I invited folks to join me for an old-fashioned well dressing at the spring, creating a more formal event than I'd done before.

We met in the parking lot of the disc golf course, bringing flowers, candles, apples, sweets, Bridey wheels and whisky.  You can see the results in the picture.  There were eighteen of us and some of the bolder ones set to work raising stones that had been toppled from the old walls.  We tied clouties, too, and sang some songs, and explored what we supposed was the site of the old farmhouse that must have been relatively close to what once was a very fine springhouse.

It's a new/old tradition, isn't it?  Something common in modern Paganism, we are using  Old World folklore to plump up our celebration of Imbolc. That old springhouse has not been a Brigid well since time out of mind.  It used to have a very utilitarian purpose--it kept the milk and butter cold. It was a very fancy one in its youth--you can still see some of the decorative touches in the ruined stonework.

And now it is a "sacred" place, which seems a silly descriptor for someone who believes that everything is sacred. Perhaps we have simply given it a different function now--not a loftier one, a different one. It has been recycled from the cooling place for fresh butter to a healing, cloutie-infested spring.  Fair enough.

Many of the locals are dubious of our activities and I expect to find the stones toppled and the decorations strewn away when I next visit the spring.  We will find another stone and stand it up, bring more flowers and candles, sing different songs.

But for those children on Saturday morning--there were six of them--it may have been the beginning of a quirky childhood memory. The day we walked down the windy path to the old stone walls and we sang and left flowers for the Goddess. Remember?

We remember.




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H. Byron Ballard is a ritualist, teacher, speaker and writer. She has taught at Sacred Space Conference, Pagan Unity Festival, Southeast Her essays are featured in several anthologies, including “Birthed from Scorched Hearts“ (Fulcrum Press), “Christmas Presence“ (Catawba Press), “Women’s Voices in Magic” (Megalithica Books), “Into the Great Below” and “Skalded Apples” (both from Asphodel Press.) Her book Staubs and Ditchwater: an Introduction to Hillfolks Hoodoo (Silver Rings Press) debuted in June 2012. Byron is currently at work on Earth Works: Eight Ceremonies for a Changing Planet. Contact her at,


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