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
Though I and many Pagans celebrate the changing from the old to the new year in November, there is a sense of moment in the passage of the cultural New Year. The Gregorian calendar seems onerous to me sometimes–a petty tyrant that tries to rule a world where changing seasons do all the real work. So I’m looking at 2014 with the old year at my back. I am looking at the road ahead and wondering about the signs and omens, as one does in liminal times.
Here in the Southern Highlands, we are bracing for an uncharacteristically cold few days. I find myself unaccountably anxious for the land around me, for the critters (including the homeless humans), even for my old house. Silly, really. Cycles–from mild to brisk, from dry to wet. They govern us as they govern all the great old world.
My gut feeling, as I’ve said to several friends and colleagues in the past few days, is this: if you had a relatively unremarkable 2013, 2014 will roll out challenge after challenge and it would be wise for you to gather your resources now and tie up loose ends as you can. If 2013 was a challenging year for you (and please see “challenging” as a euphemism for ball-busting, ass-kicking, driving you to your knees and then loading your shoulders with impossible boulders…and repeating that every few weeks), you have already developed some strong skills for the challenges of the coming seasons. I wish I could paint a rosier picture or thought that everything would return to a mythical golden age but it seems to me we’re all better off looking down this road with clear eyes, judging the lay of the land and the curves ahead.
Ah, but perhaps there is something to be learned from these times that are our times. We function best, in good times and in not-so-good ones, when we have the support of our chosen community, of the other members of our tribe, if you will. So here’s a suggestion as we step onto this road of 2014 together–open up the channels of communication, heal old rifts, strengthen tenuous relationships and look for new allies and companions. Find your tribe. Embrace it. Figure out the ways to celebrate with them–build an emotional fire pit and gather round with your drums and rattles.
It’s time to face it and the way we will do that most effectively is if we do it together. Perhaps I am thinking a bit of Boudicaa and her massing of the British tribes. Maybe I am thinking that when we know ourselves and stand together…we stand a chance of facing 2014 and emerging at the end of the year stronger, wiser…and trailing shreds of something like glory.