Archive for the ‘Imbolg’ Category


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I tell to you, a special festival,
The glorious dues of May-day:
Ale, worts, sweet whey,
And fresh curds to the fire.

Lammas-day, make known its dues,
In each distant year:
Tasting every famous fruit,
Food of herbs on Lammas-day.

Meat, ale, nut-mast, tripe,
These are the dues of summer’s end;
A bonfire on a hill pleasantly,
Buttermilk, a roll of fresh butter.

Tasting every food in order,
This is what behoves at Candlemass,
Washing of hand and foot and head,
It is thus I say.

Quatrains on Beltaine, &c.
Author: Kuno Meyer
An electronic edition

What is probably meant by “every food in order” is that the fresh food was getting scarce, so eat whatever was on hand!

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Strong winds have buffeted the house all evening. My brother the West Wind blows strong from the Atlantic, bringing news of Spring’s imminent return. Snow drops, their delicate heads cascading over the pebble steps to the Good Neighbor’s house, and daffodil shoots, the circle the front garden, confirm this most hopeful of news.


Just in time for Imbolg.

Funny how that works

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It’s part of life, yet when it visits we feel the sting.

On Samhain this year I sat in the field outside the Ring Fort.  In the gloaming I breathed in and out, made offerings, and listened to the Land, the Ancestors, and the spirits of Place.  A bull snorted.  A cow watched, chewing.  A lithe red fox leapt out of the hedge, glanced at me, then bounded into the Ring.  The fort is named for the badger, Lisnabrock, but I believe there are fox dens in the SW corner.

As I walked the lane the other day, with a fresh spring feeling on the air, I passed by the Ring and paid my respect.  I looked out toward the rolling fields, now filled with grazing dairy cows, and stopped in my tracks.  Breath held.  On the soft grass by the stone wall lay a lithe red fox.  Ears erect, eyes open, hind legs crouched, but the gaze was into a far southwestern land.  I stood immobile.  Within sight of my house, across from the Ring,  and on the first truly Spring-like day… was death.

How long I stood there, I do not know.  Many emotions welled-up within me.  From resignation of the cycles, the final kill of the Hunt, book-ending Samhain and Imbolc to…….. NO, the machine is not part of the natural cycle.  The machine is the Orc, the mind of metal and corrupter of the natural world.   In that rising anger a Charm sprang into my memory.  The Descent of Bríd (re-imaginings of the original, which is found in The Carmina Gadelica:

Radiant Arrow of Flame,
Brigit, daughter of the Dagda,
Dagda the Good God, son of Ethlinn,
Ethlinn, daughter of Balor,
Balor, king of the Fomoire.
Every day and every night
That I say the genealogy of Bríd
I shall not be killed, I shall not be injured,
I shall not be enchanted, I shall not be cursed,
Neither shall my power leave me.
No earth, no sod, no turf shall cover me,
No fire, no sun, no moon shall burn me,
No water, no lake, no sea shall drown me,
No glamour out of Faery shall oértake me,
And I under the protection of the holy maiden,
My gentle foster-mother, my beloved Bríd.
~Hilaire Wood
Brigid daughter of Dagda,
Brigid wife of Bres,
Brigid mother of Ruadan,
Radiant Flame of Gold, noble foster-mother of christ.
We are under the shielding of good Bríd each day,
We are under the mantle of Bríd each night,
We shall not be lost in this shifting age,
We shall not be thrown from our path,
We shall not be abandoned,
We shall not be beaten,
Nor political corruption dismay us,
Nor apathy delay us.
No fire, no sun, nor star shall burn us,
No lake, no water, nor sea shall drown us,
No arrow of betrayal nor dart of deceit shall wound us.
Bríd is our comrade,
Bríd is our escort through danger,
Our choicest of women, our guide,
our Saint, our Goddess.
~ Traci Laird

And placing a coin beside the body, I walked to the crossroads.  The words of a charm bubbling into my heart.  Safe from poisons, safe from the wounding dart of the machine, safe from the flood.  In the center point where the ways meet, in the heart of the crossroad, I placed the remaining two coins.  One for death, and two for the Way.

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busy of a day

If I were diligent, I would complete my writing assignment just now instead of posting here.  Actually, scratch that.  I may not always be constant but gosh darn I most certainly am persistent!  So, using my witchy tools of  “mean what you say, say what you mean” cuz Lads, “words have power”,  let me rephrase that.

I choose to stare at the fire and think, instead of write my craft annotation on theme. 

The snowdrops have been out for a number of weeks and though the daffodils stand proud in their greenery, only two have flowered.  The crocus emerged but remained wrapped tightly until today, when a brief passing of sun coaxed their unfurling.  Several of the bushes have new growth but the tall trees in the front garden show no signs.  I continue to be cheered by the sounds of small birds. They speak truth (spring is near), and I listen.

I learned an interesting thing this week.  Stephen’s.  That was the affectionate name of our house before a British couple bought and refurbished it in the mid-90’s.  It had stood derelict for many years.  The roof still intact but the lack of occupation taking its toll.  Children in the early 70’s would peer into the abandoned garden during spring, mesmerized by the flower parade.  “Magical!” Brave lads would scamper into the house and up the wooden stairs.  Exploring the remains of Stephen Twomey’s house.

Stephen had been one of  five children born to Thomas and Norah; he was 30 in 1911.  I don’t know what happened to his siblings but he inherited the farm, and when he died the house was left empty.  I suspect it’s him I’ve seen outside, busy of a day.  Perhaps it is also he that is heard stumping, dragging up the stairs.  Though I will say…. I’ve felt Norah, or her daughter Elizabeth (the last girl to live at home as recorded on the 1901 census), in our bedroom on one occasion.

The family now has a place on my altar with our personal dead.  This is their land, after all.  In a country where families have occupied the same spot as their own tribe did thousands of years ago, and where nobody asks what county you’re from, as they only need hear your surname to pinpoint your place exactly,  it seems most fitting.  The Twomey’s had a smart little farm, complete with: stable, coach house, cow house, calf house, dairy, piggery, fowl house, boiling house, and potato house! Not to mention 3 windows on the front of the house and more than two rooms!  (does anyone know what a boiling house was?? – in Ireland)

As I puttered around outside today, the Raven perched in the pine and looked down at me, calling.  I spoke out-loud and said “good morning”.   Later, as I walked down the lane, I collected trash (as I always do) and said “good morning” to Millie’s cows.  In the gardens I enthused to the plants at how beautiful they are and asked for their guidance on how to better care for them.  I spoke to the native herbs that I will soon collect to make charms and essence – ’tis almost the witching season…. as Bealtaine approaches!  I made offering at my chosen crossroads, cultivating relationship toward future working, which sits further down our ridge and in N-S alignment with our house.  I breathed mana over my salad, I did my push-ups, and my Elidah had a moment of tremendous anger over the organic farmers v monsanto law suit (that case WILL go forward to trial!).

How is your Thursday?

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Last week I wanted to write about cycles but my computer had other ideas. So I think I will take up my musing on this most universal of elements within paganism (is that too broad?). It’s a natural time of year to ponder the issue because we are in the midst of the Imbolc season. Yes, I said season. I’m of the opinion that we can tell a lot about a particular festival based upon its mirror image. The counter-point to Imbolc is Lughnassadh, and we know that the Lughna Dubh period (as it was known in Ireland) extended over at least a fortnight (MacNeill, 15-16). But I don’t want to be too scholarly here. I want to speak about experience.

As I mentioned in another post the etymology of Imbolc has been successfully linked to purification. Toward the middle to end of January I was feeling the strong pull toward milk baths and fasting. The snowdrops had blossomed; a first indicator here that the wheel is turning. Snowdrops come first, then daffodils. The delicate petals remind me of Aine and her slender white feet not crushing the flowers as she dances. I bathed myself, I cleaned the house, but I did not fast.

I also gathered reeds to make my new solar wheel. Out in the freshness of the day I sang…. “Brid is come. Brid is welcome. Welcome Brid.” as I pulled the tender new shoots. I don’t like using a blade on them, though whether this is due to tradition I can not recall. I would need to grab my reference source (Ó Catháin) and I just don’t want to. Regardless, there was only pulling. I did not feel the rush to make the wheel this year as I have done previously. The reeds sat on the big table in the kitchen for several days, absorbing the cooking of food, the household conversation, and general minding of domestic tasks. Finally, for no obvious reason I felt it was time so I sat and wove, as my partner cooked. Then the equal armed cross sat, neatly worked and secured, on the big wooden table in the kitchen for several days, absorbing the cooking of the food, the household conversation, and general minding of domestic tasks. Today, it was time. I removed last year’s wheel from above the door and replaced it with the new one. Last year’s talisman was placed on the beam in my Therapy Room next to the one from the year before.

I’m not hung-up on precise observations and observances. It’s a conscious choice I’m making based on my disgust at our ordered-beyond-comprehension-mind-numbing-modern-lifestyles. My aim is to let go and feel the changes. To let my body speak. To give voice to the myriad parts of understanding and knowing that reside within my wonderful organism that aren’t primarily frontal cortex centric. So, Imbolc is here and I’m moving further into spring. The last bit of purification I want to engage my senses in is the fast. My body is ready to detox and ingest some spring tonic! We’ll see how it goes. The nettles are certainly tender! 🙂

MacNeill, Maire. The Festival of Lughnasa. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962.

Ó Catháin, Séamas. The Festival of Brigit: Celtic Goddess and Holy Woman. Dublin: DBA
Publications, 1995.

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A healthy priestess makes all things sound.” – Francesca de Grandis.

I’m thinking of balance today, and those areas of my life that may be temporarily or systemically out of balance.   One of my teachers, T. Thorn Coyle, regularly reminded her students of the above quote; during my two-year training with her it was almost a mantra.  It’s rather like the airline safety announcements which prompt us to put our oxygen mask on first before helping others, even those less able or more vulnerable.

It’s a struggle in daily life to remember this counsel.  My attention is too often turned toward others, whether my family or friends, and in my desire to be of help I can neglect myself.  This tendency doesn’t just appear in large scale crisis, such as a family emergency, it can also appear in day to day trivial matters.  For instance, while having tea I watch my loving partner make  the toast and notice that the process could be more efficient if only x, y, or z were different.  (You see, organization is one of my things, as is observation. )  The moment I turn to my loving partner and share this observation, uninvited and often unwanted, I have stepped into the realm of putting someone else’s oxygen mask on before my own.

Then there is the physical realm.  My body needs movement, it needs exercise, especially during winter when I am susceptible to SAD.  If I elect to sit inside, browsing website after website of folklore research  (You see, I love folklore and reading scholarly articles in the discipline.), instead of getting out for a run I have again stepped into the realm of putting someone else’s (in this case perhaps my own Uhane) oxygen mask on before my own (in this case, my whole Self).

As a Human I am experiencing and engaging with energy all day.  Life force rises, prana flows, chi circulates, nerve impulses fire, electrochemical reactions cascade, the list is endless but they all require solid and clear conduits or channels to flow through.  Blockages cause power outages, stagnation, and illness.   I need these energies moving easily within my body, and they want to.  My part is to keep the vessel and conduit in good working order.  To keep it healthy.

Health is not just a by-product or end result of physical well-being.  They are linked together but not linearly and they aren’t the whole story.  The human system, dare I say the entire universe, functions holistically.  The emotional, mental, physical, spiritual (there’s a charged word), psychological, all working together and integrated.  They are One.  To be a healthy conduit is to be balanced in all my parts.

The first step in finding this balance is to Know Myself.  I know I need regular exercise for emotional health, I know I need alone time for psychological health, I know I need time with my ancestors and the spirits of place for spiritual health, and I know I need quality time with friends for mental health (I won’t mention eating habits as I’m sure we are all tired of hearing the extolment of holiday related food and diet).  As a friend said recently, “I’m it. Nobody else is showing up.”  She was describing her realization that no Daddy god or Mommy goddess, or any other outside force, was going to mystically appear and solve her issues or make her life better.  That job was hers.

It is my sacred obligation as a Witch to be a Healthy Priestess.  I stand between Worlds. I walk the Hedge.  The Powers look upon Me and I stand in Pride and Love.   To stand strong I must be healthy, to be healthy I must be balanced.

As Imbolg approaches,with its time of purification, it signals me to begin the gentle process of cleansing and re-balancing.   During the dark winter I’ve been looking at those places I reach to “help” others first.  I see that I have been withholding love for mySelf in those areas; subtly neglecting my own health.  As the light returns, and the seeds stir, so does the Passion and lust I have for life and for Self.  Here’s to Balance, here’s to Health!


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Imbolg is approaching.   I often ponder where the words and customs we Pagans are so fond of originate.  I feel within my body that a great wheel is turning, and surely my Ancient Ancestors felt it, too.  Yet, why this word – Imbolg?  I won’t go into an exhaustive discussion of this festival but thinking of the name is meaningful to me this year.

I’ve read a few enjoyable scholarly discussions over the years regarding the etymology of the word.  It has been tied to the word for milk (Hamp,106) in a fairly conclusive way.  Sanas Cormaic (ca. 900)  indicates  oímelc (sheep’s milk) as an etymological base,  but Eric Hamp has argued – successfully I think – that the rather complicated etymology should be *uts-molgo- < *ommolg, so that oimelc is a mixed-up spelling for *ommolg. (*Molgo- from the Proto-Indo-European root *Hmelǵ- which meant “to cleanse” – and which is very close to *melg – the root for “milk”.)  Hamp concludes that Imbolc arises from a root meaning both “milk” and “purification” (111). Hamp offers several examples within Irish literature where milk is used in these ways: as a cure for poison darts(2) ,where it is poured into the battlefield furrows of Eremon(3), and the curious detail from the story of Suibhne, where he drinks milk from a hole made in manure—the original implication being that milk would purify even dung!

Even though this winter is mild, the days are dark and short.  I hibernate to the point of cabin fever and my eyes grow weary of the grey green.  Something inside me stirs.  I begin to long for spring!

Yes, in the nick of time…as the longing within me is coiling and building and pushing to burst forth, Imbolg approaches.  The snowdrops are lifting their heads, little lambs will soon frolic and leap in the fields.  It is time to purify my body, my mind, and my home in preparation for the busy months of spring and summer; when the sun and weather return (and every Irish person rushes out to enjoy the swift rays while they can).  The Milk of the Stars, the Milk of the Earth… the Milk of our Bodies.  Time for washing myself, my home, the sacred Stone in my garden.

Down my lane, where the raspberries grow, is a stretch of reeds.  Their fresh green shoots emerging in time for a harvest; for in a few short weeks I will gather some and weave health, protection, and prosperity into the Solar Cross of Bríde, to be hung in the house as ward and blessing.  I have no harvest from last year so a Brideog won’t be crafted, but I will invite Her into our home none-the-less; to feast on sumptuous colcannon, boxty and oatcakes.

Lest we forget Her in our mad rush toward warmth, it is also the day of the Cailleach.  The long dark holds many treasures and the Hag will be honoured for Her lessons!

If you are looking for a concise collection and thoughtful examination of Irish customs concerning both the Goddess and Saint, may I recommend Sean O’Duinn’s The Rites of Brigid: Goddess & Saint.

I am older than Brigit of the Mantle,
I put songs and music on the wind
Before ever the bells of the chapels
Were rung in the West
Or heard in the East.
I am Brighid-nam-Bratta:
Brigit of the Mantle,

I am also Brighid-Muirghin-na-tuinne:
Brigit, Conception of the Waves,

And Brighid-sluagh,
Brigit of the Faery Host,

Brigit of the Slim Faery Folk,

Brigit the Melodious Mouthed
Of the Tribe of the Green Mantles.

And I am older than Aone (Friday)
And as old as Luan (Monday)

And in Tir-na-h’oige my name is
Suibhal: Mountain Traveler,

And in Tir-fo-thuinn, Country of the Waves,
It is Cu-gorm: Gray Hound,

And in Tir-na-h’oise,
Country of Ancient Years,
It is Sireadh-thall: Seek Beyond.

And I have been a breath in your heart,
And the day has its feet to it
That will see me coming
Into the hearts of men and women
Like a flame upon dry grass,
Like a flame of wind in a great wood.

Fiona MacLeod / William Sharp

And many early Irish magical charms use butter as a curative agent; cf. Carney, “A Collection of Irish Charms”.
Eremon is the mythical first Milesian—i.e. human—king of Ireland; his name is thought to derive from the sameorigin as Aryaman/Airyaman, the Indo-Iranian embodiment of “Aryan-ness”, i.e. nobility and the ruling class.

*Hamp, Eric. “Imbolc, Óimelc”. Studia Celtica. 14/15 (1979-80), 106-113

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