Yes, I’m on the road again, as this time (on Saturday, 2 February) I’m heading to the New Forest, in England.
Odd that it should still be called The New Forest, as it has existed as woodland since the end of the last Ice Age, and its heaths were first cleared and cultivated in small areas by Bronze Age settlers . The area was formerly known as ‘Ytene’ the land of the Jutes (an Anglo-Saxon tribe). However, it was grouped together as a ‘new’ forest by William the Conqueror in AD1079, hence its name. The New Forest of AD1079. And, it’s a wonderfully rugged and wild area, the place where things can happen, and nature abounds.
And, that’s were I’m headed. The New Forest. Over the next few days I will meet friends and celebrate Imbolc, then the following day will lead a house blessing, and then bury a pebble and recite liturgy as part of my small endeavour to be involved, along with others, in healing the land.
But first Imbolc.
Yes, the circle continues to turn, the Earth continues on its (elliptical) orbit around the sun, and yet another wonder, major festival is almost upon us. It’s time to celebrate in large ways and small, in groups and by yourself. It’s intentionality that’s important, so I would encourage you to do something this Imbolc, and to enjoy it. It really is time to celebrate, to give thanks to That Which Is Bigger Than Ourselves, the Beloved.
Event: Imbolc (favoured pronunciation ‘ih-mulk’), Brigid’s Day, Candlemas
Date: 1 or 2 February (but many will celebrate it on Sunday, 3 February this year)
Thought: ‘It’s the start of spring. Let’s celebrate’
Incense: Rosemary, Frankincense, Myrrh, Cinnamon
Decorations: Corn Dolly, Spring Flowers, St Brigid’s Cross, Candles
Colours: White, Orange, Red
Imbolc, in the Celtic seasonal calendar marks the beginning of the lambing season and signals the beginning of Spring and the stirrings of new life. It is traditionally the great festival and honouring of Brigid (Brighid, Bride, Brigit). She is one of my favourites.
Brigid, so loved as a pagan Goddess that her worship was woven into the Christian church as St Bridget, and rightly remembered and revered. To some she is a Goddess of healing, poetry, of fire, of the Sun and of the Hearth. To others, a saint. What matters is that she is remembered.
Brigid is the keeper of a sacred springs and the wells, patroness of sweet water. Water the nourisher. Water, sustainer of life on earth. And water, together with fire, are the instruments of the forge. Brigid is the goddess of the forge and smith craft. Heat and fire tempered by water. Perfect balance.
She is also said bring fertility to the land and its people and is closely connected to midwives and new-born babies.
Symbols of Brigid
With the coming of spring, the following are some symbols that you might like to consider in some form of quiet time, some form of meditation on that day, but there are also some ideas listed below of things that you can do, things you might like to bring into the house and/or put on your home altar, such as:
Snowdrops. The first gift of Spring in the bleakness of Winter.
Candle(s). Imbolc is a Fire Festival and fire of all kinds is associated with Brigid – the fire of creativity, the protective hearth fire, and her fire wheel – the Brigid Cross, which heralds her, according to some, as a Sun Goddess. A lit candle as you have your meal or as you gaze or meditate upon it, is a wonderful way to celebrate her and the return of spring, to give thanks to the One Behind It All, the Source of All.
Brigid’s Cross. This is a traditional fire wheel symbol – found at the hearths of homes throughout Ireland and beyond as a symbol of protection. A customer in the shop recounted finding a hearth in Ireland, in recent years, adorned with over 200 Brigid Crosses – 200 years in the life of a hearth and a family, overlit and protected by Brigid.
Brigid Doll. A very old tradition involved the making of a Brigid doll which can be included in ceremony and/or placed in ‘Bride’s Bed’ to bring fertility and good fortune to the home.
The Serpent. In Celtic mythology Brigid was associated with an awakening hibernating serpent which emerged from its lair at Imbolc. Traditionally serpents were associated with creativity and inspiration – the powerful Kundalini energy of the Eastern Mysteries. Paths of earth energy were called serpent paths and at Imbolc they are stirred from their slumber. And in the Hebrew Testament a bronze serpent is lifted up and all who gazed upon it were healed.
Sheep. Brigid’s festival is at the beginning of lambing – you might be fortunate to try eat ewe’s milk cheese!
The seed: From the seed new life sprouts. And you might like to consider planting a seed, or more. It need not be an expensive plant, but a packet of inexpensive seeds that you might like to grow on a piece of common ground, in your your garden or in your window-box.
Blackberry: Sacred to Brigid, the leaves and berries are used to attract prosperity and healing.
Ginger: revitalises and stimulates the ‘fire within’
Prayer for Imbolc & Brigid – honouring Brigid and Mary
Praise to you O Caring one,
midwife of our newness and growth,
nurturing, generous and milky kind,
yet defiant as the snowdrop in a cold climate,
tend the fresh shoots of our emerging as we set foot this day.
(Tess Ward, Celtic Wheel of the Year 2007)
Stories about Brigid
Stories about Brigid abound, and in the past two have caught my attention. There is a story about Brigid and a miracle or magic regarding her cloak, but its a story of justice and plenty. Do read about it here
And there’s another story I like about Brigid. It’s a story about her concern and love for strangers and travellers, and the extraordinary lengths she went to, to meet their needs. It’s a story of generosity and a miracle or magic of plenty. Do read about it here.
Imbolc and St Brigid’s feast day is a time of celebration, so be encouraged to spend some time outdoors in nature, and celebrating in some way indoors. Celebrate. Enjoy. Be intentional.