I spent this glorious day in the yard and gardens. I think I have been healed of several ills by that simple action–but my back is a little sore!
I had gotten a pretty hellebore before the Yuletide and it was getting sadder and sadder, living in the house. Hellebores are often blooming this time of year–either finishing up as “Christmas roses” or prepping themselves for their role as “Lenten roses.”
First, I clipped off last year’s leaves because hellebore always send new ones out when they bloom. This cleared some space for the new hellebore and it gave the baby buds some fresh air and light. The new hellebore has been firmly planted in Hellebore Land, near the gazing ball, and I am hoping it will do well.
I also had two equally sad primroses so spent some time out in the little bed outside the kitchen garden, tidying and admiring the snowdrops. I clipped back the dead peony stems, too, and planted those two primroses near another one.
Next was the slipping back of the mountain mint–a sweet-smelling job to be sure. We planted a couple of roses–one new and one a transplant. I dug three baby woad plants to give to friends and I rejoiced to see tiny leaves on all the elderberries.
The day in the garden helped me put away some of the adrenal-depleting excitement of the last few days. There was a fuel spill into a nearby creek and several of us have been nagging, pushing and cajoling our elected officials to get some information. It looks like the mess is being taken care of but it was slow and frustrating.
But I think it was a way to prepare us for more dramatic and dangerous events to come. Now we have some idea of who to contact and how to proceed and we won’t waste precious time trying to figure that out.
Yes, I know. I need to write that Tower Time piece. But just for today–I loved the Sun on my face and my feet in the soil. Bliss.
The deep unbroken silence of the last couple of days of thick soft snow has given way to the steady drip of icicles transforming into tiny rivers. Who could have predicted a day as warm as this one, after those snowy ones? It’s that queer mountain weather but we’ve had such gentle winters the last few years that we’ve forgotten the drama on late winter on the southern Highlands.
When I went out to get the snow off the cars this afternoon (or maybe late morning, I can’t recall), I wore a heavy sweater and a hat, gloves and a warm scarf. By the middle of the afternoon, I’d lost a layer and the scarf and the gloves.
The snow still looked deep in the back yard but when you stepped on it, the bottom layer was all slush…the tracks up the driveway looked arctic and adventurous but they, too, were illusions of almost-water. By the end of the sunshine of the day, there was a wide creek of clear water flowing down our hill, looking for passage in the old and northward river.
You could smell spring on the wind…coming on a twisty path, but not yet here.
We knew it was coming though. Sooner rather than later.
Brideog from the weekend retreat
Samhain usually seems impossibly long, mostly because there are so many things to do, so much preparation for the powerful hinge that happens as Winter descends. We grown used to it after all these years of doing public rituals and events. And when mid-November arrives, we’ve taken some time off and slept in a couple of times and are eyeing the Winter Solstice.
I prepped for Imbolc, as you know, by adapting some of the material from Alexander Carmichael’s “Carmina Gadelica.” A set of new Brigid prayers, ready for, well, for praying.
I went to the Brigid spring to nab some water and leave some love. I attended a small and powerful Brigid event at Mother Grove and created and led a public ritual the following evening.
This past weekend, a colleague and I led a Brigid retreat that was deep and rich. And tiring.
So I had a bit of a break on Monday and tried turning my thoughts towards the Vernal Equinox. But I started putting away the clouties and the Wheels. I put the candle from Kildare back in its green box and put the triple Brigid on my altar.
And what I’m thinking of doing tomorrow? Adapting a few more of those Carmichael-collected incantations.
Nah…I don’t think Imbolc is quite finished with me yet.
In the steep and common path of our calling,
Be it easy or uneasy to our flesh,
Be it dark or bright for us to follow,
May your perfect guidance be upon us.
Brigid of the Forge, be thou a shield to us!
Brigid of the Fold, be thou our shepherd and our healer!
In each secret thought our minds may weave, Brigid of the Loom, give us sweet clarity.
In our grief or pain or sadness,
Brigid of the Well, heal us, strengthen us, stand with your mighty shoulder near to ours.
And in our joys and in our bliss, Brigid of the Hearth, Keeper of the Bread plate, Maker of Beer,
Dance with us as we waken the great round garden of the world.
adapted from Carmichael
I was given the opportunity to help a grieving family with the arrangements for their loved one’s funeral and that was finished last night–at least my part was finished. Today I have turned my face toward the end of January and the coming of Imbolc.
I got out my box o’ Brigid this afternoon and help the wool I’d gathered at the Sliev na Cailleach and smelt the bit of turf from the ancient remnant of the fire temple in Kildare Town. I dumped a bag of newly-woven Wheels onto my dining room table and found the piece of white cotton cloth that is an old soft sheet from my maternal grandmother.
I pulled that out and smoothed it on the table and felt the weight of its history and life–at least the part of its life when it was a carefully-ironed bed sheet spread onto my grandmother’s queen-sized bed.
I took a piece of it with me on my first trip to Ireland and it has been my bhrat each Imbolc since. It will go outside on Friday night–even if I have to hold it down with a rock–and it will receive Brigid’s blessing through the early dew. I will use strips of it for clouties and for healing work for the next year. Until next Imbolc.
Clouties, as I often proudly explain, are the prayer-flags of my people. They are strips of cloth that are tied near sacred wells or on holy thorn trees or left on altars. They hold the wishes, the intentions, the prayers of the person who tied them and tradition has it that when the fabric has rotted away and fallen into the well or off the tree, the prayer is answered.
To be fair, they leave a terrible mess at these holy places and the good hearts who tend the afore-mentioned wells and trees sometimes grumble about the mess that is left by the fervent visitors and their rotting strips of cloth.
I always choose a plain cotton, not patterned, quiet, simple, clean. I tend to wrap all my prayers for a particular thing or time into one clouty, so as to leave room for all those other prayers.
Finally, my heart and spirit are ready to consider that another holy day is nearly upon us. I’ve been working ond to get a draft of my new book to readers by February, while preparing for rituals and grieving West Virginia. And I’ve tended my body through a head-cold this whole week.
But today, at last, there seems to be a break in the Stygian gloom of this hard January and I’ve turned my heart toward Imbolc and Brigid. I spent some time at the Solas Bhride website and reminded myself of the sweetness that is Kildare Town. I found some healing there–at the well and fire and hearth of good Brigid.
So tonight, I sat down with Carmichael’s Carmina Gaedelica and forged some new/old prayers. I’ll share them with you over the next couple of weeks. Here’s a short one:
Smooring the Fire
Brigid Bright Arrow
To save, to shield, to surround
The hearth, the house, the household,
This eve, this night, oh! This eve, this night, and every night,
Every single night.
I can barely sit here and write because I know there are a half dozen big fat Rome Beauty apples waiting on the counter for me to turn them into the glories that are apple butter! I’m in a bit of a cooking frenzy right now, probably because I’ve decided to lose 20 pounds and my body is saying–it’s really cold. Don’t you want to eat something?
Dang. I’ve been trying to eat lots of yummy healthy things like collard greens and Brussels sprouts and baked cod. But I also have been gently sampling a cookie here and there. Or a slice of homemade banana bread.
corn bread with cracklings
In between bouts of apple butter, I am writing. My goal is to get a good strong edit into the hands of my first readers by the end of the month so I’m writing and rewriting and wondering what in the world possesses me to write yet another book on hillfolks hoodoo. And yet, I persist. I even had a moment of true madness when I thought about finishing up the book of ceremonies that I’ve been working on for a couple of years (and is in not bad shape, actually).
But tonight is a quick bit of blogging after I sent the first session in the online folk magic class off to my new batch of students. I love doing this class–this is the fourth time I’ve offered it–and it changes every time. I suspect I learn as much as they do.
Here’s another picture of food–then I’m going to work on a ritual for Imbolc. Blessed sacred Brigid!
pumpkin pie with almond meal crust on a slash of red currant syrup