Tadhg, On The Road To The New Forest: Imbolc, Land-Healing & More (1)

20190201 TADHG ON THE ROAD TO THE NEW FOREST 1

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.

About Brigid

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.

Finally…

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.

 

Time To Celebrate Spring: Imbolc, Brigid’s Day, Candlemas

20180127 TIME TO CELEBRATE SPRING IMBOLC BRIGIDS DAY CANDLEMASYes, it’s that time again. The circle, the wheel of the Earth continues to turn, and nature’s cycle ushers us, once again, into spring. It’s time to celebrate. Here’s some ideas of how to celebrate the event with a meal, ritual and words (liturgy). Really celebrate!

Event: Imbolc (favoured pronunciation ‘ih-mulk’), Brigid’s Day, Candlemas
Date: 1 or 2 February
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 was traditionally a time of weather divination, and the old tradition of watching to see if serpents or badgers came out from their winter dens may, it is said by some, be a forerunner of the North American idea of Groundhog Day.

For others, this time of the year is known as Brigid’s Day (a healer, whose example to us today is one of unbridled hospitability), or Candlemas, a time of rededication and purity, and the lighting of candles. Nevertheless, however you regard it, it is the first day of spring, and time to celebrate.

Meal
And because it’s a celebration, what follows are a few ideas of things you can incorporate into you main meal of the day (or other meals, as you feel appropriate).

You might like to do the whole meal as an Imbolc or Spring celebration, or just one part of it. I’d suggest the latter, especially if this is the first time you specifically celebrate the event, and in any case, it’s usually the small things that are most significant. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate, expensive spread, after all it’s intentionality that is important.

pixabay imbolc bread 232On a number of occasions I’ve had a normal meal, and ‘focused’ on part of the meal to celebrate the event, and bought a special bread for after the meal. A remembrance of bread being a staple food, the Bread of life.

So, try something different, experiment by adding something to your main meal, say, that you may not usually buy.

Meal Preparation
Whether it’s a meal for yourself or a few others, too, preparation can be fun, meaningful and easy to accomplish. If you’re not usually into formality or table lay-out I’d suggest having just one or two additional elements.

Candles! I love candles, and I’d suggest the simpler the candle setting, the better. One candle, lit, on a table looks great. Go for ‘minimalist’ approach if you wish – it can, in many circumstances, make it even more meaningful.

pixabay candle ereeBecause the sun would still be low in the sky and light in the evening would be dim, and because early Romans believed candlelight would scare away evil, and because Jesus is the light of the world, candles were specifically used (for all or some of those reasons) at this time – hence in many churches they celebrate this time as Candlemas.

Later, as you gaze upon that lit candle, remember, the sun rising higher in the sky and Spring returning, new life, a ‘chasing away’ of the dark and light dawning, and ponder on growth, good things, and hope. Give thanks to the Source of All.

Nature on display! I really like those displays that contain berries and fir cones etc and they look great as a table display. Or, hwo about a small bunch of inexpensive spring flowers! Both can look great, and act as a great reminder of gratitude to the earth, to nature.

For this event, celebrate with foods that honour the earth, hearth and home, such as milk products vegetables, bread etc, and these are incorporated in the suggestions below.

pixabay man sun 4544Breakfast: Imbolc is about milk – think of baby ewes being born and their mother’s milk flowing to nurture them. It’s a time of fertility, new life. So, why not try something different, milk-wise to pour over your breakfast cereal

Whether you eat this meal focussing on Imbolc, or Candlemas, or with Brigid in mind, whether you eat it by yourself or with others, it’s a great way of remembering the bounty of the earth, all those that have been involved in bringing it to your table, and ofcourse it’s a great time of expressing gratitude to the Giver of All. Take time to ponder.

Words & Ritual
Throughout the meal, maybe between courses, or at the beginning and at the end, it’s good to pause, to give thanks. As you light the candle or gaze upon the lit candle, some may like to recite a poem or prayer at certain times. Here’s some words that you might like to use or ponder upon:

O most noble Greenness, rooted in the sun,
shining forth in streaming splendour upon the wheel of Earth.
No earthly sense or being can comprehend you.
You are encircled by the very arms of Divine mysteries.
You are radiant like the red of dawn!
You glow like the incandescence of the sun!

Hildegard von Bingen
English version by Jerry Dybdal and Matthew Fox

Or,

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;

Song of Solomon 2:11-12 The Book

Or,

Praise to you, Oh Caring one,
nurturing, generous and milky kind,
yet defiant as the snowdrop in a cold climate,
feisty, pure and natural
with your white singular unbroken focus,
Maid-Mother to us all,
praise to you.

Tess Ward, The Celtic Wheel Of The Year

Finally
Do plan a great event, enjoy it, and take your time. We all rush around far too much, and here’s an opportunity to slow down and appreciate the simple, natural things in life as we yet again mark the season’s change, and give thanks.

Wishing you and yours blessings at this time of Imbolc, Spring, Brigid’s Day and Candlemas. Tadhg

 

20180127 TIME TO CELEBRATE SPRING IMBOLC BRIGIDS DAY CANDLEMAS

 

 

Brigid’s Cloak: A Profound Story For Today

20180118 BRIGIDS CLOAK A PROFOUND STORY FOR TODAYIt’s late. I’m still in London, but now things have settled down somewhat I’m able to slow down (even more). Earlier today, in a huge supermarket nearby I spied jars of Horlicks lined up at eye level, just calling to me, almost. I had never noticed them before. Horlicks, if you’ve never had it, is a delightful malt drink, usually in powder form and was something that many children grew up drinking. So far as I know it’s extremely healthy.

It’s even later, and I’m on an oh-so comfortable sofa, and having added hot milk to that Horlick’s powdered malt drink, it now resides in a cup just a couple of feet from me. Lights are low. And as I sip it, in my mind’s eye I am immediately transported back – memorywise – to my early childhood days. Amazing how a simple taste can remind us of past things and pleasant events.

I’m reminded of a time, about this time of year, but many years ago. I was sitting in my grandparents’ cottage in Wales. I must have been about seven years old. It was late in the evening, then, and I had positioned myself, comfortably, near the hearth. The main living area of the cottage was partially lit and the fire’s orange glow bathed everything in a warm, restful, flickering, other-worldly light.

My grandpa had just given me a hot cup of Horlicks, as my grandmother started to tell another of her wonderful stories.

As I sip from a cup of Horlicks now, I’m reminded of that story from yesteryear – and it’s all the more poingnant as it was then coming up to St Brigid’s Day, and so it will be again in about two weeks from no. Some (myself included) call it Imbolc (pronounced various ways, but I quite like ‘ih-mulk’), and many call it (now) Candlemas.

As I sat there all those years ago, my grandmother told a story about Brigid of Kildare (in Ireland). The story went something like this:

Dear Brigid approached the King of Leinster with a request for some land on which to build her monastery. She thought deeply about the location, and felt led to build it in Kildare. There, it would be near a lake where water was available, and in a forest where firewood would be plentiful, and also near a large, lush area just right for the growing of crops. Self-sufficiency.

However, the King refused her request.

Brigid wasn’t deterred by his refusal. Rather, she thought about it, prayed about it, and made her request again to him, but this time she added, ‘I would respectfully ask the King to grant me as much land as my cloak will cover.’

Seeing her small cloak, the king laughed out loud, and then granted her request.

Brigid then removed the cloak that was on her back, and gave instructions to her four helpers each to take a corner of the cloak and walk in opposite directions – north, south, east and west. They did this. And, as they did this the cloak began to grow, and grow, and grow. It was soon the size of a large table cloth. And, they carried on walking. And soon it was the size of a living room carpet. And, they carried on walking. And, soon dear Brigid’s cloak had spread across many, many acres of land. She now had sufficient land to build her monastery.

The King was greatly dismayed, but also amazed at this seeming miracle. The King realised that this woman was truly blessed, and had great power. The King was impressed and supported Brigid’s work with money, food and gifts.

My grandmother ended the story, summing up that Brigid was indeed a clever woman, one in touch with great power from the Source of All (that which some call God), and that the story tells us that we do, indeed, live in a world of abundance, but sometimes we need to ‘see’ things differently, and trust in the timely provision of what we need.

That story of dear Brigid (St Brigid to some) made a big impression on me then and throughout the years: I believed then and still believe that we do live in a world of natural abundance and blessing, and Brigid and this story about her is one that we can take to heart and draw strength from.

 

Ephemera: Imbolc: Liturgy & Ritual: Ideas & Resources

20170127-imbolc3-ephemeraThe circle is turning, and Imbolc is coming ever closer. that time of the ushering in of Spring, a new season, a new start – sometimes called St Brigid’s Day or Candlemas.

Having looked at the meaning of this festival in brief – see here, and having thought about ideas that you might like to do to celebrate Imbolc, St Brigid’s Day or Candlemas in a meal – see here, today (in this third instalment) we look at a few ideas regarding ritual and liturgy (words and deeds) to celebrate this wonderful event, for you to consider. Do adapt this to suit your circumstances, and make this a truly memorable ‘fire festival’.

Words

The following are a few poems or prayers that you might like to use in some form of rite (which can be elaborate, or used at the time of a celebratory meal (with words spoken either before, during or after), or  read them to yourself as you consider the turning of the wheel, and Winter becomes Spring.

O most noble Greenness, rooted in the sun,
shining forth in streaming splendour upon the wheel of Earth.
No earthly sense or being can comprehend you.
You are encircled by the very arms of Divine mysteries.
You are radiant like the red of dawn!
You glow like the incandescence of the sun!

Hildegard von Bingen
English version by Jerry Dybdal and Matthew Fox

And/Or

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfil.

Robert Frost (1874–1963).

And/Or

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;

Song of Solomon 2:11-12  The Book

And/Or

The wilderness and the desert will be glad,
And the Arabah will rejoice and blossom;
Like the crocus
It will blossom profusely
And rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
The majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They will see the glory of the Lord,
The majesty of our God.
Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the [c]feeble.
Say to those with anxious heart,
‘Take courage, fear not..’

Isaiah 35:1-4a The Book

And/Or

Praise to you, Oh Caring one,
nurturing, generous and milky kind,
yet defiant as the snowdrop in a cold climate,
feisty, pure and natural
with your white singular unbroken focus,
Maid-Mother to us all,
praise to you.

Tess Ward (Anglican Priest), The Celtic Wheel Of The Year

And/or

A sleeping world emerges to new possibilities,
weakening winter’s icy grip,
and birdsong and bleating lamb
announce to all the promise
that in due season
creation bursts into life.
And whilst leaves that fell in winter
lie upon the ground,
soon to feed the earth
in nature’s wondrous cycle
of death and rebirth,
within the tree is a stirring of new growth
For the cycle of life
Which brings death and rebirth.

Copyright © John Birch, 2016. Used with permission. Click here to go to originating webpage.

And/or

We rejoice in the promise of Spring
For lengthening days
And sunlight’s warmth upon the soil
We rejoice in the promise of Spring
For a snowdrop’s beauty
Reflecting its Creator’s artistry
We rejoice in the promise of Spring
For new born lambs
Their joy and exuberance
We rejoice in the promise of Spring
For all of creation
And the majesty of its Creator
We rejoice in the promise of Spring

Copyright © John Birch, 2016. Used with permission. Click here to go to originating webpage.

Deeds/Action

Imbolc is a great time to start new things, and as hinted above in ancient sacred text, Springtime is not only a good time to reflect, give thanks and look forward in hope, but it’s also a good time to ‘do’ something – for yourself and others. So, here’s a few activities you might like to consider:

Fire: An Imbolc tradition, being a ‘fire festival’ was to light a fire! Fires celebrated not only Brigid, and the returning power of the sun, and in the Christian calendar, Candlemas is the time when when candles were lit for Virgin Mary and/or to signify the Christ-child as the Light of the world. A brazier might be inappropriate now, but why not light a candle (or several throughout the evening celebration, a short time of reciting poems and/or prayers)?

Water: Imbolc was also a time for visiting a spring or a well, to both purify onself and bring fertility to our dreams. Indeed, Well dressing (also once known as well flowering) was regularly practised in rural England. Then, wells, springs or other water sources were decorated with designs created from flower petals. So, why not set out to visit a riiver, stream, or well, nearby? Make it a special occasion.

House Spring Clean: Now is a great time to spring clean your home, usually undertaken before Imbolc Eve. It’s a wonderful time to get rid of anything that is cluttering up your home and stagnating the energy. But, don’t see it as a chore to be completed as quickly as possible. Take your time. This, too, can be a holy acivity!

Trees: Why not plant, or fund the planting of a tree? There is a great need for each of us to be wise stewards of nature, and here’s an opportunity to do something practical. For a web charity link for a tree-planting/forests preservation group in the UK, see here.

Make Brigid’s Cross: This is ideal for those artistically included, and if you can’t find any rushes to ‘weave’ together you can use drinking straws (and it will still mean something deep as it’s the intention that counts). Details of making a Brigid’s Cross is here.

Conclusion

So, there you have – the third and concluding part of the Imbolc 2017 articles. I hope you’ve found this all useful.

Whatever you do, my prayers and thoughts are with you and those whom you love. May you (all) have a happy, deep and blessed Imbolc. Tadhg