Santa is a Pagan!

Santa is a Pagan!

Author:   Crowshadower   

As a Pagan, when Yule rolls around I find myself being asked a number of questions that revolve around, ‘If you don’t believe in Jesus, why do you celebrate his birthday?’ This leads to the long winded explanation of how Pagans celebrated Yule long before it was adopted by Christianity and that historical evidence points to the historic figure of Jesus being born anywhere between June and September and not December.

So what does Yule mean to me as a Pagan? My understanding of the midwinter festival has always been one of hope above all else and a celebration of the unifying nature of the human spirit. In the past, there would have been a lot less work to do in the depth of winter so people would have had more time on their hands to contemplate the world around them and family relationships beyond that of those who lived with them.

What better way to celebrate then than by bringing tribes together and have each bring foods they had prepared during the last harvest to share? Slights of the past year could be put aside to revel in the company of those who lighten one’s heart.

With the marking of Midwinter, it was also a time to rejoice in one’s own survival through the trials of the year that may have seen others die. Like so many Pagan festivals, the meaning has changed as we have become farther removed from nature. It is no longer necessary for us to preserve and store our own food to take us through the stark winter nights when food has become scarce. We no longer need fear stray animals or enemy tribes who have faired less well then ourselves raiding our towns and villages for precious winter reserves.

What should a modern Pagan do to celebrate? Well, I don’t think we need to go too far from the traditional Christmas: Bring in an evergreen tree to decorate. Adorn your home with holly and ivy as symbols of the life that still bears fruit through the sleeping winter.

Lights are also very important for they represent hope and its constant presence in our lives. They might also remind us of the first rays of Lugh as he is reborn to the waiting world (in Celtic legends Lugh was conceived by Dagda and the Morrighan in midwinter to be born in August). The whole spirit of Yule is the very essence of the Pagan spirit. No matter how hard or harsh life may become, there is always life to be found and hope to carry us through.

Not only are the trappings of Christmas rooted in Paganism, but many of the symbols that are displayed are also from roots more ancient than most Christians would care to admit. Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, may well predate the Saint Nicholas whom he is said to represent.  From my own point of view, he is startlingly close to the Dagda with his cauldron of life slung over one shoulder and his club/staff gripped in his other hand bringing to his people the gifts that would lighten their lives and give them strength to take on the harshness of winter.

Other Pagan traditions also have Father figures who provide for their tribes through times of hardship, either through the giving of physical gifts, or by the granting of supernatural talents to see them through. In Lapland, it is thought that a shaman in a fresh reindeer skin collects the snow on which reindeer who had ingested hallucinogenic mushrooms had urinated in order to share it around the village. The effect of this would be startling; people seeing bright lights and strange images that might bring them insights into the year to come.

This is just an example of why Yule and the Midwinter are seen as magical times. It is also thought to be the season in which we are the closest to the Otherworld and reality wears thinnest. There are many myths that speak of otherworldly beings helping out those troubled on journeys back to their families for the celebration of Yule. These tales range from those of faeries to fey dogs and werewolves and thus providing a hint that during this time, all of nature and supernature come together to aide each other.

For those of us who practice magic, it can also be a time to note how many people a type of magic they may be unaware of through out the rest of the year touches. Being someone who is not renowned for my own jollity through the rest of the year  — sometimes being accused of being dour — I will admit that I love Yule and everything that it stands for.

How can one not love the very essence of the human spirit being offered up in the shape of hope, faith and trust — not simply in deities, but in each other — things that we find too difficult during the rest of the year.

In a world in which mistrust and greed are growing by the day, and in which we are becoming more isolated from those around us through the use of technology rather then personal interaction, we cannot afford not to have a festival like Yule. We need a holiday wherein we can offer our hands to those around us and bring them a little closer to our hearts.

I would say this to you all: Offer your hand to a stranger over Yule.

Learn to know them. And that ‘stranger’ may even be someone you thought you already knew, like a parent, aunt or even a grand parent. Listen and talk with them and learn more about who they are beyond the roles they have played in your life. Too often, we take for granted those around us and never really notice how remarkable they are until they are gone. So spend some time with your family and your neighbors and treat them like the friends whom they may actually come to be.

And to all of the friends and kindred children of the Greenwood everywhere:

Eat Drink and Be Merry!

Fair Yule To One and All!

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The Witch I Am

The Witch I Am

Author:   Eilan  

Witchcraft, the Arte, the Craft, Magick, the Old Religion – what could these names possibly mean to an 18-year-old male living in an age of global warming, rapid deforestation, tyrannical war and occupation, fundamentalist literature and humanist rationalism? They are the faces of a largely spiritual movement, grounded in the sacred powers of Nature, from which the Old Gods themselves draw their strength and mystery.

My name is Gede Parma. I am an 18-year-old male Witch currently residing in Queensland, Australia. I am an initiate and co-founder of the dynamic Pagan wellspring that is the Coven of the WildWood, and I am priest and vessel to my Gods of Blood and of Breath.

My Pagan peers know me as Dobhair (pronounced ‘door’ with a soft accent in the middle), which is the name my ancestors revealed to me during last year’s solar eclipse as I dedicated myself to the Dagda and Morgaine le Fay. In this time of the Greening much will be seen to come to pass and the world will change in a way that none of us could ever have conceived.

I stand as the Rod of Power, as the Menhir, the Tree of Life, to whom my veneration is given in circles with my coven. As I focus inward so does my breath circulate into the outer realms, my consciousness expanding and taking into itself the divinity that is immanent within all of Life. I remember the animating force behind all that is and dance the spiral path of change and transformation into the very heart of the primal womb whose centre is the point of origin.

From the beginning I was Air, from whose new dawn’s breath ‘I’dea was formed. I was then fuelled by the heat of Fire, and light and warmth gave way to the oceanic-matrix that is the Water and blood-ways became rivers and streams in the body of the Goddess.

By Spirit and the Great Mystery I was given form and beauty and Earth’s presence and foundation continued the cycle, and when my thread is cut by the tides of Fate I will fall to the winds once more to decay with the autumn foliage under the slanted glare of a fading king whose sun sets in the realms of Death.

I am resurrected and born again by Love and by Light, and the Two Pillars join the heavens to the broad earth, from whom once more I will spring up as Kore, the sprout. From Death comes Life, and in Life there is Love, and the Mystery knows them all.

These are the mysteries that have been written of and told to others whose minds and hearts are listening, however their far-reaching and infinite truths are not simply grasped by an eloquent intellect or by the ascetics of a world-rejecting discipline.

Witchcraft to a teen in the 21st century has not lost its Great Mystery. We are still as the priests and priestesses of old who stole away to secret orders nestled in ‘tween places. We are still as the seers and shamans whose journeys remain intrinsically-patterned into our wild and unkempt spirits. We are Witches and by solitude or tribe we still raise the Power to celebrate the ecstasies of Life. I have never forgotten this charge and I have made it my oath to the Old Ones to continue to impart this knowledge and wisdom on those who have ears to listen.

There is immense power in the old mythos. They speak of Gods and Goddesses who inspire and protect their own, of ancient magicks whose powers awaken in the hearts of those who embrace the old ways. There is descent into the netherworld, and resurrection in the light of day. There are ancestors who kindle the hearth-fires and who gather us in to be warmed when way-ward our feet have taken us.

There are oceans and seas that speak of death and devotion. There are groves and mounds and stone-circles who whisper of ancient rites and who glisten and vibrate with the dragon-lines that sing through the land. There are wheels that spin and turn, and bring awareness to the cycles of Nature, to the implicit realities and cause us to revel in the wonder that is the blue sky and the green tree.

These things, these memories are not cast out or forgotten by the Witches of today, they are embraced and renewed by those of us who seek to rejoin and reconnect with the Wyrd, whose keepers, though at times stern, remind us to dance and to make Magick in their honor.

When the Pagan community regards its youths and also their influx into the tribes, they often forget that once upon time that was them. There are many who revile and resent the young folk who seek out the ancient wisdom and who practice the rites of the Craft. They seem to think that in doing so we desecrate their sacred power, or playfully twist and manipulate to achieve our own selfish and incorrigible ends.

Anyone who truly kneels at the Altar or draws the Circle of Power knows to what effect their pure Will can achieve. Those who are simply involved for the ‘glamour’ and the ‘prestige’ soon draw back when they discover what perfect love and perfect trust truly means.

So those of us who still remain after the year and a day and whose understanding has strengthened and whose energy has intensified should be known to all others who walk the spiral-ways as honest and humble devotees.

I will never forget the moment when I became a respected member of my community and was taken by my word for my word. It was as if all my potential became actualized and I could evolve and transform into a new identity, into a new persona. But personas are masks and identities fade, and through this time I began to feel again the pulse in the deepest part of me.

The façade had broken.

I didn’t need their recognition, their support, though it helped immensely in times of grief. What I needed was my connection, to awaken the divinity that is indwelling. It didn’t take long before one Goddess chose to love me and to pour into me what was already at my core. She is beauty; she is truth. She is power and she is that quintessential feeling that resonates through all my fragments, and whose veil covers not to hide, but to symbolize the other reality, that is always waiting, on the other side.

My life is enriched through my Craft. I am joined with all of Nature. I breathe on the mountain and I lose all ego-attachment, and it strikes me that all I am doing is breathing and existing, just as all other beings that dance through the cycles are.

My Gods speak to me through my descent and through my spirit. Their names are not written as a list of spiritual acquisitions, but as powers and forces that have revealed themselves to me, and have chosen to become my allies.

To be a Witch is not to forsake the divine bounty that is made apparent when we learn to trust, but to identify and understand the patterns of power that weave through the fibres of Life and manifest as expressions of innate and intimate truths. We celebrate this continuum of divine-play and revel in becoming a part of it.

I am a Witch, not because I was genetically made to be so (though that adds to it), and not because of some deep-set desire to conquer the plain drudgery and live out a fantasy of power and privilege.

I am a Witch because in my heart lives Magick and to deny its passage, its flow, would be to deny the very essence of my purpose here on Earth, and of my many lives before my present that have been sacrificed to continue the charge I was given.

As I dance the Wheel and as I draw the Circle I remember that I am different. It is not merely a contrast I draw between my nature and those of others, or an indulgent delusion I use to place myself higher than the rest. I am different in that the unfeeling, ego-ridden, politically-driven paradigm that our societies are built on rejects or else wholly negates who I am and what I do.

There is no room in this world, they say, for enchantment and Magick. There is no place for story-telling or dancing. Everything I am and everything I stand for is declared non-existent or irrational at best and Witchcraft is made out to be nothing more than a childish game.

Witches were once respected and revered for their skill, insight and power. In a sense this manifests today as the curious intrigue one feels toward the ‘supernatural’. Witches today are feared, maligned or ridiculed.

We are feared by the ignorant, maligned by the ‘pious’, and ridiculed by the so-called rationalists. However there are those among the liberally-minded communities who celebrate us as true visionaries in our right and who are inclined to study our spirituality in a bid to reclaim the lost wisdom.

There are few words that I can conjure that truly define my being. One of these is ‘Witch’. I embrace it wholly, in every way, for in doing so I reclaim the power that was once considered a gift. It is never a curse to realize truth and never a burden to uphold and live by it.

My Magick is a gift that I will pass on to the next generation of Witches, however at this point in time I work to encourage and inspire this generation. In my coven we circle every week and in between the esbats and sabbats we devote our circles to specific topics so that we may expand our knowledge and add to our magickal arsenal.

In the past we have discussed sacred tools, the Elementals, visualization, meditation and divination. Generally I take on the guise of the teacher as it suits me and I have a considerable amount of knowledge and practical experience in these areas.

The Witches of my coven are strong and steadfast spiritual beings, however we are all still human and prone to making mistakes. This is the reality of the Witch, especially as teenagers. We may be able to cast spells, transcend our egos, invoke ancient Gods and project our astral selves, but this does not exempt us from the everyday trials that bombard humanity.

As Witches, however, we make use of our knowledge of the subtle energies within and without and choose to take charge of our destinies accordingly. Perhaps it is this aspect of the Craft, more so than anything else, that truly frightens those who are not privy to the inner mysteries.

I am a Witch, pure and simple. You could tie to me to a stake, throw driftwood at my feet, drench me in gas and light a fire and I would not deny it.

I am a child of Nature, a Pagan and a priest. I dance the spiral-way and as I descend into the holy labyrinth I sing the old songs and chants to the Gods of leaf and bud, hoof and horn. I release tire and stress, exertion and envy to the four winds and I become the glowing scepter, the sword, and the spear. The serpentine force is aroused and it journeys upward along the spine to the crown that is the triangle of manifestation.

There I meet the Great Mystery and kneel to her charge as I feel the edge of her sword cut cleanly along my soul to my beating heart aflame with Magick.

Go in the way of the sacred, Blessed Be~

Great Mother Goddesses

Great Mother Goddesses

Gods/Goddesses– Bel, the Dagda, Don, the Dagda, Bel, Cronus, Uranus, Zeus, Jupiter, Saturn, Amen, Osiris, Ra, Pachacamac, Cerridwen, Danu, Macha, Morrigu, Brigit, Anu, Badb, Rhianon, Demeter, Hera, Rhea, Hecate, Aphrodite, Gaea, Juno, Venus, Ceres, Ops, Bona Dea, Cybele, Isis, Mut, Nut, Coatlicue, Kuan Yin, Ishtar, Astarte, Inanna, Cerridwen, Danu, Morrigu, Anu, Margawse, Growth, Demeter, Gaea, Boreas, Eurus, Ceres
Color– Indigo, Black
Incense/Oil– Holly, Juniper, Yew, Myrrh, Cypress
Animals– Goat
Spirits– Dragon
Stones– Onyx, Jet
Metal– Lead
Plants– Reeds, Solomon’s Seal, Oak, Yew, Beech, Comfrey, Elm, Holly, Ivy, Horsetail, Juniper, Mullien
Wood– Oak
Planet– Saturn
Tarot Cards– Four Queens, Four Threes
Magickal Tools– Sword, Wand
Direction– West
Rituals– Stabilization of Thought and Life, Help with Groups, Comfort, Goddess Power, Developing Power of Faith

Creator Deities

Creator Deities

Gods/Goddesses– the Dagda, Cronus, Ptah, Osiris, Sebek, Khnemu, Seb, Ra, Hurukan, Arianrhod, Danu, Demeter, Hera, Rhea, Gaea, Ceres, Juno, Heqet, Isis, Neith, Mut, Tara, Nohochacyum
Color– Brillant Pure Light
Incense/Oil– Angelica, Wisteria
Animals– Hawk
Spirits– Winged Dragon
Stones– Diamond, Zircon
Metal– Gold, Silver
Plants– Shamrock, Clover, Woad, Male Fern, Aspen
Tree– Aspen
Planet– Uranus
Tarot Cards– Four Aces
Magickal Tools– Cauldron
Direction– East
Rituals– Divine Consciousness, Illumination, Enlightment, Spiritual Development/Attainment, Finding Karmic Purpose

Deity of the Day for August 17: Brigid

Brigid

by Lisa Spindler
Name Cognates: Breo Saighead, Brid, Brighid [Eriu], Brigindo, Brigandu [Gaul], Brigan, Brigantia, Brigantis [Briton], Bride [Alba].Breo Saighead, or the “Fiery Arrow or Power,” is a Celtic three-fold goddess, the daughter of The Dagda, and the wife of Bres. Known by many names, Brighid’s three aspects are (1) Fire of Inspiration as patroness of poetry, (2) Fire of the Hearth, as patroness of healing and fertility, and (3) Fire of the Forge, as  patroness of smithcraft and martial arts. She is mother to the craftsmen. Sons of Tuireann: Creidhne, Luchtaine and Giobhniu.

Excalibur, King Arthur’s sword, was forged by the Lady of the Lake, a figure sometimes associated with Brighid because of her fire and forgery aspect. Like the Arthurian Avalon, or “Isle of Apples,” Brigid possessed an apple orchard in the Otherworld to which bees traveled to obtain it’s magickal nectar.

Brigid, which means “one who exaults herself,” is Goddess of the Sacred Flame of Kildare (derived from “Cill Dara,” which means “church of the oak”) and often is considered to be the White Maiden aspect of the Triple Goddess. She was Christianized as the “foster-mother” of Jesus Christ, and called St. Brigit, the daughter of the Druid Dougal the Brown. She sometimes also is associated with the Romano-Celtic goddess Aquae-Sulis in Bathe.

Brighid’s festival is Imbolc, celebrated on or around February 1 when she ushers Spring to the land after The Cailleach’s Winter reign. This mid-Winter feast commences as the ewes begin to lactate and is the start of the new agricultural cycle. During this time Brigid personifies a bride, virgin or maiden aspect and is the protectoress of women in childbirth. Imbolc also is known as Oimelc, Brigid, Candlemas, or even in America as Groundhog Day.

As the foundation for the American Groundhog Day, Brigid’s snake comes out of its mound in which it hibernates and its behavior is said to determine the length of the remaining Winter.

Gailleach, or White Lady, drank from the ancient Well of Youth at dawn. In that instant, she was transformed into her Maiden aspect, the young goddess called Brigid. Wells were considered to be sacred because they arose from oimbelc(literally “in the belly”), or womb of Mother Earth.

Because of her Fire of Inspiration and her connection to the apple and oak trees, Brighid often is considered the patroness of the Druids.

Deity of the Day for August 10th – BILE

Bile

by Lisa Spindler
The Celtic god of light and healing, “Bel” means “shining one,” or in Irish Gaelic, the name “bile” translates to “sacred tree.” It is thought that the waters of Danu, the Irish All-Mother goddess, fed the oak and produced their son, The Dagda. As the Welsh Beli, he is the father of Arianrhod by Don.

Patron of sheep and cattle, Bel’s festival is Beltane, one of two main Celtic fire festivals. Beltane celebrates the return of life and fertility to the world — marking the beginning of Summer and the growing season. Taking place on April 30, Beltane also is sometimes referred to as “Cetsamhain” which means “opposite Samhain.” The word “Beltaine” literally means “bright” or “brilliant fire,” and refers to the bonfire lit by a presiding Druid in honor of Bile.

“Some believe this deity is the equivalent of Belatucadros, the consort of Belisama, another patroness of light, fire, the forge and crafts. Belatucadros, whose name means “fair shining one” or possibly “the fair slayer,” is the god of destruction and war and transports the dead to Danu’s “divine waters.” Celtic deities often reign over seemingly contradictory themes. In the case of Belatucadros, death was simply a pathway to rebirth in the Otherworld, thus linking the two themes together. However, according to Ross’s Pagan Celtic Britain, historically the worship of Belatucadros among the Celts was confined only the northwestern region of Britain and has never been associated with the festival of Beltane, healing or with a consort.

It has been suggested that the mythological king, Beli Mawr, in the story of Lludd and Llefelys in The Mabinogion, is a folk memory of this god. In Irish mythology, the great undertakings of the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Milesians — the original supernatural inhabitants of Eiru and their human conquerors, respectively — began at Beltane. The Milesians were led by Amairgen, son of Mil, in folklore reputed to be the first Druid.

Calendar of the Moon for Friday, June 1

1 Duir/Skirophorion

Day of the Oak Tree

Color: Black
Element: Earth
Altar: Upon a black cloth set a vase of oak branches, a single black candle, a pot of soil, seeds of some tree or strong plant, a bowl of water, and a bell.
Offerings: Plant seeds. Stoke fires.
Daily Meal: Vegan

Invocation to the Green Man of the Oak Tree

Hail, Green Man of the Summer!
Great Oak Tree of grandeur,
Tree of the gods of kings,
Royal emblem of Zeus,
Lightning’s tree, struck from above,
Exploder of wrath, dying in flames,
Green shaft of the colossal Dagda,
Mighty-thewed as jovial Thor,
Fuel of the midsummer fires,
Stout guardian of the door,
Throne of two-faced Janus,
Your roots extend as far beneath
As your branches spread above,
Living avatar of the cosmic reflection.
Oak king, you who give your life
Every year at the midsummer,
Teach us when to stand strong
And when to gracefully yield.
We hail you, sacred Oak King,
Green Man of the Summer,
On this your day of greatest triumph.

Song: Oak and Ash and Thorn

(Each comes forward and plants a seed in the pot of soil, saying, “Hail Green Man of the Earth!” Water is poured onto the pot, and then the rest is poured out as a libation. Ring bell and dismiss.)

[Pagan Book of Hours]

Earth Gods – DAGDA

Earth Gods – DAGDA 

The Dagda is the Irish father god of Earth. He is the leader of the immortal race of the Tuatha De Danann. The Dagda is also known as the lord of abundance. He is the god of time and magick and the protector of crops. He is the son of Danu and Beli. His name means “good god,” meaning he is good at all of the things he does, not morally superior.

In Celtic mythology, it is the Dagda who is responsible for the changing of the seasons. It was said that he owned a magickal harp, Daurdabla, that made the seasons change when played. He acquired this harp on a trip to the Otherworld. On the same trip he obtained the Undry, a magickal cauldron said to never empty, along with the Sword of Nuada and the Lia Fail, which is also known as the Stone of Life. These three items, along with the Spear Luin, are thought to represent the four elements.

The Dagda is represented in a somewhat comical form. He is most often depicted as a large man with a paunch belly wearing a too short tunic that leaves his genitals bare and exposed, hauling around his magickal mallet in a cart. The mallet was said to kill nine men in a single blow and restore them to life with the handle. Although he was frequently the subject of jokes, the Dagda was held in the highest esteem. The Celts believed that even the highest being possessed a flaw or two.

While he was the main consort of Morrigan, the Dagda was known to have many other lovers. It was said that he was one of lusty appetites, and when he came upon the raven-haired Morrigan washing clothes in a stream, he walked up behind her and began having his way with her. The Morrigan found the interlude so satisfactory that she backed him in battle the next day.

In one tale, the Dagda was send by Lugh to spy on the Fomorians. He went to their camp and asked for a truce, which was granted. The Fomorians decided to mock the Dagda by making a porridge. The Dagda’s weakness for porridge was well-known. The Fomorians made a huge amount and proclaimed that unless the Dagda ate every bite he would be killed. He ate every bite and promptly fell asleep. When he awoke, he found the Fomorians laughing at him. The Dagda forced himself to leave, which was no easy feat considering his bloated, swollen belly. On his way, he chanced upon a girl who threw him into the mud and demanded she be returned to her father’s house. The Dagda asked who her father was, and she replied that he was the king of the Fomorians. The Dagda and the girl wrestled about and ended up making love. As she was smitten at this point, she helped the Dagda defeat the Fomorians in battle by singing spells against them.

The Dagda’s main consort was Boann, and they are the parents of the Celtic goddess Brigid. He is also the father of the fairy king Midir and many others.

The Dagda is said to rule today from the Otherworld, as his life on this plane was ended in battle by a woman named Cethlion. Once defeated, he led the Tuatha De Danann through a fairy mound to live underground in the Other world.

Brighid Lore for Imbolc

Brighid Lore for Imbolc
by Doreen Motheral

 

The goddess Brighid (also known as Brigit, Bride, Biddy and other names throughout Europe) is a goddess who is near and dear to my heart for many reasons. I like the fact that she is associated with both water (her wells in Kildare and other parts of Ireland) and fire (her fire pit in Kildare). I like the fact that she spans both the pagan and Christian worlds and some of her traditions are still celebrated today.

Since the festival of Imbolc (also called Óimelc) is this weekend I thought I’d write a few thoughts for those who aren’t familiar with her (and perhaps renew an acquaintance for those who already were). Imbolc is the time of the year that the ewes lactated, and the successful timing of this event was approximate, so the exact date of Imbolc could vary from region to region and from year to year depending on the climate. Production of this milk supply was very important to both man and animal. From the milk comes butter and cheese. Newly calved cows were also put under Brighid’s protection. Here’s an old saying:

Samhain Eve without food,
Christmas night without bread,
St. Brighid’s Eve without butter,
That is a sorry complaint.

Cormac mac Cuillenàin, who lived in the 9th century said, “Brighid i.e. a learned woman, daughter of the Dagda. That is Brighid of learning, i.e. a goddess who filid worshipped. For her protecting care was very great and very wonderful. So they call her a goddess of poets. Her sisters were Brighid woman of healing, and Brighid woman of smithcraft, daughters of the Dagda, from whose names among all the Irish a goddess used to be called Brighid” In this writing, Cormac mentions her triple aspect of three sisters, common among the Celts. I often call on one or more of her aspects of creativity, writing and healing, but she is much more than that.

The Christian aspects of Brighid and the pagan aspects often overlap, so it’s difficult to figure out which stories have pre-Christian beginnings. I think there is a seed of paganism in many of the later stories associated with her. We’ll never know for sure, but in my own private practice I take many of her current customs and use them for my own worship of her – and I don’t worry about the pre-Christian aspect of the story or not. Your mileage may vary, of course.

On the eve of Imbolc, a piece of linen, other cloth or ribbons is placed outside (some folks put them on their window sill). This piece of cloth is called Brighid’s Brat or Brighid’s Mantle. It is said that Brighid travels all over the land on Imbolc eve and if she sees this cloth, she will bless it and give it healing powers. Some folks in Ireland say that the older your brat is, the more powerful it is. Mugwort Grove (the grove to which I belong) destroys ours from year to year. We put out a whole piece of linen and tear it into strips for members of the Grove during our Imbolc ritual. People take the strips home to use for healing and some are kept on personal altars throughout the year.

Other folklore says that if the mantle gets bigger overnight, you will be especially blessed. It’s a nice tradition, especially if you have a lot of illness to overcome for the following year, and a brat is nice to have for healing rituals later in the year.

Brighid’s fiery aspect makes her the perfect goddess of the hearth – in fact, my hearth at home is dedicated to Brighid. There are many hearth prayers dedicated to Brighid, especially concerning smooring. Ashes and embers were often deposited in the fields. Also, indoor activity associated with Imbolc often took place near the hearth, and if there was a feast, an extra place was set for Brighid. It is also considered bad luck to do any type of spinning on Brighid’s Day.

There is also the custom of Brighid’s Bed. A small bed is made near the hearth and a doll (called a Brídeog), often made from a sheaf of corn and made into the likeness of a woman and is sometimes placed in the bed. In Ireland the doll was often made from a churn dash decorated in clothing (associations t milk again). Sometimes the doll was carried around town to visit houses in the neighborhood. Songs, music and dances are performed – then prayers are said to St. Brighid for blessings upon the house (this is similar to wassailing in other countries around Christmas). Then the family is asked to contribute a donation – which used to be bread and butter (there’s that dairy again!) but now it’s often money (sometimes given to charity).

There is much, much more about Brighid I could share, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. A bit of trivia – Brighid is so loved by the Irish people that in 1942 a survey was taken on “The Feast of St. Brighid”. The replies about the customs run to 2,435 manuscript pages. A great book, if you can find it, is The Festival of Brighid Celtic Goddess and Holy Woman by Séamas Ó Catháin. There are many really cool stories and legends about her.

Last but not least one of the other interesting aspects of Brighid is a prayer attributed to her from the 11th century which goes like this:

I would like a great lake of ale, for the King of the Kings
I would like the angels of Heaven to be among us.
I would like an abundance of peace.
I would like full vessels of charity.
I would like rich treasures of mercy.
I would like cheerfulness to preside over all.
I would like Jesus to be present.
I would like the three Marys of illustrious renown to be with us.
I would like the friends of Heaven to be gathered around us from all parts.
I would like myself to be a rent payer to the Lord; that I should suffer distress, that he would bestow a good blessing upon me.
I would like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings.
I would like to be watching Heaven’s family drinking it through all eternity.

Drink up!

Calendar of the Sun for Jan. 26th

Calendar of the Sun
26 Luis/Gamelion

Gamelia: Day of the Sacred Marriage

Colors: Red and green
Elements: Fire and earth
Altar: On cloth of red and green, place a chalice of water or wine, a blade, a red candle and a green one, incense, a wreath of flowers or herbs, and a branch on which are slipped two rings.
Offerings: Do something in partnership with someone else.
Daily Meal: Sweet cakes, breads, and fruit. Two of everything.

Gamelia Invocation

On this day we invoke the sacred marriage
Of the Lady and Lord,
Whether we call them Hera and Zeus,
Jupiter and Juno,
Dagda and Boannan,
Shiva and Parvati,
Ariadne and Dionysus,
Odhinn and Frigga,
Or any other two who joined not only in love
And the bonds of the fiery flesh,
But chose to be bound together
In the sight of their community
And create the keel of the ship
That was anchored by love
And that carried the hopes of many others.
For to be married is to make a commitment,
Whether that marriage is to another soul
Or to the soul of the Divine.
Come forth and show us divine love,
And may we all be in awe
Of its holiness and power.

(The ritual for this day is the Great Rite, performed by one man and one woman. If done symbolically, the man plunges a blade into the chalice held by the woman, and then it is poured as a libation. Ideally, it should be done literally, either by members of the house or by two who have come in for this purpose. If outsiders, it would be an auspicious time to conceive a child. All sit facing outwards in a circle and chant as the couple are wrapped in a red cloth and lay together in the center, and when it is done all repair to their rooms and either contemplate love or have ritual sex, alone or together.)